As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kirk Myers, CEO and Founder of Dogpound, a personal training gym with locations in LA and NYC.
Born and raised in Kansas City, MO, Kirk Myers is a fitness industry legend. For the past 17 years, his commitment to health and fitness has allowed him to not only transform is own life, but also those of his clients. Having struggled with obesity and heart failure at an early age, Myers felt it was his destiny to overcome both these obstacles and use that to inspire others. After graduating from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, he leveraged his knowledge gained from his own weight loss journey to start Kirk Myers Fitness, with the goal of helping others transform their own bodies and lives. In 2011, he made the move to NYC and by 2015, Dogpound was created. By creating an authentic, positive and vibrant atmosphere at his famed gyms in NYC and LA, Myers’ built more than a space for working out, he has built a community and a vibe that can be felt by everyone who touches the brand. Myers inspires not only his celebrity clients to lead healthy lives, but encourages his team of trainers to be inclusive and uniquely competitive, creating a truly magical experience. The organic and genuine relationships fostered by Myers is the driving force behind all things Dogpound.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I’m originally from Kansas City, and moved to NY a little over eight years ago after recovering from congestive heart failure for the second time. In High School, I weighed over 300 lbs and when years of an unhealthy lifestyle landed me in the hospital, I knew I had to make a drastic change. In about two years I lost 130 lbs., which, led me to my love of fitness and thus, I became a trainer. For the last 17+ years, my passion to help others achieve their own fitness goals and live a healthier life has been my motivation.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
One of the funniest mistakes I made when I started my own business was that I allowed a client of mine to set the duration of the workout. I usually only offer sessions in increments of one hour. But I had a client ask if she could do 30-minute sessions instead. I didn’t see the harm in that, as it would allow me to prep for my next session. But the following week, she requested sessions of 15 minutes, and all of a sudden her package of 20 sessions had somehow become a package for 80 sessions. While the math works from a time perspective, it put me in a predicament, as it would be near impossible to fill the rest of the hour. It became a mess when I told her this wouldn’t work, but I’m glad I did. I’ve learned that you can’t always please everyone and that it helps to have clients/friends who understand the value of your time.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
I spend a lot of my free time watching YouTube motivational videos. Most recently “Les Brown — Stop Negative Thinking and Believe in Yourself” has been a go-to. Challenges and obstacles can occur daily that can drive negative thinking which can then affect your mood, important decisions, and those around you. When I can truly refocus on the positive, things tend to work out. Any time I have faced a setback while growing my business, I would watch Les’ videos to get my mindset back on track and it has always worked!
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
When I began as a trainer, I wanted to help people. My initial goal was to have 10 clients and through fitness, help them change their lives the way I had mine. But I started to realize that many people came in not just to get “fit” but also to talk about their lives and find genuine friendship and support. This led to DOGPOUND — which is not just a gym, but also a community of friends that want to see each other succeed, uplift each other, and help one another grow. As the company grew, we developed the five pillars of our brand — Teamwork, Passion, Authenticity, Positivity and To Giveback — all of which we believe has really led the vision to grow and helps define our purpose.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Yes! I would have to say “be persistent.” Whether getting over a hurdle or pursuing an exciting new project, being persistent in achieving goals has been my biggest strength. I believe this has also been the key to my focus on our brand’s mission and long term vision to help and inspire people — knowing that our mission has helped improve others keeps us resilient in enduring any struggle.
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Personally it has been a challenge to focus on my own health. With a packed schedule of virtual meetings and virtual sessions with clients, it is hard to find the time to eat healthy and exercise consistently while also trying to keep the business operations going during this time. That said, I have made an effort to walk while taking calls and situate myself near a healthy restaurant that happens to have take-out/delivery to make these important things easily accessible.
It’s also been hard knowing that the goals and milestones I set for 2020 may not happen this year. I was really looking forward to expanding DOGPOUND’s global presence this year but due to the pandemic we’ve put a hold on a lot of these plans. But what we have done is focus on the things we can work on during this time, which has meant expanding our reach by establishing DPVT (DOGPOUND Virtual Training) — a new offering. This new capability has allowed us to reach our clients, fans and friends in countries all over the world all in one day sometimes! While it’s a different experience than in our gyms, it is no-less enjoyable and still provides an intimate, unique experience for one-on-one training. Additionally, anyone can access our amazing trainers and they will no longer need to be located in NYC or LA where our brick and mortar locations are.
Can you share a few of the biggest work related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
One of the biggest challenges has been keeping employees inspired and motivated. When I’m at the gym and they can see me, I can easily give words of encouragement or advice. Now with running the business and also training clients remotely, it is harder to find the time to reach out to every single person. But I do try my best to connect with everyone on a regular basis so that they know we value their efforts. In order to ensure there’s accountability and also an opportunity for everyone to share what they’ve accomplished. We also set up a weekly report that is sent every Friday. This allows me to stay in the loop and acknowledge individual efforts.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Good thing I don’t watch the news! I think that has been key in keeping me focused on the positive and steadfast during this time. It’s easy to get depressed or discouraged by the news of extended lockdowns or the uncertainty of businesses’ being able to reopen, but there’s always something to be grateful for so I aim to keep that focus instead. One of the things I’ve been doing to keep people from feeling anxious is offering my family and friends virtual sessions with our team to keep them active/busy. During the workout they are very focused on the session and don’t have time to worry or overthink so at least for that hour, they can “escape.” They usually feel better, mentally and physically. Another thing I’ve done is to keep connected to my family and loved ones through a lot of calls, emails, and texts to remind them that I’m here for them and that we will come back strong after this. It’s good sometimes just to know someone is there to listen.
For our staff, we are focused on helping their mental health with workshops and Q&A’s with medical experts (like our friend Dr. Ford at the Wellness Center in LA and the team at Heart Support in NYC), which helps keep them focused and motivated for the job at hand. We wanted to provide opportunities for our entire team to hear from experts that focused on their Mental Health and how to cope and be resilient during such an unprecedented time.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
I think there will be a huge increase in the number of people who interact digitally with their family and friends from around the globe. This is great as many people probably have spoken to their families more in the last two months than in years’ prior. Those who were hesitant or adverse to change will be forced to adapt. People will learn new skills, even those who have never had to learn how to use the newest technology will now have been exposed to Zoom, FaceTime, Meets, and many more new platforms that are sure to emerge. Companies and people who embrace the new digital world will have the opportunity to grow and explore new possibilities as technology allows them to reach more people than ever before.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
I think that the pandemic will spark a lot of creativity from businesses and individuals and we will see a lot of innovation. People have been extremely resourceful and will continue to rethink daily challenges. The ways we eat, workout and go to work will all change. Business meetings will be done virtually more than ever. Work from home will continue to grow in popularity now that people have shown it can be extremely effective.
People will hopefully be more grateful for the “simple” things in life that were taken for granted up to a few months ago — such as a visit to family, a coffee with a friend, walk on a busy city street, etc. And of course, travel!
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
We definitely see this as more of an opportunity than a challenge. Even though it’s a transition for us going from operating out of our physical locations to now an entirely virtual operation, going digital was always part of our plan. We just didn’t expect to accelerate it so quickly! We will continue our Virtual Training sessions, keep our team and communities motivated and continue to grow in more creative ways leveraging technology as best we can.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
Write down your goals, and work hard at them. As long as you work hard, you will achieve great things! And be resilient because even if something wasn’t in your original plan, sometimes it can actually work out even better!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
It would be “see the good in people and help them.” It is easy to turn away from helping someone because it’s not your problem or it doesn’t “affect you.” Many times, especially in business it is easy to start questioning people around you and their intentions but if you try to see the good in everyone, it will always come back in the form of good karma. Even if the person who you helped does not see the good you did for them or appreciate it, those around you will.
How can our readers further follow your work?
You can follow me on Instagram @kirkmyersfitness and on our main company profile @dogpound — for more on my story, readers can watch this as well.