Stephen Kurtz – CEO of MuscleSound

I keep the end in mind. Many ignore this rule, but doing so can lead to failure for many great ideas. It’s why people run out of money before realizing their dream.

Stephen Kurtz is CEO of MuscleSound, where he oversees all aspects of the company’s operations as they relate to business development and investor relations.

In addition to his work at MuscleSound, Kurtz is a managing member of Kurtz Financial — a private equity firm that specializes in merger and acquisition advisory services, restructuring, and turnarounds.

As a CPA, Kurtz has spent most of his career in accounting and finance, specializing in negotiation, structuring and tax planning for mergers, acquisitions, joint ventures, and leveraged buyouts. He was formerly president of Shenkin Kurtz Baker & Co. from 1978-2001, until he eventually sold the company to CBIZ Inc.

Kurtz serves on various local and national boards, including the Wells Fargo Bank Community Board, Ciber Inc., Pembrook Mining Corp., and LaSalle Exploration Corp. Additionally, he was a partner in the Colorado Rockies Baseball Club, where he helped form the team when the club initially came to Denver in 1991.

Where did the idea for MuscleSound come from?

I’m an avid runner and have always been interested in business and new technology. About three years ago, my running coach recommended I meet with two entrepreneurial sports medicine doctors at the University of Colorado known for their far-reaching innovation and research.

Dr. John Hill and Dr. Iñigo San Millán believed they could see glycogen movement in muscles using the everyday ultrasound. I did some research and learned that glycogen is the body’s primary fuel source for intermediate and more intense activity and is vital to injury prevention and performance. Before their discovery, the only way to measure glycogen was using a muscle biopsy. This is rarely performed on active athletes because the recovery time is too extensive. But ultrasound made this process totally noninvasive.

The next step was to analyze the market potential. For starters, it didn’t take long to realize there was a multibillion-dollar market for sports drinks, bars, chews, and gels. The most active ingredients in these products are carbohydrates, which produce glycogen. Yet, none of these products could tell athletes how many carbohydrates they needed for injury prevention, peak performance, or recovery. It quickly became apparent that many other industries could use our product, including medicine, military, animal heath, weight loss, and the workplace.

The next step was to develop a delivery system. At that time, there were many software programs that displayed ultrasound images, but none that could actually read images. Today, we’re able to scan a muscle, and the ultrasound machine sends the image to our cloud-based software. Within 15 seconds, the subject knows his glycogen level and has an action plan for performance or recovery.

Working with the doctors, we formed MuscleSound. The next months were filled with patent filings, software design, and testing. Over the past two years, we’ve worked to build the company into a commercially viable enterprise.

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

I’m one of the lucky ones. I have many more opportunities than time. I usually schedule half my day with meetings and phone calls and leave the other half open to work on priorities and opportunities.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I keep the end in mind. Many ignore this rule, but doing so can lead to failure for many great ideas. It’s why people run out of money before realizing their dream.

Keeping the end in mind means visualizing the end product every day and making the necessary adjustments to be sure that everyone is on that path. I do this in detail by seeking to imagine how I want things to look and work.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

The influence social media has on business, even in our B2B world, is incredible. Many of our most promising prospects are coming to us as inquiries from our website.

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

I try to be a good leader. I really care about the time and commitment of the people who work at MuscleSound. They spend more time at work than anywhere else. It’s important to let them know that they’re supported, there are no hidden agendas, and they can openly discuss opportunities and problems. This makes everyone around me happier and more productive.

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

When I was in high school, I worked as a bus boy at a breakfast restaurant. When the health inspectors discovered rats and insect infiltration, I was put in charge of maintaining kitchen cleanliness for the rest of the summer. I hated that job but needed the money.

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

My public accounting career was very rewarding, but in hindsight, I’d leave public accounting earlier to gain more experience in running a business. In the product world, you have the opportunity to change lives.

I also believe that we’re best at everything in our forties. We have the experience and energy to act at our highest level and be the most productive. That’s the time in our lives when it’s most difficult to change companies or jobs, but we’re best equipped to be successful.

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

Check in with your people often. Years ago, I adopted the “management by wandering around” approach. This helps me not only understand where their efforts are, but also ensure they understand our expectations.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Hiring the best people has made growth possible. And as the business changes, it’s crucial to ensure they’re still right for their current jobs. If not, make the necessary changes immediately.

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

While I’m no stranger to failure, I don’t think we overcome our failures — we learn from them. There’s no substitute for experience. The world is changing so quickly that you must adapt. I see many entrepreneurs jump into development without truly understanding the market. In my venture capital days, we invested in a consumer product business without really understanding the way large department stores work. It cost us the company before we could make the corrections.

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

This might be my next company, but with our aging population, we need a device that automatically hangs up the telephone when our parents or grandparents forget to hang up the phone.

Tell us something about you that very few people know?

I’m an introvert who’s shy in business, but especially shy in social settings.

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

I use most Microsoft products, Quicken, QuickBooks, and TurboTax (that’s the former accountant in me talking). My favorite device is my iPad. These products have made me so efficient. How did we ever survive before these inventions?

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

I’ll give you two, but they’re very different. “Coming UnScrooged”  by A. Drayton Boylston is a great book for entrepreneurs who need some balance in their lives instead of letting the business run them. “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall is also a great inspiration for those of us who commit to regular physical activity.

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

My biggest influence is Bill Daniels, known as the “father of cable television.” Daniels had the incredible knack for success, helping others, and just loving life. I often ask myself how he might have handled a situation.

Another major influencer is Steve Jobs. Although he was a likable guy and leader, his constant vision was what captivated me. He was able to compete and lead at the highest levels in our world economy. Who will step up to fill those shoes?


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