How we became the number one alternative to MINDBODY, and how yoga helped us get there

I've written before about how we're not afraid to mention our competitors by name, and ultimately, how we view competition very differently than most companies do. As I look back on our growth since we initially launched in 2011, it strikes me that many of our most important lessons in business, are also lessons that are found in yoga.

It's worth asking the question, how did we get here?

How can a small team of people who have no outside investment become the number one software alternative to mindbody, a company that boasts over 30,000 customers and has raised over $100 million in venture capital (ONE HUNDRED MILLION!!!) and is valued at over a half a billion dollars. 

After all that money is counted, every single day, there are countless businesses asking the question "should I go with Tula, or should I go with mindbody?"

How is this even possible?

Some of the answers lie in the practice of yoga, and I think there is value in these lessons not just for our business, but for many others as well.

Accept where you are

The most difficult lesson, and accordingly the most important, is that you must accept where you are. It's such a simple, but powerful truth, that is at once obvious, while extraordinarily difficult to do.

The temptation for a company like ours is to ignore mindbody, to pretend they don't exist, or even worse to pretend we are big just like them. But ultimately you can't provide something different if all you're offering is a better version of the same thing.

By accepting the fact that we're a small company going against a massive corporation, we've been able to be ourselves, write openly about our thoughts on competition, and win customers because we provide a level of service that mindbody could only dream of.

Set An Intention

Once you go to a few yoga classes where you set an intention in the beginning, you start to realize how many things we do in life that are done without intention. It's been very helpful for us to ask ourselves 'why are we doing this'? What is the goal of this new feature? Why is this something we should build instead of something else?

What is our intention here?

We never set out to be the biggest fitness software company in the world. Instead, we set out to be the best software in the world for independent yoga studios. If this sounds hyper-focused to you, that's because it is. If you're a big chain of fitness clubs that needs corporation type features, yeah, we're not for you, please see mindbody.

By setting our intention to providing the best software for yoga studios, we never got distracted building features our core customers didn't need or care about.

Do not fear your strength

It is unfortunate that as individuals we often fear our own strength. I believe that our awareness of our egos, and our rightful fear of it running unfettered,  to an overcorrection where we fear our strength, and we often times do not call upon it when we need it most.

I notice that on my yoga mat, I usually feel strong, and that I feel good feeling strong. This is an interesting gift that I have used to move our business forward.

When mindbody tried to hijack a Quora thread, I called them out on it while every other company in our industry sat on their hands. When Yoga Journal (which is run by Active Interest Media, a corporate media conglomerate that publishes over 100 magazines ranging from body building to horse riding) wouldn't let us in their conference because mindbody's influence is so large, we wrote about Yoga Journal and the Business of Yoga.

It's okay to summon your strength, and it will help you succeed.

Do your practice

Another obvious yet difficult lesson is that we must do our practice in order to achieve results. We joke that the universe can tell when we're working on an important feature or when we're pushing out loads of small bug fixes, because we see it in more signups, a mention on twitter, or a compliment on facebook.

No one ever regretted going to yoga class, and yet it can be difficult to get off the couch and walk or drive to the studio. Sometimes the things we need to do the most are the things we put off the longest. 

All businesses have a practice they should follow. Knowing yours (our is shipping code) is key to your success.

Unexpected Rewards

I noticed that when I practice yoga regularly, I also make it to bed before midnight and I sleep really well. When I go to yoga and set an intention though, never do I set an intention to sleep well. And yet, a great night sleep is something that I enjoy very much. 

There are ancillary benefits to setting an intention and doing our practice.

The most surprising thing to me about Tula is that we now have Dance Studios, Art studios, Pole Fitness studios and others using our software. I truly thought that because we had chosen yoga as the market we were focusing on, and that because we were born when Maile opened her yoga studio, that we would end up completely excluding these other businesses due to our focus. And I was okay with this.

But what we've seen is that people who own class based businesses of all types are looking for something better too, just like we were. 

It's weird, because had we tried from the beginning to appeal to all of these businesses, we probably would have gotten lost in the noise.

What's happened though is that people who own small businesses are often very smart, and looking for good solutions for their businesses. They think about things like "what other kinds of businesses might have similar needs as me?"

And so an art studio ends up googling 'yoga studio software'.

Not because they have a yoga studio, but because they've thought about what their needs are, and what other kinds of businesses might have the same needs too.

And then they find us.


And this brings us to the last lesson. Another, for me anyway, that is difficult to learn is that sometimes you need to just breathe. No one wonders why the 6 month old isn't walking or why the teenager isn't running a business. 

There is a natural growth cycle for businesses, and forcing growth can often lead to problems. Being patient early on allowed us to scale more smoothly later.

I'm certainly not the first person to talk about how lessons on the mat can be brought into our daily lives, but these are a few I've found particularly helpful in the arena of business.