HOTWORX CEO Interview: Stephen Smith on the Benefits of Infrared Sauna Hot Workouts

Unearthing Infrared Sauna Workouts

Steve Smith, the CEO of HOTWORX, graced the latest episode of Self Love and Sweat: The Podcast. His journey, which began with a simple love for Bikram Yoga, has transformed the fitness industry by introducing the first-ever 24-hour infrared fitness studio. Steve’s journey from being a yoga enthusiast to a fitness visionary is genuinely inspiring. His unwavering determination, unique insight, and innovative approach have reshaped the fitness industry and paved the way for a healthier future.

Watch and listen to this episode here:

TIMESTAMPS TO HELP YOU NAVIGATE THIS EPISODE:
(0:00) Intro
(0:21) FREE Self Love & Sweat MONTHLY Calendar
(11:46) Naming The Infrared Sauna
(22:16) Sponsor: Snap Supplements 25% OFF using code LUNDEN25
(28:50) Best and Hardest Parts of Being a HOTWORX CEO
(30:57) Growth Plans and International Expansion

 

Benefits of HOTWORX Infrared Sauna

The synergy of infrared and yoga is the cornerstone of HOTWORX’s fitness approach. Steve provides unique insights into this concept and its contributions to fitness and wellness. This innovative approach, combined with Smith’s unwavering determination, has propelled HOTWORX to the forefront of the fitness industry.

Embracing Fitness Trends

Renaming a business isn’t a simple task. The journey Steve embarked on from Hot Box Detox to HOTWORX involved significant deliberation and creative exploration. He wanted a name that encapsulated the essence of his wellness concept. After much research and introspection, “HOTWORX” emerged as the perfect moniker, perfectly representing the uniqueness of his brand.

A Boutique Fitness Empire Born in Oxford

Opening the first HOTWORX location in Oxford, Mississippi in February 2017 marked a significant milestone. Despite the challenges, the company has grown exponentially and now boasts hundreds of locations across the country. This growth is a testament to Smith’s vision, the dedication of his team, and the uniqueness of the HOTWORX concept.

A CEO’s Daily Regimen for Success

Being a CEO is a constant learning process. He also emphasizes the importance of staying informed, making informed decisions, and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. One of his daily non-negotiable habits is making his bed, setting the tone for a disciplined and consistent day. This is followed by a workout at the gym and a morning huddle with his top executives, a routine that keeps him physically and mentally fit and his business at the top of its game.

Watch the full interview here: 

Full transcript episode 149: 

Lunden Souza: 

Welcome to Self Love and Sweat The Podcast, the place where you’ll get inspired to live your life unapologetically, embrace your perfect imperfections, break down barriers and do what sets your soul on fire. I’m your host, Lunden Souza. Hey, have you grabbed your free Self Love and Sweat monthly calendar yet? This calendar is so amazing. It comes right in your inbox every single month to help you have a little nugget of wisdom, a sweaty workout, a mindset activity, just a little something, something to help keep you focused and motivated and keep that momentum towards your goals. So every day, when you get this calendar, you’ll see a link that you can click that will lead to a podcast episode or a workout or something that will be very powerful and quick to read. And then you’ll also see, on the top left corner of every single day, there’s a little checkbox in the calendar and what that is is that’s for your one thing. You can choose one thing every month, or it can be the same, something that you want to implement and make this something that you can easily implement, like daily meditation or getting a certain amount of steps or water, for example, and staying hydrated and even taking your supplements. This can be something if you want to get more regular doing a particular habit and routine. You can choose what that checkbox means. So if you want your Self Love and Sweat free monthly calendar delivered right to your inbox every month on the first of the month, go to lifelikelunden.com/calendar, fill out the form really quickly and you will have your calendar in your inbox within a few short minutes. That’s lifelikelunden L-I-F-E-L-I-K-E-L-U-N-D-E-N dot com forward slash calendar. Go, get yours for free and enjoy this episode. Welcome back to the podcast. Today we have Steve Smith as our guest. Today he is the CEO of Hotworx, which is a gym that I recently started going to, since I moved to Utah. I have a friend who owns some and she kept trying to get me to go into Hotworx and finally I made it in and just completely fell in love with this method of training in an infrared sauna at Hotworx, and so, with a little Instagram, let’s say digging, if you will, I am so excited to have been in contact with you, Steve, and bring you here on the podcast to learn more about Hotworx, learn more about you and the way that you’ve created such a massive company that is really changing lives, changing health and wellness, and so welcome to the show. I’m excited to have you.

Steve Smith: 

Well, thanks, Lunden. It’s exciting to be here with you on your podcast and I’m looking forward to talking with you about fitness.

Lunden Souza: 

Yeah, so let’s start just from the, let’s say, conception of Hotworx. Where did this idea come from? How did you decide to combine, and, for those that don’t know what Hot Works is, maybe you can give us a little more deeper background of kind of the three pillars and how you were able to kind of come up with that.

Steve Smith: 

So what Hotworx is is the first ever 24 hour infrared fitness studio and it’s a franchise my company, we’ve been a franchise over for a long time. I like to tell people you know it’s an emerging franchise brand. I say emerging. We did grow from zero to over 506 years, so that’s pretty decent clip, momentum wise. But as far as where it came from, how it came about, it was a number of events, I think, that layered on top of each other to ultimately lead to the moment of inspiration which I’ll tell you about. But I think it began with a business problem, right as a lot of inventions spring from, and you know, in our first brand, Planet Beach, which we grew to a certain level and then the bottom fell out of that whole industry and we found ourselves scrambling to try to find ways to achieve growth once again and in the process of several years of trying to think our way through that mess, if you will, then I like always like to say sometimes you have to invent your way out of a problem and Hotworx was an invention that came about to try to solve the problem of a tanning bed that was not popular anymore and removal of a tanning bed and put something in that room that would be popular. And that’s where the invention and the dimensions and sort of the whole I guess impetus of that invention came from. But in the process of getting from that problem to the creation of that sauna, I started doing Bikram Yoga. And as I did Bikram because I wanted to do hot yoga, I’m a weight trainer I guess a meathead, you could say ex-athlete I’m still an athlete in terms of climbing mountains and snow skiing, but ex-athlete ex-football player is what I’m kind of talking about used to form a bodybuilder as well. So a lot of weight training in my background. But I was determined, for cardio reasons, for flexibility reasons, for injury prevention reasons, to layer something on top of weight training to, I guess, extend the life of my body, and so hot yoga was the thing that came to mind. So I went into a hot yoga studio down in Miami with a girl I was dating at the time. She’s also a weight training person. So we went into this dingy little. I was in the hot yoga studio for Bikram in Miami and I lasted about 20 minutes. I got to the Eagle Pose and that was it for me. It was the balance. The heart rate was up so high and you know, just a serious challenge and such a departure from what I was used to in fitness. And it was a struggle. So I left the studio, went outside. To add insult to injury, the instructor came out to check on me to see if I was alive, I guess. And okay, and so that moment of embarrassment made me determined to at least get decent at yoga, right. So I got back to New Orleans, where I’m from, and started doing Bikram, and as I did it more and more often, I got better at it. I started to see big-time results from it in all kinds of ways. And then I started thinking about yoga, specifically hot yoga, as a business, being a business person, being a person at the time was in the spa business, because we had to evolve Planet Beach from a tanning salon into more of a spa oriented type of service. And through going to Bikram I started to think about wow, what about yoga as a way to fix that tanning bedroom? You know, and I get rid of all the tanning beds, but because it’s a less popular thing now, getting rid of most of them and adding a service that would take up about the same amount of space to make a service for more people and let’s do yoga. And then fast forward to, I guess a few months in advance from that time that I started thinking about yoga as a business to a trip that I went on with my colleagues down to Jamaica. We went to Negril and I was on the top of a cliff this place called the Caves. I highly recommend for anybody who wants to be inspired for anything, go to that place. I think it’s owned by Bob Marley’s former manager at least that was the rumor that I still hear every time I go. But great place. So on the sunny day I found myself on the top of a cliff there and having a discussion with one of my best friends and exercise physiologists and my business partners, husband Jerome, and we started talking about fitness, working out, and then started discussing infrared saunas as a means of workout, recovery, and then I was telling him hey, I’m doing Bikram yoga and talking all about yoga and talking about infrared saunas, and Jerome made the statement I think it was something like this dude, they should do yoga in a sauna. And when Jerome said that, it just struck me like getting hit with a brick. That was the moment of inspiration and it really was just like that and I told Jerome. I said you know what? I’m going back to New Orleans and I’m going to design a sauna for that purpose, and that was in August. I think it was August of 14th of 2014. So came back to New Orleans, spent a year well, almost a year, took 10 months to get that moment of inspiration into a reality and a prototype, and the design that I came up with hasn’t changed at all since we rolled out the first prototype at a trade show at the Javits Center in New York City. It was the International Franchise Association, so this was going to be a new product service that we would place into Planet Beach, which we did, and it showed up. We put it together. It worked, which seemed like a miracle. Thank God, it worked at that trade show and from that moment, we really knew we had something and people were intrigued by it. We started placing those inside of Planet Beach locations. Sales numbers started to double and people really loved it. But the problem with that sauna at that time are you ready for this? The name of that sauna was the Hotbox Detox.

Lunden Souza: 

From the Bob Marley owned mountain.

Steve Smith: 

I didn’t make the connection with the Bob Marley, but, yes, from the Bob Marley cliff at the caves to the Hotbox, detox and same sauna as we have today. But we knew we had to change the name right. So we had it for, let’s see, that was 2015. Well, that name lasted about a year and then, after we came to the hard conclusion that that name was cute but that was not going to be the name of the future for that machine, I went through this I call it a creative wormhole of about a five or six week period of time where I just obsessed and obsessed, and obsessed over what the name of this thing should be and I finally, after all these strange and weird names and things, to try to get something that was completely relevant to what that box did, that I found a naming service, believe it or not, online called squadhelpdotcom. So if you ever need a name, I recommend this website. But so I went to squadhelpdotcom, I typed out a request for naming of and I described the sauna and what it did and what its purpose was as precisely as I possibly could, and I got about 1200 name submissions and on that site you would pay $250 to the winner and then the website got $150. So for $400, right, I went through this process. I narrowed it down to like 20 names and then the winner was not how it works, but it was close, but it led me in that direction was Heatworks H-E-A-T-W-O-R-X. So I gave that name to the winner, and then I discovered that there was a couple of trademark issues through the United States Patent and Trademark Office and so, and then on top of that, I just didn’t feel like it was 100%, like all. It was like 95% there, right, just wasn’t quite. I wasn’t ready to get married to it, let’s put that way. And so I found myself at a CEO roundtable here in New Orleans that I was a member of. It was like day-long conference sponsored by the State of Louisiana, a bunch of CEOs having discussions, talking whatever. I had my laptop out but I was not taking notes. I was obsessing over that name, obsessing over it still, and just like that the word hot came up. I was like why don’t I just put hot, not heat hot? So hot, that’s beautiful, that’s got a nice ring to it. So I immediately go to USPTO website and find out that it was available as a trademark. I could make it work. So I call my legal department, say file this name now, which we did, and in very short order because of the highly relevant nature of that, that name, to the product. We were able to get the trademark quickly, so had the name finally. And then we still had to have a logo. This logo right here, we call it the hot O yeah, for those of you listening?

Lunden Souza: 

It’s O, that’s like. Looks like a flame.

Steve Smith: 

Yeah, and so I went back to that same website, squad helpdotcom, because they also had a logo creation service, and so I put the description out there what the logo needed to be, and then here’s the name Hotworx. Now create for me a logo, and it went out to all of these graphic artists worldwide and this one girl from Indonesia and I have her name I need to get in touch with her but she submitted the coloration, the wordmark, the logo, everything. We have not changed it at all from her original creation or interpretation of Hotworx, and that again cost me $400. So for 800 bucks we were able to find a way to get to the perfect name and logo, right. And then so I went around the country. There was like 40 semi locations that I had to go and take doors to change the doors from hot box detox to Hotworx, thank goodness, and so we called that the door to man man Jodi husband, Lewis. We drove around the country in his truck and we had doors shipped and we showed up at these Planet Beach locations some gym locations that we had sold to and changed the door from hot box detox to Hotworx. And then from that point and that was in the mid-summer, I guess, of 2016,. We were still had the strategy of just installing these units into Planet Beach and then to try to find spas and gyms that wanted to buy the sonas and be the manufacturer, and that was going to be our future, right until that name changed. And once that name changed, it dawned on me that that name was so good that it has to be a fitness franchise of its own, and then decided to open the first location at Oxford, Mississippi, because I have one of my best friends up there and I went to Ole Miss, and so we decided we’re going to open the concept store at Oxford and got a lease in November, opened the first location on February, the 13th of 2017, and then, six years later, we had over 500 open and we’re at about 530 locations now, I guess.

Lunden Souza: 

I love it. I love that from a tanning salon to a mountain top, to a hot box detox, to its own franchise and yeah, there was one right in the town where I used to live they’re opening one up in the next couple months, right down the road for me, which I’m super excited about. So this is our second time talking, Steve and I. We had a little chat beforehand a few weeks ago just to touch base and get to know each other a little bit. And, yeah, from the tempo of your voice to your demeanor, you’re pretty chill, pretty relaxed. But now, hearing you talk about I was obsessing over this name. I knew there had to be some sort of like obsessive go getter part to you to get to where you are now, which is so cool that it’s coming out. But do you, or did you, or do you have any like, yeah, like fears of not being enough or limiting beliefs that you just have to push through? Have you always had this like drive and confidence or what’s kind of like the lingering nonsense in the back of your brain that you have to you know, silence out the noise sometimes to keep moving through and keep that aggressive like demeanor and approach?

Steve Smith: 

I think everybody experiences limiting beliefs that they have to overcome and fears that they have to manage. I, you know, still of course have have fear of failure and that has to be managed and turned into productivity so that you don’t fail right. And even when you have mistakes or setbacks, if you want to call them failures, as long as you learn from that and don’t let it happen again, then I think you’re good. But I think I saw a quote recently that if you fail the same way twice, then that’s a pattern, right? So I think that when you have a failure you need to learn from it so that you never have that same failure again. I guess I have a high tolerance for pain. I played football for many years. I trained like crazy in bodybuilding. I still train like crazy. This morning I was in a sauna doing a hot cycle with an oxygen restriction mask on at 130 degrees. I think that this is a Nick Saban quote and I like to live by it. There are two forms of pain in life. There’s the pain of disappointment and then there’s the pain of discipline. If you want to not have to deal with the pain of disappointment, then you need to make friends with the pain of discipline. I don’t know if he said it like that, but that’s how I get it and take it. And I know it’s true that if you can turn discipline into not not a painful event and even though you know it takes a lot of work to have discipline and turn that into something that’s friendly to you and that you’re friends with it, then you won’t have to deal with a whole lot of disappointment in life and especially in business.

Lunden Souza: 

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Steve Smith: 

My routine starts with first of all, make the bed. If I don’t make it, then love it. Two minutes of getting up I haven’t made that bed. I feel guilty. I had one of my colleagues turn me on to the admiral I forget his name who gave this speech at the University of Texas, his alma mater. Anybody could Google it and it’s about a 20 minute speech. It will change your life. I think the name of this speech is make your bed, or something like that, and he equates yeah, I think that I kind of remember hearing something about it at Ring’s a Bell.

Lunden Souza: 

If I find it, I’ll include it in the show notes for people to listen to. Yeah.

Steve Smith: 

So it starts with making the bed to set the tone for the day and then go straight to the gym for the workout. I’ll do weight training and then I’ll do some form of hot cardio, usually hot cycle. Sometimes it’s hot under, sometimes it’s hot blast, but it’s always at Hotworx right, and then I’ll come back. I usually already have the coffee made in my coffee pot. I’ll get a cup of coffee and go straight to 830 Huddle meeting with my top executives, and we’ll Huddle for 30, sometimes 45 minutes, up to an hour, not going over an hour, and discuss things that need to be communicated amongst each other. I’ve found that as a CEO you know, first of all, the worst thing in the world is a company that the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. The only way to solve that problem is for interdepartmental communication, and that needs to be forced. So that’s why we have a huddle of all the key executives every morning, monday through Friday, and that’s how it jumped start the day right there and a few cups of coffee in there as well.

Lunden Souza: 

Yeah, but it seems like I mean those are, I would say, mundane, everyday things that absolutely make a difference. I’m so on the same page with the bed making thing. It’s just like get out and make the bed and it feels like somehow like the day has started, like the rest is complete, and the day has started when the bed’s unmade. For me it feels like unfinished business and like lingering things. I don’t know why. I would adore it if I just know that it is getting in your workout, getting in the communication and connection with your team. I mean, I think that’s amazing. I think a lot of issues can arise, like you said, when the right hand’s not talking to the left hand or someone thinks something is this way because they haven’t been able to communicate with somebody to kind of give them the correct answer, or whatever page. You guys are on. So Monday through Friday, having that, like you said, force. But I think that they probably appreciate that communication, that transparency, that basically no room for confusion. It’s like bring it all to the table every day so that there can be that clarity. I think that’s really, really cool. What is your, what would you say is the best part about being a CEO and like the hardest part about being a CEO.

Steve Smith: 

The best part about being a CEO is the learning, because you’re fortunate enough to get the cliff notes about everything that’s going on all the time and so you’re always in the know and learning in that way. The worst thing is having to manage people I like to say players, because I feel like franchising is a sporting event and it takes teamwork and players are not giving their all, because to be successful at anything and to accomplish your potential, you have to play full out all the time, and I can’t stand when people have the yo-yo effect they’re all in on one day and then the next day to turn it in a D paper. I tell my executives look, you know when you turn in a paper whether or not it’s going to be an A. Don’t turn in a paper to me unless you know it’s going to be an A already. And so when I get sloppy work, I don’t like that at all because I know they’re more capable and it’s just a matter of motivation. The success killers out there number one is procrastination, and I can’t stand that, and when I catch myself doing it, I kick myself in the butt for that. So that’s the sworn enemy of achievement. Right there is kicking the can down the road. So that’s my biggest frustration is when I have to manage and deal with that. But I guess what I like most about my job is the learning and acceleration of thought that happens when you’re serving as a CEO.

Lunden Souza: 

Nice, I love that. Don’t turn it in unless it’s an A? Yeah. And procrastination and the yo-yo effect too. We see that in fitness, where it’s like you’re all the way in and all the way out, and all the way in and all the way out, yeah, so resonates. What would you say like your growth plans? I know that you’re at 500 something franchises so far. Do you have a moonshot of where you want to be by a certain year or timeframe? What does that look like Like? Share that big picture? Vision with us.

Steve Smith: 

Lunden. I think your metaphor of the moonshot is perfect because to get to the moon you have to launch off the launching pad, and that’s the most difficult part. Right Is to get lift off. So for the past six years, the launch and the effort that it took to get to 500 open was immense. The next couple of years is going to be more fun, I think, because of the level of momentum that we’ve already created. Now it’s more tweaking and tweaking rather than shoving and shoving, and we’ll go from 500 locations open to 1,000 in the next two years and then beyond that, the white spaces we call it in franchising, meaning markets and locations that you can open with your concept. We’ll get to 3,000 before we start to even think about market saturation in the United States alone, and then we’ll grow. And we are in markets about to open in Saudi Arabia and we have one in Dubai that’s about to open and a lot of international interest that’s happening. Eventually we will sell into Canada and more in Australia. We have one open in Australia. Australia the sky is the limit on planet Earth.

Lunden Souza: 

Nice. Yeah, I like that you. I’m glad I asked that question because you said Dubai. I’m actually gonna be there in a couple weeks, so if it’s open, great. If not, I’ll just go walk by and, you know, put some good vibes out there. Last question a Phrase used to come up at this company that I worked for when I lived in Austria, and it was disagree and commit, where, when we’re working in teams, sometimes we think we have, you know, a good idea or maybe somebody else, it’s their, you know their opportunity to make a decision. And as team members or as executives, sometimes we get to choose to disagree and commit and sometimes we learn, hey, we should have, you know, done it our way the first place. But sometimes we can be surprised by others when it’s like, okay, I’m gonna let you do your thing, let’s see what’s up, what. How do you feel about that statement? And have you been surprised by people on your team when you’ve been able to maybe like Not see it fully from their perspective, but then be like, whoa, that was such a great idea or approach.

Steve Smith: 

We? That’s a good question, and for us we have a culture that Encourages debate. I love a good debate. My undergrad degree was in political science, so I love a good debate and usually, if not every time, the strongest argument wins right the, the person who has the best set of facts and in the highest level of passion for their argument, wins the day. And you know when those types of proposals Come to the table, they usually turn out to be pretty darn good, and so we get Integreated discussions a lot, always respectful, you know, but Points of view, you know, and I guess, like any other good debate, that the the best set of facts and the strongest argument Carries the day. The one with the most passion Usually indicates the highest level of belief and what it is they’re trying to assert, and and that usually wins the day and usually turns out to be a good decision.

Lunden Souza: 

Nice. I like that healthy, heated, fact-based passion and letting that kind of guide what the next step is cool. Thank you so much for your time, Steve. I really appreciate it. For those of you listening, follow Steve on Instagram. He’s hot work CEO. Find a Hotworx location in your area. The first try is free. You can go in and test, test out one of the hot workouts. It’s so cool. They have so many different ones. I think I’ve tried all of them at this point. I love warrior, I love bar and I love the hot cycle one. Those are my three faves. So, yeah, go in and try, test it out, feel the burn, feel the sweat. And yeah, thank you again, Steve, for your time. I really appreciate you.

Steve Smith: 

Thank you, Lunden enjoyed it.

Lunden Souza: 

Thank you so much for listening to this episode of self-love and sweat the podcast. Hey, do me a favor wherever you’re listening to this podcast, give us a review this really helps a lot and share this with a friend. I’m only one person and with your help, we can really spread the message of self-love and sweat and change more lives All around the world. I’m Lunden Souza, reminding you that you deserve a life full of passion, presence and purpose, fueled by self-love and sweat. This podcast is a hit spot. Austria production.