Richard Jalichandra, the new CEO at Bodybuilding.com, has built a reputation as a fixer, the guy startup boards call in to clean up messes or to guide companies to sales.
In Bodybuilding.com, Jalichandra takes over a company he says does not need fixing, though he says he will continue its evolution. The Boise company distributes online orders of nutritional products and supplements. Jalichandra succeeds Ryan DeLuca, who founded Bodybuilding.com in his garage in 1999 and built it into one of the Treasure Valley’s largest and most successful tech companies.
Today, Bodybuilding.com is a unit of Colorado-based Liberty Interactive Corp., controlled by cable pioneer John C. Malone. It reports compound annual growth of 10 percent. While Jalichandra would not disclose its revenue, the company told the Statesman in August that Bodybuilding.com expected to surpass a half-billion dollars in sales in 2015. Jalichandra’s appointment raises the question: Does Liberty eventually intend to sell it?
About 800 employees fill out the Bodybuilding.com payroll, including about 575 in the Treasure Valley, most of whom work at the new, $18 million headquarters on Meeker Avenue off Chinden Boulevard.
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DeLuca retained a piece of company and stayed on as CEO after selling a controlling stake to Liberty Media for $100 million in 2008.
DeLuca surprised his staff in October when he announced he was resigning to pursue plans to travel the world and mull over options for a new startup. He told the Statesman that he was stepping down voluntarily so a new leader could help the company grow.
Jalichandra, 53, is in the process of moving to Boise from Austin, Texas, with his wife, Nicole, and their 4-year-old daughter, Charlee. A self-described fitness nut, Jalichandra has been recovering from a shattered pelvis after a cycling accident in 2014 took him off his feet for months. He has resumed working toward his pre-accident goal of cycling 300 miles per month.
Q: What was the process that brought you and Bodybuilding.com together?
A: I’d visited Boise twice at the end of the summer and in the fall to buy another local company on behalf of some other investors. In the second trip, I was here to actually make the offer to the company — which was rejected, by the way. I was at the airport, and I got a call from an executive recruiter asking if I’d have any interest in moving to Boise. That was the start of the recruiting process.
Q: You’ve had success taking the reins from company founders. Why is that?
A: Founders are great, and in some cases, like (Apple’s Steve) Jobs or (Facebook’s Mark) Zuckerberg, they can take the company all the way. But those are rare. Usually, they take it to a certain place, and then they hand it to somebody else. Even the team that comes in is sometimes only there until the company reaches another level, and then it needs another skill set.
Q: What stage is Bodybuilding.com at compared to previous companies you’ve run?
A: It’s definitely at a later stage, but I started my career at IBM and Ford Motor Company. I’ve got big-company experience.
Jalichandra has played a role in five startup sales.
Q: How did the last company you ran, iSocket, compare to Bodybuild ing.com?
A: It did enterprise software for media buyers and sellers, automating the direct order part of the business. When I joined, we had 18 engineers, and that was about it. When we sold the company, we had just under 40 with about 25 people in product.
Q: You were at iSocket for a little more than a year. What was your role as CEO?
A: One of my previous investors called and said they had a problem. They had to replace a founder. I went in and turned it around and sold it.
Q: iSocket and MapMyFitness were sold under your leadership. Were you brought in to sell Bodybuilding.com?
A: It’s kind of a cliche, but you really can’t think about exits. If you are worried about exits, you’ll get distracted, and you won’t have the right strategy. The first objective is to run a good business.
Q: DeLuca built this company up from his basement. His fingerprints are all over this place. Does that history trickle down to you as his successor?
A: I don’t know Ryan. I’d love to sit down with him at some point. But, like I said, companies at different stages need different talent, or maybe a different point of view. We had a great founder with a great founding team. They built this company to an enormous size. Sometimes it’s time for companies to bring in new blood, new energy.
Q: How does your experience at other startups make you a fit at Bodybuilding.com?
A: If you look at my stops, I’ve had a history of coming in and either taking over from a founder or partnering with a founder to keep it going. In every case, there’s always great things the founder brought to the table. You want to keep those things around. If there’s incremental things you can add with your own flair, you do those things. But with a company like this — running for 15 years, has considerable revenue and nearly 800 employees, is profitable — it’s a fairly successful company. The first thing is: Don’t screw it up. We’ve got a good thing going.
Bodybuilding .com operates four U.S. distribution centers and one in the United Kingdom.
Q: Do you plan to point Bodybuilding.com in any new directions?
A: I don’t want to tip our hand. This company is evolved. I’m here to continue that evolution. And as a company evolves, there are new opportunities, as well as doing the existing business you are doing better.
Q: Bodybuilding.com ran into problems in 2012 when regulators found synthetic steroids or similar illegal ingredients in products distributed by the company. What lessons were learned during that process, and what will your role be in keeping tabs on the ingredients in products Bodybuilding.com sells?
A: Since then, we’ve built up regulatory compliance to 26 people, so it’s not like the company hasn’t done anything. The company has done a lot. But it’s definitely on my to-do list, to get my arms around it and make sure we don’t step in any more potholes.
Q: Sometimes a change in leadership foreshadows downsizing. What can you tell me about Bodybuilding.com’s plans for its Boise operations?
A: We’re in good shape. If you’re trying to find out if there’s potential for a reduction, that’s unlikely. It’s my second day, so give me a little bit of time to get my arms around the business. But, generally, you are adding things, not subtracting things. We’ve identified some opportunities we want to pursue that will require more (people).
RICHARD JALICHANDRA’S RESUME
Education: Bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Southern California (graduated 1983); MBA in marketing and finance from the University of Washington (1988).
Early career (1986-2002): IBM marketing sales analyst, Ford Motor Co. field manager, Siemens regional marketing director, K23 Creative Services founder and managing director, Answerthink senior vice president and managing director, Neopost Online vice president of business development, Lycos director of national accounts.
Later career (2002-present): IGN Entertainment vice president of business and corporate development, Fox Interactive Media senior vice president of business development, Exponential Inc senior vice president of corporate development, MapMyFitness CEO, Inmar Consumer Strategy Project, Technorati Media board member, B.well Health Insurance founding board member, Incline Capital Investments general partner, iSocket CEO, Bodybuilding.com CEO.
Has advised: Skimlinks, OneSpot, Filament Labs, Pulpo Media, Weather Underground, MyYearbook.com.