“Identify and Enable your Change Agents as Fast as Possible” 5 Leadership Strategies from Jas Krdzalic, CEO of Bodybuilding.com
“If you are going to change the way things are done and disrupt the status quo, people may not accept it at first. Large-scale company change requires a change in mindset and has to be accompanied by a change in strategy. Identify and enable your change agents as fast as possible to drive this new mindset within the ranks of the company.”
I had the pleasure to interview Jas Krdzalic. Jas is the CEO of Bodybuilding.com. During the last 20 years of his professional career, Jas has established his expertise in strategic planning, corporate development, and operational execution. He has spent a better portion of his career in the technology sector leading teams in development and implementation of new business models.
As an amateur bodybuilder, Jas has been a part of the health and fitness industry for many years. It was only natural for him to couple a professional career with his passion for fitness by joining the Bodybuilding.com team. Jas holds a Bachelor’s degree in business from University of Idaho and an MBA from NNU.
Yitzi: Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I am a first generation American. I was born and raised in Bosnia (former Yugoslavia) as a single child of two extraordinary parents. My easygoing and carefree childhood was radically interrupted by the war that ravaged my homeland from 1992 through 1996. In June of 1993, after our hometown was captured by opposing troops, my family and I spent the next year as prisoners of war in what is most simply described as a labor camp.
Following that life-altering year, through a unique set of circumstances and my parents’ amazing willpower, we were able to leave our homeland for the United States. I arrived in Twin Falls, Idaho on October 18, 1994, with two changes of clothing, $50 to our name, and no English-speaking ability.
Our family’s mantra from that day forward was to be grateful, love the country that opened its doors to us in our time of need, seize the opportunity this country provides, work hard, learn from others, and never forget how precious every moment is.
Bodybuilding.com inspires and provides tools for people to change their lives. We believe that life is a gift, one that should not be taken for granted, and we strive to help people lead their best lives. Many people struggle with their physical appearance, various health problems exacerbated by poor diet and inactivity, and the emotional pain that comes with these issues. Our company provides information, motivation, and supplementation to help people achieve their health, fitness, and physical goals. We provide world-class content on training, nutrition, motivation, and supplementation. We offer the world’s top sports nutrition products to assist our customers in their transformation.
Our vision statement is simple: We are Bodybuilding.com. Your transformation is our passion. We are your personal trainer, your nutritionist, your supplement expert, your lifting partner, your support group. We provide the technology, tools, and products you need to burn fat, build muscle, and become your best self.
Yitzi: Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
The Lift Life Foundation is a nonprofit organization, founded and funded by Bodybuilding.com, that serves students at underfunded high schools across the United States by completely transforming their old, dilapidated, and unsafe weight rooms into state-of-the-art facilities with brand-new equipment.
This spring, I was fortunate enough to visit Anderson, Indiana, as a member of the Lift Life support team to unveil the new gym we’d just installed at Anderson Academy, a military-based prep school.
The community of Anderson, IN has gone through tough economic times over the years, especially with the auto industry’s contraction of employment in the United States. Anderson Academy was selected by Lift Life to receive a gym transformation because their existing facility was in dangerous condition. With no funding available, unfortunately the administration couldn’t afford to restore it.
The Lift Life team did a phenomenal job turning that gym into a world-class facility, but the most unassuming piece of equipment ended up being the biggest hit. As the students filed into their new gym for the reveal, they were excited about the entire experience, but they gathered with the most excitement around… the new water fountain!
I was initially taken aback by this scene, but was told by the administrator of the Academy that this was the only working water fountain at the school. As I watched these excited students test their new water fountain, I was struck by the realization that in 2017, in the United States, we still have schools with no working water fountains. The experience made our belief in the Lift Life Foundation and our resolve to give back to communities even stronger.
Yitzi: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We live our mission and our promise to our customers. Many of our team members were customers long before they became employees. Their journeys and Bodybuilding.com’s support created such a strong bond with the company that they sought an opportunity to be part of it and help others change their lives. As a result, our employee base can relate to our customers on a very personal level. When our customers go through the annual transformation challenge we offer, our employees do it too!
When you enter our headquarters, you’ll see a board to your left with our mission written on it. Every employee signs that board on their first day of employment as a commitment to our customers. As you walk deeper into the building, you’ll pass the entrance to our gym where our employees, guests, and athletes can work out and stay fit. Across from the gym is a picture wall of people whose lives we’ve helped change — a segment from all 30 million of them. You’ll also see pictures of our employees who have undergone transformations and have experienced firsthand the complete journey our customers go through.
Unlike most companies, we live what we teach.
Yitzi: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
In my personal life, there are two people who have made me and continue to make me be a better person every day: my father and my wife. My father’s unconditionally loving, gentle, yet determined approach gave me a strong foundation that allows me to be self-aware and see others’ point of view. My wife’s strength, life-loving spirit, and unselfish nature keep me firmly grounded. Her presence makes lows feel very temporary and highs measured, rooting me in reality and humility.
In my professional life, there are many individuals who have shaped my career and made me a better leader along the way. I owe a great deal of thanks to the leadership team and my colleagues at Micron Technology, where I learned how to be a professional, leader, and a peer. Lessons learned there have prepared me for the task of leading Bodybuilding.com today. I am forever grateful to those individuals for their belief in me, the teaching and mentorship they provided, and the long-term friendships we formed.
Yitzi: How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
My experience, both personal and professional, provides me with opportunities to speak with young people about their future at the high school and collegiate level. I use that platform to pass on lessons of my life, both good and bad, to help young people take control of their careers and future. I’d like to think that if one individual in every engagement can be helped by my advice and experience, then my day was worth living.
Another great vehicle for giving back to those in need is our Lift Life Foundation. The Lift Life Foundation (www.liftlifefoundation.org) is a nonprofit organization, founded and funded by Bodybuilding.com, that serves students at underfunded high schools across the United States by completely transforming their old, dilapidated and unsafe weight rooms into state-of-the-art facilities with brand-new equipment. Our mission is to give underprivileged students access to the tools they need to improve their fitness levels, boost their self-worth, and to become the best versions of themselves, both physically and mentally, through exercise.
Yitzi: What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why.
1. If you are going to change the way things are done and disrupt the status quo, people may not accept it at first. Large-scale company change requires a change in mindset and has to be accompanied by a change in strategy. Identify and enable your change agents as fast as possible to drive this new mindset within the ranks of the company.
2. A strong business analytics platform and data-driven decision-making are the cornerstone of success in today’s digital commerce landscape. The discovery, prototyping, testing, and implementation of any new product needs to be monitored and measured, continuously and rigorously. How else can you determine or declare success?
3. Look for people to disagree with you, whose opinions are supported by data. A good CEO should make sound assessments and drive correct action, yes, but healthy debate and analysis will help a good CEO arrive at the correct course of action. Just because the boss said it doesn’t make it so, unless proven with sound analysis. Create a culture of open dialog and questioning so you never fall in the alluring trap of turning an assumption or theory into a fact.
4. If you do not start every activity with “how does this add value to customers,” the project/product is doomed from the beginning. In an effort to forge strong business relationships and strategic partnerships, you may arrive at solutions that are a win-win for you and your business partner, but if you missed a “win” for the end customer, that initial win-win will soon become a loss. A truly great business model will arrive at a win-win-win proposition, where first “win” belongs to the customer.
5. Work will never end — not in the evenings, not on the weekend, not during the holidays. If you are passionate about what your company stands for, if you care about your customer and employee base, if social responsibility matters to you, then your brain will never turn off. This can be very rewarding and fulfilling as you see those hours invested translate into value for your customers and stakeholders. But you also have to practice compartmentalizing your days, so that the most important people in your life — your family — also get your mindshare.
Yitzi: Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this :-)
Oprah Winfrey! Oprah has changed more lives for the better than most people can dream to do in many lifetimes. She’s helped people with their physical, emotional, and spiritual transformations. She herself has transcended cultural, demographic, and social barriers. She’s build tremendous wealth, yet she stays firmly grounded. Her communication and genuine spirit revolves around enriching other people’s lives and giving back. Oh, and her book club made reading cool again for millions of people! Meeting someone like that would only deepen one’s own life.