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5 Tips on Being a Disruptor in the Fitness Industry

This entrepreneur was part of the problem, and now she's trying to be part of the solution.

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Chalene Johnson, is the face of fitness and diet programs such as Turbo Jam, and PiYo. She's also motivational speaker, an author and podcaster. She and her husband Bret are the founders of the SmartLife movement.

Several years ago, Chalene began to suffer a steady decline in her health that included debilitating brain fog, mood swings, and chronic pain and injuries. Her role as a fitness expert gave her unparalleled access to leading researchers, doctors, and scientists. What she discovered led to her latest business, book and these tips on becoming an honest disruptor.

1. Brace for backlash.

Johnson starts her book by admitting she's part of the problem in today’s fitness industry: Influencers like her are able to make money promoting workout programs, health products and other solutions that they either don’t use, or only use very minimally.

For example, Johnson ate little and exercised three to four hours a day while teaching classes as a fitness instructor, but promoted a fitness product that promised results in just a 30-minute-a-day workout. Celebrities can promote a supplement -- along with eating clean and drinking lots of water, of course -- and earn commissions or endorsement checks as the general public flocks to try the product. What the celebrities usually leave out is that they also have a personal trainer, dietician and/or chef on staff.

Johnson wants to help enlighten the public about what it really takes to have a fitness-infomercial-ready physique. You can imagine other fitness influencers' reaction to her new mission.

“There have been a lot of humbling moments -- a lot of uncertainty, fear, not knowing how people are going to take what it is I have to say,” Johnson shared, “Worrying that I'm alienating people and then also feeling an obligation to do this. Because for me, it's setting the record straight. We evolve and when you know better, then you do better.”

If you’re going to zig while your industry is zagging, be prepared for negative articles, comments, direct messages, one-star reviews and more.

2. Avoid custom-built solutions if you can.

If you have a revolutionary idea in your industry, you may have trouble finding the tools and resources necessary to launch it to the market. If possible, Johnson advises, do not build custom websites, apps and more from scratch.

“It took forever," Johnson said. "It was way more money and way more difficult than we realized. We've spent millions of dollars to develop something that wasn't making money, because we had to build it first before we could put people in it and then market it.”

While you hopefully can avoid building tech from scratch, you may not be able to succeed without bringing in external help. Johnson and her husband had always created internal positions, but decided they had to hire a lot of projects out for their newest project. She says the key for working with contractors, consultants or agencies is to first learn how to evaluate those entities and truly do your homework on each option before chosing a vendor or partner.

3. Expect deserters.

Remember the fitness influencers Johnson alienated? Many of those were fans of hers, valued members of her community. She explained that sometimes you just have to let those previous followers, customers and clients go. Stay the course.

“Some will come with you because they've just been a fan of you, and you'll lose a whole bunch. But don't cater to the group that is just giving you likes. You're going to have to really embrace who it is you want to be and where you're going. Embrace that and don't worry about people that you're going to lose - if you're catering to that group, all that will do is cause you to be inauthentic.”

4. Go all in.

If you feel you’re sitting on a unicorn in your industry, you’re probably itching to abandon your current business, products and/or services, right? Johnson’s brand has pivoted many times over the past two decades.

“Don’t be afraid to pivot. But take [your current endeavor] all the way to the end -- able to run without you having to be in it every single day, before you pursue that next thing. Make it successful before you branch off.” 

5. Remember the mission.

Disruption is not for the faint of heart. If you’re going to turn your industry inside-out, make sure you have a clear Why, a clear vision and mission of service to keep you going. “There's nothing more powerful, more rewarding, more freeing, than having people who you connect with ... who get you, and they connect with you, and you serve them. It's like having dear, close, loyal friends who will always be in your corner.”

Hear Johnson's tips on health, work-life balance, mompreneurship in more in the full interview with me on my YouTube channel, The Kelsey Show.

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