Cubert’s Co-Founders Reflect on the Highlights and Challenges of 2021

Co-Founders Marius Ronnov and Jeff Sawyer Lee look back on Cubert’s growth and challenges in 2021, and goals for the new year.

Last year was an incredible time of growth and accomplishment for Cubert and our brands. We scaled our team, and we saw the milestone launch of FitTrack’s MyHealth app. With FitTrack also growing rapidly, it did not come without supply chain and customer service challenges. As our Co-Founders Marius Ronnov and Jeff Sawyer Lee pause to reflect on 2021 and what went well and areas for improvement, they will also share a look at what’s ahead in 2022.

Q: Let’s start off with some of the lessons from 2021. Can you talk about the challenges of scaling a product-based business like FitTrack?

Jeff: There’s always a challenge when you’re scaling hardware products. There are a lot of moving parts and unpredictability. It’s really about being able to plan ahead and having a backup plan for things to sell. I think another challenge besides sales is product quality and making sure that we have a strong QA process in place to ensure that the product we are giving to our customers is of the best quality.  

Marius: When I think of a product-based or product-led business, I think the biggest challenge is building a product that people really care about. Sure, there are a lot of challenges bringing that to people and getting it in their hands, especially in the world we live in right now. But to me, it’s really about ensuring that we continue to produce something that people actually care about, especially in software where we’re monetizing today. A lot of that is really difficult to detect when you’re sort of doing okay. So when things are fine, then your users are fine and they will react if you take something away from them that they love, or if you add something that they absolutely hate. Other than that, you are sort of in this grey space and things are OK. For us, it’s really about validating and listening to ensure that we are building something that’s relevant.  

Jeff: I want to add on to that. When we talk about providing real value and listening to our users, the analogy I always use is when we listen to our users, we need to have a way to really understand the user’s core motivation as well. Let’s say you surveyed people in the 1800s and asked them what they needed, no one would have said they want a car. They would tell you they want a faster horse, for example, right? So you need to really understand the motivation beyond the surface of what people are telling us what they need.

Q: Let’s transition to supply chain challenges. As you know, during the pandemic, a lot of companies experienced turbulent times that were kind of out of their control. What strategies did you employ?

Marius: At this current moment, there’s a lot of pieces that are impacting supply chains, including ours. It really stems all the way back to the parts that go into devices to the need for more inventory and warehouses because shipping timelines are much longer than usual. And then finally getting the units to customers. Between that, there may be several different vendors or partners you work with. And it sort of multiplies, everything gets two times slower. In our business, where we have a pretty steady year with some high seasons around major sales periods, we’ve had to force ourselves to think smart about automation. It’s proven we have to be great at investing into supply chain and R&D, and sourcing components. 

Then you layer on this additional complexity of supply into, let’s say, many different markets. And that really gives you our supply chain, which has grown over the pandemic. I think our best bet has really been to centralize a lot. We went from having four or five warehouses in the European Union to having one warehouse and centralizing supplies, not only to our consumers, but also wholesale orders. And from there, really thinking about the North American supply chain as a continuous unit that has to flow and function together.  

It’s been a challenging time as we continue to navigate these issues. It doesn’t benefit us, obviously, to have a delay in services or in deliveries. And it doesn’t benefit the consumer. I think with all this, the consumer has been understanding and they’re learning that the entire world is impacted by supply chain issues. It’s not just a single company or a certain area of the world. And that gives us a little bit of room to work with. But still, it’s a struggle, and it will continue to be. Our automation services, the way we communicate with our consumers as these things happen, are some of the best tools that we have.

Q: Speaking of the consumer, let’s talk about how Cubert has rethought the way you do customer service. What are some challenges that you might have experienced and how did you serve your customers despite those challenges?   

Jeff: When it comes to some of the challenges we face in the supply chain and the things that we learned from 2021, I think being upfront and super transparent to the customer is always the way to go and holding their hand through the process. One thing that we’ve learned is people are generally okay with delays if they know upfront or if we over-communicate the timelines with them. What we’ve seen is our users just want to be heard and they want to be in the know. As long as you’re providing that, you should be able to get through the supply chain challenges, or any other challenges, as long as you are transparent about it with customers.

Q: Let’s switch gears and talk about FitTrack’s MyHealth app. This was a big launch for the brand, what has been the most rewarding aspect of the launch?

Jeff: For me, it basically improves our customers’ life by providing much more value for them to achieve their health goals. The prevention of chronic illness, I think, is the most rewarding aspect of the launch for me because we are one step closer in our mission as a company to improve the health outcomes of our users.

Marius: I like that. To add to that, it’s really around providing them with some of the tools they’re already looking for. We didn’t have specific features for diabetes patients or for people that were recovering from cancer treatment. But that’s what users are using it for. And for that reason, we need to be able to provide better insights so they can actually go and use tools to manage a condition, for instance. So when we think about preventive care versus condition management overall and marrying those two, I think it’s our greatest challenge. But I also think it’s part of a great learning overall that it is possible to provide preventive health tools while supporting people that are managing a chronic condition. In our case, I think more than 60 percent of our users are either managing a chronic illness or are in a risk group.

Q: Going into the new year, what do you hope to leave behind and what practices or choices best served you in 2021? 

Jeff: For me, some of the learnings from 2021 is that it’s very important to carve out time to think. It’s very easy to get sucked into the weeds and you know, jump in and kind of figure things out. But one thing I’ve learned is the most important part for every entrepreneur is to have that down-time to think. It’s essential for the business to survive and having more time to think [allows you] to plan ahead. It allows you to be a better leader as well. The second thing is learning that leaders must transition from being responsible for the job to being responsible for the people who are responsible for the job. And that, sometimes, is the hardest part. Because sometimes, when your team doesn’t do things the way that they should be, the results are not great. Instinctively as an entrepreneur, you want to jump in and solve the issue for them. But I think it’s a little bit of a discipline where entrepreneurs need to start thinking about how they can empower their team to ask the right questions and get them to perform at their best level.

Q: What about personal goals for each of you in the new year, and how will you commit to personal growth as well? 

Marius:  Sure. My business goal is to create the largest health management and health tech company in the world, ensuring that millions of people can continue to improve their health and their health outcomes through our tools. That’s my personal goal, as well.  

Jeff: I love that. I’ll add that I want to prioritize living a balanced life. I think sometimes when you don’t measure or manage your entire life and you just set goals for, let’s say, business or health, you might be putting a lot more into a specific bucket and not having a balanced life. I break down my goals into five buckets. Every year, I do a thinking week for my goals for the upcoming year. Then I break them down into quarterly goals and track them on a monthly and weekly basis as well.

Q: Let’s end with, what’s next for Cubert?

Marius: We have much to be optimistic about for the upcoming new year. On the consumer side, we are focused on creating and producing better hardware and software and solving bigger problems for users in the future. When we look ahead, it’s really about becoming a better business and continuing our quest to be one of the best employers in the world.