Fredrik Correa, CEO at Exxentric, tells us about strength training.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Fredrik Correa: Actually, my wife and I are going through Covid right now, but we are doing fine so far, and our older relatives have been managing well through the pandemic. A few of them are already vaccinated.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Exxentric.
Fredrik Correa: I’m an engineering school dropout that due to an intense ice hockey coaching interest, pursued university studies in coaching instead. Through additional studies in human physiology and eventually medical school, I ended up as an MD instead.
While working as a clinician, I back-tracked physiology and sports performance. In 2011 I and four others founded Exxentric. It started a little bit like a hobby, to be able to continue with my interest in strength training and all its benefits, but today I’ve left medicine and focus completely on developing Exxentric and making people stronger.
How does Exxentric innovate?
Fredrik Correa: We have a strong foundation in sports science, sports, and medicine, and we are able to identify things we are missing in the market and trying to fill those gaps, mainly using our internal R&D department for concept design, design, and prototyping. Along the way, our customer base has been very helpful in contributing with ideas as well, and for both our internal and external input into R&D, the complete focus is to be market-driven and really solve problems.
We are using an MVP approach and test our concepts early on, first ourselves, then with key partners and customers, and then eventually the market. Together with good customer dialogue and focus on continuous improvement, we’ve been able to direct our efforts to where it counts.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Fredrik Correa: Overall, we have seen a 30% growth over the last 12 months; however, it has been much more dramatic than that, of course. Large customer segments like performance sports almost disappeared completely, and we were able to replace that and some more with home users and people training away from gyms and facilities and to a larger extent for health and fitness instead of performance. This, of course, affects us a lot on how to change our product development road map, but also communication and education around our products.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Fredrik Correa: No really hard choices have been related to the pandemic, to be honest. We had to change our recruitment plan and also completely reprioritize a lot of projects. But still, in a growing medium-sized company living on its own cash flow, there are always many hard choices to be made since you have to always bet on the right horse.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Fredrik Correa: We are using the same tools as before but maybe shifted our focus. We were only using cloud-based software before the pandemic, but obviously, software like Meet, Zoom, etc., has, of course, been critical during this time and since last year used daily in every meeting, both internally and externally. Our Project Management System has become more active since a lot of the spontaneous meetings and chats moved online instead.
In terms of management skills, we were in a pretty good position since we’ve always been non-hierarchical and looking to nurture a culture of being self-driven, self-motivated, and given our employees a lot of freedom and responsibility, even our junior co-workers. This was a good starting point when moving to more remote work.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Fredrik Correa: We have two types of competitors. The actual competitors are offering a sort of the same or similar products and then all other products in the realm of strength training where we aren’t competing for feature vs feature but fighting for the same budgets.
Among the actual competitors, we are a little bit by ourselves since most of them have niched themselves quite close to each other but distant from us, which helped us taking the position as the premium and leading brand. To keep being the leader, we are always striving to increase the value for money and staying ahead of both in terms of the actual product but also its application. Here our innovation and R&D are critical, but with our strong knowledge base and in-house competence, we are very well situated for this position. Towards other brands in the strength training, it is more about informing and teaching our potential customers about the benefits of our products just to make them consider the concept because when they do, we know we will be the no.1 pick.
Your final thoughts?
Fredrik Correa: We are always trying to stay positive, and so far, we have been able to do well in this crisis. However, long term, I hope this crisis can illustrate how important fitness is and motivate politicians, companies, and the general public to invest more in health and training. Well-designed interventions around strength, for example in fall prevention in seniors, have an unparalleled ROI, and I hope this crisis can make us invest more in areas like these in the future with a more medium to long term horizon instead of focusing on costs during the current quarter. We would benefit greatly from that as a society.