You’re about to conclude your term as chair of IHRSA’s board of directors. What can you tell us about the past year?
The year has gone very fast, but it’s provided a tremendous opportunity for me to learn, grow and connect with others to better understand the needs of our industry and the people we serve. My position, as the regional director of community services for EXOS/MediFit, is certainly enlightening, but the IHRSA role has broadened my global perspective.
Talented, passionate people are spreading our industry’s benefits across the globe, but each market around the world is unique, with its own nuances, challenges and opportunities. Some cultures employ a more conservative, traditional way of thinking while others, anxious to be first, eagerly embrace innovation and change. For example, the boutique model is exploding in Europe.
No matter the location, culture or business models involved, industry leaders on every continent are predicting growth. However, each market does so at a pace and with a rhythm all of its own.
What, in your opinion, is the most dramatic industry change that’s taken place during your tenure?
I can think of several, including the rapid growth of the studio, boutique and niche models, and the continued proliferation of low-cost fitness facilities.
The emergence of offerings that are positioned as ‘premium low-cost’ warrants some serious study to determine the long-term opportunity and market impact they may present.
In addition, the health and fitness market’s obvious appetite for new technology suggests traditional club models are at risk if they fail to study what works and adapt to address consumers’ changing needs and expectations.
And what hasn’t changed in that time – something you’d like to have seen more progress on?
Just one? Well, as an industry, we still haven’t moved the needle on obesity or physical inactivity – both global issues. I’d implore each IHRSA member to look in the mirror and ask themselves: Why? What haven’t we tried? What could we do better? What could we do together? I’d further urge them to consider the impact it would have – on global health, as well as our industry’s bottom line – if we could bring even 1 per cent of the world’s inactive population into our clubs.
Do you see technology as a threat or an opportunity?
Disruption is hard evidence that a consumer need or desire is being met by a process, product or service – a solution – that wasn’t generally available before. In the case of our industry, it has a lot to do with the access, information and convenience afforded by virtual connectivity.
The key question, though, is why are consumers so interested in virtual access, data, tracking, cloud-community participation and so on? What are they craving? And beyond that, how can clubs satisfy this need via their membership experience in a positive and productive way? We should also ask what experiences clubs can provide that can never be replaced or replicated by technology alone.
Find the answers to these questions and you’ll create a unique and engaging experience – one that will have a lasting impact – for your members.
EXOS/MediFit is a global fitness and wellness management company that works in spheres like corporate wellness. What makes a successful corporate programme?
Let’s be honest: lots of corporate fitness and wellness strategies haven’t enjoyed long-term success. Today, the data is showing that it’s not just one thing that makes a difference. Rather, success requires a layered, multi-faceted approach – one that’s supported by a culture with aligned values, and one that produces measurable and sustainable results.
We’ve also discovered that reward systems that are balanced between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, and buttressed by environmental and social support, produce better outcomes than ones that rely solely on financial incentives.
It’s also important to offer the programming and physical environment that provide the motivation, inspiration and convenience for employees to work out at work, as well as helping them remain connected to achieving their goals even when they’re not at work.
What advice would you offer club operators wanting to tackle the corporate sector?
Keep in mind that what works in a traditional health club setting may not translate seamlessly to a corporate environment. You need to do your homework to determine if you’re equipped to produce the value and outcomes that are expected in an on-site facility, and in a way that’s scalable.
Also, ask yourself if pursuing corporate fitness opportunities will really enhance or detract from your core business – and be honest in your response.
Managing clubs requires you to focus on balancing a number of critical factors, including the member experience, the team members’ roles in providing it, the sustainability of the experience, and the club’s unique relationship with the community.
As a management company, though, we function as a partner. We focus on each of our partners’ ‘care-abouts’, and on providing them with unique value, solutions and efficiencies. Sometimes this resembles a more traditional club model, but sometimes we deliver value via programmes or technology. We also focus on the scalability of our solutions and resources in order to produce a broader, sustainable impact.
Finally, what advice would you like to offer the next chair of IHRSA?
My advice would be to continue to challenge the thinking of the leaders of our industry and of the association. Think bigger. Think differently. And, when we know better... do better!
A longer version of this article appears in the April 2016 edition of IHRSA’s CBI magazine.