Eric: Hey, Everybody. This is Eric with The Future of Fitness podcast and the Fitness Marketing Alliance, and in this podcast I got to talk to Kit Klein from GORUCK. If you are unfamiliar with what GORUCK is, it is a US based apparel company, and they have branched out into doing military style challenges all around the world. This is a company that’s seen a lot of growth in the fitness industry. It’s an interesting segment. Their slogan is “Building Better Americans.”
One of the things I found fascinating during this conversation was how they built a global tribe, and how they’re so focused on community and all of the things that they do. There’s so many lessons here for those of us who are looking to build a community within our fitness business because community and tribes really is what we’re looking for. That’s what will give you the base that you need to grow your business.
He also talks about the fire based program, which is a way that you can get involved in GORUCK if you are a facility owner or if you just simply train people at a gym that might be interested in it. It’s a great way to build community and a great way to bond with your clients. There’s just a lot in here. Without further ado, it is Kit Klein. He is the affiliate manager at GORUCK International and let’s let it rip.
Hi, Everybody. This is Eric with the Fitness Marketing Alliance, and I am sitting here with Kit Klein from GORUCK. I’m really excited to talk to him. I know I’ve been watching GORUCK for a long time and the growth of that business and kind of the phenomenon around it. I’m really excited to have you here, Kit. If you don’t mind maybe telling us a little bit about yourself and what GORUCK is.
Kit Klein: Sure. Happy to be here. Glad I have … we made the time to make this happen. About me, I’ve been always very interested in the fitness industry in general. I have worked in some gyms as a trainer just doing some small stuff in the past. I have always done sports or some sort of competitive thing. Then as I got older, started doing the typical 9:00 to 5:00. I worked in a cubicle and just wasn’t really loving life too much. It was a lot of that doing the nitty gritty all day and learned 9:00 to 5:00 would turn into 8:00 to 6:00 or 8:00 to 7:00. It was really draining on me.
I was looking for something different in my life. Something that was going to really give me some additional fulfillment outside of the job and from that, I started looking into [inaudible 00:02:46]. That started off as Warrior Dash, and things like that. I’m like, this seems a little short. It’s not something that is going to be super challenging for me. Then, I came upon the Tough Mudder brand.
From there, in the early days, GORUCK was partnered with Tough Mudder as a way to obviously gain some eyes and promote ourselves a little bit. I wasn’t working with GORUCK at the time, but I saw that, and I was like, okay. Their message in the side bar was that if you do a GORUCK event or a GORUCK challenge, you would then be able to run the Tough Mudder course with a special operations person, veteran and you could do that with a group of people and have some fun. I was like, “Wow. That sounds really cool.”
Their event, the GORUCK event, sounded more challenging even than Tough Mudder did. I was like, all right. I’ll do the GORUCK [00:03:40], then I would go to the Tough Mudder with this group of guys. I did this third ever GORUCK event in New York City back in 2010, and I just instantly fell in love.
GORUCK, to take a step back, it’s basically a gear and event company. We run multiple events all over the country. It started off with like 25 events a year back in 2010, and now we run upwards of 10 events a weekend-
Kit Klein: All throughout the state. Yeah. Major growth. Then, we also branched off from just that challenge event to offer navigators and [inaudible 00:04:23] and survival classes. Gun range courses. We have a multitude of opportunities and events that people can take advantage of now. Back in the early days, when I first started, it was just the one event, and we had I think about five pieces of gear. The gear side also grew to 100s of [inaudible 00:04:43] of T-shirts and all kinds of accessories and things that we build here in the US.
GORUCK as a brand has grown into this all encompassing experience where you can do an event to promote team work. It’s all about everyone around you. It’s never about yourself. Then, they take that experience and get it out to their communities and start to be a beacon of community for the people around them in their society.
We have a tagline they can use, “Building better Americans.” That’s our goal, is to kind of create this group of people who are interested in being a positive influence in their town and their community and their life, and to those around them. We also take that to our gear where we really believe we make the best, most durable gear in the US. We make it all here because we believe in American manufacturing. Our gear also comes with a lifetime guarantee, so if you rip it, tear it under normal circumstances … I mean, if you shoot it with a gun or do some sort of crazy stuff, it might be a good story, but we’ll probably not fix a bag that’s been thrown into a furnace or something like that, but we will … for a price, you can definitely fix some extra crazy way that you may have worked on your gear in some event or some great adventure.
We take those two things and really focus our business on that. We want to get people out and active and not be sitting in a cubicle like I used to be all day long and just hating their lives. They want them to … we want them to feel that they have a group of people they can come to and say, “Hey, I want to go and ruck this weekend,” and people carry 20, 30, 40, 50 pounds in a Ruck bag, and they go walk with their friends. The rucking is really a center of our business, because we believe it’s something that anybody can do of any fitness background, and it’s really grown across the board for us to include so many different people, and so many great stories. Our events are one thing, but the way our gear and the rucking ties into it is a really awesome way to see all of that come to fruition as well.
Eric: Yeah. That’s awesome. I’ve seen the growth of obstacle course training and GORUCK especially. I have a friend who’s [a Cadre 00:07:18], and I have a friend who competes for this [inaudible 00:07:20], which is the big one for those of you listening.
Kit Klein: Right.
Eric: It’s the big nasty. What do you attribute to growth? You mentioned something really interesting, which I find fascinating because I’m from a crossfit background, and that cubicle life, and how people are looking for a very visceral and real escape from that. How do you … do you think that’s a huge factor in what you guys do? What do you attribute the natural growth of obstacle course training and GORUCK? What do you think it is? What’s the attraction?
Kit Klein: Honestly, what I believe is it ties to the cubicle life, but it ties to just life in general. I feel that people in general have this inherent ability or belief or need to test themselves, push their limits. To try to understand what they can mentally do, or what are their limits? GORUCK has been a way for a lot of people to test those limits. They’re tired of being the person who just sits at their desk, waiting for the weekend, and is like, “Well, could I do more? Could I be something different?”
A GORUCK event provides those two things of a community that people can come and reach out to. Like I said earlier, just go do activities with, but it also offers them a chance to really test their metal when they come to a GORUCK event and have to put themselves up out of their comfort zone, because we’re a society where we now just … we love comfort. We love ease. We love to sit on our phones and not even talk to anybody next to use, whether we’re waiting in line or a doctor’s office. Just like your head’s down looking at your phone.
A GORUCK event is totally, completely opposite. You can’t wear a watch. You have no phone. You have to work with the people around you. We put you into leadership positions, whether you like it or not. You’re going to have to get in front of a group and potentially lead that group to another point during the event, and it’s something that’s not entirely comfortable, but people love that.
For us, the growth has come from word of mouth, because those inherent beliefs that people need to accomplish, where they’re trying to test themselves and need a sense of community, they take that after they learn about it and earn their patch at a GORUCK event, and then they’ll take that to their job or their family or anything else that they’re dealing with, and they tell more people. Telling more people has really been the whole bottom line for us. We don’t run a ton of ads or buy billboards or do something that’s your traditional kind of marketing plan. Our whole model has been based around growing that customer base who will come back for 20 … it’s amazing to me how many people have come back for 20 or more events. It’s just an amazing community. Then those people tell their friends.
We also work with gyms a lot because we want to partner with them, obviously because they’re kind of the front line for our model, and they get more people to come to events and they promote the sport of rucking, and they help us in a lot of ways there, too. Just been a lot of relationship building, community building that has really grown us to where we are today.
Eric: That’s awesome. With what we do, and just relate this to Fitness Marketing Alliance and FMA. We see our job as we optimize and amplify what the fit pro is doing already, and I think the fundamentals of marketing haven’t changed, it’s just avenues have changed in how you can do it. There’s just so many different options with the digital age. What I think you guys have done, that’s incredible, and I think the Crossfit has done it well. You’ve built this tribe. This community of people who won’t shut up about what you do.
Kit Klein: Right.
Eric: Can you maybe touch on that? Is there anything that you guys do intentionally to build that tribe and to build that community? Something maybe a fitness pro listening out there or gym owner out there can take some nuggets from.
Kit Klein: In the digital world, it’s definitely a challenging place to be because it’s so constantly changing. One technology is there one week, and it could be a month later and there could be something completely new or something that you have to relearn or new apps that people are using to touch base. We’ve really just focused on good content. We like to try to create an experience. It’s all about the experience for our customers, and for somebody that comes to our website, we spend a lot of time and effort and resources on taking great pictures, great videos, getting some great testimonials from people. Filming that. Filming the experience of the person going through the event. Filming our gear being put to the test.
We also really try to engage … I mean, our founder Jason is one of the most engaged CEOs I’ve ever seen or founders for a company where he’ll go on Facebook, he’ll go on Reddit and spend the time to actually reach out to the community and touch base and talk and ask questions and be completely transparent with what’s going on, so that way people that sense of … they don’t feel like we’re just some cold corporation or cold company that’s not willing to even take the time to answer a question.
We’re willing to spend the time to actually go out there and see what people’s thoughts are. That’s done great things for us and built a lot of rapport for our customers, and brought them back again and again. We have a great community of people, even on Facebook, we have a whole group of people who have completed the events. I think it’s upwards of almost 20,000 people right now that we constantly engage with each other. Tell jokes, they ask questions, they get that group together, and then there’s offshoots from that where people create their own groups.
Even from there, we have our fire base program where we have a bunch of gyms that are all managed with our team here, and we reach out to those owners. We talk to them. We see what’s going on in their communities, and we always kind of have our hand on the pulse of what the fans of GORUCK are doing so that we can better adapt to their needs, better adapt to what they’re looking to accomplish and try to meet those goals.
Eric: Yeah. That’s awesome. Let’s dive into it a little bit. I guess, two fold. If I’m cubicle Joe, and I’m looking at signing up for a GORUCK. What can you tell me about what that experience will be like? What does that feel like?
Kit Klein: The initial sign up is going to a super nerve racking experience. We always say, honestly, one of the hardest things is signing up, because you’re like, “Oh, man. I don’t know if I can handle this. I don’t know what … do I have to have a training op? Am I crazy?” People will look at you crazy when they tell you what a GORUCK event is.
What I think helps is to understand what it isn’t as well, because it’s not bootcamp. It’s not some [inaudible 00:14:50] come up in your face and scream at you and telling you to do 100 push ups, just in a way that is degrading or something that’s negative. I mean, there’s … you’re going to be doing push ups. You’re going to be doing other PT and lifting heavy things and carrying logs and each other, or other types of things like that, but the end goal is always the team.
Signing up for an event, you might feel like an individual. You might feel a little frightened because you’re like, “I’ve never done anything like this before, and I’m going into this all by myself.” The best advice is always find some friends, and sign up with them so at least you have some support base, but if not, you’ll make some friends. Our people at these events usually have someone or a few people that have done at least one or two events, and from there, they kind of help everyone to get into that team [inaudible 00:15:43]. It happens very quickly. You’re forced to be a team pretty much as soon as you start the event. You won’t even worry about yourself.
Like I was saying earlier, it’s all about the people around you, and you learn to accept that. A person who might just be signing up for their first event, sign up. Think about your training. Our events … you have to have some training. I wouldn’t say you have to be like a crossfit super athlete or some guy that is able to do these incredible feats. It’s more about what you mentally set yourself up for. You say, I’m not going to quit no matter what I go through, no matter what I have to face, because our events are designed to not have a specific course or end time.
They obviously have a specific time frame, but as far as you don’t know where you’re going to go, you don’t know when it’s going to end in general times, and you also don’t have a watch so you can’t even check the time to see where things are. It’s just mentally thinking, “All right. I’m going to go into it, put everything into, just completely kind of submit to be the whim of whatever the cadre wants to do.”
It’s definitely unique. It’s not one of those events that you’re going to go to a course, have a vendor village, meet at the start line, go run your 5K, and then come back and eat at the vendor court or something. It’s more of a very meet on the street corner, meet the cadre, go over some rules and safety briefs, and then from there we go into … usually a welcome party, where they take the whole group of people, and you start doing a bunch of PT until they decide it’s time to move forward.
Then, you’re going to be completing missions throughout the event, whether it’s moving from one location to another, whether it’s moving some large object for an undetermined amount of time, or then it’s just the end of the event, and everyone shakes hands. Get the patch. Usually they’ll go out for a beer afterwards, and they have 30 new friends with them. It’s always a really cool experience, because you go from maybe not knowing anybody, to having 30 best friends in the world.
Eric: That’s awesome. What percentage do you think, Kit, of people who complete … okay, let’s back up. There’s three different levels, right? I think there’s a light, a tough, and then a heavy. Is that right?
Kit Klein: Heavy. Yep.
Eric: Where would you recommend that most people start?
Kit Klein: It’s kind of your preference. I wouldn’t say … we’ve had people go and do a heavy the first time ever. I mean, it’s like, okay. That takes some gall to do that and say I actually have the physical ability, because it’s no joke. I mean, 24 hours of doing this is an intense thing to do, and it’s going to be tough, and it’s going be wearing on you. You have like a very basic level of fitness, it’s going to be up a little up. A light is going to be more introductory, more … I don’t want to say [inaudible 00:18:43], but it’s something that’s just not as intense. It’s not something that’s going to be as regimented in terms of what your rules are.
In a tough, you’re going to have more specifics. They’re going to be watching you closer to make sure that you’re working as a team, where a light, they’re still going to do those things, but if you screw up a few times and don’t stay together as a group or whatever the rules are that are set forth for the event, it’s not going to be like some major deal. It never really is, but it’s just one of those things that there’s a different feel. It’s like a little bit more, we’re hanging out and doing the event. We’re having a good time. There’s some more jokes thrown around and that type of thing, where a tough is a little more intense, little more focused on the team, and then like I said, the heavy is like the ultimate team event where you’re going to be trying to work together for 24 hours.
However, the light is a great opening event, I would say. I mean, the tough is though too, because the tough is going to give you the full experience where a light, you might not get enough time to really generate that whole team feel like you would in a tough.
Eric: Okay. The tough is what, 12 hours? Is that right?
Kit Klein: Yeah. That usually starts at like 9 PM or 1 AM. We switch the times around a little bit, depending on the time of year and whatnot. It’s a different experience going overnight, too, because a light is usually in the afternoon or early morning, so that you’re still with the sun up for the most part, but with a tough, its night time for the majority of your event, and then you’re done in the early morning. It’s kind of hard … that overnight thing can really do a number on people sometimes.
Eric: Yeah. I think that’s the only part that intimidates me is not sleeping.
Kit Klein: Right.
Eric: I just … I love to sleep, man. I love it. I want to hear more about this fire base program, too. I mean, that’s coming from being a crossfit gym owner and affiliate owner for a long time, I very much understand the need to build community and maintain that community. I kind of keep things fresh. Tell me a little about that program and how a facility owner or a fitness pro or a gym … anybody can get involved in that.
Kit Klein: Sure. The fire base program is basically set up to promote the sport of rucking. That’s our basic goal is to get more people … like I was saying earlier, the gym owners are on the front lines. In the military … I was never a veteran, but the military says that the fire base is usually the base that’s closest to the action, to what’s going on. They’re the people that we want to work with, because they’re literally in front of customers almost every day, if not every day. If we work with them and they’re brought in on the benefits of rucking, then it is a great resource for us to build our customer base, but we want to return the favor as well.
That’s the whole goal of the program is reciprocity of the whole thing, because we’re going to be saying, “All right, we would love for you to help us grow this sport of rucking, to get people to events, to buy gear, but we want to work with you too, so if you have some big event going on, if you’re … ” What are the goals of that gym owner or that crossfit boss or whatever it might be? We want to see what they’re trying to do, because we can offer a lot of solutions like custom events or a large gear purchase or anything like that, and we can definitely come up with some great opportunities.
We also do a tier system within the program so that you basically earn as soon as you sign up an event discount so that we can see how things are going. We can see how your gym is preforming within the program, but then it also incentivizes, because the more you use the code, the more you do rucks with your gym, then we can increase the percentage of that. We can also offer discounts on gear.
Like I was saying, we can do custom events, which are always nice because a custom event for a gym is a great way to build member unity, because then you say, all right, we’re all going to do an event that’s outside the normal schedule of GORUCK, or we just want to do an event with our people. It’s something that everyone can train for, it’s people they know, and then they can get a custom patch even at the end of it to say yeah, we at crossfit ABC just completed a GORUCK event and here’s our patch to show for it.
It’s just a way for us to really reward those people who are out there helping us and believing in what we do. Again, we like to return the favor and try to help them in any way we can that fits within our business model, fits within what we’re trying to accomplish as well.
Eric: That’s really cool. I love that. I love the custom events. Now, I’m going to lead you in a question, because this is what I do for a living. How do you see GORUCK … technology is changing incredibly quick. Quicker than most people can even handle. How do you see GORUCK adjusting to the digital age, and using that as an advantage for the growth of your business?
Kit Klein: I think it’s going to come down to a lot of finding a way to bring community together for us, whether that’s something like meetup.com or like some sort of … even like a Fitbit tracker type situation or something where people can come together and say, “We’re rucking.” A lot of those tracker devices, people using an apple watch or whatever, they track where they’ve been and what they’re doing, and I see us trying to move more into that as well. Like, what are you up to? Finding a community of people.
The hard part about what we do is that we’re not focused on making technology a part of what we’re doing. We make people put away their cell phones and watches and things like that, because we want them to full experience the moment. The technology is probably moreso a way for us to utilize meet ups and get togethers, and obviously letting people know what we do and inform them about gear and things like that. I think those are some of the other ways that we’re going to use technology in the future.
Eric: Awesome. Kit, if I’m someone who wants to try a GORUCK event or if I’m a fitness pro or a facility owner who wants to get in touch with you guys and maybe talk a little bit about events and fire base, how do we get a hold of you?
Kit Klein: The best way to do that, we have a link on our website at the bottom of the page that is called GORUCK fire base. You can click on that link, and it will take you to a page outlining the fire base program, and then they can apply. We get all those requests on our emails here so that we can sort them out and answer them. Then you can also just shoot firstname.lastname@example.org an email, and they’ll also help to sort out any sort of questions or emails that you have, because they are great. Our customer service team is awesome. They’ll be happy to help with whatever issue you guys might have or even just finding out more information about what we do.
Eric: That’s awesome. Well, thank you, Kit. I really appreciate your time, man. I love what you guys are doing at GORUCK, and you fired me up. I’m going to sign up for one. There, I said it.
Kit Klein: Awesome.
Eric: I said it.
Kit Klein: All right.
Eric: I’ll try to get a team together too, and drag some people with me. Yeah, thank you for your time, and we’ll keep in touch.
Kit Klein: All right. Sounds good, man. Looking forward to it.
Eric: Hey, everybody. This is Eric with the Fitness Marketing Alliance, and I want to say thank you for listening to this episode of the future of fitness podcast and webinar series. We’re working really hard here to keep great content coming out, and we’d like to express our gratitude by offering you a free seven day marketing crash course. Here’s how you can claim it. If you go to fitnessmarketingalliance.com\freegift, and you enter the promo code fit mark, you can claim it that way. The other way you can text us. You can text the phone number 805-619-5550, and you text the word fit mark. Again, that phone number is 805-619-5550. Thank you. Keep listening. Go claim that offer. It’s a ton of value, and if you ever want to get a hold of me or if you have suggestions for guests, topics, want anything else, or if you just want to ask me questions, I always respond. You can reach me at Eric@Fitnessmarketingalliance.com. Keep listening. We have a lot more coming down the pipe, and we’ll make sure that we’re keeping the value great for you guys, and farewell until next time.
The success that he saw during his days as a gym owner, can now be leveraged to help thousands of gym owners worldwide.
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