Hewitt Tomlin is the CEO and Co-Founder of TeamBuildr, which he started with his college teammate and roommate, James Peters. TeamBuildr is a proudly self-funded software company for strength and conditioning professionals at all levels, helping coaches program training digitally in less time with more data. Hewitt is passionate about workplace culture (now in a remote environment) and developing high-performing employees while also emphasizing work-life balance.
Freelap USA: As the CEO and Co-Founder of TeamBuildr, you and your team have made a positive impact on our field with your products and software. Can you take us back to the roots of TeamBuildr and give us the backstory of how this idea was born?
Hewitt Tomlin: James Peters and I were college teammates, and every summer we would call each other almost daily and talk about the workout that day and compare weights and circuit times. James was becoming proficient at computer programming and came up with the idea for TeamBuildr as a way to replace pen and paper for athletes.
When we spoke to our very first strength coach, however, we found out that our business was actually to provide a better experience for strength coaches than what most of them were getting with Excel. Giving athletes a digital tool was just sort of a by-product of that vision. James and I always felt like we were entrepreneurial, but we had never really started a business before. We made some mistakes along the way, but in a lot of ways our naiveté helped us.
For instance, all we did was go to strength coaches and ask them to use the software before even charging for it. We didn’t seek investors or guidance from anyone who wasn’t necessarily in the strength and conditioning field.
That mantra is pretty much still true today and is our guiding light; no one can give us better advice than the customers we serve, who are strength and conditioning professionals.
Freelap USA: For coaches or readers who may aspire to starting their own business one day, what are some of the general things about entrepreneurship that you know NOW but wish you would’ve known in the early stages of TeamBuildr?
Hewitt Tomlin: I could really write a small book about my short experience so far, but some things immediately come to mind. For instance, the value of an intimate relationship with the end customer is probably underestimated—it’s easy to get excited about designing a logo or coming up with a name for your new business, but the majority of time and focus should be on the customer and their end experience.
I don’t necessarily agree that the customer is always right; however, I do think that a business owner should always observe a customer regardless of what the customer thinks or says.
Another realization I had at some point was the importance of the ability to successfully delegate your business’s operations and functions to other capable people. I thought for a while that only I could conduct these original processes I created and was surprised to find out that a good employee could often successfully inherit a process and even expand on it.
Once a business owner can quickly delegate a process to a more capable employee and also successfully leverage their newfound time to further expand the business, that is when you’ll see a high-performing business that grows at a successful rate.
Freelap USA: First off, do you consider your company to be in the sports performance industry or in the software/tech space? Second, can you tell us some of the ways you envision technology impacting the sports performance world over the next 5–10 years?
Hewitt Tomlin: I consider us a software or tech company. The economist Adam Smith said that a highly efficient economy consists of businesses that specialize in their competitive advantage.
James and I are not performance or strength coaches, but we aim to be the best at creating software for performance and strength coaches. Therefore, coaches who are professionals in their field come to us to seek our services as professionals in the software space.
That being said, though, we have to have a special relationship with the sports performance field in order to service it best. If you see someone building software for strength coaches but they don’t have much interest in the strength and conditioning profession, I would be very wary.
I don’t do much in terms of trying to make grand predictions for the state of our industry as it relates to technology; that’s just never been my thing. I do think that you will see a consolidation of services—at least, that’s what I want for our company. My vision for our company is that a strength/performance coach will comfortably tell anyone: “We just do it all in TeamBuildr.”
Freelap USA: So many coaches are still resistant to the idea of technology in coaching and/or training. What are some ways TeamBuildr has helped coaches and practitioners revolutionize their coaching, programming, or practice?
Hewitt Tomlin: Luckily for us, we started selling our software in 2012 to coaches who were typically a little bit skeptical of using something different or a new technology.
It taught us to build software that is flexible and highly accommodating to various systems and preferences as it relates to programming and organizing a strength and conditioning program.
I think our reputation today is clearly the company that built a product that is the most functional for a wide variety of strength coaches in various settings. We were never really interested in identifying one or a few “influential” coaches and then applying their principles as the framework to our software and making everyone play within those boundaries.
We wanted to build a software where two totally different coaches who take totally different approaches to programming would still be able to do it successfully on our platform. It doesn’t make for easy work in terms of building a software platform, but I believe it sets us up for long-term success to build something this robust and inclusive.
Freelap USA: Final question—What does TeamBuildr have in the works for 2022 and beyond? What’s next for you guys, and what are your major goals for the company moving forward?
Hewitt Tomlin: The thing we are most excited about this year is the launch of new versions of our mobile apps for iOS and Android. In the beginning of our company’s existence, we had to employ a third-party agency to build our mobile apps (for multiple reasons).
However, we are at the point, financially and otherwise, where we have brought in-house developers and actually own the entire process of our app development on mobile. This will accelerate our product development and feature releases at a rate never seen before, which is super exciting.
Furthermore, we are hiring an in-house sports scientist to help develop strategies in our Reporting and Data Visualization modules for the vast amounts of data that TeamBuildr aggregates.
At the moment, our biggest value proposition is that we save coaches a lot of time with the process of programming, and we collect a lot of data from athletes. However, our biggest opportunity is to leverage the amount of data that we collect into something where coaches can easily run analysis, create unique and specific insights that help them with decision-making, and also help with bringing assets to sports coaches and other stakeholders within a program. But the key to doing all this is providing a process that takes minimal time and effort and delivers actionable value.
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