Arian Radmand - Co-Founder and Director of Engineering at CoachUp

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I don’t check email until lunch time. This keeps me productive and focused on what is important, as it allows me to not get bogged down by what other people want me to do until the second half of my day.[/quote]

Arian Radmand is a Co-Founder and Director of Engineering at CoachUp, Inc. CoachUp is a service that connects athletes with private coaches. We believe that private coaching is the secret to reaching the next level in sports + life. Our vision is to help kids change the trajectory of their lives through sports.

Arian Radmand is also an avid skier and sailor. He began sailing at a young age and it quickly became more than a hobby. When he started racing competitively, his parents (who knew nothing about the sport) were at a loss for how to help him improve. They found a quality private coach to help him improve only by cold calling sailors they read about in sailing magazines. After sailing in college at Boston University and working for several years as a private sailing coach, he realized that finding a private coach for a given sport was an arduous task. Arian gained experience as a software engineer at EMC and Lime Brokerage, and then co-founded CoachUp in 2012. He was responsible for building the platform from the ground up. Today, CoachUp is the #1 private sports coaching and fitness training company and is creating a brand new industry of coach-entrepreneurs across the nation.

Where did the idea for CoachUp come from?

It was really an evolution of a couple things. The original idea was to create a Private Coaching marketplace where athletes can find and book their own private coaches. My business partner, Jordan, came up with this concept after working for an online marketplace that connected business professionals with people seeking specialized business advice. He was giving private basketball lessons at the time and saw many of the same dynamics in the private coaching world.

The idea resonated with me because I had a private sailing coach growing up, which allowed me to develop and hone my skills enough to compete in college. In my situation, no one in my family was a sailor, nor did they know how to help me improve. So they resorted to asking friends for recommendations and looking in magazines to find me a coach. I knew I couldn’t be the only person in this situation and felt there was a real pain point that needed to be solved.

Over time, we’ve evolved CoachUp from just a straight marketplace to more of a service oriented model. We’ve discovered that the private coaching market is actually much larger than we originally had thought. Most parents and athletes who were signing up for our service had a misconception that private coaching is only for elite athletes. CoachUp is changing that landscape because now athletes of any level are able to find a great coach in a price range they can afford.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I normally go to the gym or do yoga in the morning before work starts. I find that it helps me feel healthier, gives me more energy, and clears my mind.

I usually arrive to the office between 8:30-9am and the first thing I do is take a look at my TODO list and write down 3 things I want to accomplish that day on a post-it note.

I then get started on those post-it tasks right away. I don’t check email until lunch time (usually around noon-12:30pm).

This keeps me productive and focused on what is important, as it allows me to not get bogged down by what other people want me to do until the second half of my day.

The remaining half of the day usually involves responding to my inbox and continuing progress on my TODO list (These days, it includes planning our engineering architecture to allow us to continue building the engineering department as well as ensuring our systems will be capable of scaling into the future).

How do you bring ideas to life?

Simple: execute and iterate. We have a process that allows anyone at the company to suggest ideas for product improvement. We think about ideas along 3 lines: user acquisition, user activation, and user retention.

Once our product team agrees to execute on an idea, we chose the route that allows us to get our changes in front of our user base as quickly as possible and have clearly defined success/failure metrics. From there, we basically just keep an eye on these metrics to ensure they are having the intended effects. If so, we determine how to iterate and make it better. If we are seeing the lift in metrics that we’re looking for, we’ll again either iterate or kill off the idea.

Killing off ideas that just didn’t have the desired effect has been one of the biggest learnings I’ve had from starting my own company. Too many people hold on to ideas that just aren’t working. Just because you’ve put time and effort into something doesn’t mean it was the right decisions. Have the confidence to kill ideas and features that have proven to be unsuccessful.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Wearable sports technology (i.e. things like the Jawbone Up, Fitbit, Nike Fuelband…etc) It just shows that people are becoming more and more interested in quantifying their activity. We’ve only scratched the surface here, as the next step is creating technology that can actually take actionable steps based on your measurements. When we get there …. that’s when the real fun begins!

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Limiting my email exposure. I set aside about an hour everyday to send/respond to emails. I find that by doing this, I’m more focused on what is actually important for my business during the day. Remember, if you spend your entire day answering emails, you’re working on OTHER people’s TODO list.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I’m pretty lucky in that I’ve really enjoyed most jobs that I’ve had. I worked for almost 2 years at EMC as a software engineer doing test case automation. It was very repetitive work with little variety and it grew mundane and boring over time. So I suppose I would consider that the ‘worst’ job I ever had. However, it allowed me to see how a massive, well oiled corporation worked from the inside out. That experience is still something I draw on today and is something I believe most entrepreneurs lack. To build a successful business, you need to have an idea of how your company should operate at scale. The best way to do that is to gain some experience working at successful companies you wish to emulate.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I would replace myself quicker! Successful businesses are built on repeatable systems… the people you hire run those systems. Initially, I spent too much time working in my business when I should have aimed to replace myself as soon as possible. That would have given me more of an opportunity to work on my business from a high level.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Consistently use my own product. I try to book a training session in a different sport every single month. My goal is to try to take at least one lesson in every sport we offer. As a user of your product, you go through a completely different set of emotions when you’re using your product as compared to when you’re working on your product. You really need to understand these emotions before you can make intelligent decisions as to what direction your product (and business) needs to move.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

Leveraging the perception of being a large corporation. From day one, we acted like we were a multimillion dollar corporation. We purposely took pride in our appearance … i.e. site appearance, mobile app appearance, our advisors, board of directors … etc. Perception matters! When people perceive your company as being professional and trustworthy, then guess what?! You’ve built a professional and trustworthy business! It doesn’t matter if you’re actually a 2 person shop behind the scenes. Great companies like IBM are built from day one. They don’t just magically appear one day and say ‘ok, now we’re going to start acting like a professional, multimillion dollar business’.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Not understanding the importance of testing your business ideas via a series of small, measurable tests and failing fast when necessary. I started several businesses before CoachUp and in each of them, I was not nearly fast enough at killing features / initiatives / products that were not producing the desired result. Even to this day I still struggle with this. To overcome these situations, I’ve learned to set clear goals, targets, and time frames. More importantly I’ve learned that making ANY decision to either discontinue something or change it drastically is more important than necessarily making the ‘right’ decision.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

An open-source tech due diligence service. We’ve gone through 2 rounds of venture financing so far, and let me tell you that passing tech due diligence when relying on open source components is an arduous process. Attorneys want to protect intellectual property and often want to know the governing licenses for every third party tool your business uses. I would love to create a service that automates this process and saves entrepreneurs countless hours. Especially since so many new companies these days are basically building their businesses on the shoulders of open source components.

Tell us something about you that very few people know?

I’m red-green colorblind. Designing the first few versions of CoachUp was fairly tricky 🙂

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

We use a variety of different software and services. Some of my favorites are:
GitHub for source code management. GitHub provides some really nice features to allow us to do collaborative code reviews as well as some powerful web hook API features which can be integrated into many of our other third party tools.

Solano CI for continuous integration is another big win for us. It integrates with GitHub and runs our entire automated test suite automatically every time we push a new branch up to our repository. It’s the piece of technology that the dev team at CoachUp relies on the most, since it allows us to develop at a rapid pace without worrying about breaking existing features.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The E-Myth by Michael Gerber.

It’s by far the best book I’ve ever read about starting a business. The E Myth teaches entrepreneurs how to think about building their business so that they can turn their company into a well structured, systemized business.

Too many entrepreneurs do not follow the advice in this book, which is why 80% of startups fail. The largest take aways from this book is to spend time working ON your business, not IN your business. If you build your company right, it should operate WITHOUT you, not BECAUSE of you. I’ve used almost everything I’ve learned from this book while building CoachUp and it has paid huge dividends.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

I really like Napoleon Hill as an author … any of his works are great to read ( Think and Grow Rich, Selling You, just to name a few). Michael Gerber is another business Guru I love. I followed his advice in his book ‘The E-Myth’ while building CoachUp’s engineering team, and now the team is extremely high performing and capable of running itself.

Arian Radmand on Twitter: @aradmand
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