From the bat to the bike, MLB’s Marlon Byrd is continuing his passion for athletics and fitness and turning it into an entrepreneurial business venture for he and his clients. After playing in the MLB for eighteen years, Marlon Byrd was used to the hustle and grind, but didn’t mind it. He told me that he wanted to stay active and in shape; that coming home and sitting around wasn’t an option for him. This is what led him to purchase CycleBar, a fitness studio for everyone.
I had the opportunity to speak with Byrd on the phone about why he decided to transition out of Major League Baseball (MLB) and into the entrepreneur and fitness world. Byrd, who owns two studios, one which is located in Thousand Oaks, California, opened in September 2017.
Here is an edited version of my interview with Byrd.
Swinging The Bat At Personal Fitness
Andrew Rossow: What made you want to transition out of MLB and into the world of fitness?
Marlon Byrd: I was drafted in 1999, entered the big leagues in 2002, and finished in 2016. After playing for eighteen years, I look back and know that I played hard every single day. We all had our ups and downs. But, when I left, I left everything on the field, and I was lucky to have played with amazing teams, exciting coaches and managers, and owners. I enjoyed every second of it. By the time I was finished, I was done. When it comes down to it, it’s the younger guys turn. Age will always win. I’m a realist, and it was my time. And I was good with it.
AR: Is there a similarity between MLB and your transition into entrepreneurship and fitness?
MB: It’s interesting with baseball because you have schedules. There’s that every day grind, and then you end up being a business owner, and you feel like you’re working twice as hard. But, I’m loving every second of it.
AR: So, let’s talk about CycleBar. How did you end up purchasing it?
MB: When I decided that I wanted to be involved with a fitness studio of some type, my wife and I started looking around. She always talked about how she loved indoor cycling, similar to Flywheel Sports. So, we started thinking about opening a similar type studio. But, the difference here was that we didn’t want to build from the ground up—we wanted to go turnkey and go with one that could actually help the individual get going, thus the franchise was the way to go. When I heard about CycleBar, that’s where everything fit for me.
AR: Personal fitness is no joke—it takes a lot of work. What was/is the biggest challenge in going from an MLB player to an entrepreneur?
MB: In baseball, the biggest challenge was the numbers—the numbers I put up, kept me in the game. If I didn’t do well, there was the very probable risk that I would get released, or sent to Triple A. So, everything was based on my performance.
Now, owning a fitness studio and running my own business, everything is based on the team. I’m building a team. While I was playing, I wasn’t the general manager or the owner, so I wasn’t building a team. It’s different now. Now, I have my team that I run to help run a successful venture.
From Ball Player to Entrepreneur
During my conversation with the CycleBar owner, I was interested in how eighteen years of playing helped influence his ability to be a successful business owner.
MB: It’s knowing what it takes to be successful. Everything I’ve learned was because of the relationships I’ve had with my mentors, most notably, Doug Glanville, who was a center-fielder for Philadelphia, who is now on Baseball Tonight. Through these relationships, I’ve learned how to be a better owner, leader, and instructor all around.
AR: Do you see any differences in what you consider to be “success” as between playing ball and now running you’re the studio?
MB: Of course. For example, in MLB, for a career, I succeeded 25% of time, which was great for the sport. But, if you look at any other job, if you’re succeeding at that kind of rate, you usually get fired, let go, or released. Having a batting average of .275 over a fifteen-year period, isn’t bad. But, at the same time, dealing with the ups and downs has helped me in approaching what I am working with now.
AR: This had to be some sort of shock to you or an overwhelming feeling, no?
MB: You know, it’s the idea of going through something new. Whether you are a rookie owner, an entrepreneur, or getting involved with a start-up—it can be difficult, scary, and at times, cause uncertainty as to what you’re doing. With the fitness studio, when you go for weeks and you look at the size of classes and the total number of individuals in attendance is 8 people with 49 bikes in the studio. But, then all of a sudden, you put the work into it because you know you have to figure it out—just like I did in baseball in order to better my overall performance. You have to compete and push yourself to be better. Then, the number of people on those bikes jump from 8…20….then 40.
AR: How does being a father play part into running CycleBar?
MB: It’s our demographics that make the difference. People are joining gyms all over, looking around at all the equipment in front of them, wondering what to do. What we offer is an instructor for every class, and the individual is receiving instruction for the duration of that class. So, you’re not walking in on your own; in fact, from the moment you walk in, you’re already interacting with our instructors and the front desk.
My daughter, who is twelve years-old, is taking classes, and that’s just it—everyone, regardless of age is welcome. Our business model is open to individuals of all ages up to 65 years old—for those who want to be in shape and do low impact work; those who want to participate in group fitness; and those that just want an affordable fitness opportunity. You don’t have to be an athlete; you just need to have the desire to work out a little bit.
AR: Are you involved with instruction at all?
MB: One-hundred percent. I’m not just an owner, but I’m a lead instructor in our studio. When I am teaching class, I’m making sure the new rider has the same experience as the experienced rider, which is hard to do, but that’s how we train. Our lead of education, teaches a style that new riders and experienced riders gain.
Treating The Big Leagues Like A Business
In today’s generation of sports, we are seeing a lot of younger, new talent hitting the fields and picking up bats. It’s important for those younger athletes to pay attention to what other players have done and what they recommend in terms of achieving success.
AR: Marlon, what advice do you have for younger athletes just entering into the sports world, particularly the big leagues?
MB: You have to treat it like a business. It’s hard to explain to a younger guy who makes it to the big leagues, because for them, it’s a dream come true. You’re excited and making money. Why? You’re going from making Minor League money to all of a sudden, the minimum you are now making is $525,000. You’re flying chartered jets, staying in the top hotels, eating at great restauraunts — but most importantly, everyone knows who you are.
But, at some point, it has to be explained to you by the older players that this is a business and there are certain things you have to do in order to hold onto those benefits and your job.
Byrd’s Top Tips For Success In Business
#1 –You Have to Produce
#2 –Keep Your Nose Clean and Respect the People Around You, Including Your Teammates
#3 –You Need To Demonstrate Leadership
“This advice is no different than what is expected in the business I am in now” –Marlon Byrd
Sports Today Has Changed In A Digital Age
With the emergence of new technologies and platforms for watching and following sports, the sports industry has changed. Byrd told me that when he first entered the big leagues, there were a lot more teachers.
“What I mean by that is there were a lot of rookies, myself included, Chase Utley, and Brett Myers,” said Byrd. “We dominated the minor leagues to get to the Majors.”
AR: How did that demographic relate to the expectations you were required to meet?
MB: The Majors were comprised of guys ages 32-34. What these guys would do is teach. They wouldn’t allow you to do things in a way that didn’t allow for you to be complacent. You had to put up the numbers. You had to do the job description year-round. Why? Because these guys had already figured it out and succeeded. So, if you didn’t learn from them, you were gone.
AR: So, how has the game changed today?
MB: Simple—the game today is a lot younger. As I ended up finishing my baseball career at 30 years old, I was now the “older” one. Guys like Tyler Naquin, I used to watch while I was playing for the Texas Rangers. It was different. Now, if you have someone my age on a team, it’s very rare. The game is younger and faster—you have younger GM’s, team presidents, and managers. I believe this change is good for everyone in the space.
AR: How would you define what a baseball “veteran” is today?
MB: Today, I would say a veteran is around 26, maybe 27 years old. But back then, it was around 32 or 33.
AR: So, how do you ensure the game stays “fresh”?
MB: Get rid of the old guys who don’t want the young guys to have fun, because the game should be fun. Even if you’re older, you still have to make the change to make the game fun. The game changes. It’s not the 90’s anymore. But. At the same time, there is a big emphasis on younger players showing leadership. They’ve done a great job. Take the Chicago Cubs for example. Those guys stepped up and got the job done and took the World Series back in 2016.
Injecting Technology Into The Routine
AR: How does technology play part into your classes and business structure?
MB: In my opinion, the technology is a good thing. The individual who participate and ride in my class all have my cell phone number. Anytime we send an email out, it has my information on it. I’m not going to hide that from my riders. If they need to reach me, they can at any point in time, because if they aren’t happy, then I need to fix it. If they are happy, I need to keep that going.
The entrepreneur also told me that it’s important to be able to receive feedback from his riders, clients, and customers, because it’s the only way an entrepreneur can grow his or her business.
“If you’re being told by the consumer what is right and what is wrong, you have to listen,” Byrd told me.
“Technology is always going to be here. You can try and ignore it all you want, but it’s going to be there. My instructors have to post on social media at least once a week through Instagram so people know their schedules. Otherwise, if the riders don’t know what you’re up to or more importantly, know you, they aren’t going to come to your class. Therefore, we stay on social media.”
AR: So accessibility is huge in this business?
MB: Absolutely. The interaction has to be there—that connection you have with your riders. Especially as an instructor, I may have 30 die-hard riders, but they want to be coached and they have to know you as an instructor are serious about them and the class. You have to be approachable and reachable.
Taking A Stand Against Body Shaming and Cyberbullying
Like many athletes in the industry, Byrd said that he’s no stranger to the pressures that come with being part of a team that fans gravitate towards. “When I played, I went through the online trolling,” explained Byrd. “Fans can be very ugly because they can be on their social media profiles and they won’t leave you alone. You can block them, but they can create other accounts or find alternative ways.”
The Dark Side of Social Media
While Byrd’s support of social media when it comes to communicating with his riders, it falls short when it comes to online trolling. “I’m not an advocate for that at all,” Byrd said. “I don’t like that side of social media, even though its there, I don’t like it.”
When it comes to dealing with trolls, Byrd believes how a person responds is everything. “It’s weird, because if you don’t show them that they are there, they will keep coming. I want to make sure our fitness community jumps on whatever side, and fights that attacker off the platform.”