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3 Success Secrets from One of the World’s Top Performance Trainers

What do Olympic medalists, the World Cup-winning German national soccer team, and roughly half of the NFL’s first-round draft picks have in common?

They’re all Mark Verstegen’s clients.

As founder and president of the Phoenix-based EXOS, Verstegen is one of the world’s most accomplished providers of elite-level performance training. But his influence extends well beyond the sports realm.

From military and paramilitary units to employees of over 150 global corporations, leaders and ass-kickers from all walks of life tap Verstegen for his counsel. “We help the best get better,” he says.

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Verstegen is the go-to performance expert for the top 0.1 percent. Not bad for a Washington State grad who got his start as assistant director of player development at Georgia Tech. 

Here’s how Verstegen turned a passion for performance into a company that generated $50 million in revenue last year. Follow his lead.  


As an undergraduate football player at Washington State, Verstegen injured the cervical connections linking his neck to his left arm. That required a serious stint in rehab, but “it was probably the greatest thing that ever happened to me,” he says.

The injury sharpened Verstegen’s interest in performance training, nutrition, and conditioning. After earning a Master’s in sports science and nutrition, he honed his expertise during stints at Georgia Tech and, afterward, at a sports science and training institute in Florida. 

The problem he noticed was a lack of intimate, individualized training programs for both athletes and, more significantly, for those outside of pro and college sports. 

While big-time athletes had access to the latest sports science and facilities, Verstegen wanted to bring those performance tools to neurosurgeons, pilots, and “everyone who must perform at the highest level day in and day out,” he says. 

So in 1999, he started Athletes’ Performance, which he later renamed EXOS. 


While many entrepreneurs try to create products or solutions that will appeal to as many people as possible, Verstegen took the exact opposite approach when he launched his company. 

Related: Money Advice from Rich Guys

“From the beginning, we were very selective about the people we worked with,” he says. “We wanted clients with great values who worked hard, and EXOS is still based on those types of people.” 

To build your client base, you have to be clear about your purpose and methods. “Clarity attracts like minds,” he says. 

A venture with a vague or confused message will struggle, says Verstegen. Instead, focus on refining your business’s messaging so that it speaks to your ideal customer or client.     


Remember the Apple III, or the Apple Lisa? Probably not, because both were massive failures. The fact that Steve Jobs swung and missed a few times during his early tenure at Apple is evidence that no one bats 1.000. 

Likewise, Verstegen says not everything has gone as planned in his career. From struggling through the economic downturn to watching his clients come up short in sports or business, “there’s no doubt you’re going to get knocked down from time to time,” he says.

“But you can’t let being knocked down knock you off your goals.” 
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