Podify is Solving the Challenges of Running a Sole Proprietorship for Wellness Professionals: An Interview with Bryan Renaud and Matt Eeles, the co-founders of Podify
In this interview, the co-founders of Podify discuss their backgrounds, how they came-up with the idea for Podify, and the unique value proposition that Podify offers for running a personal training business or other wellness professional business, such as a massage therapists, and their clients.
Bryan Renaud is an elite personal trainer with over 15 years experience in personal training business. He currently trains over 75 high net-worth clients with his personal trainer certification. Bryan has reached the pinnacle of the personal training business. Bryan and his co-founder, Matt Eeles, who has nearly two decades of marketing, sales and business development experience, started Podify in 2014.
Bryan and Matt formed the idea of Podify one Wednesday evening while shopping for dinner at Whole Foods. Bryan has a deep understanding of the challenges of being a sole proprietor of his own personal training business. He highlighted to Matt many of the challenges faced by wellness professionals in building their businesses. Over the next several weeks they fleshed-out the concept for Podify.
The Podify platform is a Software as a Solution (SaaS) that offers a complete business solution for wellness professionals including solving their administrative and management needs. Podify also has exclusive marketing tools, including a referral engine, for helping wellness professionals grow their businesses through collaboration with other wellness professionals or “Pods”. Podify is a trusted community marketplace allowing professionals a seamless interact with their clients, and offers them an integrated scheduling and billing platform. Podify is currently in incubation at EvoNexus in downtown San Diego.
In the US alone, there are 300,000 personal trainers, 45% of whom are independent business people, with the remainder working at a gym. The Podify platform has value for this entire group, and there network of other wellness professionals.
The Podify platform is transactional, and revenue for Podify is generated by a per transaction fee. The Podify app is free to download, and scheduling free to use by clients and wellness professionals. Trainers can decide if they want to use the billing feature for one, some or all of their clients.
The Podify web-based app is in beta and the mobile app will be released in the coming weeks. Bryan and Matt feel that Podify can hit profitability by the end of 2016.
Patrick: Hi, this is Patrick Henry from QuestFusion with the Real Deal…What Matters. I’m here today with the cofounders of Podify. It’s a very cool company that we’re going to talk about today.
Bryan Renaud, who I’ve known for many years, has pretty much reached the pinnacle of excellence in the personal training industry. His partner Matt Eeles is also here. These guys have known each other a long time.
I’m excited to talk about Podify today and learn a little bit more about it. Why don’t you guys just tell me a little bit about your backgrounds? What did you do before Podify? How did you get interested in something like this?
Bryan: That sounds good. I’ve been a personal trainer for the past 15 years, running my own business. Pat has been a good client of mine.
I’ve got about 75 clients that I’ve been working on. I finally decided that there needed to be another solution out there to help people like me manage and grow their businesses. This is where my best friend Matt and I have gotten to.
Matt: A lot of my experience has been in business development. I invested in a local startup here and got into tech about four years ago. I’ve been a fulltime entrepreneur the last three years. The bulk of my resume has been sales.
Patrick: Awesome. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about Podify? What is it? How did you come up with the idea for it?
Bryan: I’ll let you take the honors.
Matt: The idea came from myself and Bryan meeting one night in Whole Foods.
Bryan: Over beer.
Matt: We were getting a burger and a beer on Wednesday night. We were discussing some of the pain points that he has every day. When managing a complete business, you just don’t have any availability.
We had a couple of interactions with another professional that we saw walking through. We just came up with the idea and thought that there was something here that we should dig deep on. We spent the next three weeks digging deep. It turned into something pretty remarkable.
Patrick: What exactly is Podify? Is it a product or service? What exactly do you guys do?
Bryan: Podify is a platform that is like a marketplace for health and fitness professionals. It’s for people like me, personal trainers, to manage the back end of their business with scheduling, billing, client management and communication. There are so many different types of client management software that could help business owners maintain and manage their business. It’s great that this exists so we don’t have to really worry about things like appointments, billing, etc. It’s really managing my business.
In addition to that, the idea of a pod is a team of health and fitness professionals working together to try and grow each other’s businesses. How that works as a personal trainer is that I have a group of other professionals like a chiropractor, physical therapist and massage therapist that I refer all of my clients to.
This platform will allow professionals to share their clients. It offers their clients the services that they’re looking for. We’ve built a referral engine on the backend to really incentivize and reward that referral making process.
We’re trying to add another revenue stream into a professional’s business in addition to more clients through these warm lead referrals.
Patrick: As I understand it, with chiropractors and people like that, there’s some type of state or federal regulation around it. I don’t know if it’s HIPAA compliance or what it is.
Bryan: HIPAA compliance, yes.
Patrick: Can those people that you consider in your network work on Podify as professionals? Do you need to come up with another product down the road? How does that work relative to massage therapists and personal trainers?
Bryan: Basically in this beta phase that we’re in, we’re really going to be focusing on the health and fitness pre-medical type of professionals. Those professionals have no HIPAA compliant regulations so you can get paid for referrals.
Our hope is that we’re going to test out this platform and see if we get some market validation with the platform. Then we can build it out. That way we can incorporate other types of professionals that have HIPAA compliance or need insurance capacity for billing. They may have an office with a secretary there and multiple people there.
Right now, Podify is really for that solo entrepreneur to run their business. As we prove out the model, we will be able to hopefully get those types of professionals on it as we build it out. We also want the platform available for the enterprise with a desktop version for a bigger office versus just the one person.
Matt: That will be more of our phase two, which is the enterprise.
Patrick: There’s two kinds of directions that I want to go in with this around Podify. One is the fitness pro that basically works for a big gym.
The big gym takes at least half of their revenue. A lot of these people, guys and girls, want to get out on their own. Then they have to do the business development around building their own business and having their own shingle, so to speak, out there.
How does Podify assist in that? Are you basically already waiting for people to be out? What’s the business development element of it around the pros?
Matt: I think it’s actually best for you to speak about your experience with PAC and how you had a few outside of it.
Bryan: Exactly. We’re in the incubator, EvoNexus, downtown. One of our advisors there explained it best by saying that Podify is going to help the person who is already running their own business manage it. For the person who is stuck at the gym and dependent upon that pool of clients to be able to have their business, it will help bridge the gap to get them to running their own business.
This is the life cycle. You start as a 24-hour fitness trainer. You prove it out that you’re good and get enough clients. Then you move to a Pacific Athletic Club, sporting club or the Bridges Country Club. Then you’re at the top of the food chain working for someone else.
The natural progression is to start trying to build your own business. That’s where you’re going to make the money. I worked at Pacific Athletic Club for about two and half to three years.
They took 40% to 50% of every session that I did. I was at the top of the food chain there. They take mostly 60% to 70% of a lot of them. At Fit, they take almost 75% of every session.
Trainers are making $20 per hour take home. The natural progression is to start thinking, “I need a business on my own.” They may be good at training, but they don’t know how to manage their schedule and market themselves.
I think Podify will help those professionals have a business in a box to help manage it. At the same time, they can earn more revenue.
Matt: I think that another thing for people to realize is that trainers at the gym do have a pool of clients outside of the gym including in-home clients as well where they are taking home 100%. It’s because they are losing 60% to 70% of their revenue.
Our strategy is really to service the people outside of the gym. Over time, that scale will tip because they’ll have more referral sources over here. They’ll start building their outside-of-the-gym clientele and then make that full leap.
Patrick: Basically, you can be an accelerator for the fitness professional who is on the fence and working both sides of it. You facilitate the business development.
What’s the benefit for clients? Someone like me who is not a personal trainer, but I use personal trainers and massage therapists. What’s the benefit for me? Why would I do this instead of just calling you up and saying, “Hey, I want to schedule an appointment.”
Matt: I’ll actually speak to this on the client side because I receive the pain all the time with the people that I work with. I think the big thing for me personally is transparency.
You’ve obviously personally trained with Bryan before. You text him and ask, “What’s your opening?” He texts you back and says, “I’ve got two slots.” You text back. You can go a day just trying to solidify an appointment that matches your availability.
What we’ve done is allowed clients to be able to tap into the schedule of their pro. They can see the availability, get instant gratification and book their appointment with their credit card on file.
They don’t need to worry about going to the ATM, writing a check or remembering to bring payment. It’s all taken care of. It’s like what Uber has done. They’ve done a really good job.
I think there is another key thing. I’ve asked Bryan before who a good chiropractor is. You go online and you don’t know who is good and who isn’t. You go to the people that have the most credibility and the people that you trust.
Now instead of me even having to contact my personal trainer to find out who is the best chiropractor or massage therapist, I can actually get to all of this within the app. I can get instant gratification on consuming other services as well.
Patrick: How do you guys make money? Do you make money from the clients? Are there push ads or pay-per-click ads? Is just on the referral service?
Bryan: The platform is transactional. The way we’ve done Podify is that the app will be free to download. The scheduling platform will be free to use.
I could get on Podify and use it to manage my schedule. All of my clients will now have access to my schedule and the features that we have built into that, which are very cool. There are things like penciled-ins and client preferences.
We’ve built a lot of things to try to help increase efficiency on the schedule. We’re giving that free to the pros. Our goal is to try to build up a user base of professionals using it as their scheduling system.
The billing system is an optional feature. A professional can choose to use it with all of their clients, none of their clients or half of their clients. They can use it with the ones that are always late paying or always forget their checkbooks.
They can use it with those kinds of clients if they just want to get rid of that pain point. They can put those clients on the automated system.
Just like Uber, you get in the car, take your ride and shut the door. You get charged. There is a receipt on your phone. It will be the same thing on Podify.
You come in for your workout from 9:00 AM or 10:00 AM. At 10:05 AM, the system knows the workout is done. The client gets charged. The personal trainer will get the money in the account the next day.
Podify takes 7.5% as the transactional fee. That is a sliding scale down, as a professional does volume over the course of the week.
Patrick: That portion of Podify, if I understand it correctly, kind of competes with Square. If I go to my massage therapist, she’ll swipe my card through the Square thing. I get a receipt.
Is this more integrated? What are the benefits of doing it this way versus Square? I’ve never used Square as someone that charges people. Does it integrate with my QuickBooks and small business stuff? Does yours? How does that work?
Matt: It’s a good question. I think Square is known as a billing solution. They’ve recently brought scheduling to the market, but that’s very recent. I think Square still doesn’t have that business development component. They aren’t able to link to a pod and provide other services.
I think the reporting is something that we’ll do within the app. It’s really that complete solution within the one. There’s another company, MINDBODY, online as well that has been around doing the scheduling and billing maybe a little bit longer than Square.
Both solutions are missing the pod element. That’s why we think that we have a good chance of claiming the market, including the people who are using Square. We’re going to give them something extra.
Bryan: I want to elaborate on that. Square takes 2.9% plus $0.30 every time you swipe. The client still needs to bring in the credit card to swipe every time.
With the 3% that you’re going to pay out to Square, we’re going to be a couple points more. We’re also doing the scheduling and funneling clients through the other professionals that that pro is connected to.
In addition, we’re building a bunch of other components that will be such a value-add for a professional. There are things like affiliate channels with products and supplements that pros will be able to increase additional revenue.
With Square, you won’t make any money on a referral out. We’re giving the professional multiple streams of additional revenue for the extra couple of percentage points that they will pay for Podify versus the Square.
Patrick: There’s a benefit for the pro to use the integrated solution as opposed to cobbling together a couple of different solutions.
Matt: There’s no hardware needed for Podify. For Square, you need the device.
Patrick: I guess the other thing is that, with Square, I have to actually show up for you to get paid. With Podify, if I’m a no-show, then I get billed. No-shows are kind of a big deal in your industry?
Bryan: Yes. Cancellations can run anywhere from 10% or more of my total sessions during the week. At the end of the day, I’m selling a workout.
You’re a busy man. If you had a meeting, conference call and kids, there are a million and one excuses to get out of a workout. If you have a late cancellation policy in place, you’ve still got to be able to collect on that.
The industry is relationships. In order to keep relationships good with my clients, you know a lot of times we just kind of let that slide. I think that, with a system like Podify, the platform can be the mediator between that.
Now your relationship can be strong by taking the money out of the situation. If the client goes to cancel after the appointment cut off time for that professional, then the system will say, “You will be charged for this. Do you want to confirm this?”
Maybe what happens is that we actually increase showing up for the appointments. People understand that they’re actually going to be losing money. I hope that helps the efficiency of pros.
Patrick: What a gem that is. It always works that way. I’ve got an appointment. I don’t give them 24 hours’ notice, and I get charged. They already have my billing information. This allows you to duplicate that for individual proprietorships.
Matt: It’s accountability.
Patrick: That’s interesting. Is the product deployed? Where are you guys from a product development standpoint?
Matt: We currently have a web app, which is getting tied up right now. It’s almost ready to be tested by about 20 professionals. We released a version one of it a while ago. We got the feedback and made it more mobile friendly. That is probably going to be released within the next week in terms of mobile product.
Bryan: Our goal is that we’re going to try to get to market within the next week with the web application. You’ll be able to use it on your computer and Safari on your phone.
We’re also in the middle of building the iOS mobile app. That is probably four or six weeks. Development always takes longer than expected.
We’re hoping that by the start of the year we will have the mobile app available. That’s when the health and fitness industry is at its peak. People are excited to get into working out again and professionals are busy.
The web platform and mobile app will do the same thing. The mobile app will just be a lot sleeker and easier to use for the day to day, hour by hour stuff. A professional may want to look at the deeper reporting and performance metrics at the end of the day or the end of the week. They will be able to do that on the desktop.
Patrick: We haven’t talked about money yet. Do you guys have revenue yet? Do you have a clear path to revenue and profitability?
Bryan: We’re still pre-revenue. As we had said, we’re going to be launching hopefully in the next few weeks. Even with limited professionals on the platform, we could probably hit profitability by the end of 2016.
Patrick: Great. I don’t think I talked to you guys about the size of the market. How big is the market for something like this?
Matt: Focusing on personal trainers, which is our core focus right now, there are 300,000 personal trainers in the United States alone. We actually found an alarming statistic that 45% of those are independent service providers versus working at a gym. That speaks volumes for us.
We initially thought that maybe we’d be looking at 25% to 30%. It’s a lot larger than that, which is great. That’s our core focus. Then we’re going to be going to the trainers in the gyms, trying to help them bridge that gap to make them a solopreneur.
Patrick: Awesome. Those are all the questions that I had. Is there anything that you guys wanted to talk about?
Matt: No, other than that when Podify launches, will I be seeing you on there, Pat, using all the pros?
Patrick: Absolutely. I think Bryan is going to be getting out of the personal training business to focus on Podify. I know he’s been working two full time jobs for the last year.
I’m super excited for you guys. It’s a very cool San Diego company. Keep your eye on them. I think that they’re going to be doing great things and be very successful.
This is Patrick Henry from QuestFusion with the Real Deal…What Matters.
This is an exciting company with a unique solution to a real problem in a potentially large market. I’m super excited about the prospects for Podify, and hope you enjoy this interview with its energetic founders. Please let us know what you think!