Monday, September 26, 2005

The Dating Service... How I Met Jon

After last week's "leaving Las Vegas" post I got a bunch of emails asking for more insight into how this all got started. So here goes:

In 1996 I was hired as a consultant for infomercial juggernaut Guthy-Renker. I was prospecting for direct response TV opportunities for them or just to find new businesses they might want to get into. I looked at transactional programming ideas, new media concepts, retail kiosks, hardware products, and housewares (surprisingly, no fitness.)

And then one day, a dating/matchmaking service got pulled out of the "not for GRC" file, and landed on my desk. Code name; "Comfy Shoes". Very hush hush.

This dating service was being promoted in partnership with radio stations and was growing fast. It was an interesting concept that was poised to explode as more radio stations sought "non traditional revenue" by promoting the "dateline" service under their station call letters. As my staff and I were researching the concept, one person actually started dating a guy she had met through the service, and two years later they were married. True story! This concept worked for anyone who could get past the stigma of "dating service"! In fact it was working so well on radio, that Guthy-Renker and I decided to go for it and attempt to expand the business to more radio stations and eventually television. It went from hush-hush, to all-speed-ahead, The Select Network was born.

Ben van de Bunt, the Exec VP of GRC who also runs business affairs for the company believed I would be over my head operationally if I tried to go it alone. Turned out a guy who was a friend of his at UCLA was then a school teacher looking to get more aggressive about his career. This was a guy Ben trusted, who he felt had a work ethic that would match mine; Jon Congdon. (This is saying a lot by the way, because Ben has stellar judgment and can break a situation down into its critical pieces as well as anyone I have ever met. So his faith in Jon alone made it an easy decision to want to meet.)

And of course, Jon and I hit if off immediately. We were yin and yang... Where I can be impulsive, Jon will contemplate change carefully. Where I might round corners to get to market faster, Jon will patiently push for "just right" execution. Where I sit in my office alone contemplating new concepts which could create a breakthrough, Jon excels at working with the team on execution, management, analysis, and relationship building. Plus he's funny. So we laugh a lot. And he's fantastically tall, so any photos of us together are kind of comical. Bottom line; We were a good match from day one.

Which is ironic, because the point of the business was to help people improve the productivity of their "matches" by pairing singles together based on stated interests and relationship objectives. But it turns out, we were probably a year late to that game. The internet was starting to fill the automated matchmaking need quite well, in fact a company called "PerfectMatch.com" was clearly doing it better than we were. But we slugged it out for a couple years, building up The Select Network to over 100 radio stations, 50 TV stations, plus a handful of cable networks and syndicated TV shows (even including a spot that was dedicated to helping the Jerry Springer show TV audience find their ideal match... not sure what I was thinking would result from that one, but it was surreal trying to make it succeed).

Ultimately Guthy-Renker decided to exit the business. Jon and I were disappointed at the time, because, as I like to say, "the premise has promise". Dating is a nightmare if you're doing it by random selection. It just makes sense to give people a better selection process than catching someone's eye at the corner bar. If you want to increase your odds of dating success, it makes sense to start with a basis for compatibility based on guidelines which have merit for long term relationships. And it would make sense that those guidelines should be beyond the type of drink you order or where you work, right?

Preferences like religious beliefs, age, ethnicity, hobbies and social styles are the guidelines that help two people start a potential match with some common ground. That's not to say that those guidelines deliver the entire picture. Things like chemistry and communication style are so important, and no computer can figure that out for you. But it makes sense that starting on a common platform, especially where the people entering share the same interest in a long term relationship, would give people a better chance of finding Mr. or Mrs. Right. But our chance to make the premise work in an infomercial was over.

That's when I asked Jon if he wanted to start a new company that, whatever we focused on, would be innovative, significant, and use the internet to create an affinity with the brand and community among customers. Basically, use what we learned in our brush with dating, and find a broader market. About a year later, Beachbody was born.

Of course, ever since we started Beachbody.com, we knew there would be a day when we would revisit the concept of matchmaking on some level. But, rather than build it from scratch, we decided to simply look to the company that was doing it right way back when. So we struck up a new relationship that might help those single members who were interested, get closer to their goal of being... un-single.

So, as you start to see messaging from PerfectMatch.com around the website - that's what's going on. We're giving the premise of affinity-based dating another chance within the realm of Beachbody. We'll still rigorously keep the focus around our boards and the community on fitness and weight loss, but don't be surprised to see us take a very active interest into the first Beachbody marriage that happens, when it happens!

Somehow, that one event would validate the work that brought Jon and I together in the first place. That people who share an interest in living a healthy lifestyle might be more fundamentally compatible than two people with an opposite approach to eating or being active.

And if you hear about a Beachbody marriage, PLEASE let 'em know we have a spot on the wall here at the offices for a wedding photo! We might even send them a protein package of P90X Meal Replacement Bars to serve to anyone at the reception who would like to skip the gravy-soaked roast beef in order to stay on their program and still have energy to do the chicken dance!

14 comments:

Mary Cecy said...

Carl, you might have missed a few BB weddings. I know of a few people that are either dating, got married or are looking for the right person.

Isn't that just amazing... I do appreciate all of the hard work you and Jon and everyone do. It is not hard and yet you make it look so easy. Thanks again for everything.

Heck, you might even benefit if you actually put something out there for single ppl looking for love. Maybe we will have more weddings. Maybe I can be a matron of honor some day!! :)

From a loyal customer, and a friend, BB family will always be great around here!

XO
Mary

Anonymous said...

aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh, a match made in fitness heaven! :) So now you know that you and Jon were supposed to meet during the whole dating thing, just so you could start BeachBody and encourage folks like me!

Thanks!! Happy Tuesday! Tell Ava to have a great day at school!

Sarah/Psalm9567

Anonymous said...

Well, given what seems to be an epidemic of online affairs and online "addictions" destroying marriages and families these days, I gotta say this is not the best idea.

Not that you or your management have anything to do with it, but there are currently many, many people taking their BB "fitness" message board and chat relationships to places that are immoral and hurtful. True they could do this in real life just as easily -- but the internet gives them a false sense of security and the excitement of secrecy and anonymity that 3D reality doesn't.

I say stick to fitness and improving lives thru health, exercise and nutrition. Leave the matchmaking to someone else. God knows there are plenty of places available for that.

Just my humble opinion,
A Beachbody veteran

Carl Daikeler said...

This is an issue within Beachbody of which I am not aware, but it goes back to my main hope for anyone who gets involved with Beachbody's products and community; That the point, leading a healthy active lifestyle that contributes to a healthir, happier life, never takes a back seat to the social circles and peer support expectations that emerge with participation.

That being said, I am one of those people that doesn't blame alchohol for alcoholism, or sex for sexual addition, or gambling for gambling addition. People who need to experience their issues to solve them will find a way, no matter where that is. That doesn't mean this technology can't help people who don't abuse it achieve a healthy relationship. It's the same reason that we wouldn't abolish chat or our message boards because some people abuse it.

Beachbody is nobody's parent. We are facilitators. We are leaving the mathcmaking to someone else, and that's what the Perfect Match test is. We're just pointing it in a direction that is a more healthy extension than some of the other options available to our members. But I do assure you, it will never be more than a remote relationship, and we will keep our focus on the reason people trusted beachbody in the first place.

Thanks for the input -- I do really appreciate all the feedback.

Carl

Mary Cecy said...

Anonymous... I totally understand where you are coming from. I am happily married with a beautiful family. When I make friends in the chat and the message board and then meet these wonderful peoples in person, they know first had How Happy I am with my spouse and Kids. I know I flirt without realizing it but it is not on purpose or to destroy anyones marriage or families. I love how many of my friends, married ones, are so dedicated and want their spouse to join them. I applaude their spouses as much as I do them. Do you know why? Cause that person is setting a beautiful example for their family. Heck, my 10 year old loves cooking our healthy meals. She makes up her own stuff and it is all good. She is learning early on that this is a major part of what I do today and that she can be part of it. Everyone in my family knows it. I can't make their decisions but I can put the good example and make the good decisions that will make them succeed.

Health, Fit life, enjoy LIFE in general. When you have a famly history of every possible disease there is, you have to start early. Can't wait to tell someone to do something and not do it yourself. Besides, meeting new people is never bad. We do get to meet eventually, at least at the Fitness Camps or like the trips to Hawaii or Hollywood. It brings a new sense of friendship and family. I would never intentionally hurt someone elses family, cause I have one of my own. I trust my spouse and he trust me. I can sleep at nite. I hope others can too.

And yes, there are many single souls that are hoping to meet a good person. Since they already share something in common, does not mean it is the dating place, it just happens. I have seen it a few times. I happy for them too. DID I say THEY were or are single?

Ok off the soapbox. I just love my friends and this community a lot.

I just hope that some members of my extended family would see the goodness too.

Angela said...

Carl,

I am a BB regular, and love your company! I just thought that I would extent you a partnership offer for when you hear of the first BB engagement. I am an on-line Weddding Consultant and would love to help plan the first BB wedding! ; ) I have, btw, in the past been on a couple of threads for Brides that were getting married, and were trying to get into shape... but I haven't actually heard of any that met on the boards and married.

Angela Willis
http://www.eleganceinbloom.com
angelagwillis@comcast.net

Anonymous said...

Mary,

Yes, I too know firsthand the comraderie of this community and how special it can be to make friends here and even meet in person. Been there - done that.

My point is that this is a FITNESS COMMUNITY - not a hook-up joint. That's part of what makes it so special. There are many, many places on the internet that are just hook-up joints in disguise. There are many, many places on the internet specifically designed for that purpose.

Beachbody doesn't need to be one of them. And Beachbody doesn't need to PROMOTE OR SPONSOR that type of relationship whether the involved parties are single or not. This simply isn't the place for it.

If it happens to 2 single souls looking for love and companionship, more power to them. But again -- this is a HEALTH AND FITNESS COMMUNITY. Not a dating service or a porn chat.

Altho sometimes judging by the things going on in the chatroom, one would wonder.

I am not going to say any more on the subject because ultimately Beachbody will do what it wants to do. However, here's a thought. If they are wanting to count all the relationships and happy-endings that come out of it, they should be willing to count the divorces and break-ups, as well.

JMHO

Anonymous said...

Sometimes divorces and break-ups ARE happy endings. New beginnings. Truth.

The depth of your belief in tragedy and sadness is the mark of the limitation of your faith in God.

HannahRNSWAMIMOMMY said...

Very interesting... good luck with it! Well, I have to say I am 100% faithful and true to my husband so I won't be checking out the dating part of it. But good luck to those who do! All I request is can we keep their chatroom seperate? :) I personally have logged in a few times while some have used the board for that purpose and find myself discouraged and logging out when I have acutally come to look for encouragement with my workouts. I guess, that is another reason there is WOWY hugh? :)

Neeeena said...

ooooh.
personal attack on someone's faith in God. Not cool. You're assuming too much.
opinions, feelings, discussion. speaking from experience.... fine.
commenting on someone's faith in God. Not fine.

Anonymous said...

The point to be made here is not whether God smiles or frowns upon divorce. And making a snide comment about someone's faith is COMPLETELY OUT OF LINE.

The point is: should Beachbody become known as a place that matches people up in romantic relationships?

I vote no. Sorry, Carl.

Carl Daikeler said...

Let's see here, we got dating, we got smut talk in chatrooms, we got, divorce, God, faith... All because we decided to add one link from our site to another site that helps people meet other people based on things they have in common.

The POINT is; WILL Beachbody BECOME KNOWN AS a place that matches people up in romantic relationships? OF COURSE NOT! Just like, even though eDiets offers a daily horoscope email, they're not going to become known as your Psychic friend.

Anyway. I think we're over this right? I mean really. Maybe ten people will click through from us. Maybe two will ever go on a date. Let's all hope they have fun and really hit if off in a healthy way, and then are not tacky enough to want to share the details on the boards or in chats where WE ALL would prefer it stay focused on the point of Beachbody -- body transformation and living a healthy active lifestyle.

S'okay? S'allright.

Anonymous said...

My man C-Dawg, creator of all controversy..For once it's not my fault..Heh heh..*wink*

Carl Daikeler said...

Somehow, I know it's all your fault. (We miss you Bullwinkle)