Team Talk: Scott Perkins, Founder of Pliability On True Personal Growth

·9-min read

Scott was never a ‘fitness guy’. he wasn’t at all interested in exercise when he acquired young mobility app ROMWOD. He was a self-confessed 'tech nerd' with poor health and movement mechanics, on the brink of some dangerous health consequences. However, ROMWOD opened his eyes and through working with CrossFit Games athlete Cody Mooney, he discovered the transformative effects that prioritising movement health can have. It changed his life and by expanding the offering through the launch of pliability - which widens the scope and accessibility of their guided mobility sessions - Scott hopes to help change everyone else's lives too. Including yours. We spoke to Scott just as pliability, in all it's shiny, movement-enhancing glory, was being rolled out.

Men’s Health: What’s your background growing up and how did you get your start in business?

Scott Perkins: I grew up in Southern California. While I was at high school I actually started college classes. My grandfather was a college professor, so at the age of 12 he was letting me take community college classes. That’s what got me into computers. He did a bunch of computer work, so I got into computers very young. That lead me into working when I was 15 or 16, installing people’s wi-fi systems in their homes when it was actually a hard thing to do. It used to be quite the job. Then I worked for a pool company doing 3D design, so I could help them understand what the pool was going to look like in their back yard.

When I turned 18 I had a pivotal moment. I was going to be a music teacher and a school band director. Two days before the ride to college, where I had a dorm set up and everything, I decided I wanted to start my own business. So, I started a web and graphic design business, which I did freelance for a couple of years. Then I set up my own agency with a partner. He was one of my competitors, but we had always really respected each other’s work. We built it up until we had client in 19 states in the US. We had a substantial footprint and it was that agency that acquired ROMWOD.

What drew you to ROMWOD? Was the fitness sphere something you had an interest in?

Funnily enough, not at all. I was a huge tech nerd with no understanding about health or fitness. What drew us into ROMWOD was its business model. It was a subscription-based business, and, at that time, we were specialising in building these businesses for clients and I was getting tired of creating success for other people. We were doing well but an agency is not scalable. We decided we wanted to acquire clients as equity projects, so rather than just working for them, we would have skin in the game. ROMWOD was a client and it was our first and last foray into that equity-based system. It scaled much faster than we imagined, so I approached the owners, and we acquired it in March 2015. I’m proud and humbled to say that we had it profitable in 41 days.

How did you turn it around so quickly?

It just needed some business acumen. We funded some ads but the biggest cost when you’re a tech platform is your developers and digital agency, so the fact that we were able to bring that as a resource really got it off the ground. But it’s also CrossFit as a community. I’ve worked in a lot of markets and I’ve never seen a market react to a product like that. The CrossFit market is very tribal and if an athlete does something they want to do it. If a brand sponsors an event, everyone jumps on board. It was really interesting to interact with that market because it is so community-based. I enjoyed working with that type of consumer, versus grinding it out on ecomms or with a consumer who is far less interactive.

What do you think was the key to accessing that community so well?

One of my partners had worked for [US clean energy drink brand] KillCliff previously and he really led on our path to building relationships with athletes. The first athletes we brought on board were Kara Saunders and Noah Ohlsen. It took us a while to build those relationships but one thing that I’m really proud of as a company is that we’ve never fired an athlete. We’ve never needed to as we build legitimate relationships with them early on. Kara and Noah supported us in the very early stages of the business and that showed the CrossFit community what the product was and how it was helping people.

Kara and Noah now represent the older generation of athletes in an increasingly young professional CrossFit environment. Do you feel they speak to the brand ethos even more now?

Showing their longevity in the sport is one way of validating what we do. But even in the wider community, some of our most vocal advocates as masters athlete. That’s where the product truly has an effect. Just because you’ve turned 40 doesn’t mean you can’t do the things that you love. You just need to put in a bit more effort to maintain things.

What was the thinking re-focussing your offering and launching as pliability?

We’re very proud of the way CrossFit helped us build our business and our community. We truly respect that and it will always be at the core of the business. We see it as a ‘spoke model’ with CrossFit as the hub at the centre and then take the benefits we found for that community and extend outwards into multiple sports. The name change was simply a data-based decision. A lot of people outside of CrossFit had a hard time understanding the ROMWOD name and there was a lot of mispronunciation. Within the community it makes sense, being a combination of two CrossFit acronyms [Range Of Motion and Workout Of the Day]. Outside of that community, it was a hard transition for people.

We made the decision to rebrand to pliability simply because it’s a functional term that made perfect sense – flexibility through strength. One of the big factors is that we were able to acquire the domain name pliability.com, which for marketing and SEO purposes is hugely powerful. A lot of pieces came together to lead us in that direction.

What sort of sports or areas are you looking to access now?

It will be an evolution over time. The aim of pliability it to open us up to multi-sport and broad market. What that means for us it to become accessible to anyone and everyone who is who human. From the 16-year-old high school athlete, to the 60-year-old grandmother who wants to pick up her grandkids, movement is a core tenet of everything that you want to do, whether that’s in sport or in life. What we believe we’re bringing to the table is not just something that can benefit athletic performance and progression but the longevity piece. It doesn’t get spoken about enough. What happens outside of the gym? What happens at home? As you get older, how do you recover better, so you can do the things you love more? When you break it down, it is your body’s ability to move. It’s a core human function.

You said you weren’t into fitness. Has your time at the helm of this business changed that?

Yes! For years while running ROMWOD and being involved in the fitness community, I didn’t absorb the importance of it until I had a wake-up-call. In 2019, when I was 29, I realised that grinding myself into the ground working did have a physical impact. My resting heart rate was hitting 114 and I was on complete caffeine overload. suffering from adrenal fatigue. Everything was shutting down. I was about 50lbs heavier than I am today. I was just not in a good place, physically or mentally. The doctors said that I basically had to figure this all out and, fortunately, because I worked in the health and wellness industry, I was able to easily access the resources to make that change.

I have a close friend and now one of the main guys within pliability, Cody Mooney. He was a competitive CrossFit athlete and was looking for the next transition in his career, I needed help with my health and fitness, so we stated a mentorship and partnership where he helped me with my health, and I would teach him how to run a business. Now he sits as the Director for Performance for pliability, he’s guiding a lot of our programming and runs a lot of our teams.

What was it like for you and Cody starting from scratch on your fitness journey?

We started with remote coaching and then Cody gave us a unique opportunity. I was in LA at the time and we got really locked down during COVID. Cody is from Maine, very out in the woods, and Cody invited us, half-jokingly, to get away from all the craziness and go out to Maine. We went out there for what we thought was going to be a few weeks, training in his dad’s garage gym. I ended up staying in Maine for a couple of years, bought a house out there and really focussed on my health and wellness. It also gave us the headspace to build piabilty. That’s where it all started.

Finally, do you feel like your personal health evolution crystallised that new direction?

Absolutely. For me, it gave me a real love for the business. When I got into ROMWOD initially, it was a business decision. I saw it as a opportunity. My part was to bring the tech and my partners brought the health and wellness. Over those years I was somewhat connected to how important it all was. But once I started being able to move, once I stated noticing the changes to my mental and physical health, how I felt, how I looked, being able to bend and pick things up, that’s when I wanted to grow things in a new direction. To build towards pliabilty and make it accessible to everyone. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re starting from, movement is critical.

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