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The Importance of Adaptation in Business | JIMMY T. MARTIN, CO-FOUNDER OF BRRRN

The Importance of Adaptation in Business | JIMMY T. MARTIN, CO-FOUNDER OF BRRRN

Jimmy is wearing the men's Eldridge in Black.

“If we fail to adapt, we fail to move forward.”

Those are the words of John Wooden, who won ten NCAA national championships in a 12-year period as head basketball coach at UCLA. While his athletic achievements came on the mat and not the hardwood, the quote correlates to the journey of Jimmy T. Martin, co-creator with Johnny Adamic of Brrrn, the world’s first cool temperature fitness studio located in New York City.

While working as a personal trainer in between comedy gigs, Martin came up with the idea for Brrrn. First, he tried it out on Johnny in a beer fridge in Brooklyn. Satisfied he was on the right track, he put the idea into practice after a client complained about being too hot during a workout. The client loved the cold session and, digging further into the experiment, Martin found out training in the cold can have lots of health and fitness benefits.

But before he could get his idea for Brrrn off the ground, Martin lost his wife to cancer. He moved back in with his parents in Pennsylvania, where he grew up. Sitting in his parents’ house, Martin, a widower at 29, could have given up, never returned to Manhattan to pursue his dream, and no one would have blamed him.

But instead, he decided his life had changed and he had to change too, and that meant giving his dream a try. Soon after coming back to the city, he met Adamic, a fellow personal trainer and former public health official, and together they brought to life one of the most innovative fitness ideas of the 21 st century.

Here Martin explains the positive impact Brrrn plays in getting people out of their comfort zone, what he took from his wrestling background experience when starting the business and how he keeps his performing/comedy background alive and well in his workouts. 

Jimmy T Martin | Brrrn

EMBRACING DIFFICULT AND DIFFERENT

An injury. A new job. The birth of a child. Or as in Martin’s case, the death of a loved one. A single event can change someone’s life for better or worse. It all depends on how you adapt to your new world. After his wife died of cancer, Martin was motivated to not fall victim to his circumstances.

“I realized that this event was now a part of my story. So instead of hiding from it, I decided to make it a part of my new narrative,” Martin remembers. “During the time I was home with my parents, adjusting to this new norm, all I kept thinking about was Brrrn and how there was an obvious parallel between the way people view death and the way that they view the cold.”

He adds, “I thought to myself, if I was able to change my perception of what it means to live through the death of a spouse, could I also change the way one perceives the cold as something to embrace in order to come out on the other side better for it?”

This idea of having to accept a situation and adjust to suit the new normal continued after Martin and Adamic decided to give Brrrn a go. Whereas many entrepreneurs come from a venture capitalist or big-time business school background, these two co-founders didn’t have much if any experience in the financial sector. But instead of setting them back, Martin says the duo used their outsider status to their advantage.

“Looking back, I’m kind of happy that we were as green and scrappy starting out without a playbook. It kept us on our toes the entire time and allowed us to pivot when a better idea moved us closer to realizing our dream,” he explains. “As the first mover in any space, it’s important to understand that making mistakes is how you make progress. It’s also important for aspiring entrepreneurs to know that the goal of any innovative endeavor is to improve—not imitate—the system that was put into place by your predecessors.” 

Fittingly, the idea of progress through acclimation is what Brrrn is all about.

Not only do clients who’ve done a Brrrn workout say their body gets used to the cold, but this lesson of adaptation is something they are able to take outside the studio.

“Our ‘Brrrners’ not only adapt to this new workout environment—which allows them to lose weight and workout harder for longer—but they also adopt this mentality that facing something that’s perceived as a challenge or unfamiliar provides tremendous opportunity for personal growth,” Martin states.

Because of this, Martin sees Brrrn, which is based upon the idea that getting out of your comfort zone makes you healthier, as a way to combat our overly comfortable society, which is awash in instant gratification and taking the easy way out.  

“Modern society revels in celebrating comfort in excess. And this mentality is perpetuating unhappiness, laziness and most importantly, an increase in mental and physical illness,” Martin maintains.

“What we aim to do at Brrrn is to encourage people to become comfortable with the idea of being uncomfortable. So whether that’s in the form of exercising in cooler temps or playing Cards Against Humanity with your parents, the more you can put yourself in unfamiliar situations, the more resilient you’ll become in any situation.”

Jimmy T Martin | Brrrn

EMBRACE YOUR EXPERIENCE

Martin’s ability to adapt didn’t just appear out of thin air. It came from years of practice and performing. And when it comes to practice, it doesn’t get more difficult than wrestling practices. Going through these grueling training sessions to prepare for equally punishing matches during both high school and college, prepared Martin for the hard work that lies ahead when it came to starting his own business with Adamic.

“From fundraising, to leading a team, or just having to wear spandex leggings most days of the week, the mental and physical demands that one experiences as a Division-1 wrestler makes for great preparation for a life as an entrepreneur,” he says.

And though the matches are one-on-one, he adds that the team aspect of the sport also influenced his style as a boss. “It’s that level of discipline that defines the wrestler and the outcome of your match is a bi-product of the effort you put into training,” Martin explains. “And that outcome ultimately affects your teammates. The same is true for the workplace. My efforts affect the livelihood of my employees and the service that my company provides to my customers.”

After graduating from college, Martin came to New York City as an aspiring writer and performer, landing work on Saturday Night Live, in regional theatre as well as with several improv and sketch comedy shows at Upright Citizens Brigade and the Peoples Improv Theater.  Similarly, Adamic had done theater in high school and was the mascot at his alma mater the University of Wisconsin. So when it came time to start their own business both relied heavily on their experience in the arts.

“I think the biggest strength to being a business owner who was also a performer is recognizing the need to serve the scene that you’re in,” Martin explains. “So whether it was pitching our investors or teaching a group exercise class, we both knew that knowing your audience and delivering a message from a place of truth is the best way to earn your influence.” 

Martin and Adamic never tried to run away from their unusual backgrounds, and instead embraced them. In fact, being true to yourself is something of a cornerstone for Brrrn “Coldture”, the term the duo uses to reference their company’s philosophy.

“Both Johnny and I wanted to curate a “coldture” that felt authentic, inclusive and familial for both our employees and our customers.” Martin explains. “If you want repeat customers, you have to be a purveyor of meaningful experiences. The last thing that people want is to invest their time and money into a brand that feels like it has fallen in love with its own reflection.”

And self-obsession is a bit of a pet peeve for Martin. Though he understands the importance of social media for a business like his that is trying to make a name for itself, he is very wary of the effect Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. can have on someone’s psychological state.

“Being an operator of a studio has allowed me to appreciate exercise as a prompt for improving my mental health. To me, a strong mind begets a stronger body,” Martin advises. “I’m disappointed that social media has inspired so many men and women to become thirst traps on Instagram. It sickens me to see the pursuit of living better become one big popularity contest.”

Jimmy T. Martin CEO of Brrrn

DOWNTIME

Even if he can avoid the distractions and unrealistic expectations of social media, like many small (but growing) business owners, Martin has a hard time completely turning off work-mode. “Your business is your baby. And having friends who have kids, the overarching comment that I hear from them is that you learn how to make the most of the little time that you have,” he points out.

He tries to plan out his days as best as he can, but also acknowledges that when an opportunity or problem related to Brrrn pops up, everything else has to take a back seat. “Sometimes the cries of start-up life interrupt that schedule,” he clarifies, adding that scheduling his spare time has to be fluid. “Short story long, it’s a mix of both grab and go and planning ahead.”

When he does get a break, he usually spends it cooking with his fiancée or just relaxing with a good book. Though he owns his own gym, Martin likes to get some fresh air when he’s looking to change things up from the workouts he does at Brrrn.

“I enjoy running in the park near my apartment in Brooklyn. It’s very therapeutic for me to just pop on a podcast and exercise in nature,” he says. “It’s also an opportunity for me to have a laugh at all of those super-serious, finance bro cyclists who bark at runners in their matching spandex.”

Given his ability to laugh even when working out, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that watching live comedy shows is a big part of Martin’s relaxation time. Moreover, when it comes to one thing he wishes he could find more time to do it’s writing and performing comedy. “I’ve been doing improv on and off since 2009 and there is no better feeling than laughter—except maybe being cold,” he says with a laugh.

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