Endorphinz CEO Mike Hansen Talks the Future of Fitness Media Production:
Growing up on a farm, Mike Hansen’s extreme work ethic was instilled in him at a very young age. As a result, today, he’s not afraid to roll up his sleeves and get into the thick of it in order to get the job done. Hansen has come a long way since his early days on the fields, having built a number of successful businesses from the ground up, and offers a piece of cautionary advice for those looking to follow in his footsteps in becoming an entrepreneur, “If you’re not willing to do all the jobs or able to thrive in chaos, consider rethinking what you’re about to do.” He explains, “There are more days that I have a problem to deal with than days that I don’t, but that has actually allowed me to become a better entrepreneur because I function really well in chaos. Nothing really phases me, it’s just business as usual. Whether it’s a competitor obstacle, a legal issue, or an employee underperforming, there’s always something. I think people should consider that before they try to take on this role and get really comfortable with the journey.”
Hansen, who lives in Florida with his family of seven, is now focused on his position as Founder and President of Endorphinz, a new age fitness media and production company. True to Mike’s visionary nature, he launched the company, which supports some of the largest fitness brands and creators in the market with live broadcast, network operations, storytelling and talent, right before the pandemic hit, when the existing shift towards digital fitness was accelerated at breakneck speed. He took some time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions on what lessons have helped him get to where he is today, his current philosophies on life and leadership, as well as what the future holds for him, his team, and his company.
What does your morning routine look like?
I’ll usually wake up around 5:00 a.m, have my coffee, and then go through my emails while I start to organize my day. Around 7 o’clock I’ll transition to helping get the kids ready and off to school. When I get back from dropping them off I start catching up with the team, looking through my Slack feeds for any fires I need to put out, and then slowly work my way into what needs to be done for the day.
I’m a big fan of The E Myth by Michael Gerber and the concept of spending more time working on the business vs in it so my mornings are usually spent working on the most important business tasks, evenings are usually spent ‘on’ the business, and then afternoons are usually filled with calls and being deep ‘in’ the business. This has been generally consistent for me throughout my career with different companies.
What does a typical week look like for you? When are you off the clock?
I’d say I’m probably never really ‘off the clock’ because if there’s an issue that needs to be resolved people will call me directly, and I think part of the job as you grow a business is to just continuously solve problems and be available to your team. Then, when you’re not solving a problem, you’re working towards getting the business closer to the vision – so really you’re always working. Even if you finish something early, there’s always something else to be done that you just get to start ahead of schedule. That’s typically the mindset of any entrepreneur who has a vision they’re passionate about, especially since the early stages are all about developing product-market fit.
My downtime during all that is the time I spend at the gym, nights with the family, or weekends with the kids’ activities. Most weekends I don’t set an alarm and try to sleep in, which, for me, means getting up between 6:30 – 7 a.m., and just having a slower start to my day. I’ll go to the gym before anyone wakes up and then by the time I’m back there’s usually something going on at the house, whether it’s going out with friends and Becky, or something with the kids, like a horse show. That’s really what I would consider a break I guess, my time with the kids. Becoming an entrepreneur involves a lot of personal sacrifice so I don’t tend to get as much time for myself as one might like.
What do you need to do/have to function at your highest level?
I definitely need the gym. If I had any form of addiction, it would probably be fitness. Even if I can’t get to the gym, I’d still go for a run or something, even though I don’t like running, because I just need that space and time in my own head to think. But I don’t usually work out at home; I get in the car and drive to the gym, so it’s a clear separation of my time. Now I’m at a point, though, where I do conference calls while I workout but it’s still a ‘break’ for me because I’m still getting that release of endorphins.
When I need to completely disconnect, I’ll just put a podcast on while I train and then if I’m really out of it, I’ll just switch to music and go into a functional training room and do HIIT or drop-set training. That way I really don’t have the ability to talk or think about anything else and just try to beat myself up basically.
What are the 3 best pieces of advice you’ve been given throughout your career?
Be open to change as you grow:
I was once asked, “Do you know when is the right time to step down?” The answer is that there will always come a time when either the business outgrows you or you outgrow the business and you’ll need to, either, step down or hire somebody else. Keeping that in mind, you should always be looking for people that are bigger, better, stronger than you so that you can put them in the right places when that time comes, in order for the business to continue to thrive without you. What really struck me about that is that you have to be adaptable and responsive to change as a leader. You can’t get stuck in the idea of “I need to be the CEO, VP, etc.” Instead, think of how to find people who are better than you and hire them to tell you what to do – that’s what’s going to get you the best results.
An entrepreneur’s job is to manage resources:
In my first big break as a CEO with a board and advisors, one of the board members explained to me that my job now was essentially Resource Management. The three things you need to worry about as a leader are: time, money, and people. They all work together and they all work against each other. That mindset has been instilled in me since then and has helped me organize my approach to leading, planning and financials.
Focus on what you can control:
Let go of what you can’t control and focus on what you can actually do. I use this throughout my professional and personal life as it relates to different situations. I tell people, “I have no control over what you’re going to do. Don’t threaten me or try to impress me with your words – show me. You do what you’re going to do and I’ll do what I’m going to do and we will deal with the results or consequences when they come.” Some people get hung up on the emotions and stress of the risk and I just try to focus on what I can control and keep the ship as balanced as possible for the team and our partners as we sail towards the vision.
You’re always looking at market gaps for the next major opportunity, what motivates you to go where others haven’t before instead of sticking to traditional methods?
If I’m being honest, I don’t know. That’s the hard part for me as someone who stresses the importance of the why because I see it and I don’t know why I want to pursue it besides the fact I can visualize its potential. It sometimes feels like looking into the future and if you could see the vision like I do you’d probably want to pursue it too. I guess one thing that plays a role in it is that if you do things traditionally – the way that everyone else does or the way someone else told you – then you’re following a sort of predetermined path. That can be good sometimes because it’s safe; you know what you’re going to get if you follow a formula. But when you innovate, you pave your own path, so you can sort of control your own destiny that way. At the end of the day, I will always bet on myself.
Do you have a guiding philosophy?
My motto has always been “Some of the things most regretted in life are the risks not taken.” Most people are scared of the possibility of failure so they play things safe, but then they look back and think, “What if?” I try to take a different approach. If I really want to do something, I think, ‘What can I do to test this, without completely disrupting my life?’ That way I’m not afraid to fail, because I’ve accounted for it. That’s an important part of it, accepting failure and failing fast.
Another principle that’s important to me is the idea that if you never quit then you will eventually find success. I’m a big believer in sticking to your commitments till the end, no matter how you feel.
What approach do you take to running a company?
I think that I embrace different attributes than most people do, so that translates into my leading style. For one, I’m very hands-on. My team knows that I say “I won’t ever ask you to do anything I wouldn’t do, and I’ll do anything,” because it’s true, and I do! A part of that is the fact that I know a lot about a lot, so it’s easy for me to jump in different situations and navigate a ship out of a storm or steer it towards the right direction.
Another thing is that I have the ability to execute at an extremely high rate and I have a crazy work ethic – I mean, I usually start work 3 hours before others and finish late at night and then I’m back up doing it again the next day, every day. Because of that, I tend to expect a lot out of people because my thought process is, if I can do it, why can’t you? I’m working on that though, I’ve accepted that most people will not do or approach things like I would.
The way I try to explain my mindset to people is by asking, if you were swimming across a river that had alligators and sharks in it, would you take a break? There probably isn’t even another side of the river that I’m trying to swim to, like an end goal that I will reach and think ‘That’s it, I’m done’ but there’s islands along the way that I’m heading towards. So, the sharks and alligators that symbolize competitors, market conditions, and running out of money, for example, make it so that I can’t afford to stop swimming, not only financially but also in the grand scheme of my goals. Also, if I take too much of a break, the tide will float me backwards, reversing my progress. This is all to say that the timing factor is a big thing for me, that’s why I have a reputation for innovating and executing fast.
What culture do you try to foster within Endorphinz?
I think morale is very important in a business so I like to have fun with my team and joke around. I was the class clown who always got in trouble for being funny and stupid when I was younger so I still kind of have that energy today. We’re in the process of developing a temporary office for the company right now and I made sure that a playful, casual feel was reflected in the space, so we’re building it to be a place people would want to hang out in. There’s a bunch of cool things that we’ve incorporated in the plans for the sake of the team culture and energy. I want people to be able to enjoy their time with us and not have it feel like work. I’d like for the team to think of their tasks as part of our mission to change the world with our vision.
What lessons did you learn about running a company during the pandemic?
I’d say I learned that you have to be a lot more sensitive to people’s emotional side, because at the end of the day, at the base of every business is its people. People make decisions based on two things: pain and pleasure – and during the pandemic, there was a ton of pain. There were a lot of rapid changes and a lot of uncertainties and unknowns, so people weren’t making the decisions they would usually make.
When everyone had to go digital, which is essentially what we offer as a company, I had to say to the team, “We’re going to have to let people go through their own process of learning that it’s not easy to do and it’s expensive and time consuming and resource exhausting to try to do it yourself, especially if you’re coming at it with no prior experience, and we will have to trust that when the time comes, they will come back to us.” For a long time, because of the emotional distress brought on by the pandemic, I wasn’t able to look at things on paper and make decisions purely based on logic, because we were dealing with people making illogical decisions that you can’t easily forecast. In a situation like that, you can’t do things that are scalable because predictability is completely thrown out the window. Our goal, like many other businesses, was just to make it through.
What’s next for Endorphinz?
Right now we’re scaling the business, so we’re putting in place a ton of systems and technology in order to grow internally and amongst clients, serve clients better, and just generally be a better company as it relates to production and everything else we offer. Coming up you’ll see a lot more products and offerings around how content can be better used to produce fans.
Right now, the market wants to solve the problem of production. As it stands today, a lot of production is focused on live broadcast and video-on-demand workouts when there’s a whole other side of the iceberg related to storytelling, TV shows, shoulder programming, and live events. Ultimately that’s the stuff that’s more heavily tied into our vision of using content to create fans. Some people take that and interpret it as having production on one side of a bridge leading to content on the other but what I’m saying is that actually, content is just the bridge, and the other side is the fans – that’s where your focus should be, and that’s what we’re working towards.
We are and will be the leading fitness media and entertainment company with production, talent and a whole slew of other things. Yes, I said entertainment – you’ll just have to watch and see what I mean by that.