Bryan Tayefeh: Business Lead at Ionis Pharmaceuticals

Stefan JungeOctober 20, 2020


Bryan Tayefeh is a multifaceted businessman of many interests. Though his professional career has taken him in many directions, he’s most prominently known for his work at Ionis Pharmaceuticals. As the leader in RNA therapeutics, Ionis is a renowned name in its industry. For the last 12 years, Tayefeh has used his expertise to help Ionis form and transact lasting partnerships. Above all else, his goal is to seek out cutting-edge technology that will help cure sick people.

Before joining the team at Ionis, Bryan received his undergraduate degree from the University of Colorado. During his college career, Tayefeh researched the organic synthesis of natural products. It was this experience that motivated Tayefeh to launch his personal training business. Eager to debunk the misinformation that the fitness industry spreads, Tayefeh dedicated himself to enlightening others. In addition to providing invaluable insight, Tayefeh’s other mission was to incorporate science into bodybuilding. By applying scientific methods to his workouts, Tayefeh did just that.

Using his revolutionary training techniques, Tayefeh found a way to produce results using biological evidence. From muscle composition to strength changes, Tayefeh’s approach tracks and targets many areas. When he’s not pioneering the next big idea, Tayefeh enjoys spending time with his wife and kids. As a family, they’re often traveling the world and embarking on exciting adventures. One of their favorite vacation spots is Hawaii.

Though traveling is a huge passion of Tayefeh’s, he also has a penchant for sports. More specifically, snowboarding and surfing. The latter is one of Tayefeh’s favorite pastimes, and it was his love for surfing that inspired Tayefeh to pursue underwater photography, spearfishing, and freediving. With so much life experience under his belt, Tayefeh has a wealth of wisdom to impart. He hopes to continue impacting lives, finding new hobbies, and living life to the fullest for years to come.


Where did the idea for Tayefeh Fitness come from?

The idea to create a personal training business was something that evolved over time and rather unexpectedly. I started getting into shape and friends/co-workers took notice and started asking me random fitness questions. A large part of my friends and co-workers are very busy corporate businesspeople, new parents like myself and scientists who had little to no formal training ever. This demographic felt they were all too busy to get in serious shape, but I was a glaring example of how it could be done. So, they started wanting me to give them my workout plans so they could follow what I was doing to see results. However, those friends didn’t show much progress and I quickly realized they didn’t understand some of the basic lifts and principals or how to stay on a meal plan or even what “healthy” eating was. Just giving them names of exercises, splits, reps and sets wasn’t working for almost all of them

I also had some friends come with me to the gym and we would work out “together” but it quickly became me teaching most of the session and talking them through meal plans, macros, supplements and numerous other fitness concepts. Those that worked out with me and spent time getting to ask questions did much better in their progress and it became obvious that the “coaching” was the X factor for most of my friends to get in the shape they wanted.

After seeing the progress made by the friends that worked out with me (and those friends offering to pay me for more training sessions) it all just clicked together to start a personal training business.


What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

In general, most of my day is occupied by my full-time career as Director of Business Development at a pharmaceutical company. Then my 3-year-old twin boys take about another good part of my time, along with my own training and then after all of that I focus on personal training. Right now, business has changed with the COVID-19 pandemic and most of the work is done via plans online and Zoom calls with clients trying to find at home version of exercises. Before the pandemic I would spend an extra hour or two before or after my own gym session to train a client or two but never doing more than two clients a day and only a few days a week as well.

For me my late evenings or time doing cardio is used to work on custom plans for clients and I also limit the number of people I work with at any given time. Realizing my personal limits to not over commit and ensure I can deliver a high-quality product to each client has been one of the most important things I have learned to maintain a consistent productivity level along with balance in my life.


How do you bring ideas to life?

I first think about the idea as something that is a work in progress and not a final fully baked thing in the beginning allowing creative space to change and adapt. This also helps prevent myself from getting emotionally attached to something if it doesn’t really end up being the best idea.

It’s essential to set a clear realistic goal on what the idea is trying to achieve. Don’t right of the gate expect millions of dollars, be real and set achievable near-term goals to measure success by. Of course, don’t forgot to still dream big and have longer term goals but near-term goals help distinguish the good ideas from the bad. Also utilize market data and research any other relevant information that is out there to help base your goals.

Once you have these clear end goals set, consider how operationally you will achieve these on time and in budget. At the heart of any implementation process should be the project’s goals, and it is essential to remember this when you start looking at how your idea will work operationally.

Stay focused and use your time wisely to get the most impact. For example, I hired multiple people for tasks I am not an expert at like, logo design, website, apps and other tech heavy areas that I found did the job much quicker and was fairly in expensive after doing a little searching on places like Fiverr.


What’s one trend that excites you?

I really am excited about the number of plant-based protein options becoming available and the growing number of people interested in eating less meat. As a bodybuilder protein is king and animal protein is the king of kings. However, as a scientist I also know that heavy sustained meat consumption can have several negative impacts on overall health especially later in life. So, finding ways to limit the amount of animal protein for plant based is an exciting new area for me to work into my programs. I am not a vegan myself, but I have worked with several and, in that process, have picked up new plant-based protein substitutes for some of my own meals to create a more balanced protein intake.


What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I apply a very scientific process to almost everything I do. So generally, that means lots of planning and working things out mentally and even on paper step by step before implementing the process or idea. It helps organize my thoughts and gives me a better framework and structure to work off when I get interrupted by life and then can easily jump back in the next day.

This also means looking at data to help make decisions and determining next steps. This could be the something obvious like sales or # of visitors to a site but also something less empirical like reviewing customer feedback collectively then plotting it to give a visual


What advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t be afraid to try and fail. When you are young and don’t have as many obligations it’s the time to be riskier and give something a go. Also, at the same time be realistic if something is not shaping out to be going well move on and don’t beat yourself about and try the next thing!


Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

That having a side business along with a family and career is freeing in its own way. Most people think I am crazy for adding something extra to my already busy life but I think it actually helps balance me.

I spend my day answering to a boss/company and an evening focused on kids and their schedules so having something of my own to run is exciting. I get to make the decisions, drive the timelines/goals and get to be creative. It’s a nice way to spend time on something I am passionate about and get to feel good about doing while creating extra income.


As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I plan my entire workday out either the night before or first thing in the morning. This means on top of my daily meetings I book time for the gym, daycare pickup/drop off times, times to work on project A or B and even add time to do things for fun like motorcycle riding. I then share this calendar with my wife and this helps us both know when we each have time for ourselves, who needs to watch the kids when and lets us manage work, family life and our personal time to ensure we both get a better balance of all three.


What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

With personal training the best advertisement one can do is promote their own physique. Doing this via social media is one way many people can do this, but it can get quite competitive and easy to get lost in the noise of it all. So, for me I found doing things in person and word of mouth drove more business than social media. One caveat is my goal was to target locally and focus on people who can afford higher end personal training. Instagram for example had good engagement for a while but didn’t convert to many businesses inquires.

However doing more outdoor activities with friends and co workers where I would be in a tank top or board shorts would elicit conversation about working out, especially those who knew me only a few years ago when I was just a skinny guy and answer questions for them. I would give them advice and offer free help, this almost always turned into training them as a client in short order and they would then tell friends about me from there and it grew that way.


What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

My first side business I started was an underwater photography company where I could combine my love of freediving with photography. It was a simple idea, but I tried to grow the business too fast and in too many directions at the same time. In the process of building my brand I created a logo I really liked and started making some freediving apparel as well with it. It was not a cohesive idea, but I got passionate about the apparel part and lost sight of the base business and in the end all of it never really took off. My big take away there was getting sidetracked down a path that didn’t match my primary business model and let it run to far astray. In doing so it took away from time building the main business and eventually burned me out by creating a confusing brand with products that didn’t seem cohesive.


What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I would love to see someone take up a meal delivery service that is actually meant for bodybuilding, far too many exist that claim to be for “weight loss” or “healthy” however that is crazy to me as each person is different. A 250lb guy looking to lose weight and a 150lb guy with same goal cannot be on the same meal system. It must be based on their individual macros/calories for the day. So, if you want to build muscle you need X grams of proteins, carbs and fat for the day vs losing weight and for different body size, age and sex. So, a macro based meal delivery plan that is customized to your body would be a game changer in the fitness world. This would require someone with some culinary skills as well to ensure the food actually tasted good, but the concept would help so many stay on track with the right nutrition plan because it would eliminate the need for meal prepping and tracking.


What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

A new HD Logitech webcam was something I recently purchased and so happy I did! In the world of remote everything now having a high-quality camera for Zoom makes a huge difference. I can meet with clients face to face and have it look nice and high quality with out spending much on expensive equipment. Its also small enough that’s its easy to pack with me and use on my laptop wherever I am and can host a quality meeting with my clients any time anywhere.


What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

A service I mentioned earlier called Fiverr has been a tremendous tool to enable me to be much more productive and efficient than ever. I have basic computer skills so building a new website and making it mobile compatible was taking me a long time and still not coming out the way I wanted. So, getting someone who can do it quickly and for relatively cheap was completely worth it. No one can be an expert at everything so recognize where you add value and where you can use help is really important and sites like Fiverr allow you to quickly hire someone for an individual task, like logo creation or marking materials, even social media account managers.


What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

There are several great books to read on entrepreneurship but one that resonated most with me was “Crush It” by Gary Vaynerchuk. Essential the premises it take something you love doing and turn it into a business via the internet. Along the way he focusses on things like work hard. Work a lot. Work 16 hours a day every day. Also, a large focus on enjoy what you are doing, if it’s a passion it won’t seem like work. The other big message I liked was about being patient and adaptable – and the result will come. So it might not be in a few months or even a year, but rather in a few years. But if you’re good at what you’re doing, and you do it a lot, you are guaranteed to succeed.


What is your favorite quote?

I think a quote that has meaning for me in so many aspects of my life come from an unlikely place… or maybe not for some like me, Mr. Miyagi in Karate Kid. He is taking about Daniel committing to karate and you can just do it halfway, if you want to succeed full commitment is necessary: “Walk on road, hm? Walk left side, safe. Walk right side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later, get squish just like grape. Here, karate, same thing. Either you karate do “yes”, or karate do “no”. You karate do “guess so”, squish just like grape. Understand?”


Key Learnings:

  • What ever business you chose to create make sure you are passionate about it. If you are only getting into something for the money it can be hard to keep on track and make the sacrifices necessary to build it to its full potential. If you are passionate about the idea doing the long hours of work won’t seem so tough and it will likely be more fulfilling when you do start turning a profit.

  • Don’t try to do everything in the business yourself, utilize gig-based sites or hire friends/consultants for tasks/projects. This will allow you to focus on what you do best and not spend countless hours learning how to do something like web design that is likely not the best use of your time. If you can try to be honest about what can be outsourced and what really needs your full attention. This will help grow your business faster and likely have a higher quality finished product by letting others who might be more experienced in some aspect of the business use their expertise and shape it into the best possible product.

  • Get organized and plan out what needs to get done. Too often we end up focusing on things we like the most or obsessing over minor details of an aesthetic of something while losing time advancing the overall business plan. Build time for completing things and organize your approach on how to execute something. Going full steam ahead with no plan often results in lots of small mistakes/errors along the way that can snowball into a large issue down the road.