Want To Build A Global Business Empire?

“A lot of business owners are confident they know what people want. But often what they think people want is not what they actually want. I have always been attentive and had an open mind to make sure whatever I am thinking of is what our community of women really want,” says Tobi Pearce, CEO and founder of the global fitness company SWEAT and cofounder of the highly successful Bikini Body Guides.

Pearce built the SWEAT business empire with fellow Australian fitness instructor, Kayla Itsines, who has 7.1 million Instagram followers and over 12 million Facebook fans. Itsines is featured on the 2017 Women at Forbes Top Influencers list, leading the Fitness category and in 2016 the pair were the youngest entrants on the BRW Young Rich List.

Pearce says the success of the SWEAT app has been driven to a large extent by listening and responding to the needs of their online community. This approach has not only changed the way consumers interact with the fitness industry but also how the industry interacts with consumers.

“We recognize that there are lots of different types of women with different goals and needs. If we want to serve the largest audience of women, then we not only need the best content but the widest variety of content.”

Pearce is an outspoken advocate for women’s empowerment and body positive messaging. In this interview Pearce shares the lessons he has learnt building the SWEAT app and the real secret to his success: engaging and supporting women.

Michelle King: The success of Bikini Body Guides and now the SWEAT app, has been driven in part by the global community of women. How important is this to you?

Tobi Pearce: When I became a personal trainer back in 2011, I just ended up training a lot more women than men. I started specializing in training women and I found it really rewarding. At one point in time I had an unfortunate accident in a gym with a woman in my class and it left me really sad for a long time. It was a turning point in my career because I went from just providing a product to being motivated to provide the best product and service to women.

King: Can you share some of the biggest insights you have learnt serving a predominantly female audience?
Pearce: One of the really interesting things I have learnt about the fitness industry in general but even more so for women is that fitness is very social. It’s about understanding exactly how the social experience works for women. It’s about listening and being attentive.

When people ask, “What is the best tip for serving a community of people?” It’s basically just listening. People are very vocal on social media in good and bad ways – but both of which are constructive. I have also spent a lot of time in the gym training women one on one and also traveled the world and spoken to a lot of consumers. It has been a very deliberate product learning process for me.

King: How can other businesses owners better understand the needs of women when developing their products?

Pearce: A lot of entrepreneurs say they are doing this but not a lot of them are. My advice to people in literally any industry that has something to do with empowering women, is don’t just sit there talking about it or pretending you are doing something. Whether it is improving a product or listening to your audience and being attentive to them or running events. Go out of your way to make sure women feel as accommodated as possible.

King: You have had a lot of success in a short space of time. What has been your biggest lesson so far?

Pearce: Building the app. I don’t come from a background in technology, and a lot of people who build apps or software don’t have a background in technology. I had an intimate understanding of exactly what I wanted; in terms of the workout programs and how the user experience should be. But trying to translate that to people who build the product is a really big challenge. The communication between the idea of a product to how it should look and the way it should function is a difficult space. The first time around was definitely the most difficult. It set me back financially with the company, and that was probably the biggest lesson.

King: Based on your success can you share what other entrepreneurs can do to engage their audience in a meaningful way?  

Pearce: It’s like Gary Vaynerchuk says, “You have got to catch their attention.” He is absolutely right in that regard but a large part of this is also about just listening. It is important to ask consumers questions because at the end of the day you are serving them. You are trying to make something that they need and want to use on a regular basis.

King: But how do you decide what to pay attention to?

Pearce: If you are listening right you will never run out of things to do. It is great to have an unlimited about of opportunities to improve but it is also frustrating as no one has an unlimited amount of resources.

I always focus on relevance and volume. If you have a couple hundred comments about something, and it is the most dominant thing in the conversation, then extract that from the conversation. You can’t do everything but it is about serving the largest portion of the audience as possible.