How a Navy SEAL Invented a Multi-Million Dollar Fitness Craze By Accident
An unstoppable mindset helped retired Navy SEAL Squadron Commander Randy Hetrick build TRX into a global force.
While on deployment in 1997, Navy SEAL Squadron Commander Randy Hetrick was looking for a way to keep his body in peak physical condition, which is essential for effectively operating as a member of the most elite fighting force on the planet. Alas, there weren't many Equinoxes or L.A. Fitnesses in the part of the world he was deployed in (okay, there weren't any.)
The ability to adapt and improvise are trademarks of special operators, and so Hetrick put those powers to work. Using only parachute webbing, a jiu-jitsu belt he accidentally packed in his bag and his body weight, Hetrick devised a workout system that helped keep his mind and body strong. It was primitive, and it worked. After leaving the Navy, Hetrick continued to develop and refine his MacGyver-ed system. Cut to 2019, and that system is now the global fitness phenomenon known as TRX. Hetrick's suspension-training product and workout system are utilized in more than 60,000 clubs and training facilities worldwide, the company expects to sell more than $60 million in goods and services this coming year and has a roster of ambassadors including Super Bowl-winning quarterback Drew Brees. Not too shabby, right?
Listen to Randy's incredible story in this week's episode of the Get a Real Job podcast above.
Prior to our conversation, I took a class in New York City as part of the "TRX for AnyBODY" campaign, which launched to encourage non-elite athletes (like me) to give it a shot. Afterward, I spoke with Randy in-between gasping for air. Here are some of the highights of that conversation:
What the military teaches you about risk
"The SEAL Teams taught me several useful lessons about risk: 1. Every real opportunity entails risk and most risks contain opportunity. 2. Risk is a thing that can be managed through preparation and adherence to a set of standard operating procedures (SOPs) that distill generations of institutional knowledge into modern-day best practices. Bottom line: Blind risk is bad, managed risk is the name of the game."
Success starts and ends with teamwork
"The central tenet of special operations is that small groups of talented, motivated individuals with complementary skillsets — aligned around a common mission — can form teams that make even the impossible possible. The key ingredients are talent, motivation, dedication, complementary skillsets and team alignment."
What veterans bring to the table in business
"In the SEAL Teams, the two most important character traits are integrity and accountability. In my 15 years as an entrepreneur, I have found that to be true in the business world as well. Virtually all other skills can be taught, but integrity and accountability are difficult to teach to an employee who doesn't understand or appreciate those traits by the time he's reached adulthood. Military veterans are steeped in these concepts from the day they enter service. And during the course of a service member's career, he or she also develops resourcefulness, tenacity and selfless dedication to the mission — above all else. If you want a well-trained, high-integrity individual who craves accountability and is steeped in a tradition of selflessness, service, and resourcefulness ... you can't do better than to hire a veteran."
His proudest moment as a Navy SEAL
"Being entrusted to command a squadron of the most elite special operators that ever walked the face of the Earth. For that brief moment in time, I had reached the absolute pinnacle of my profession. And it was, at that time, the greatest achievement of my life."
His proudest moment in business
"I've had many, many proud moments working with my teams to build TRX into the amazing, global brand that it has become. But maybe the proudest of all was the day that a young blind man — a former SEAL who had been blinded in combat — told me that TRX had saved his life. When I asked what he meant, he explained that we had given him a tool and the knowledge to train himself, without any assistance from anyone, which had given him back one of the most important things in life ... his independence."
TRX for Anybody
"Even as TRX brings new products and services to serve its professional clientele of trainers, clubs and athletes, it is also expanding its scope in the consumer landscape as well. Our customer base is 50/50 male to female and spans ages from 15 to 95. TRX is, indeed, for everybody. But that reality has been, until recently, our best-kept secret. So we recently decided to broaden our marketing message and spread the word that whoever you are, whatever your goals, and whatever your level of fitness, TRX is for you. We launched our 'TRX for AnyBODY' campaign to help share the amazing stories of inspiration, courage and success that are a daily part of our lives and our brand at TRX. And we hope to encourage everyone, everywhere who has a body to let TRX help them achieve their best, whatever that best might be."