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Rower and coach turned founder.

Bruce Smith is the Founder and CEO of Hydrow, an at-home full-body rowing experience that connects the user with the natural world through Hydrow’s patented design and technology. Bruce is also an accomplished rower and coach himself; he led the U.S. National Rowing Team to a bronze medal in the 2015 world rowing championships. 

If we can highlight the fact that human beings really do depend on each other, it’s the opportunity to influence people so they feel better, trust each other, and make better decisions for themselves and society.

Bruce SmithFounder and CEO, Hydrow


Julia Balick (00:08):

Hello, we are back on the Building While Flying podcast. I’m Julia, our producer. And on this week’s episode, Katie speaks with Bruce Smith, CEO and founder of Hydrow the live outdoor reality rower as a US national team rowing coach, Bruce coached the US to a bronze medal in the 2015 world rowing championships. Katie, what stood out to you most about this convo?

Katie Hankinson (00:33):

Hey Julia. Oh, it was a great conversation with Bruce. Um, firstly I definitely want a Hydrow my house. Definitely have the space for it just saying. Um, the biggest thing for me was just the evangelism that he brought. You know, he, he really is a believer in this sport and the, the kind of history that he brings to it is so powerful. And to me it’s so obvious that this is a brand that’s been built from the inside out. And it feels like that kind of feeling of synchronicity with nature and with the self and with the community is the thing that sits at the core of it really, really powerful. And it carries through really nicely in everything that they’re really doing in terms of expression.

Julia Balick (01:15):

Definitely. I remember him talking about having three characters in the hydrow experience, being more into trusting than one or two, which is something in a virtual exercise experience usually is not usually the case that there are these three characters. So he mentioned the most important person in the hydrow story is you the person working out at home, but then they also have the athletes that are super fun and engaging, sharing this journey with you. And then thirdly, you have the whole natural world. Um, and these are your three characters that are part of this experience with you.

Katie Hankinson (01:50):

Yeah. And it’s so important. The whole thing ties back to that natural world, the importance of water and, and all of the kind of more purpose driven sides around what the mission is, uh, is super important too. The last thing I would say is I, he was so generous with his, his descriptions of, you know, those moments of holy, what do I do now? Or like questioning the business. And I think he demonstrated a really that really great leadership balance of having the kind of vulnerability and, um, self-awareness to know that you could sometimes be wrong and when to ask for help, but also having the kind of tenacity and decided to make the game time decisions. Like we’re gonna run that New York times ad, or we’re gonna run the hydrow high campaign, um, and it’s paying off

Julia Balick (02:39):

Totally. Um, and he mentioned one of his, the advice he has when people have to make these tough decisions is he always puts it away for the night and comes back in the morning and people have this extraordinary load on their brains. And the decision making is a lot easier when you’re fresh in the morning. And this reminded me a lot of Victoria Garrick’s answer to our building while flying question. She suggested to our fans also to just take your time when you’re making a big decision, even though there’s a big deadline, even though someone’s pounding on your door, give it some time and you’ll have a, a more well thought out decision,

Katie Hankinson (03:17):

Great advice. Well, the way off and forget

Julia Balick (03:20):

Totally. Um, now let’s not keep our listeners waiting anymore. Let’s dive into Katie’s conversation with Bruce.

Katie Hankinson (03:32):

Welcome to building while flying a sasha group podcast, where we interview business leaders about how they tackle challenge is stay resilient and navigate ever changing skies.

Katie Hankinson (03:45):

I’m super excited to talk to you about this. You obviously have a, a, a long history with rowing yourself, having coached having one, one mini races. I also love rowing. I think it’s such a great way of getting good exercise and I kind of do discovered it like I haven’t don’t do it often enough, but there’s now these gyms that you can go to where you can do kind of like intense rowing training sessions. And I just think it’s awesome. Such a well rounded workout without the impact.

Bruce Smith (04:13):

It’s really, it’s one of those things that is, uh, totally the best kept secret in overall whole health. Cuz you have seven major muscle groups in your body. And for example, if you were to hop on your bicycle to come to work, you would use, uh, you would actively load two out of the seven major muscle groups. However, if you rode to work, you would use, uh, six out of seven of the major muscle groups and your workout for the day would be done. You would feel great. You would’ve turned on all your back, your posterior chain you’d sit up straighter, you’d have, uh, more cavity space for your, uh, organs to do their work. It’s just, it is a tremendous human activity. Yeah. And, um, undervalued until we started telling the story. I think, you know, we have some precursors, uh, CrossFit has been preaching the gospel growing. So as orange theory, but, but uh, yeah, there’s big, big, uh, changes coming in the world.

Katie Hankinson (05:04):

Yeah. So talk a bit about that. Like you, you came from a background of actually being a rower, um, and you are, you, you know, you ran a, a health Hydrow Boston, but what actually tipped you over into deciding to create a piece of tech that would enable people to row successfully, truthfully?

Bruce Smith (05:24):

Yeah, I was, uh, so rowing machines are, you know, everywhere and they’ve been around for a long time. Uh, the first Y opened in London in 1866 and I’m pretty sure there was a rowing machine there, although I don’t know for

Katie Hankinson (05:35):

Sure that and some like old school tennis. Yeah, exactly

Bruce Smith (05:38):

Tennis, right. Real tennis. And uh, I was really worried that this indoor fitness craze, uh, that Peloton really kicked off mm would separate the rowing machine from what’s great about rowing, uh, which is being out on the water and moving in synchronicity with other human beings and rowing has this amazing rich history, but also like one of the reasons that the Charles river is less polluted than other rivers is because rowers have been on it every single day. You know, we’ve been staring at the water. So when there’s a pollution, you know, event, uh, rowers were the first to report it and they started a movement to get it cleaned up. So it’s, it’s attack the, all of those growing machines around the world, to the cultures and the, the culture and the value of what happens actually out on the water. And I really, I wanted to make sure that those two things got linked together. So we were kind of in this mad dash, you know, we started just at the very, very end of 2017 to get ahead of the rest of the fitness industry and connect what ha what happens in your home gym to what happens out on the water.

Katie Hankinson (06:40):

I love that. So the actual product itself, like you, your coaching features river scenes. So, uh, even though you are at home rowing, you feel like you’re on the water.

Bruce Smith (06:49):

Yeah. So the, the way the hydrow works is, uh, we actually patented this. So we’re broadcasting live from waterways around the world and, uh, we broadcast that directly to the hydrow in your living room. So when you, uh, sit down on the hydrow every morning, there’s some great new workout waiting for you. You can be in Switzerland, out on lake Luer, uh, you can be on the Charles river, you can be in Miami. And it really is this immersive water environment. And, um, it’s, it’s kind like, it never occurred to rowers to do that because, you know, ergometers are, ergometers, it’s like Greek for work. It’s meant as a work machine, not a fun machine and hydrow is meant as a fun machine. Mm.

Katie Hankinson (07:29):

And also, I mean, I mean, you’ve experienced this yourself. There’s something about being on the water that adds, I mean, if you couldn’t recreate or even just give a suggestion of that experience in the home, I think it must be actually, there’s almost that calming therapeutic aspect to it in addition to doing the exercise.

Bruce Smith (07:50):

Yeah. And there’s this book called blue mind. And when you think about whole health, what do you, what do you really need? And I think, you know, they teach this in business school now, like it’s, uh, um, you need loving relationships, you need enough sleep, you need a healthy diet. Uh, you need, uh, exercise and you need nature. Mm. And you really need like, you, you can’t get around it. You actually need to have that experience of water and trees. And that is one of the pillars of feeling good as a human. And there are enough studies now that we know that if you can’t get outside at all, a digital experience of water and trees is better than no experience. So it is, it is one of those pillars of whole health. It also like, like stuff happens, like things are changing all the time. And, and we really, so if it’s rainy one day, like we go out anyway or somebody falls in the water, like we don’t like cut that part. We, they fall in the water. So, uh, there’s this kind of, uh, surprise and delight part of being in the natural world. That is, it makes, uh, studios very dull, you know?

Katie Hankinson (08:48):

Yeah. I mean, it’s funny cuz you, you compare that with the kind of the way in which you would typically imagine, like, you know, like the Peloton trainer or whatever, you know, who ha is, it’s all about the individual, like the, the kind of charisma that that person brings and in this case, it’s the trainer, but it’s also, like you said, this kind of full immersive environment, deep, double immersive, if they fall in

Bruce Smith (09:10):

And, and uh, really soaking wet. Yeah. So if you think about the relationships that people establish, you know, like charisma is an amazing quality and it’s not like we deny charisma, our athletes are super engaging, but, um, three characters is way more interesting than two. And the most important person in the hydrow story is the person, our, our member at home. And then we have athletes that are super fun and uh, really engaging and, um, share their journey with you. But then we also have the whole natural world. And so there are three characters and every single, every, every single time you sit down, you’re involved in a triangle, not a straight line it’s way, way more dimensional and, and fascinating.

Katie Hankinson (09:50):

Oh, how wonderful. So let’s talk about the, the mission because there there’s a few threads to what you’re talking about that I think here, and I’d love to hear you talk about that kind of bigger mission that sits behind hydrow. Cause I think it is clearly shaping how you are setting the course for the company. So there’s the, the human element and the environment element. Talk a bit about that, that overarching mission.

Bruce Smith (10:12):

If we could think of something better to do you with our time to try and make the world a slightly better place in 2030 or 2040 or 2050, I, I really believe everybody at hydrow would quit their current job and go do that. But we, uh, we believe so strongly that if people feel better themselves, uh, they, you know, if they feel physically better because they’ve done a great, you know, like turning on your whole body feels good. Yeah. And as you, um, you know, that endorphin highs a real thing. So if you feel better from exercise, you’ll be kinder to yourself. If you can be a little bit kinder to yourself, you also can be kinder to the people around you. The other thing that rowing does is it really highlights the fact that other people are really important, you know, working out, moving a boat down the down, the waterway hires, uh, you know, the work of many people.

Bruce Smith (11:00):

And especially if you’re in a, in a eight person boat, like it really highlights just how crucial teamwork is. So if we can highlight the fact that human beings really do depend on each other, um, it’s that it’s that opportunity to get in and, um, you know, hopefully influence people so that they feel better. They trust each other more and they make better decisions for themselves and for society as, as a whole. And we bring attention where we think it is needed the most, which is really on the, um, you know, the, the safety and quality of our water. And it’s, uh, it’s a worldwide issue and something that touches every single person, literally every day.

Katie Hankinson (11:36):

I love that. That’s that firstly just a fantastic wish that you can get behind, but then, and that also that everyone will relate to and just such a clear, intuitive through line to kind of the medium in which this whole thing is over operating.

Bruce Smith (11:54):

No, and it’s actually like, it’s one of those things where all the vectors line up really well. Yeah. And, uh, we are really, um, we are really passionate about it. And, uh, I, I think, you know, the, the feedback we get is that it, like it works, you know, that it’s actually real, uh, you can, you know, go through the community chat and all the different social forums that we have and people report feeling these great feelings and, uh, supporting each other and, and paying attention to water. It’s really, it is, um, it is really great.

Katie Hankinson (12:23):

Yes. I love it. Oh my gosh. Immediately want to be on the river. Right. Um, so it’s been a pretty fast and furious journey so far. Um, I know, I I’d love to hear a little bit about the kind of those heady moments as you were gunning towards first launch, cuz you were building a piece of hardware. You were also thinking about the software and then there’s the whole content piece too. What were some of those early ripples waves cap sizes I’m gonna just play with

Bruce Smith (12:53):

Now? I’m no, I know, right? We’re all in this together. All in the same boat, rising tides, all. Yeah. I, you know what, no, I haven’t heard those before. That’s so great. Oh my God. That’s a new one yet. Uh, so, um, velocity’s a skill and uh, superpower. And so we didn’t sequentially build the hardware, then built the software to go onto the hardware and then built the content to fill it out. We built all three things at the same time. So they were separate little enterprises, all running concurrently. And we didn’t know if they would actually work together. Uh, but you know, I’ve spent my whole life in the rowing world. And uh, the other thing we just got very, I was very, very, very lucky and the people that I hired early who wanted to get involved, um, they believed in the mission and they’re extremely good at their job, much better at things than I’ll ever be at anything. And so first employee Chris Paul is our chief tech technology officer and he’s just, he’s a legend in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and then the Northeast in the United States. And um, and he kind of set the tone and, and just made it possible to have these three legs of the stool, um, getting built, uh, literally without knowing that there was gonna be a seat to join them, but it all, you know, it worked and we delivered our first prototype six months almost to the day after we had our first meeting to do

Katie Hankinson (14:12):

Design. Wow. That is a speed speedy turnaround when you told

Bruce Smith (14:16):

For hardware. Yeah. You know, for hardware. Exactly. And like a really big piece of aluminum. Yeah. Milled out of like 42,000

Katie Hankinson (14:22):

That actually needs to like function flawlessly. Yeah. Right.

Bruce Smith (14:25):

Yeah. And it really didn’t, you know, like the first day we had our investor, you know, they were coming to look at it, so it better work. And, um, it, it took a lot of, uh, flying around the world, um, so on and so forth, but we got it done. And then we made our first deliveries to customers within 12 months and, uh, those were early machines off the line. And then we were, you know, we were off to the races and it was all before the pandemic. And honestly, if we hadn’t gone so quickly, I don’t know where we’d be

Katie Hankinson (14:50):

Today. Right. And did the, I’m assuming the pandemic must have, was there a decent spike in, at home? I mean, everyone was buying pelotons and mirrors left right. And center. So were you a part of that?

Bruce Smith (15:02):

It was definitely, we would get these, uh, kind of extraordinary notes from like nurses and doctors who would be at the hospital all day, come home and they would, uh, get on their hydrow and then they would write us this note saying, this is the thing that’s, uh, kept me saying through this really extraordinarily hard period. So it was great to have something that people needed. And then there’s the cognitive disconnect of like the world’s falling apart in our business is going gangbusters and, uh, look at all the, all the hydrows we’ve sold. Uh, so it was this, um, kind of, you know, extraordinary moment where we were delivering something people needed. We were also being, you know, we experienced this extraordinary success and, uh, we just, you know, we were curious as the pandemic, uh, sort of changed. I don’t know if it’s wound down, but it’s definitely changed if we would continue to see the same kind of, of growth. And we’ve set sales records in September and October and November of 2021. Um, congratulations. Not by a little bit by a lot. Yeah. It’s really, it’s so much fun

Katie Hankinson (16:02):

And being featured on the not possible to buy,

Bruce Smith (16:06):

I know, right. This isn’t one of those, uh, terrible insider deals where you pay somebody money and they tell you you’re great. This is actually Oprah, you know, most trusted women in America, uh, saying that it is great and you know, it was so flattering and it was kind of, I mean, it was a dream, you know, we talked about it a lot and it didn’t happen, uh, two years ago and it didn’t happen last year. And then it finally happened this year and it was so exciting.

Katie Hankinson (16:30):

The culmination of all that work. Yeah.

Bruce Smith (16:32):

Never. Yeah, really good.

Katie Hankinson (16:34):

So were there any moments like early on when, um, you kind of had some, some SIM signals, no doubt from stories like Peloton, that there was an appetite for this, but were there moments where you were like, oh my gosh, we’ve made a mistake. This isn’t, this isn’t gonna work. Or

Bruce Smith (16:51):

We, every single investor that I talk two with the exception of three said, rowing’s a niche and nobody will ever do it. Ah, like it’s everybody, I

Katie Hankinson (16:59):

Talked interesting.

Bruce Smith (17:00):

It was, uh, this thing rowing nobody’s ever advertised rowing. No nobody’s ever tried to market rowing. And when people think rowing, they think tall Ky person from Harvard, you know, and

Katie Hankinson (17:12):

Yeah, I think it definitely in this country, especially has quite a,

Bruce Smith (17:15):

A set of, yeah, it’s got this overhead

Katie Hankinson (17:17):

Elitist feel.

Bruce Smith (17:18):

Yeah. And we, we blow that up completely. Yeah. And it’s one of the reasons we’re so excited about Kevin Hart, but the, uh, he’s the opposite of a tall inky guy from Harvard, you know, he’s a short guy. He’s black.

Katie Hankinson (17:28):

Let’s talk about Kevin.

Bruce Smith (17:29):

He’s sure. I know. Yeah. He’s uh he’s so I, and appreciate when I started the company that, um, the people at the very, very top of the industry are not puppets of their agents or anything else. They are super, super creative people. And just talking with Kevin the first time, you know, he got a hydrow and he used it a lot. And so we set up a conversation and he just, he had like 19 great ideas right off the bat. Right. So the whole hydro high campaign, you know, Kevin gets to take credit for really pushing us to communicate what you get out of hydrow, if you’ve never wrote before,

Katie Hankinson (18:06):

Let’s talk about that. So you’ve gotta a, a first big push go to market. Well, you’ve done some go to market

Bruce Smith (18:12):

Exercise. This’s the first big one

Katie Hankinson (18:13):

First big advertising communications push the hydrow high campaign. Right. Kevin Hart’s idea. So we all go to, to the dogs and we know who to blame, but, um, yeah, no, tell us about that one.

Bruce Smith (18:25):

It was, uh, it was an amazing J you know, we’ve worked with a lot of creative people. Um, our friends over at mojo supermarket also, uh, very involved in the campaign, but Kevin’s input was stop trying to explain to me all of the benefits, how do I feel? What, how do people relate to this? And, uh, he said that repeatedly over many conversations. And, uh, and that was the, so that was our brief, you know, communicate to everybody and rowing really does have this, um, kind of impenetrability about it. And the fact that the, uh, previously the most popular machine was actually called an urometer, you know, like it’s

Katie Hankinson (19:07):

So true. Like

Bruce Smith (19:09):

It’s made be alienating, you know, it’s literally

Katie Hankinson (19:11):

Accessible. Yeah.

Bruce Smith (19:12):

Yeah. Like if you have to ask, you’re not invited. And so coming up with, uh, two words that, that have alliteration in the LS, uh, was that’s I think it’s like Simon old for everything. I’m really excited about it.

Katie Hankinson (19:24):

That’s awesome. Yeah. You had a wobble though about that one. Didn’t you like, like early on?

Bruce Smith (19:29):

So the campaign was going live. We were doing a full page announcement in the New York times. And, uh, Friday, uh, before the Sunday I started to freak out and then I didn’t sleep all Friday night. And then I literally had like, was on the verge of dialing the phone to say, please cancel, please cancel, please cancel. And my wife talked me down and, uh, we let it go. And then

Katie Hankinson (19:55):

Cause you, because of the risk, the kind of drug association,

Bruce Smith (19:58):

What if all, what if everybody was like, wait, I’m so triggered. I, you know, I’m, I’m a recovering addict. I’m, you know, what, if all of these things, uh, but people understand really clearly that it’s, you know, it’s exercise, um,

Katie Hankinson (20:08):

The natural high. Yeah,

Bruce Smith (20:10):

Good. Runner’s high growers high and it’s real and substantial. And, um, I’m really proud of it, but it was one of those moments where it was like, you know, yikes.

Katie Hankinson (20:21):

What would you say? We talk a lot with clients about, um, what a company’s competitive advantages, you know, whether it’s, um, and the network effect or the ability you to build a full ecosystem around something or speed to market, what would you say the hydrow competitive advantage is for you guys?

Bruce Smith (20:42):

We have something that money cannot buy and it’s just UN opinion. And it’s the most valuable thing in the world. And it’s a mission to do good in the world. And it’s not grounded in some greenwash. It’s not grounded in something that I picked up last year. It’s grounded in not just my lifetime history, but everybody at the company and it even extends, you know, to mys done. And my, my great, great uncle who built rowing shells for, uh, the community and Harvard college. I hate to say, um, in the 1860s and seventies in Cambridge. So it’s, uh, we have this kind of authentic story that I think, um, authenticity is the thing that is in shortest supply other than time in the world and

Katie Hankinson (21:24):

Most valued and hardest.

Bruce Smith (21:27):

Yeah. And we have it, um, in spades more than any other brand that I can possibly think of. So I, I believe we have a real claim to be in tens of millions of people’s homes over the next, uh, two decades, three decades, four

Katie Hankinson (21:39):

Decades. That was gonna be my next set question. What does the world look like if you succeed on the, on the hydrow side, but also the mission side?

Bruce Smith (21:49):

Yeah. So in 2030, uh, there will be tens of millions of people who cherish their 20 or 30 minutes on their hydrow every morning or every afternoon or evening something they share with their friends is something they look forward to. And then through the rest of the day, all of those people feel great. They’re kinder to each other, uh, kinder to, uh, families and their coworkers that they make better decisions. And, um, I hope that we will also have a, you know, an increasing awareness of the role that we all play in water quality. Mm. And there’s this, um, I think the last time we talked, you mentioned, you know, stretchy clothes are really, yeah. Every time you put some Lira on the wash, you’re washing untold numbers of molecules into the water supply that, um, are eventually really gonna cause, you know, uh, serious problems for everybody.

Bruce Smith (22:38):

So getting ahead of those problems and, and bringing awareness so that we can make better decisions is, um, uh, you know, it’s not something we’re gonna solve in a year or 10 years, but it’s something that we have to, to solve. And I hope that hydrow plays a key role with that every single time that you do a workout on hydrow, uh, you’re working towards a donation towards, which provides access to safe water for people who don’t have it. So we make a donation for every 25 workouts that you do. Uh, we provide safe access to safe water for one persons. So we’ve done. I love that, um, uh, tens and tens of thousands of donations at this point. And, uh, it’s really, I think, um, tying things explicitly together like that, like why not? You know, you’re still, you have to work out, let’s get the most out of it.

Katie Hankinson (23:22):

Yeah. I, I, there’s something so interesting in your tying effort to outcome in a way that isn’t, you know, isn’t just about you and your own personal fitness, but you, you see a connection to the outer world as well. It’s really nice thing to reinforce.

Bruce Smith (23:36):

I just nodded, but we’re on a podcast. So I’ll say yes.

Katie Hankinson (23:41):

What do you, what would you say personally? You know, you you’ve been through quite an, an arc with this, with the, the kind of common thread being rowing and the water. What have you learned about yourself as a business leader throughout this?

Bruce Smith (23:56):

I’ve learned that I have a lot to learn, uh, and that I’m not very good at a whole lot of things and that I fail almost constantly, but I’ve had extraordinarily good luck and with a really great team, we can do some cool stuff. Um, I don’t know. I mean, not to the humble brag. Uh, yeah. Um, it’s more, um, I, I’m good at speed and I’m good at strategy. Mm. And, uh, hydrow reflect that I think. And then the rest of the stuff we figure out. Um, and I’ve been really, really lucky in, in having some extraordinary, uh, people who are unbelievably talented at getting things done, and they have extraordinary capacity for detail and they make, you know, beautiful things out of, uh, extraordinary. And it’s, uh, it’s so much fun to work with them. It’s really inspiring.

Katie Hankinson (24:49):

There was something you said when we, when we chatted before, which I, which struck me. And as I, I thought was a really interesting perspective, which is when you think about helping people with their fitness, you are trying to see what it is that they need, but sort of reskin or repurpose what everybody else is doing. Can you talk a bit about

Bruce Smith (25:12):

That? Yeah. There’s this whole thing, you know, everybody, uh, selling goals and the truth is that goals and fitness anyway are completely misplaced. Um, I, you know, so I’m a elite coach, nothing is more goal oriented than the Olympics it’s on a four year quad, like, and it is extremely goal oriented and there are no rules other than win, you know, and that’s super fun and I’m extremely competitive and it couldn’t, couldn’t be more fun, but for life it’s, uh, just the opposite, what you need is, um, to be happy right now. Mm. And that’s,

Katie Hankinson (25:44):

It’s not only about winning.

Bruce Smith (25:45):

Yeah. No. What right. Well, and, and, um, or, you know, you can win it being happy right now. Right. You know, hi, Hydrow’s really aimed at being there every single day. And we don’t promise you six pack abs, we promise that we will try and help you be happier and more present, more engaged today. And I think that’s a crucial message and something that, you know, these companies that say like, Hey, buy this program or sign up for, sign up for a, a series of classes that get you to a place 99% of the people never get to the place. So they buy this thing, it doesn’t work. And then they expect that they will buy another thing and they failed. And they just, just this like message of constant failure. And I’ve been through it. I did, I, you know, I’ve done P 90 X twice and, uh, loved it. I love P 90 X and I love Tony Horton, but at the end of it, I didn’t look like Tony, you know, and much as I wanted to. So, uh, we’re really, we’re extremely focused on helping people feel good today. That’s where the hydro high feel good today.

Katie Hankinson (26:44):

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. I want that hydrow high. Um, I have that, I have one last question for you, which is our classic building while flying question, uh, which I think you partially answered when you were sort of talking about what you’ve learned about yourself, but when we talk about that, the metaphor or of, um, building while flying, you know, it’s important when you are building while flying to keep calm under pressure. And when your backs up against the wall to have a, a series of steps or this, or a process to help make those tough decisions. So when you are in that crunch point and you need to make a tough decision for your business, what’s your, go-to, what’s your approach to that?

Bruce Smith (27:24):

I always, uh, put it away for the, the night and, uh, come back in the morning. And I always talk to my wife about it. Those are the, the two things that have saved me from an untold number of even worse mistakes than the ones I’ve already made, uh,

Katie Hankinson (27:41):

New York times article, case in point. Right.

Bruce Smith (27:43):

So exactly. Yeah. So, uh, it’s really, um, I think, uh, people have an extraordinary cognitive load on their brains. Mm. And the decision making that you make when you’re fresh is higher quality. And a lot of people think that decisions are like, you can make infinite numbers of good decision. It’s not true decisions have different, uh, qualities attached to them and coming at it with a little bit of time. And, uh, extra perspective is super valuable.

Katie Hankinson (28:14):

I could not agree more the whole, um, the, the knee jerk decision versus sleeping on it. The number of times when I’m so grateful,

Bruce Smith (28:25):


Katie Hankinson (28:25):

Put the email in the draft folder and come back to it later

Bruce Smith (28:28):

Hundred, hundred a thousand percent. Yeah.

Katie Hankinson (28:31):

Wise words. That’s all for them. Well, thank you so much for joining us on, uh, building while flying. It’s been wonderful to hear about the, the plans and the, the successes and the vision of hydrow.

Bruce Smith (28:43):

Thank you very much. Great. How conversation,

Katie Hankinson (28:47):

Thanks for joining us for building while flying today. I hope you learned as much as we did. We’ll meet you right back here next time for another flight.

Mickey Cloud (28:59):

If you’d like to hear more about how business owners and brands are navigating these times, tune in to the next episode. And if you’re so kind, please rate in the review us plus we’d love feedback. So let us know what you think, what you’d like us to dig into next on building while flying across brands, businesses, marketing, and more

Katie Hankinson (29:14):

Original music by Fulson street music group.

Welcome to Building While Flying!

This weekly podcast is brought to you by Sasha Group. We’re the consultancy meets agency arm of the VaynerX family of companies. We help ambitious companies build strong brands that flex with the times through strategy, branding media and marketing.

In ever-changing times, businesses and brands have to shift and adapt. And across all sectors, there is an air of experimentation. Business owners are trying new things out in the wild;  building the plane while flying.

Our pilots, Katie Hankinson and Mickey Cloud, will be talking to a diverse range of business leaders and founders. They’ll explore how these guests tackle various challenges while staying resilient and committed to growth. Through these real-life examples of strategies put into practice, we hope to inspire you to experiment and develop your own strategies as we all navigate these uncertain times together.

Keeping your mind and body fit. 

Bruce Smith is the Founder and CEO of Hydrow, an at-home full-body rowing experience that connects the user with the natural world through Hydrow’s patented design and technology. Bruce is also an accomplished rower and coach himself; he led the U.S. National Rowing Team to a bronze medal in the 2015 world rowing championships. 

In this episode, Bruce shares where his journey with rowing and water began, and how it led him to Hydrow. He talks about how rowing isn’t just great fitness for the body—it also has a profound impact on the mind and human behavior. Bruce also emphasizes Hydrow’s dedication to water quality and safety, and the connection between rowers and keeping waterways around the world in good condition. All of this fuses together in a unique brand and experience that offers something to everyone around the world.

Other in-flight topics:

  • Hydrow’s unique technology 
  • Hydrow’s mission
  • Water quality and safety
  • Challenges building up to launch
  • Lessons learned in leadership
  • …and more!

Links | Connect with Bruce Smith

New York, NY
Chattanooga, TN
Los Angeles, CA