In the marketing world full of overlapping products and services, coming up with a unique concept is the only way to stand out. This is exactly what Roger Dean Bates did with Assault Fitness when they conceptualized Assault Bike. Being the only one of its kind, this iconic fitness equipment caught the attention of so many athletes around the world, receiving mixed reviews. Roger shares with Steve Farber the story of how the Assault Bike came to be and how they achieved success thanks to its huge CrossFit debut. They also talk about Roger’s relationships with his workers, what attitude a true leader must have, and why making money is not the only way to achieve fulfillment in entrepreneurship.
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The Amazing Story Of Assault Fitness And The Bike People Love To Hate With Roger Dean Bates
My guest is Roger Dean Bates, the President of Assault Fitness in Carlsbad, California. We can call him Roger, Dean or RDB. I’ll call him Dean for the purposes of this conversation. Assault Fitness is the producer of fitness equipment including the AssaultBike. If you’ve ever set foot in a CrossFit gym, you will have experienced the Assault Bike. It’s a stationary bike where you move the handlebars and pedals, it resists whatever you put into it. It is a piece of equipment that people love and hate with equal measure. It’s an intense machine.
It is one of my all-time favorite machines. I’m excited to have Dean on the show. I’m going to read you something from the Assault Fitness website in their About Me section. This is how they described themselves, “At Assault Fitness, we don’t just manufacture machines, we create opportunities to improve lives through fitness. As a team, we aim to strengthen, support, educate and inspire everyone from professional athletes to those beginning their fitness journeys. Whether designing elite fitness equipment or encouraging educational development, we promise to always uphold and elevate the standards of life for individuals and communities across the globe.” That to me is the key phrase. What was obvious to me, Dean, when you and I had a couple of conversations to get to know each other, that’s a standard that you hold to yourself. It’s not something that you do as a company with what you offer the world. I’m excited to hear your story and to share your story with our readers.
Dean, welcome to the show.
Thank you. I’m fortunate to be on your show. I’ve been asked to be on a couple of shows and I turned them all down. Once I went on yours, I read about you as a person, what your values and mission statement is in your bio, I realized that this is my belief and what I preach every day. I thought it’d be a good match. This is my first show. Everybody out there, don’t be too judgmental. I’m a normal guy, chasing the dream and it’s working.
I’m honored that this is your maiden voyage in the world of interviews. I want to hear your stories. You’re an entrepreneur. You started this company many years ago. Take us back. What is your background? What led you to this line of work, to begin with?
I’m going to go back quickly so everybody understands who I am. I’m a boy from Davenport, Iowa. I was raised to work hard. Paper outs at ten, shoveling walks and trying to make enough money to buy school clothes. I’m not brought up in the projects but middle-class. My dad was a machinist, my mom is a secretary and they’ll good people but I was brought up to work. If I want a nice shit, I had to work. If I want Walmart stuff, I wear what they buy me or garage sale.
I’m a garage sale kid. I drove my mom around garage sales at fourteen in the Honda Accord with a gearshift. I loved to drop her off VIP style valet and pick her up. I wasn’t afraid to wear garage sale clothes. When I tell my kids that now, they laugh. The funny thing is now they’re going to vintage stores, buying used clothes anyway. I did that. I got a job and have been working my ass off. I realized at about sixteen, living in Davenport, Iowa, I want to be in California. I used to come home for lunch with my buddy and I’d watch Santa Barbara. I saw palm trees, fast cars and hot chicks. I said to my buddy, “That’s where I’m going.” He says, “Yeah, right.” I said, “I’m going there to trust me.” As I graduated high school, I went to a semester in college. My parents moved from Iowa to Phoenix. I said, “Guys, can I come to stay with you?” They said, “Sure.” I went down there with my KC 900 and about $300. I lived with them. At that time in Davenport, Iowa, I was a cook at a restaurant at nineteen. I knew how to cook at a restaurant. I don’t want to be a cook because a cook is not cool. You’ve ventured out. You want to be a waiter.
I went down there. I found the best restaurant that was close to me. There was a line of people. I went in there and I applied for a job as a waiter. It was the Olive Garden. The place had a 50-minute wait. I started working there, put my bow tie on and I was this new guy. I met some waiters and waitresses. One of the waitresses said, “I’m going to LA. If anybody wants to go, I need a roommate.” I said, “I’ll go. What part of LA?” She says the beach. I also started thinking I’ll be an actor. I’ve always been this funny, outgoing character. I thought, “I’ll be on TV. Everybody would like me. They’ll think I’m funny.” I go to LA. I don’t have a car. I got rid of my motorcycle. I went and got a job at the front desk at Sheraton and I was in a polyester suit. I was taking the bus from Playa del Rey to LAX. One thing hit me, I got to tell this story.
I’m trying to picture you in a polyester suit.
I’ll never forget it, green orange tie, front desk and it’s a cool hotel. A lot of good stories from that but I want to share those with you. I’m waiting at the bus stop. I’m in California, a good-looking guy, funny but no one knows it when they look at me. These four girls pull up at me and stop. They’re in a convertible Mustang. They’re about twenty years old. They got the music. They look at me. They look back like, “He’s cute.” They start laughing and they pull off. I was like, “They laughed at me because I was broke.”
After that, I said, “I’m going to do something with my life.” Even though I knew back in Iowa, I couldn’t do something with myself. I have to make that choice. I got a better job as a waiter and bartender and here’s where it hit. I was working as a bartender nightclub at 21 years old. I said to the GM, “Can I put some condom machines in the restroom and I’ll share the profits with you?” She said, “Sure.” I saved up my money. I bought a condom machine for $600. I put it in the bathroom. I sold two in about three months. I took that down. As a bartender, I thought to myself, “Other people want to be a bartender.” I made a bar to any video. I’d go around to places. I’d put this piece of paper with little tags, say, “Become a bartender for $19.99.” I sold two. I’m starting to doubt myself a little bit here. I’m thinking, “I should be an actor.”
Your first two outings as an entrepreneur were you sold two condoms and two lessons on how to be a bartender. You think maybe acting was a good idea.
I said, “I’m not as smart as I am cute and funny.” I got my headshots and sent them out. I got a little agent. All of a sudden, I got a call from my agent. They said, “Somebody wants to see you bad.” I’m in Playa del Rey and I had to go to Hollywood which is a twenty-minute drive. I still don’t have a car. She says, “Somebody wants to see you for a commercial.” I never returned her call. It’s the first call I got. I was scared. The second call, “They want to see you.” I had enough money to take a cab across town.
I get into the audition. It was for a Pepsi commercial. I didn’t realize that. The director says, “Slate.” I said, “What does that mean?” He said, “Your name, your agency.” I say my name. I forgot the name of the agency. He goes, “Here’s your audition. I need you to say, ‘Mine has anchovies and double cheese please.’ You’re going to be in a frog suit. I need you to go in the room for a couple of minutes, rehearse your lines.” He was a jerk. He sent me in there. I came out and I said, “What’s a frog suit?” He says, “You’re kidding me.”
I said, “No, I’m not kidding you. What’s a frog suit?” He says, “Say your lines.” I said my lines, which I’m not going to do because I’m going to embarrass myself. They said, “I’m going to give you one more shot. Kid, go take some acting classes.” I said, “Okay.” I walked out with my head down and I’m thinking, “How am I going to get home?” I don’t have any more money. I met this girl. She was there. I pulled on the charm and I got a ride home.
At that point, I realized that I’m not an actor either. I’m a bartender. I had to stick to my business idea because that’s who I am. I met this guy, he came into the bar throwing hundreds around, ordering Dom Perignon. I looked over at him. I knew he was the ball. I’m 21 years old and I said, “What do you do for work? This is a nightclub, the busiest shit.” He goes, “I sell real estate.” I said, “I want to be like you one day.” He goes, “Keep doing what you’re doing.” I was like, “Okay.” He throws me his card and says, “If you’re interested, let me know.” I said, “I don’t know how to sell.” He goes, “You could be a good salesman.” I said, “I’ve never done it.” He goes, “You can do it.” At that point, I realized, “I may be a sales guy.”
All of a sudden, my buddy was selling fitness equipment at a local store. He convinced me to come to work part-time at a little retail store down in LA selling high-end fitness equipment. I did that and bartender for about two years. I was getting good at it but I realized that the owners were getting rich. I was a bartender but I’m making these guys rich. I decided to start selling fitness equipment out of my garage.
I knew people were calling the store going, “I got this treadmill here and it doesn’t work. I want to sell it. Do you guys buy used treadmills?” “No, we don’t buy used treadmills.” The problem is I’m not going to get the calls from these stores because they have the yellow pages. I can still figure that out. I ran some classified ads that said, “I buy and sell new and used fitness equipment. I’ll buy your treadmill.” I’d go look at it. I knew about the products so I would make them a fair deal. Come back, clean it up, sell it and make a profit. I did that for quite some time and it’s good.
You did all of that out of your garage?
I rented a home and I did it right in my garage. I’ve tried to speed up the story a little bit here because it might get too long. The problem with me is I know how to make money quickly but I know how to spend it quicker. That’s always been to my demise. If you’re in my posse and I make $1,000 in two hours, where would you like to go to eat? What strip club would you like to go to? Whatever it was, which I’d never do that because I condemn that. I wasn’t married but I still condemn it.
I realized that I needed some structure in my life if I was ever going to be successful because I know how to make money but I don’t know how to build anything. I know how to spend. Here’s where it gets interesting. I was living nice, working out the garage and ran classified ads. There’s a girl that lived a couple of doors down from me. She was trying to be an actress from Vegas and working two jobs. She was a bookkeeper at Ruth Chris Steakhouse. She’s cute and smart. I started dating her. I take her to the garage and show her. She’s like, “I don’t understand. What are you doing?” I said, “I advertise these treadmills and I sell them but I’m ready to move on to something bigger.”
We’re dating for three months. I go, “Do you want to move to Texas with me?” She said, “No.” I said, “I’m making a deal.” I ran some classifieds in the Dallas Morning News. I did some test marketing and I got a lot of calls. I thought that was a prominent area that everybody was moving to. Everybody was going to Dallas, Texas. I thought a lot of good money is there in new homes. I want a fitness room. I did test marketing, I got a voicemail and it took off. I convinced her by saying to her, “Tell you what, Tracy, how about if I make it 50/50 partner?” She said, “Okay.” The next thing you know, we’re in the U-Haul, I’ve never been to Dallas, Texas and we’re driving. Equipment in the back of the U-Haul, pulling her car and we got two little puppies.
You’re about how old at this time?If people trust you, they will buy from you. Click To Tweet
I was 27. I drove and circle to Dallas. I’m like, “If we’re going to capture the whole market. What city should we go to?” It happened to be Irving, Texas. I said, “Let’s go to Irving.” We go to Irving. We have about $5,000 in cash and credit cards. I put up $10,000 worth of equipment to that. That’s my life. I keep building it. She still was reluctant. She got good credit. She won’t put her name on shit. We didn’t want to go hit a big retail store because people don’t want to lease you when you don’t have anything. Good spots don’t come that way. You got to go to the worst center and the worst spot. They’ll lease to you so I did.
I tore it up. I was doing so much business. I was in the store. My store was 400 square feet. I went to Best Buy or a Home Depot. I took a book rack. I turned it around as my countertop so I could put my phone, my credit card machine and my business card so I looked legit. The only problem with that was don’t lean on it when you’re coming to write me something because it’ll fall over. We did that for about six months. I was killing it. We got a better store now up on Preston Road, which is the main road. When you’re on the main road, A-plus, you’re not getting that spot that comes available. Only the big guy gets it. The big guy gets everything. The little guy gets shit. We decided to get on the main road but a location in the back. Nobody wants to be in the back so that’s available.
There was a big blockbuster video right in front of this. When you go to yellow pages, you’re looking at all these ads and you’re like, “Let’s go shopping.” You don’t know I’m in the back. You notice I have a big ad and say Preston Road. I took an old van and I painted it that said Fitness Equipment here with an arrow to capture that traffic. I did over $1 million a year out of that store. I became a real pain in the ass for my big competitors which were a Busy Body at that time at 80 stores, seven in Dallas, Fitness and Motion at six stores. They had the best brands out there. With the brands I had, I couldn’t get shit. I had the worst brands.
Were you still reselling used equipment or were you starting to sell the new stuff now?
The new stuff became more bolted to the floor. I did sell them but I would advertise them as used products. I have new and used equipment, primarily new because it had a warranty. It was tougher and I could get them all to go hunt.
The good price on the used stuff brought people in then they would see what was available.
I would sell whatever they want. It didn’t matter to me. I have a tendency to push people what I want to sell, number one. Number two, I pushed to people what I think they need. This gets into the nuts and bolts of who I am based on that. I believe that as a salesperson, I’m born to be a salesperson. It’s who I am. You don’t have to be full of crap as a salesperson. You got to be authentic. You have to be trusting. If people trust you, they will buy from you. How you back that up is you stand by your word. If you say something then do it.
Most people are full of crap. If you ask them six months later, they don’t know who you are. “I didn’t say that.” Somebody is not going to say that if you didn’t say it especially in business. Be impeccable to your word. I could sell whatever I wanted to anybody. That line that nobody wanted, I went and grabbed. I was kicking my guy’s ass across the street who had a 4,000 square foot store, right on the main street with the fanciest brands, $100,000 finish out. I had a freaking paint and a black stripe. It looked like crap. People buy from people. At the end of the day, it’s another thing that I say, which you have a lot of quotes, by the way when I read your quotes, which I liked. One of mine is “people buy from people.” I have no idea if these quotes are something I stole from somebody or something I made up. Whenever I hear something, it sinks into me. I hear it, if I like it, I repeat it and I say what I say.
At the end of the day, if you always remember that at any business you’re doing, you will understand whether you’re an employee or entrepreneur. If you have a good attitude and energy about you, it will attract. If you hold the door for people, people like to see that. You’ll be a good person on this planet. I hold the door all the time for people and they’re like, “There’s still a gentleman.” I’m like, “Gentlemen are still out there,” but it’s the father’s fault. If a father teaches their children to open the door for people, the kid will open the door. That all comes from it. “I don’t have a father.” “Be a gentleman, treat people with respect.”
When you say open the door for people, you mean literally open the door for people.
How about in other ways? Do you find yourself opening, for example, doors of opportunity for people in addition to literally holding the door open for somebody that walkthrough?
When I hold the door open for somebody and they’re walking into a gas station, I walked through and they’re right behind me. Do I let it go? It’s shitty. They’re walking through the door so that’s what I do. I’m not looking for a handshake. I’m doing it because I don’t slam it in your face. Sometimes, there are 3 or 4 people who keep coming through, I’m sitting there then I started laughing. They look at me and they keep walking and go, “That guy was weird.” I’m in San Diego. You get trends of people. If I can put a smile on your face somehow, wherever that is and I make you smile, laugh and give you a little bit of encouragement, you’re going to take that encouragement home and you’re not going to kick the dog, you can do something nice for your wife or you’re going to be a nicer person.
If that energy bleeds into the next person, everybody got a smile. Let’s talk about business. That’s how I am as a person. We’ll get back to the Assault here in a little bit but to talk about the energy level. People will see how you are so when a business opportunity comes or people start talking about “I’m in business,” I can’t shut my mouth without giving advice. I don’t mean like, “Here’s what you should do.” That’s not what people want to hear. I always say, “If you need help with anything, I can help you.” “What do you mean?” It’s a conversation. I always say this, “You are the one making the decisions, not me.” Don’t ever make a decision that somebody tells you to do. It’s your decision but you need to be educated and calculated on your decision.
You need to think about the consequences of your decision. In my opinion, everything I do is methodical for the most part. Staying in my brain, I’m still thinking about my consequences. A lot of people don’t think about that. They think about that great side. It’s risk and reward. Business is all about risk and reward and so is life. When I do any deal, I think about what’s the best thing and the worst thing. What I do is what can happen. These are going through my brain quickly. It slows down, hopefully then I make that decision.
Helping people is important but nobody helped me. That doesn’t mean that I’m upset and I have to get back. That means I might have a gift. That gift gives me a little bit of constructive criticism on what you’re doing and what you’re doing wrong. If I say to people, “Now you’re my friend. We’re hanging out. You got to this business. You’re coming over to my house.” I don’t know if I want to talk to this guy again unless he asked for it. If you’re going to ask for it, I’m going to use a damn word.
These are guys that’s like, “Karl is in kickboxing. You got my buddy. I’m throwing a little bone here.” A young guy in the business, 37 years old, whatever. He’s my buddy because I met him a few years ago but he’s a good dude. I felt like helping him. I don’t financially help him. He was like, “Here’s what I’m doing.” I’m like, “That’s a great idea.” You might want to start thinking about this a little bit. “I’ll think about that.” That’s all I say. He doesn’t implement it or something close, it’s fine. I don’t want to waste my energy either. This is what I’ll tell you how important it is, every single person out there should have a sphere of influence.
We should have a board of directors, a group of guys or people that we want to listen to and smarter than us. I’m going to tell you, never think you’re the smartest guy in the room because you’re not. Be around smarter people that will make you smarter. Another quote, “If you run with dogs, you start barking.” My preacher said that when I was at church school over in ten years. I hadn’t listened to anything he said. That preacher said, “If you run with dogs, you start barking.” I realized, as a kid, you grew up, you start fighting, you start getting in trouble. Look at the kid you’re around. Go with the other kids that don’t do anything bad.
I’m, all of a sudden, getting up early being a better person. I’m like, “I talk like that guy.” Put yourself around people you want to be like. It doesn’t mean you have to drop or lose your friends but I don’t spend as much time with them. I may be come in, log on, listen to you and listen to guys like me. Those are things you need to do because that’s what’s going to make you more successful and positive in your brain and keep you on track.
When you were in business for yourself in Dallas doing $1 million a year, selling other people’s fitness equipment, did you have any employees in the store? Was it a small team?
I had three sales guys, my wife at that time, Tracy and then I had a couple of delivery guys, no kids, my neighbors.
Tell us the story of the early days of Assault Fitness. What gave rise to that evil machine called the AssaultBike? What’s the origin story there?
In a nutshell, I went from Dallas, I sold my company to one of my retailers to get me out of town. I worked for him for a little bit. I came to San Diego, opened up another retail store called Fitness Spa Outlet. I did that for five years. As I was in that store, I was impressed with myself. I was going home for Thanksgiving talking to Tracy’s dad. I told him how much money I’m making in a little store here. It’s is 5,000 feet. He’s a successful real estate tycoon in Las Vegas.
He says, “A good business is a business that you don’t need to be there to make money.” We’re at Thanksgiving dinner. I’m like, “Slow down, say that one more time.” He says, “A good business is a business that you don’t need to be there to make money.” I shut up and I thought, “How do I do it?” I went back to my store and I got on the internet. I started typing in fitness equipment in Asia. I had a store. I knew exactly what people want. I know what they don’t want.
I saw a deficiency in the market. I tried to figure out how can I bring a product in, call it my own and sell it at my store? I brought in samples. My business partner says, “Why are you spending so much money on shipping these samples in?” I said, “I’m trying to find one that we can sell.” After $10,000 later, I found one, I called the manufacturer and I said put my name on it which was called Life Core Fitness. At the time, I started this new brand. I bought the first container. I have $30,000 saved under my pillow. I sent it to them, not even knowing who the hell I’m sending it to, wire them the money. They sent me a container with my brand on it with an 800 number.
You white-labeled their machine.
That’s what they do in Asia. They have distributors all over the United States and you can put your name on the brand. They manufacture it. I did that and the next thing you know, I had twelve ellipticals, everything from pre-Core Life Fitness. Customers would come into the store. They would see mine. They’re like, “I’ve never seen that one before.” I’m like, “You’ll love it. It’s a great machine.” I bought it for $300. I sold it for $1,299. That was wild. I liked the machine, it wasn’t the money, a little bit.
They’d come through and the next thing you know, that’s the one they wanted. They would say stuff like this, “I’ve never heard A Life Core.” I’m like, “Family owned, great people. If you call the 800 number in this warehouse, my business partner wife was up there with the baby.” They would call the 800 number. If you got a problem, I promise you they’ll take good care of you. Brand at that point, I was selling containers, I went to a trade show in Denver, Colorado that I used to attend as a buyer. I have three products. Even though I only had one from that company, I uploaded some other samples that moved back to look at. I decided at the last minute I wanted to go to a trade show and sell to all these dealers so I did.
I got the worst spot behind by the bathroom. Nobody gets a boot by the bathroom. I went there and set it up to 10×10. Everybody I knew, they’re like, “What are you doing?” I’m like, “What do you mean? I’m a manufacturer.” These are the guys I’m buying from. They’re like, “No. I sell it to you.” I go, “I know. Now I’m going to sell it to everybody.” They know I’m a good guy. They don’t look at me as a threat at that time. I pick up 70 to 80 dealers. In fact, a friend of mine came by the booth. I knew him from Dallas. His name is Scott Edward who owns Chicago Home Fitness and Utah Home Fitness.
He’s the largest home fitness retailer in the United States. I knew him one time I met him. I see him coming down and everybody’s all over this guy. He’s the hot one and got the most stores. He comes by and he’s walking off slowly. I go, “Scott.” He looks at me. He’s like, “What are you doing here?” I said, “I got a line of equipment to show you.” He goes, “I’ll be back tomorrow.” This is Friday at 5:00, the show tomorrow is from 10:00 to 12:00.
I’m like, “I didn’t get any business from nobody. They all looked at me like I was stupid.” He comes back the next day, to make a long story short, he walks in. He says, “I’ll take that, that and that.” “By the way, I only have one elliptical. The other two are samples.” I said, “You say you want that, that and that.” He goes, “Yes, I want that, that and that.” I said, “How many do you want?” He says, “I have 45 stores. I want one to show, one to go.” I’m like, “I need to ship you six at 45 stores.” “Yes. For a start.” He’s like, “Scott, give me a call.”
I’m like, “Tracy, we got a problem. It worked. How do we get the money to buy them?” It was a struggle. Everybody needs to understand out there, being in the business world, you have to take a risk. If you are not willing to take a risk, you’re not going to succeed. I decided to refinance my house that I bought with two little kids and I had $100,000. No one’s going to give me money so I took the $100,000. I started buying as many containers as I could. I got another dealer and the next you know, my five-year lease was coming to an end. I opened up a warehouse.
I’d have 250 retailers. I have eight employees. I’m doing $8 million a year. My store was doing $2.5 million. I’ve had a successful store. I had to be at that store all the time, every weekend. I couldn’t watch my kids play soccer. This is the problem with employees. My employees would sit there all day at the retail store. I’m like, “Guys, how’s it going?” “No one is coming in.” As soon as you show up, everybody follows you. “Are you calling everybody?” I’m running around it. I show up around 11:30, the store starts calling.
Here’s the difference, Steve. People would come into the store and they go, “How are you doing?” They’d say, “I’m looking.” I said, “Great. What are you looking at?” I want him to get a little smile on their face. This was the lead up to what I’m trying to tell everybody. “I’m looking for some dumbbells.” “Do you need some help?” “I can look at a dumbbell.” “What’s your name? Where are you from?” “I’m John from Escondido.” “Are you starting to work out?” “Yes.” I’m building trust. I’ll make any money on dumbbells but if you’re going to buy a dumbbell, you need a treadmill. I’m going to build a friend and customer. The next thing you know, I took that guy to buy some dumbbells and I sold him a $3,000 treadmill. My staff would be like, “Was he looking for a treadmill?” I said, “He was. He didn’t know it.” That’s what I did. Life Course started taking off, I’m closing the store. We’re going to 2008. Remember 2008 anybody or do we erase it from our brain?
I have some vague recollection of that time.
There were about 800 specialty retail stores in the United States. It dropped down to about 300. My brand of Life Core Fitness was recumbent bikes. I had a niche. You’re not going to try to be with Life Fitness and pre-Core $800 million companies. What does the market need? You can’t compete head-to-head. You’re going to lose every day. You got to find a niche. Where was the niche? Listen to your customer. Customers know everything. They promise salespeople, we talk too much. I’m guilty. Ask questions, find out what your needs and wants are. Once you find that out, I can tell you anything. I knew that in the marketplace, the first thing they’d say when they’d come in and go, “It’s big.” I don’t understand why they make large recumbent bikes. I designed a little compact recumbent bike, 44 inches long, it’s comfortable as hell. People loved it.
I went to Asia, I found this little one, start changing some stuff on it and I made it look cool. I was the number one selling recumbent bike in specialty business across the United States. 2008 came, everything crashed. I said, “I’m in trouble.” Amazon is killing everybody. Everybody is starting to sell direct. Internet is starting to come alive. I saw what’s going to happen. I said, “What am I going to do? If I’m not growing, I’m dying. That’s a fact.” I see death close. I’m a survivor. I said, “What’s the emerging market. What was growing at the time? What was the most popular thing in the country?” CrossFit. I wonder if there’s one by my house. There’s one right there. I call the guy, “What are you doing?” I go there, I’m like, “I might want to try CrossFit.” We became buddies and started trading CrossFit.
I’m like, “Let me ask you a question. What do you think CrossFit needs?” He’s like, “Nothing. They got everything. What do you mean?” I’m like, “I want to sell this community.” I don’t want to sell dumbbells and everything. There’s no money in it. Eric Preston still worked for the company, a high-level CrossFit guy. He says, “Roger if you can make a commercial-grade AD4, you’d do well.” I know what an AD4 is. It’s an old Schwinn Airdyne. I know you guys are going to hate me about the story but this is the way it is.
Schwinn Airdyne is a stationary bike with a fan built.If you're not willing to take the risk, you're probably not going to succeed. Click To Tweet
You remember back in the day, Paul Harvey. He would talk about the Schwinn Airdyne because it was designed for old people. They sold a whole bunch of them for fifteen years. That’s one of Schwinn’s most popular machines ever. That was many years ago. What he was saying to me, a commercial model AD4, that was the old steel fan blade, old school crap. They didn’t make them anymore. Here’s one thing, MMA guys. The energy level of that machine, what happens is the faster I go, the harder it gets. I’m constantly fighting the machine and I will never win. You will never beat that machine. If you do, I will send you a brand new one. The point is this machine was used for MMA fighters. They would take this machine then trade on it. They would do interval training.
To be clear, you’re saying that Schwinn developed that machine for old people but the people who found the potential of it were MMA fighters.
Anybody who wanted to do high-intensity interval training. I have talked to a bunch of MMA guys and high-level guys, that’s what they trained on. It was Schwinn. Here’s what Schwinn did. This was their mistake. It might be a mistake, it’s the timing in life. I don’t want to get anybody in trouble. You guys did a great job but I want to applaud you for making so rich. I took that Schwinn Airdyne. I said, “The AD4. This is the machine.” I went on the classified. I found one, $400. By the way, they sold for $599 several years ago. This guy is selling one for $400.
I call him and he says, “You’re the 30th person that called me.” I said, “What do you mean?” He goes, “I ran the ad.” I said, “I’m trying to find one because I wanted to ship it to Asia.” Even though I didn’t copy it, I want to understand what it looked like. I said, “You got to do me a favor. I will buy that. Don’t sell it to me.” He’s like, “That’s what everybody else’s said.” I said, “No. I’m different. Listen to me. Where do you live? Telvista? 45 minutes away. I can meet you down there in 45 minutes. Are you hungry?” He says, “What do you mean?” I’m like, “I want to bring you lunch.” He’s like, “No. That’s okay.” “What is your name again?” I’m building trust. I went and got it. Send it to my buddy over in Asia. We started to look. Patents are up. There’s no IP on it.
We decided how we can start making it into a machine that made sense for a higher-end user. The little pivot points had a little counter pin and no bearing. I made this machine heavy-duty. My company is Life Core. It is not Assault a few years ago. I said, “What should we call this new bike? I don’t think I want to make it gray or black. Make it look stealthy, edgy. I want to see it as an aircraft carrier. I want to see the pilots going out there, getting on and jumping into their jet. I want to see it in a warehouse that’s dark and grungy. We can’t make it white and pink. You make a gray or black. You got to be cool in that. What’s the name? I can’t call it Life Core.”
I’m rounding off names with my buddies and all of a sudden, I stopped. I’m like, “What did you say?” He goes, “What?” I said, “That word.” “Assault?” “That’s it, done.” That is the Assault Bike. “I got to sell it to CrossFit.” “How do you sell it to CrossFit?” I want everybody to go on a CrossFit, start looking on their website and see if you can find one. It’s impossible because they don’t list them. Did they put the person in what city?
It’s a nightmare. I’m like, “How am I going to sell these guys?” CrossFit Game is coming up. My CrossFit Games are at the Home Depot center in three months. First of all, I call CrossFit. They didn’t have a corporate office at that time. I’m like, “I can’t get a hold of anybody at this company.” I got a hold of somebody. I said, “I want to put a booth.” They go, “We don’t accept anybody.” I’m like, “Who do you accept?”
“It needs to be prevalent in our business.” I’m like, “That’s great because my product is prevalent to your customer and your business. Send me a picture of it.” I didn’t have a picture. The bike that I sent was in pieces. I had this graphic guy make a picture, take a human, put it on it. The guy had long hair with tattoos. I put it in a warehouse. I sent him the picture. CrossFit booth was $10,000 for a 10×10 piece of concrete. They might’ve given you a tent. I get the two samples. At the last minute, it has flown in. People come up. I tell them my story and what it is. It’s called AssaultBike. These are workout guys.
People want what they can’t have, number one. Number two, it’s got to be exciting. If it’s not exciting, no one wants to buy it. I can’t sit around and say, “How are you doing? Check this one out over here. This has bearings.” Who cares about bearings? The people that owned them that couldn’t get parts for it or it broke every week, they understood it clearly. I had a contest. The contest was who can do the most calories in 60 seconds? This is how this bike became famous.
Calories are one of the measures of output on the machine. That’s what you mean by calories.
In order to get more calories, you got to go faster. I dare you. It gets harder. That’s when you start to get lactic acid build-up in your neck, calves and toes. People want to die meaning it’s a lot easier to go that way, sit there and be in pain for the next twenty minutes. That’s what the bike was known for. I got lines of people. We have a whiteboard and we’re seeing who got the most calories. It was fun. We gave away bikes. We have crowds of people. They didn’t have an air bike, every user in the CrossFit Games. They only use a rowing machine that’s a piece of cardio. The bike started to become a little bit trendy. I got to figure out how to get the bike in more eyes and ears. To do that, CrossFit is not easy, they don’t give a shit. When I say that they’re not selling shit, they’re selling a program and a lifestyle. They’re not selling my products. You can’t buy them.
I’ll give you $1 million if you put my brand, my bike in your CrossFit Games. They tell me, “Don’t ever talk to me again. You don’t bribe me. I do what I want.” That is CrossFit. CrossFit believes in equal opportunity for all, feast or famine and survival. I got to know one of the gentlemen that are important to the community from day one with Greg Glassman and Dave Castro. I became friends with them. It wasn’t for any ulterior motive. He is a cool dude. He’s legit, sniper, and Navy SEAL. He liked the bike. He heard it and he put it in an event first time in Madrid. I was there and the bike broke.
That was your entree.
Remember I have another company called Life Core Fitness that sounds to retailers. I’m thinking, “This has to work. It will work.” This guy is a dickhead. His name was Dave Castro. The first event was in Madrid. At that time, I’m divorced. My business partner is my ex-wife. I have a new girl and I take her to Madrid. In each country, Dave is there. The bike is out there and all of a sudden, Camille gets on it and the freaking computer shuts off. There are ten bikes and they’re doing it all day. What happened was the battery on the bike as we were rolling it back and forth, I didn’t realize that there was a little gap.
If you keep rolling it, it bounces and it came unplugged. There are no excuses here, guys. That was strike number one. They had a party at a hotel. I see him. He won’t even look at me. I’m like, “What’s up?” “Ship the bike,” he said, “If ever that happens again, I’ll never use your product in the CrossFit Games.” I said, “It won’t happen again. Now can we have a beer?” We go to regionals the next year. He puts them everywhere at the regionals, which is amazing. Rogue was the official equipment supplier of the CrossFit Games. Rogue bought them because I saw a purchase order for 100 machines. I’m like, “Why is Rogue buying 100 machines?” “They’re going to be in the regionals.”
The volunteers put them together. Here’s the problem. If you don’t put it together properly and you start using it, it’s going to come loose. I’m now getting calls from people that say, “Your bike is a piece of shit and it’s falling apart during the regionals.” I’m like, “How in the hell is everybody calling me? I got to go look at all my inventory because it’s all piece of shit.” I realized, “No someone is not putting it together right.” They still worked at regionals. They didn’t fail. They were wobbling. It comes around at the CrossFit Games. I’m now at the CrossFit Games and I was told to bring 100 bikes in case they wouldn’t go to the games. They don’t say this. He has everything there. Rogue has tens of equipment. Dave decides what he wants to do at the last minute but he needs to be prepared.
For people who are unfamiliar with CrossFit and therefore, you’ve heard of the CrossFit Fames but they can’t quite picture it. The CrossFit Games are a series of a variety of fitness tests. It could be some combination of lifting weights, running and jumping. What you’re saying is that there was a chance they were going to use the AssaultBike as part of one of these events. Nobody knows what the events are ahead of time. You can’t train for a particular thing. For this next challenge, you’re going to get X number of calories on this AssaultBike. They may have never seen one before. They may have never heard of it before.
I’ve already gone through 3,000 to 4,000 bikes. I was going through bikes fast. I couldn’t keep up with demand. This thing is on fire and I don’t have enough money to fund it because I can’t buy enough in a short amount of time. It’s growing every month. I was like, “It’s crazy.” Here’s where it gets interesting. When I tell you stories, there are always points. In these stories that every entrepreneur should understand risk-reward. When are you going to make that choice? Is it the right choice to take that risk? Maybe it’s not.
I’m at the CrossFit Games. I hired four of my buddies’ sons that are all anchorage. They’re 16 and 17. I paid some money and we’ll go up to LA. We built the bikes, not Rogue. I cannot take a risk because if they are in there and there’s a problem, I’m done. I’m like twelve years old, balls dropped then I’m ready to go. CrossFit Games are going on, we’re in the vendor area then I get a call from the main guy around, “What are you doing?” “I’m busy.” “I’m coming to get you.” He comes in and says, “Don’t say a word to anybody. It could be in the games.”
I’m like, “The bikes?” He said, “Yes. What you need to do is you need to get them ready.” I’m like, “No problem. I go get my tools.” I go back, I’m like, “I don’t know, shut up.” I can’t say anything or I’m dead. If one word gets out, I’m done. They won’t even do it if he was going to do it. I take my tools over there. He takes me there and I’m like, “Where are all the bikes?” It’s supposed to be in a Rogue world. He’s like, “They’re already over in this.” Sunday is the main event, Sunday 3:00 that guy calls me again, “I need you.” I’m like, “Okay.” I go over there.
He goes, “You need to teach the judges how to use your console in case there’s an opportunity that you’re in the games at the last minute.” I said, “Great.” He takes me down there. There are only four bikes. It’s summertime. It’s 110 degrees out. I said, “Where are the other bikes?” He says, “They’re already out.” He goes, “I got to call the main guy and have him come over. You’re going to show with him.”
This guy comes up. He looked at me. He had his headset and he goes, “What’s your name?” “Yes, sir.” I wasn’t even in the military but he demands that. He goes, “Show me how to use it.” I went to turn it on it didn’t work. I said, “It doesn’t work.” He goes, “What do you mean it doesn’t work?” Nobody put them away. They were in the sun. I go, “When the hits it like your phone, it disappears.” He tilts his head. He’s got his headset. He’s got a button. “I know what he’s doing. He’s going to tell they’ll know.”
I’m like, “Don’t do it. Stand up. Be strong and be proud.” He goes, “Let me ask the question. What’re the chances?” I said, “It comes right back on.” He said, “How long?” I said, “I don’t know that.” He said, “What are the chances that this will fail during the event?” Should I tell him so that way he doesn’t put it in because if he doesn’t put it in, it might be a safer play than putting it in. If he puts it in and it doesn’t work, I’m done. That’s better than I lost but I didn’t lose. That’s a safe play. I said, “Zero.” He goes, “Zero?” I said, “I guarantee you. This will work.” He drives me over and we go underneath the Home Depot. “I want you guys to bring as many towels as possible, bring batteries, I need you to bring all the tools, bring me two extra bikes. We’re in the Home Depot Center and they’re set up in the tennis area.”
Where are they going to be out in the full sunlight?
They’re out there in the stadium, Dave had already said, “It’s all their bike.” I get underneath there, Dave goes, “Come here.” I’m like, “Yes, sir.” He goes, “You stay right there.” It was right next to the stadium where I can run out where all the bikes up there lined up. The crowd was getting ready, they’re doing some music. He said, “Stay here.” “I’m not fucking staying here. I’m making sure that bike doesn’t break.” I go get out there’s in ten lanes. I have eight towels, “Give me the towels.” I walk out and I turn everyone on.
First of all, a couple of them didn’t come on so I put a towel over every single console. I’m holding them because they’re also starting to freaking blow off. I got three minutes to show time. I’m like, “You got to be kidding me.” I put it on. I finally get them all working as this one fell off but it was on the longest. I take that one-off. I put it over here. I don’t even know what’s going on in the back. I have no idea who is what? Everything was quiet. I went back over. It was surreal. I was like, “This is it. Please don’t break.”
We went through the whole thing. Every time that they would use different athletes. I ran out there because they shut off after 30 seconds. I pushed all the buttons to keep them alive. I’m talking to these bikes. I don’t even have time now to put a towel on him. I got to keep pushing the button and hope that they work. We get done, not one failed. Dave looks at me and he goes, “Well done.” “It’s so much stress.” From there, he was writing the orders. From that point on, I couldn’t get caught up.
That was the AssaultBike’s big debut in the CrossFit world. You’ve got virtually every CrossFit gym on the planet. They’re all watching those games. There are people who are not CrossFitters that still enjoy watching the CrossFit Games. All of a sudden, there’s this monstrous machine that the top-level CrossFit athletes in the world are using. That was your world stage and it worked. That’s why it was taking orders from then on. Fast forward for us now, the AssaultBike is an iconic brand. You have other pieces of equipment. You got this company that’s cranking along.
It’s $20 million at this point. We went from $8 million to $20 million within 2.5 years.
You went from $8 million to $20 million in two years. I imagine since the pandemic things have got a little harder for you as well?
My business doubled.
How many employees do you have?
That’s what we’d like to call a highly productive company. The nature of your business is primarily wholesale. Do you do direct to the consumer as well?Always follow the market. The market will tell you everything. Click To Tweet
What happens is as we were starting to grow, we started getting calls. I had one sales guy with Life Core. The phone won’t stop ringing. I’m getting calls from all over the world. I’m talking about, “I want to sell your product. I want to be a distributor.” I said to myself, “Answer those emails. I don’t have time.” I’m freaking running around with my head cut off. I’m going to Asia back and forth and making sure the quality is so and so, trying to figure out how to get more money to buy more inventory and keep up with demand.
To this day, I have distributors in 53 countries that sell my brand. I knew that this bike was going to come to an end. When I say that, there was a new era. That bike carved out a new category. The air bike was not a category anymore. It was dead. We created it. Every manufacturer has an air bike because of the markets. This is what you have to understand. Always follow the market. The market will tell you everything. Don’t think you’re the smartest guy because I’m not. I answered what the market was asking for. I answered that and it worked.
I knew the problem was we had no IP on it because there’s no IP. It’s public domain. We’re at $999. I told my team let’s drop it to $799. You’re going to wait for the margin dollars. My competitors are coming out with knockoffs and they’re eating that meat. I’m a leader. I started it. I’m going to show them who the boss is. Drop the price. You asked me a quick question, I have an answer. B2C wholesale. I do 40% B2C and then 60% of wholesale distributors all over the world. We do big business online direct.
You started cutting your price. The IP is in the public domain. You’ve got all these knockoffs. Rogue has its own version of it.
They’re my distributor. I have a funny story. Dave Castro called me and he goes, “Did you see what Rogue put on their website?” I go, “Yes.” He goes, “Are you mad?” I go, “No.” He goes, “Why?” I said, “Not at all.” Here’s what I said, “It’s called the evolution of life. The old die, the young stay alive or is it the survival, whatever happens, happens. I look at life, simple. I’m here to survive and competition is good.” That means you have something special. If you don’t have anything special, no one wants to copy you. I take it as a compliment. My job is not to make it better. That’s it. If I sit around and try to remember what I had, I’m eventually going to die.
I’ve dropped my price, that’s the only product I have. I’m doing $20 million. I have sixteen employees and I’m selling one bike. That’s a good thing when your bike is now a commodity. I’m thinking, “What do I do next?” What makes sense for this new company, this new Assault. This is a trendy hit. Everything I do now is methodical in my lineup. I can go get weights and dumbbells. I got some money now but I don’t want to do that? That’s not Assault. About several years ago, I saw this treadmill at a trade show and it didn’t have a motor. I was like, “This is badass.” The guy is like, “I own all the patents.” I said, “I like that. Let me ask a question. Do you manufacturer these?”
He says, “No, not yet. I’m working on it.” I said, “What do you do?” “I’m a trainer.” “How would you like to make mailbox money?” He said, “No, I’m not interested. I’m going to own this market. I want to fly around in my jet. Not you. I’m not going to make enough money with mailbox money.” I said, “No problem.” The business was going well that I decided I needed to hire a CEO. I was feeling like it was starting to get a little bit out of control as far as operations. I needed a buffer. Tracy and I had never had a CEO. He was a friend, who was a patently. He was a friend of a friend. I knew he wasn’t working for the firm. He was working for us and he was a smart cat, Casey Beam.
I said, “Are you interested in a CEO job?” He said, “Yeah, possibly.” I said, “You’re a CEO.” It’s not easy working with two mom and pop divorced couple. He was friends with both of us but I knew that he had some good value for us. As I’m talking, he comes in and I said, “I’ve got an idea. I want to make a manual treadmill. It’s the next big trend.” CrossFit had another brand there but no one used it I saw it there and I saw interest but it was $6,000.
I’m not interested. I saw the machine itself. Since I used a manual treadmill, I saw the value. I saw what I believe would make you a better athlete. I said to Casey, “I need you to do some due diligence for me. I want to see how many patents are out there. If there’s any chance that we can make something different, we can design our own so we don’t infringe? I don’t want to infringe. I’m not a copycat.” If somebody says something tangible, I’ll stay clear.
That was free and clear IP too.
I hired some engineers. We made sure that we weren’t doing anything to affect anybody else’s IP. I couldn’t do this on my own. I go to Asia, design it. You’re talking about high-level engineering and they have the factory work. I hired these guys. It’s going to cost you $500,000 is going to take a year and a half. What I do is I go to Asia, I put a sticker on it and I sell it. That’s not what we do. I took the chance and I said to my executive team, I said, “Here’s the deal. If this works, it’s going to change our company. If it doesn’t work, I’m going to fire half the people here. I’m going to get a small spot.”
I have now a 30,000-square foot building. It’s growing pains. You can’t stop selling something selling like hotcakes. What do you do? Growing a business can put you out of business several times. It almost happened. I agreed to it and I tell my staff, “Here’s the problem and here’s the great news. This is what’s going to happen if it doesn’t work but I’m going to make it work. Don’t worry. You never have to worry me behind the wheel. I’m telling you the facts.” He makes it. We’re about ready to go in production. I’m going back and forth to China, tested it on my engineers to set up a whole line. They did it amazing. These guys made the best treadmill on the market, end of the story, at a fraction of the price, everybody else.
I said, “It sounds good if we could sell like hotcakes.” I went to the factory. The factory says, “How many are you going to sell?” They never manufactured a manual treadmill the first time. I said, “10,000.” They said, “You’re not selling 10,000.” They said it in a different language. First-year out of the shoot, I sold 10,000. At this time, I have a board of directors. These are high-level guys that live in the San Diego area. They are my friends. Whatever they’ve done. This is why I urge everybody. Make sure you listen to guys like this guy and put yourself around, go to four friends, two friends, say, “Once a month, we’re going to meet for coffee. Can you help me?”
These are guys normally won’t waste their time with you. If you can show them a value that they made a difference to you and you keep it short and business, you’ll be surprised how many guys like me that would love to help. Most people don’t go out of their way to ask because they’re scared or they don’t know any better. That’s number one. I did that. I had poor guys. We meet every month and told them what I’m doing. They know how much money I have in my account. They’re like, “That treadmill, I have a question for you. You said you’re going to sell 10,000 treadmills.” I said, “Yes.” They said, “You don’t have the money to sell 10,000 treadmills.” I said, “You’re right. I don’t have. What do you mean?”
He’s like, “What are your terms? What’s your credit line? You’re not going to have the money to do it. You got to buy these.” I said, “Let me think about that one. Come back next month, I might have an answer to you how I’m going to do it.” I thought about it. They come back and I say, “I got an idea. I’m going to discount that treadmill to all my distributors across the globe. I’m going to tell them I wanted them to give me orders. I’ll give it to them for a cheaper price than my normal wholesale. I would give it to them.” They didn’t know what I had. This was the first time I opened up the opportunity.
I took the pictures of what we’re building. I said, “We’re making a manual treadmill. It’s going to be an Assault Air Runner. It’s going to be at $39 99. Your cost is this. If you buy it now and you prepay it, the price is going to be this.” I had $3 million in my account in 30 days. I said, “That’s how I’m going to fund it.” The Air Runner took off. Ask Joe Rogan. He’s got my treadmill. He talks about it all the time. I didn’t sell it to him. He likes it and people about our brand is edgy. It’s real and hip but you can still fail. I have those challenges. I won’t give you the numbers but it’s a big company. We struggle. It’s not easy but you got to fight the fight. Be true to your word.
I get a LinkedIn from this kid. I checked on, this kid says, “My parents bought a treadmill from you guys. I told them to buy it because I use it. I’m from Ohio State and I went to college there, nuclear macular engineer,” where the hell he is. He’s a smart kid. He sends this, “My mom was going to buy a track treadmill. I told them to buy yours because I use it at Ohio State University. I have a gym. I train here. I use it here. We have all your stuff.” This kid is a freaking diehard Assault guy. He goes, “I love that treadmill. “
I convinced him. They paid $3,700. You had it on sale and you gave away a free bike over Cyber Monday. Can I get a bike? That’s the deal. I know I answered him by saying, “Let me get your information and I’ll send it to my team. Here’s my number if you need to call me. Why don’t you call me on my cell phone number?” He calls me, “Can you offer that deal?” I go, “How old are you?” He says 22. I said, “You’re 22 years old. You went out of your way to send me, President of Assault at LinkedIn to get a bike to match the deal. I’m impressed. I don’t think my 21-year-old daughter would do that. Your parents are going to be proud of you. Let me ask you a question. Here’s what happened? Your parents got a treadmill. You saw the discount and you want to bike. Your mom said, ‘Buddy, if you want the bike, you call him.’”
He goes, “That’s exactly what happened, Mr. Bates.” I said, “Well played. I’m more than happy to send you a bike for free. It’s not a problem.” He goes, “Thank you.” I said, “If you feel up to it, send a little shout out on social media. I’m not looking for a pat on the back, talk about the company. Do the right thing and you’ll be fine.” I inspired that little kid and I do it every day with every single person I run into is do the right thing, work your ass off, don’t be afraid of risk and surround yourself with good people.
That’s a great lead in to the question that I want to ask you. For the people that are in your sphere and your expanded sphere. I would say to people that work for you, your vendors, partners, board and entrepreneurs that you mentor. This is not an entirely fair question but to the best of your ability, can you answer how you think those people would describe what it’s like to be in that relationship with you?
They know that I know that. That’s different. If they don’t know, if you said, “He’ll never know your name versus this is what John said.”
Assume that I was sitting down with them. It’s a general question because there’d be different answers. If I was sitting down with them one-on-one and saying, “Tell me about RDB.”
I am one of those guys that are giving, friendly and happy but I have another side to me. He’s green. He says, “Don’t make me angry.” That’s the problem. Guys like me have a lot of energy.
What do you mean green?
The hulk. What happens as you know this, Steve is this. I only want you to do is work. I want you to do the right thing. I was born and raised to do the right thing. I was born and raised at work. That means, I say, go shovel that in an hour, have it done and have it look right because I paid for it. I’m not going to come to keep checking on you. I’m not that guy. I will tell you when I do see the final job and it looks like shit and you didn’t get it done.
It took you two hours. I’m going to say something. I’m not going to be nice about it. I’m not the best manager so this is why I hire people to be a manager. I know what I’m good at and I know what I’m horrible at. I always understand. I’ll tell you one good question to ask yourself and other people that may work for you. Tell me the worst thing about you. Tell me the best thing about you. Tell me about your biggest efficiency. How do you say it in an interview? How do you tell somebody what my deficiency in business? I don’t care about your personal life. That doesn’t matter to me. You’re sitting here asking for a job or you’re my employee, whoever you are. I say, “Tell me what is the worst thing I’m going to be seeing from you. Tell me now.” Most people can’t answer that or they lie. I got everything about you in this question.
I’m too dependable.
I showed one time. I’d give it my all. I never complain.
It annoys people how productive I am.
I appreciate you. You’re making what? $12 an hour, you’re fired. I want to hire this guy. He’s maybe good.
Dean, what’s the worst thing about you?People want what they can't have. If it's not exciting, no one will buy it. Click To Tweet
I would say the worst thing about me or something that I need the most help with is communication. I’m not a good communicator. I’d be telling the story but I’m still not a good communicator. Being a good communicator means being more understanding, listening, understand that you think everything is your way and the way everybody else is doing is not the right way. In reality, I do believe that when it comes to the stuff that I do. My problem is I expect sometimes too much from people and my employees love me. I go in there and I give them $100 off the record.
This is what I do. Tracy and I, for Christmas, we’ve done this for the years. We made a lot of money. I guess we do every year for our employees. We give him a big Christmas bonus. This has nothing to do with your job performance. I’m talking $30,000 checks. They don’t want to leave because they can’t. Whatever they’re making, they know. If the company does well, they know they’re getting fat chat. 2020 was tough. I almost couldn’t afford it. It’s the best year and month I’ve ever had. $7 million to $8 million a month in sales.
I can only afford to give a Christmas bonus. Why? I owe Uncle Sam so much money. Here’s the best part about it. All the money I made, I didn’t take it. That’s buying me inventory. That’s not buying me a big fancy house. I keep it in my business because I got to keep growing. This is what you do in business. Business is not like, “I’m going to get rich quick.” No. You want to run a real business, you better invest in your business. There’s going to be hopefully a good payoff. Business is fun. It’s a game.
You’re obviously generous. Those are big bonus checks for people who do that work. That’s the executive bonus that some people. Over and above the money, is that the reason that they love you because you’re generous? What else is there to it?
What it is, we respect them. We’re a family. We have parties together. I always say this, “If you take care of people, they’ll take care of you.” They see us driving our fancy sports cars but I pay them well. I pay anywhere they can go and I treat them well, I bring lunch. We’ve got saying, if it’s your birthday, you get free lunch. Back in the day, when we were busy, I took over another diamondback company. My employees were working hard that I hired a masseuse to come down and give everyone massages all day, for masseuse all day long, go down for a half-hour, get back to your desk.
You don’t treat people like shit. I go to China and I see these poor people working their ass off. There are a billion of them. That’s not nice but there’s a lot of people. The way they treat them is they don’t think of them as people. I would walk through the line in China and I would look over and wave at them. They’re like some freaking weird person. I’m like, “That’s a person over there.” We’re all people. Give respect to people. I’m no better than you because I make more money and I’m better looking. We’re all the same. I’m not better than you.
I’m only better than you if you’re a piece of shit and you don’t do the right thing. Yes, I’m better than you. That’s what I believe. I try to come across that because that’s the truth. Treat people with respect. People work hard for you. There are workers and there are owners. I like the workers better than the owners. Owners sometimes your brain starts to think like this. It’s like, “No.” I’ll tell you how much money you’re bringing your table. When you were born, you had zero. When you’re dying, you’re going to have zero. Money’s important.
Another little saying is don’t chase the money, chase the dream. I tell everybody that because at the end of the day, you can make $1 million if you’re not happy, it’s no fun. If I can have a job that I wake up every morning and a business that I wake up and I can’t wait to go to work, you have a thrilled kill. You have to sleep well, you got what it takes. You have freedom, you have everything and then let it go. Work your ass off. One day, you’ll be like me.
It would not be a bad thing to aspire to for most of us, Dean. Your story is incredible. I want to thank you for investing your trust in me to make this your first ever interview. You should do a lot more of this if you enjoy it because you’re a natural storyteller. Your story is great. Your heart is evident and that’s a big deal around here. We look for that quality in people because we know that love is just damn good business and that exudes from you. I want to thank you for that. How do people reach out to you? What’s the best way to connect, to say hello or to follow what you’re doing?
LinkedIn would be the best. My company has a social Instagram @AssaultFitness and then I have an @Assault_Dude, which is my personal page. I don’t even want 10,000 followers. I want to be me. It’s like life. At first, I had a private. The problem was I had people contacting me through the community of CrossFit and other places. I’m like, “Do I accept them?” If I don’t accept them, they’re going to think I’m rude. If I accept them now, I’m accepting them into my family. They’re not my family. I don’t know who they are. I say, “Free reign, I don’t care who you are. You want to watch what I do. I don’t post that much. I’m a normal guy.” It helped me see the structure of the business world. My other one is personal. The other one, I want you to follow me in the business world. It’d be easier for me to reach out that way.
I feel honored to know you and you’re doing such great work. I’m a huge fan of your product. Now you have a new huge personal fan as well. I’m sure our readers are going to going to dig this and hopefully, spread it around and share it. Thank you for tuning into this episode. Until next time, do what you love in the service of people who love what you do. Peace.
- Assault Fitness
- Roger Dean Bates – LinkedIn
- Schwinn Airdyne
- CrossFit Games
- @AssaultFitness – Roger Dean Bates Instagram
- @Assault_Dude – Personal Instagram, roger Dean Bates
About Roger Dean Bates
Roger “Dean” Bates in the founder and president of Assault Fitness in Carlsbad, California. He’s the developer of the infamous Assault Bike, an iconic piece of fitness equipment loved (and hated) by athletes and fitness enthusiasts around the world. An entrepreneur to the core, Bates has grown his 20-year-old company through passion, perseverance, a caring for people, a penchant for hard work, and a joyous heart.
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