How to squeeze more time out of a day — it seems like a strange thing to say but you have to be really efficient if you are going to try and start your own company, when the main purpose of the company was to offer something uniquely valuable for the times we are living in. At the moment, we are trying to move fast, be efficient and get to key milestones while our audience is still open to the message.
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brad Fagan.
Brad Fagan is a market insights expert and co-founder of PTFinder, along with his good friend Alex Marchant.
PTFinder is a fitness app designed to allow people to locate personal trainers that are the best fit for them in their local area.
The two friends started this company during the pandemic after realising the stress that remote work can create and how this environment can impact mental health. The app helps personal trainers find more clients and for people lacking motivation to work on a healthy body and mind.https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/66a0ee76f85e1050f634e654602ecb27
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I am originally from the mean streets of Auckland, New Zealand. Only joking, anyone who knows New Zealand will know there is nothing mean about it. We are a little country at the bottom of the world. We have a total population of 5 million and we live a very outdoor lifestyle. We play sports, go to the beach alot and get out into nature as much as possible.
I was a New Zealand junior champion swimmer, was raised by a single mum and went to an all boys highschool (we have a lot of those back home).
For the most part, we are a people who work to live, we don’t live to work. And we have a quality of life I have yet to find anywhere else in the world. When I hit my mid-20s I left. ‘Why would you leave New Zealand?’ is the question I have been asked most by new people I meet. ‘It’s so beautiful’. And while they are right, New Zealand is also a bit of a fishbowl.
Like people who come from small towns and dream of the big city, I wanted to know what else was out there so I travelled to Sweden and lived there for three years, which is where I found my German wife while studying a master’s in Genocide . I lived in Oxford, England for two years where my wife continued her studies until we finally moved back to her homeland of Germany, I got a job in Berlin and then…the pandemic hit.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Be thankful for things that don’t come easy”. This is more of a personal mantra but it encapsulates my life. It means that while there is hardship in grinding for everything I have ever gotten, you can also take immense pride in things you built yourself and in New Zealand, there is this big mentality of just ‘getting on with it’.
I have learned in my life to be grateful that I never felt entitled to anything. No one has ever helped give me a leg up and that has always made me feel proud that when I look around me at what I have and what I have accomplished (I am most proud of my healthy relationship with my wife), that I can say that it was all down to my hard work and determination.
When I was in Sweden (my first trip away from home), I remember thinking, I don’t have enough money for a plane ticket home so if I fail to plan well I would be asking my mother to spend money she didn’t have to bring me home. That instilled in me a fear of overindulgence, living simply and a mentality to always prepare for a rainy day.
These are the experiences that shape you. That sets you down a path of self-respect and formulates the morals and values that become the bedrock of your character.
“Be thankful for things that don’t come easy” because they will shape the person that you become.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I was a real tv kid. I sat in front of the tv all day, didn’t do chores and my mum, as great as she is, coddled me a little too much so that I had to really learn self-sufficiency later in life. In saying that, Pop-culture can be a great educator and it has taught me a lot about the world and helped me to understand the human condition and what we are capable of.
Two movies come to mind in response to your question. One, which is actually just a quote that has always resonated with me from the movie Into the Wild regarding ‘how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong, but to feel strong”.
The other is a docudrama called Touching the Void. It’s a story of two men that climbed a mountain in the Peruvian Andes. One of the men was left for dead after falling through a crevasse and breaking his leg. He ended up crawling off of the mountain and surviving.
It had a massive impact on me because it’s a story of survival, but also highlights the amazing ability, and utterly pragmatic way, our brains can adapt when everything goes wrong, the power that our minds have to adapt and narrow in on overcoming small problems when the actual challenge before us is seemingly impossible.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
So at heart I am a marketer. At its core marketing is about problem solving. About testing, tweaking and understanding a problem to find a solution.
I am a big fan of the impact marketing can have on a business and before the pandemic I was only working for a large B2B software company, working long hours, interpreting market insights data, writing reports, creating video campaigns, improving our content and website SEO. You name it. If it was in the field of marketing, I was doing it.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
While I am still working at the company I was in before the pandemic, I also decided to become the co-founder of my own company with a very good friend of mine in the UK.
One of the main reasons we did this was because I understood that during the pandemic, local searches grew massively, and people have started looking more in their direct communities for consumer options because they are scared of Covid.
Many peoples’ lives have changed. Now, we are working from home more and finding it really hard to switch off after a day of work. Many people either can’t or are scared of going to the gym because of catching Covid. This has led to the rise of home workouts and online fitness training but the problem with this is:
1: Everything is virtual and this is just more of the same
2: These classes don’t get us out of the house
3: Home trainings are hard to get motivated for
Even during these times of limited mobility, people still need to get motivated and take care of their mental health and fitness is by far the best way to do this — healthy body, healthy mind.
It was a big deal to us to create PTFinder as a way of actually helping communities and connecting the trainers, who really need the money at this time, to potential clients in their communities who might be scared of the gym or have trouble switching off after work and going into PTFinder, finding a trainer near them and organising a safe way to have a regular scheduled workout, which is so key for keeping people mentally and physically strong.
The app is live, we are actively pushing for signups, looking for investors and moving fast with our marketing efforts. We have got some great marketing campaigns on the way and we really want to create a solution that not only helps personal trainers to get more clients but also helps people deal with mental health issues during the pandemic.
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
I was one of those people that had a hard time adjusting to remote work and my mental health was really suffering because I would work long hours and then not be able to switch off after it.
What I realized was that when I had scheduled appointments I would have to finish work and run off to that appointment.
I had a regular personal trainer I would meet in the park and even though this was just once per week, you forget how much of an impact going from stationary to moving, inside to outside, and getting offline has on a person. It really does have such a huge impact on mental health.
PTFinder is obviously an opportunist app. We saw that the time was right, but we also know how much the world needs things that can help them improve body, mind and spirit.
How are things going with this new initiative?
We only launched recently and have just started to scale. We are currently looking for investors so we can really get the word out and make key improvements to the platform but also we are trying to target specific locations where we can build a community first.
The feedback we have received has been so positive though, The app is completely free so sign-ups are really pouring in at the moment and we are just trying to make sure that we have enough trainers so we don’t disappoint those that want to join and start using the app immediately.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I don’t have the skills necessary to develop an app. That’s why it’s vital to have talented friends that have great ideas and know how to bring them to life.
Alex Marchent is both creator and co-founder of PTFinder. I love working with passionate people who are in it for the right reasons. Who want to put something into the world that is going to help make peoples’ lives better and who are passionate about making the user experience better.
That kind of passion is contagious and is a key reason why we are investing ourselves in making this work.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
So I got really caught up in making these videos showcasing the app that I also started making trail running videos with my wife.
Basically, there’s a mountain range in the North of Germany called the Harz mountains and every weekend now we pick a specific trail up a specific mountain and run up it. You can see our first video here to get an idea: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZajFqwaTHrg
We are running up Northern Germany’s highest mountain this weekend (a 17km run) which we have done once before but I lost the video footage so we have to do it again haha.
It’s definitely a challenge but it gets me out into nature every weekend and it’s not easy so I like that element of it — ‘be thankful for things that don’t come easy’ 🙂
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- How to squeeze more time out of a day — it seems like a strange thing to say but you have to be really efficient if you are going to try and start your own company, when the main purpose of the company was to offer something uniquely valuable for the times we are living in. At the moment, we are trying to move fast, be efficient and get to key milestones while our audience is still open to the message.
- Where to go for help (finding a mentor) — It’s difficult to learn everything from scratch. I know people who have mentors that they go to for advice. The road I have taken is harder because I learn the hard way, by doing, getting it wrong and learning from those experiences.
- How to find good fit investment opportunities — Again this is something we are currently looking at and probably should have focused on earlier but we wanted to be in a good place before we approached this.
- How to find good freelancers — freelancers are often able to take work off your hands and give you more time for strategy. I am glad I have a network now but obviously this would have saved a lot of time at the beginning
- How to scale fast without spending money — This one is a little tongue in cheek, obviously this is something I wish for even though I know that this is not realistic haha
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
It’s no surprise based on the app we launched that fitness is my number one way of dealing with stress. Being able to have control of your physical well being on a day to day basis has a massive impact on happiness and positive feelings of empowerment.
Feeling in control is very important. Sticking to routine whether it’s fitness, cleaning, reading or working, giving yourself structure during home office is key to feeling in control and keeping a healthy balance. If you are working long hours and not switching off, that’s not going to serve your mental health in the long term. Take a break for fitness, take a break to spend quality time connecting with the family and take control of the things in your life that you can. This helps when so much of our lives at the moment are out of our control.
Lastly, I also think it’s important to have perspective. Life at the moment is just tough and everyone is going through the same thing, having the same issues with their homelife, worklife, political affiliations, family etc…everything has changed for everyone. We have to remember though that we are all in this together and it is unfair on us to have the same expectations now that we had pre-pandemic. Give yourself a break, get some perspective and then within that perspective try and analyse what are the big problems that weren’t there last year and how you can come up with creative solutions to improve your situation.
We have themed nights in our house to make isolation a little easier. Tonight is game night and I am the master of ceremonies. It’s going to be board games, kids games etc just to add a little bit of fun to the home environment and change things up a little bit. Like I said, you have to get creative.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I think it’s two-fold. I think young girls need to be empowered more to believe in themselves and I think young boys need to also be empowered with the knowledge that this is not a threat to them. It’s good for our society if men view women as equals and women are empowered to be braver in society than in previous generations.
As I said before, I was raised by an amazingly selfless single mother, in a family dominated by women. I admire and respect the women in my life very much and still think there is a long way to go so that women don’t experience things such as sexual harassment and violence in such large percentages, so men aren’t raised to view women as objects of possession, but strong partners within the family system, strong leaders in government and business.
This can only be positive for us in the future.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
Taika Waititi — that guy is a really impressive and interesting person. He is from my home country of New Zealand, is now an influential Hollywood director, Writer and Actor (made the movies Thor Ragnarok. Jo Jo Rabbit, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, What We Do in the Shadows).
He is immensely talented, immensely creative and doesn’t seem to take life too seriously, remains down to earth and I would love to pick the brain of someone like that who has been successful in the biggest lights despite coming from our little country at the bottom of the world.
How can our readers follow you online?
I’m probably most active on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/brad-fagan/ that is the best place to follow me
I do have a Twitter account but I am mostly a passive observer on there: https://twitter.com/LuckyGooseChaos
You can download the app directly at ptfinder.app
If you want to contact me directly you can always reach me by email at [email protected]
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!