Tough Mudder Founder End of Season letter to the Tough Mudder Tribe:
Today we made an announcement relating to a major decision for me, the company and the Tough Mudder community: We will be restructuring our company to split-out our rapidly growing Tough Mudder Bootcamp business from our events business. I want to share with the Tough Mudder community some of the reasoning behind this change. I also wanted to offer some reflections on the 2018 season, look ahead to 2019 and share some other personal news with you.
2018 has been a year of rapid change for Tough Mudder and has in all candour been in many ways the most challenging but also ultimately the most rewarding of my nine years as CEO. Tough Mudder and its amazing community continues to teach me and push me to be a better version of myself. I started Tough Mudder because I wanted to build not just a company but a movement that lives a set values that are very dear to me: teamwork and camaraderie, courage, accomplishment and fun (which really means not taking life or yourself too seriously). Leading the company and the role I play within the Tough Mudder tribe is both an honour and a privilege and something I take very seriously. We do not always get it right but I assure you that the TMHQ management team and I always try our best. As I reflect upon where we have come from those early rookie (and at times naively cocky) early days of our first events almost 10 years’ ago now, I am proud of what we have achieved but also humbled by the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead of us. This weekend is World’s Toughest Mudder (always my favourite event of the entire year) and the defacto end of our 2018 event season. I wanted to share with you some reflections on the year and a look ahead to what comes next for me, the business and the community.
Let me start first with myself: I have taken the decision to step back from elements of our events management. We have made many internal changes in the past twelve months with an aim of getting back to the original quirky and irreverent values that drove us and the community. We introduced several new event concepts (including TM5K and TMX) and mixed-up our obstacles as never before. Some of which I acknowledge were better received by the community than others. At TMHQ we learn from our mistakes. I am very proud of the TMHQ event teams for how they continued to improve throughout the season. I hope those of you that attended events throughout the season saw the changes we made and saw the ways in which we continuously strive to get better. Looking ahead, I am very excited for 2019. We are about to unveil our new suit of obstacles which I believe are our best yet and am looking forward to receiving your feedback on what we have created. The events business is not without its challenges but our truly amazing President Don Baxter and his team have put us in a great place for next season and I am excited to see all he can do not just with the new event formats and obstacles but also with our ever-growing media, sponsorship and international businesses. We remain deeply committed to excellence and only ever want to put on events that truly move people. As such, next year will see some reduction in the number of North American events. This will not be a dramatic change but there will be some pruning as we focus on markets where we know we have a sufficient participant base to allow us to deliver a truly first-class experience. Stepping away from all the great things that are happening here has speaking frankly been a hard decision for me personally. It really does feel like only yesterday that I was event director at our first event but times change and I am confident it is the right decision for me both personally and professionally but also for the business and the Tough Mudder community. I am far from perfect and I thank every one of you for giving me the opportunity to help shape and grow the community. You have all taught me so much and I truly believe made me a better person. Thank you.
So what comes next for me and the community? Tough Mudder has always been about much much more than the events and we have always looked for new ways to build and serve our community in authentic ways. We have been blown away by the community reaction to our new Tough Mudder Bootcamp (TMB). I am an entrepreneur and thus by definition an optimist but even I would not have believed at the beginning of the year that we would have sold almost 60 studio franchises within 6 months of opening our first location in Burlington, MA. This is a remarkable and frankly unprecedented achievement within the field of franchising and credit for this this sits with Cathrin Bowtell and her team. However, it is also testimony to the power and strength of the Tough Mudder community. Our Bootcamps are becoming the local community hubs for the tribe and are already changing lives for the better. We may not be curing cancer but Tough Mudder is making the world a happier and healthier place. Through our events we inspire people to improve themselves both physically and mentally but now we are not only providing people with the inspiration to do this but also the physical tools. Through our Bootcamps we are bringing in a whole new generation into our tribe - many of which are already signing up for our events as they see and experience the ways in which our amazing community can give you the strength and confidence to do things you never thought possible. Seeing this process in action is truly inspiring and humbling.
Some of you may have heard of our intention to split our business into two; separating TMB from the events. Let me explain what this means for the community and why we have made this decision: In the past few weeks, TMHQ has brought in new external investors. We did this to help grow our business and provide us with the foundation we need to take Tough Mudder and its community to the next level. Our TMB business unit with it’s fast paced growth and high potential needed more capital and creative license to grow. It needs a sharp focus on servicing our TMB owners as they grow their studio businesses all across the globe. Ultimately we and our new investors felt we could only achieve this by separating the two. In practice, this will mean very little changes for you the community. TMB will continue to leverage the Tough Mudder brand and will retain all the rights it currently enjoys. The Tough Mudder brand will continue to act as one of our most vigorous recruitment, promotion and marketing tools for our franchisees and the individual Bootcamps will continue to be local hubs for the entire Tough Mudder community. I have always been a fan of Sir Richard Branson (my native Britain sadly doesn’t boast that many successful entrepreneurs). Virgin Group successfully operate several different and distinct business under one brand; Virgin Records, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Active and Virgin Galactic to name but a few. I believe Tough Mudder can (and will) do the same. Nevertheless, this is a big change for us and we have always tried to be transparent with the community wherever possible - hence me taking the time to explain this change.
Finally, I wanted to tell you about some of the other changes in my life: I became a father for the second time. My son Ben was born in London on June 30, 2018. As many of you will know, becoming a parent is a truly wonderful thing and it fundamentally and permanently changes your perspective on life. For the past 3-4 years I have been splitting my time between London and NYC. Perhaps from the outside this lifestyle sounds exciting and glamorous but I can assure you it is not. The constant jetlag wears you down and I have spent too too much time apart from the people I love in recent years. I have decided to spend more of my time in the UK and am now working on a new venture here in London in an entirely new and unrelated space to Tough Mudder - expect further details next year. This does not mean the end of my involvement in TMHQ - indeed I remain in daily contact with the TMHQ management team - but it does mean me stepping away from some of the day-to-day particularly with the events. I expect to retain a reasonably active role with TMB (particularly international expansion) but this will also likely be less than in the past as Cathrin continues to grow as a leader. I may now be a parent but Tough Mudder is also my baby and I remain deeply committed to ensuring the business, brand and the community continue to thrive and will be happy to get involved wherever I am needed. The TMHQ leadership has developed into a very strong and cohesive group and it is time for me to get out of their way and let them get on with the job. I have every confidence 2019 will be our best year yet and I am excited for you all to see what we have planned. I am also excited in due course to tell you more about what is coming next for me. Watch this space...
Finally, thank you to every one of you for your ongoing support of Tough Mudder and its community. You make us what we are - indeed you are what we are. None of what we do would be possible without you. I have learned so much from you. Thank you again. I am deeply humbled by every one of you. You really are the greatest tribe on the planet. I am so glad I get to be part of it.
- Will Dean
Tough Mudder Founder End of Season letter to the Tough Mudder Tribe: