Many companies pay for their employees' gym memberships. Three-year-old startup VideoAmp takes the perk up a notch by offering free personal training to its 70 employees. Why? Because co-founder and CEO Ross McCray sees fitness as a cornerstone of productivity. And he's a man who is willing to put his money where his mouth is when it comes to getting stuff done.

McCray has optimized his entire life around his ambitious goals, combining personal discipline with a wetsuit-tight schedule. Operationally, it's simple: "I track my time, and I put everything in a calendar."

In broad strokes, McCray devotes his days to three activities:

  • Sleep--Four to four-and-a-half hours a night
  • Exercise--As a competitive CrossFit athlete
  • Work--The driving purpose

"My life mission is really what everything revolves around," he says. McCray is strict with himself: "I just don't do things that aren't on my high-priority list." Recreational activities like watching TV, shopping, or socializing are not on the list. McCray even eliminated the need to waste time commuting by making sure that his home is close to the office.

"I've been living in Santa Monica, across the street--literally on Ocean Boulevard--from the beach for 10 years, and I've only walked on the sand twice," McCray says, "both times with my team. And it isn't because I don't find value or I don't appreciate the beach. The beach is awesome! But it's a matter of a priority."

McCray sees it as a hard truth that you have to make sacrifices if you want your business to be a success. You can't maintain a free-and-easy lifestyle and still be a high-powered CEO. He thinks that people need to be brutally honest with themselves about where they are actually spending their time, and see if there's a mismatch with the goals they want to achieve. "Everyone has different weaknesses and blind spots," he acknowledges, but using a tracking tool like his Google Calendar system can clear up those blind spots.

McCray's life may sound like a recipe for burnout, but he says it makes him happy. "For me, when I lose energy is when I have to sit around and just do nothing." McCray is focused on the end-game: "Ultimately, I'm here to provide exponential global impact," he explained, "so everything I do is for that." (VideoAmp helps brands optimize the process of buying TV ads. The company recently raised $36.6 million in a Series B round led by Mediaocean.)

McCray wants to make his mark by "empowering changemakers," and says that emerging technologies like machine learning provide an edge for doing so. In the immediate term, his attitudes likely have more of an impact on his employees--the ones who get that personal training perk. "If you take care of people and you put people first," you'll be successful, McCray says. As CEO, "I work for everyone else, right?"

Published on: Nov 20, 2017