In middle of April 2012, I got the opportunity to travel to the FIBO Global Fitness Expo. If you are not familiar with FIBO, it is the world’s largest trade show for fitness, wellness and health. That year, it was hosted in Essen, Germany but has since moved to Cologne, Germany (where its still held today). Though it was a short trip, it fundamentally changed my direction and trajectory of my professional life.
If we transport back to the early 2010s, I was working at MusclePharm, a hyper growth start-up in the nutritional supplement CPG category. I use the term “hyper growth” because during that time we were in the midst of having top-line revenue grow 400% YoY for a second consecutive year and our run rate was fast approaching $100M.
During my time at MusclePharm, I held many hats, but this story is focused around the international business one. I wore that hat, along with several others simultaneously, for about six months.
You might be asking…“How does a mid-20s accounting/finance rooted MBA run international sales for a hyper growth CPG company?”
Well, there is a good story behind that…
The story consists of another “Spy Gate” with characters that include ESPN, Jon Jones, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, UFC, and a few others…
If you look at the dates of that, you will notice it aligns with the Mr. Olympia. During the set-up on the first day, I was told by the CEO that I would need to cover the international sales meetings. I was thrown into the deep end of international sales, but I didn’t worry because I have always been a water baby.
At the end of 2012Q1, I began transitioning away from being in charge of all international sales. This was partly because all of that insane sales growth created even worse problems in the operations department (Note: we didn’t have a COO at the time) and we hired an international sales expert named Brent Baker.
Since, Brent was new to MusclePharm, he needed some help understanding the current relationships at play with distribution partners and internal information that was essential, so he could reset the deck for further massive international growth. It was decided that I would still head to Germany to help at FIBO. That trip also was the first time that Brent and I got to really get to know one another, but more on why that matters later…
Truth be told, FIBO was actually the first international trade show that I had been to in my young career. I had been to numerous Arnold Classics, Mr. Olympias, Fit Expos, and everything in-between within the continental U.S. So, this was an opportunity that I didn’t take for granted…not one second!
The 2012 FIBO expo allowed me to:
- View the European market in person and learn from our distributor about opportunities and challenges growing a start-up brand
- Interact with international consumers that were passionate about fitness, health, and wellness
- Learn that there was a robust and growing international competitive landscape. If you remember in 2012, the native international supplement brands weren’t as competitive as they are today. The world also did not use social media for business research like we do today, so just seeing the brands in person was eye opening
Above all else, the 2012 FIBO expo enriched my understanding of a massive global opportunity in the functional CPG category…
Over the next six months, I got to know Brent a lot better with us needing to work closely as he got fully integrated into the MusclePharm culture. As we talked, I learned about his entrepreneurial experience and mindset with the industry. He is actually the one that piqued my interest in exploring management strategy consulting and also became my first client for some of his projects.
When I was writing this article and filming the associated video for my YouTube channel, I realized how lucky I was to be given opportunities like that early in my career. It was those opportunities that opened my eyes to what can be possible and how I can be of value to the global functional CPG community.
I have been lucky enough to travel back to Germany for a few FIBO expos since, but after being asked more this year than years past if “I was attending FIBO”, it made me realize two things;
- My “brand” has grown enough that people expect me to be at these shows and that got me to think about how far I have came since 2012
- It is crazy to think that, as of the day of writing this in early 2019Q2, my consulting projects/clients are over 50% from companies based outside the U.S.