It is easy to get caught up in your own hype and enthusiasm. So step back, take on the role of the consumer and ask the hard questions.
Chuck Frizelle is the president of Coros Wearables. The company’s first product line is the Coros LINX smart cycling helmet, the world’s first helmet with open-ear bone conduction audio so cyclists can hear traffic and the environment while tuning in to music, friends, navigation, and ride data.
Prior to co-founding Coros, Frizelle spent 18 years pioneering consumer experiences that span software, hardware, and services. In his career, he has been in wearables, wellness, audio, media, and gaming while at Microsoft, Jawbone, and Plantronics. He has built and directed several new businesses including Xbox Live New Media, Plantronics Gaming, and Jawbone Corporate Wellness, and spearheaded other digital ventures such as Xbox fitness, health and wellness, popular game franchises, and online services. He has served as GM, Business Unit Leader, Executive Producer, and broadly across all functional business roles. In all roles, his focus has been centered on delivering experiences that are compelling to consumers and are profitable growth engines for the business.
At Coros, he sees an opportunity to create high-tech sports gear to enrich people’s active lifestyles, providing more enjoyable, social, safe, and performance-boosting outdoor sports and recreational experiences. He has long had an interest in both sports and technology. Before jumping into the world of business, he received his engineering degree at Northwestern University while playing college athletics. Post college, he was an officer in the U.S. Navy, where he was a pilot and received his MBA at University of California, Berkeley.
Where did the idea for the Coros helmet come from?
The Coros team is comprised of outdoor enthusiasts that are passionate about the intersection of active lifestyle and technology. The team wanted to solve a growing safety problem for cyclists who want to enjoy music and other smartphone audio while biking. Earbuds, the default solution, are unsafe. Thus, Coros set out to develop a practical audio solution that is safe and delivers enjoyable audio at the same time.
It starts with bone conduction technology, which has been used for years by the military as a safe wireless approach for soldiers to stay connected in the field and has a tremendous opportunity across consumer applications. We added a quality wind resistant microphone. In the end, Coros has developed the world’s first helmet with open-ear bone conduction audio so cyclists can hear traffic and the environment while tuning in to music, friends, navigation, and ride data. All without earbuds.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Each day, there are so many things to do, and too few resources to get them done. It is important to prioritize the work early in the day and have a game plan. Tip: Each day, put 5-7 (1-3 big items, 3-5 small) items on a business card…and check them off.
To be the most productive, I try to move fast on the little stuff, and be thoughtful yet decisive on the more important decisions (along with team input, so they are involved and aware). As CEO, people are depending on your direction, so decision speed is important. Any delay on your part has a magnifying effect on the pace of execution by the organization. I am doing my best to get better at this.
How do you bring ideas to life?
The ideation phase is a blast…especially when you land on a commercially viable idea. But I really enjoy rallying the team around a concept, getting team input and buy-in, and then start to see the shared enthusiasm grow throughout the org and with trusted insiders. I have found that this shared excitement is the oxygen that brings an idea to life.
After internal momentum is created, it is time to get external input. There is nothing better than validation of a concept with the target audience. When they say they love it, but also give useful nuggets of info that we can use to make the concept better.
Writing this gets me excited about the next few products we want to bring to life.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
The intersection of sports and technology. There are so many different angles to it, from safety, performance improvement, big data, communications, training, personal improvement…the list goes on and on. Combining sports gear with updatable software, big data and analytics, and service layers seems to open up endless opportunities. Five years from now we will look back in awe of how much the industry accomplished.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Constantly asking, “If I knew nothing about this product, what would I think.” It is easy to get caught up in your own hype and enthusiasm. So step back, take on the role of the consumer and ask the hard questions. If you can address the hard questions, the easy ones will be just that. After applying this approach, get objective input from outsiders…be open to listening and taking action on the feedback.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I’ve been fortunate. I have enjoyed all of my jobs, through good and bad. Part of this good fortune is I have always gone to jobs that I wanted to do. (Note: Some advice from a wise young woman “Do what you want to do, and encourage others to do the same”.)
Now for the question. The hardest (not the worst) job was in the Navy while deployed oversees away from family, friends, and comfort items. What it taught me was an incredible appreciation for 1. what we have, 2. the power and freedom to choose (attitude is a choice), and 3. commitment – to job, teammates, friends, family. Every day, ask those questions, and reflect…it should put a smile on your face.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
So far I am happy with my decisions. But if I had to do it differently, I would consider shifting into start-up ventures earlier in my career, or set aside more time to advise start-up businesses.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Commit, commit, commit. Commit to making it happen. You need to do serious sole searching to understand how committed you are. Especially when things don’t go well. When you fall, be resilient, pick yourself up, and figure out a way to make it happen.
Balance this with practicality. There may be some commitments that become impossible and counterproductive to you, the product, team, and business. ID these, and move on.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
At this point it is too early to tell. Ask me in three months after our Kickstarter campaign, launch, and holiday and we have actual sales to reflect on.
In terms of progressing the business, 1. Create a thoughtful and logical plan that people can rally around and execute. 2. Hire good people and agencies that are committed to executing the plan and making the business and brand great.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I got caught up in my own product and everyone’s excitement around it. I learned you can inspire and sell people on your idea and get them just as excited as you. However, it can be a false positive. You need objective validation and un-aided input. This will give you a better sense of its commercial viability when you are not there to sell 1:1.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I have a couple on the tip of my tongue, but I need to hold those for Coros. Sorry☺
Everyone dislikes automated customer service and having to push 5 buttons to finally talk to someone. It just happened to me. Create an app and service that could sort through all of the automated customer service hierarchy – it notifies you when you are connected to an actual person who can help you. Saves time and frustration.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
My wife (and thus I) spent $100 on the Coros LINX helmet on Kickstarter. Why, because it a GREAT helmet – safety, music, calls, comms, nav, and data ☺ She had never supported anything on Kickstarter, and was excited to try it. I want to see how the consumer experience is executed on the backend once we start shipping in November.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
That is pretty broad, I enjoy so many of them. I left Jawbone in April, but I still have an affinity for the UP fitness app which helps me to be mindful of my activity, fitness, nutrition, and sleep (most important of all). Especially great when I am traveling. Speaking of travel, how about a shout out to Uber. Call your car, track its location, no payment, and auto-generated receipts. Lastly LinkedIn, which is an amazing professional networking tool.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Hard to say one book. But one that has had an impact on me is Made to Stick, by the Heath Brothers. There are so many products and messages for consumers to sort through, how do you convey your ideas in a way that is interesting, memorable, and desirable. Good use of SUCCESS principles and business examples.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
Jeff Weiner, LinkedIn CEO. He, along with founder Reid Hoffman, revolutionized business relationships and inspire all of us to get and stay connected.
Kevin Plank, Under Armour CEO. The guy went up against Nike, adidas, and Reebok, and in many ways, is winning. Love his three questions/comments rule so that everyone understands where he is coming from: “This is what I heard.” “This is what I think.” “This is what we’re going to do.”
Bosses. I have been fortunate to have several great managers that continue to influence how I think, operate, manage. They know who they are. Thank you!
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Chuck Frizelle’s Email: [email protected]
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.