Driving change requires stamina, passion, and a thick skin. No question about it. Whether it be in a small business, your household, or a global corporation, to successfully plan and execute change will test the most experienced, endurance-trained leaders.
Some companies enter the scene and break through with change right away, and must continue to evolve themselves over and over to keep pace. In those stories, there is a lot we can learn from the dexterity they show along the way.
After recently reading several news articles on ClassPass, a monthly membership service connecting members to thousands of fitness class options, several key takeaways really stood out. The business has received criticism on pricing and strategy along the way, and agree or disagree with the evolving strategy, one thing is certain... this company knows change. The organization and its CEO, Payal Kadakia, have conceptualized and navigated the organization through layer after layer of changing services, prices and business models to reach the levels of success most start-ups only dream of.
Here are some great takeaways ClassPass has given the business world in just a few short years:
Remain agile. Sustainability is key.
ClassPass hit a pivotal moment in their rise, where the original business model and pricing were no longer working optimally for the company.
Engagement and usage of ClassPass’ Unlimited feature rose aggressively and “user enthusiasm for the service outpaced the companies 2-year-old business model”. The quick rise forced the business to make an unpopular decision in-order to sustain long-term. They had to do away with their most popular feature and raise prices to survive the usage growth spike.
Learning how to sustain an online subscription business (which is still fully finding it’s footing in the consumer marketplace and with so many competitors are popping up, what seems like daily), takes the ability to rework plans quickly as the landscape evolves. ClassPass has changed names, pricing structures, and lived to tell about failed service offerings. But they remained agile through each shift. Having a business plan and strategy to guide an organization is of course critical, but knowing when to rewrite or redirect areas of it, takes a different and special type of finesse.
You are going to ruffle some feathers, but follow your gut instincts.
By doing away with the popular service, the CEO faced harsh criticism, internally and externally. But without making the decision, they may not have been in business still today. In the months following the pricing inflations, rumors swirled that Kadakia would step down from her spot as CEO to ClassPass, that the company’s growth had slowed or reversed, and that a potential rift between CEO and Founders was underway. However, Kadakia persisted. She trusted the decision making, and took the heat. "As long as I'm building and doing what I want to do, that's the only thing that matters”.
Companies need to be led. Decisions must be made. Leaders have to show a personal and humanized commitment to the decision and passion to see through the good and bad consequences. If you falter on your decision, your credibility will too.
Always be “in it to win it”
When there is nothing else, passion fuels the tank. And that is what your employees will see that will matter most. They must see your fire and sincere passion to drive change on order for them to buy into a difficult and fluctuating road to achieving it.
Payal Kadakia is not only CEO and inventor, she is a true customer of the service. Scheduling her classes through the app, just as ever member does. She described her drive to start the company, “We've pivoted our product several times…until I knew we were getting people to go to class, I wasn't done. I wasn't okay with building technology and putting it up there. If someone wasn't going to have that experience, I wasn't creating a dent in the world," she says.
And when it came to funding and telling her story. Passion won. “I need them to understand where the center of this is. I need them to know why this company exists and a lot of it comes from heart, passion and driving other people to find that same exact thing in their life". Outside of seed money, as leader, Kadakia has raised over $80M+ in funding for a now $400M organization.
Business leaders today can take several lessons home from Kadakia and ClassPass’ story. Let the trailblazers who are out there pushing the boundaries teach us all something new… Change is a necessity, even if it isn’t obvious. The way you prepare for change and handle the unexpected, will be what defines your business, for better or worse.