Early bird
tickets
available now!
Life lessons
Martin Seibold

The CEO of LifeFit Group tells Kath Hudson how the pressures of the pandemic tested him and his team to the limit, while customer support turned out to be an unexpected and invaluable lifeline


In 2012 I was appointed to handle the restructure and sale of Fitness First in the UK. It was an old-fashioned mid-market brand that had been built in the 90s to the standard of the 70s, so as soon as the low cost operators came in, it lost market share.

That period was very challenging: we had to dust off the old Fitness First, starting with how the teams worked and then the whole look and feel of the brand. But it wasn’t stressful, because we had a huge investment programme, successful teams and members who liked the product, which meant there was a lot of excitement.

It was a fantastic period and I would do it over again.

In 2017 I moved to Fitness First Germany, which was experiencing a lot of self-created troubles. We took the appropriate learnings from the UK and strategically invested in and repositioned the company, founding the LifeFit group in 2019 – a multi-market segment platform with a number of brands, including Fitness First, Elbgym and Smile X at the beginning. These were followed by brands such as Barry’s and Xponential’s Club Pilates.

But the pandemic stopped our ambitious expansion plans in their tracks, and the last three years have been by far the most challenging of my career on many levels: people, cash position, process transformation, as well as on a personal level.

With more than 20 years’ experience in the international fitness market, I’ve experienced many ups and downs, but none have been as bad as the pandemic. We didn’t know what we were dealing with and hadn’t been trained for it.

Thanks to my international connections we had some warning about what was coming when the coronavirus hit, so we made plans and got off to a good start, but the length of the pandemic meant the challenges just kept on coming, which put an enormous strain on everyone.

It felt as though I was in crisis mode 24/7, dealing with the uncertainty of how long the lockdowns would last and responding to the regulation changes against the backdrop of the huge disruption in society itself. I was concerned about the health effects on co-workers, friends and family.

A time to invest
When our operating business was at a standstill we used the time to invest in our clubs and drive digitisation forward across the business. This led to a decisive leap forward in the development of our brands and fortunately we’re now benefiting from this investment, with membership numbers now back above pre-COVID levels.

I learned that every crisis helps you to grow personally and from every crisis a learning or even something positive can be drawn. I was reminded about how important teams are: the combined resilience of our teams helped us to succeed. I also discovered that our customers are more loyal than I imagined, so I wish I’d worried less.

It made me appreciate the importance of defining small challenges and keeping personal fitness levels high. I allowed myself to get very unfit and had to challenge myself to do a family relay Ironman to come back strong.

All senior operators had the same experience as me. Looking around our colleagues in Germany, it’s obvious who had a brilliant product and good market position before COVID, as they are fine now, while those who didn’t invest during the pandemic are experiencing problems.

The rebound has been strong in Germany, which means we’re still adding members. We haven’t experienced the inflation issue which the UK is dealing with and individual wealth tends to be higher in Germany so there are more households that can stomach five to 10 per cent inflation.

The combined resilience of the teams helped the company survive the pandemic Credit: photo: LifeFit Group
German consumers have been loyal to LifeFit Group Credit: photo: LifeFit Group
LifeFit has the Barry’s master franchise for the region Credit: photo: LifeFit Group / Pascal Rohe
Fitness First Black is the premium brand in Germany Credit: photo: LifeFit Group / Pascal Rohe
 


CONTACT US

Leisure Media
Tel: +44 (0)1462 431385

©Cybertrek 2024

ABOUT LEISURE MEDIA
LEISURE MEDIA MAGAZINES
LEISURE MEDIA HANDBOOKS
LEISURE MEDIA WEBSITES
LEISURE MEDIA PRODUCT SEARCH
PRINT SUBSCRIPTIONS
FREE DIGITAL SUBSCRIPTIONS
 
25 Jul 2024 Leisure Management: daily news and jobs
 
 
HOME
JOBS
NEWS
FEATURES
PRODUCTS
FREE DIGITAL SUBSCRIPTION
PRINT SUBSCRIPTION
ADVERTISE
CONTACT US
Sign up for FREE ezine

Features List



SELECTED ISSUE
Health Club Management
2023 issue 9

View issue contents

Leisure Management - Martin Seibold

Life lessons

Martin Seibold


The CEO of LifeFit Group tells Kath Hudson how the pressures of the pandemic tested him and his team to the limit, while customer support turned out to be an unexpected and invaluable lifeline

Martin Seibold is CEO of LifeFit Group photo: LifeFit Group
The combined resilience of the teams helped the company survive the pandemic photo: LifeFit Group
German consumers have been loyal to LifeFit Group photo: LifeFit Group
LifeFit has the Barry’s master franchise for the region photo: LifeFit Group / Pascal Rohe
Fitness First Black is the premium brand in Germany photo: LifeFit Group / Pascal Rohe

In 2012 I was appointed to handle the restructure and sale of Fitness First in the UK. It was an old-fashioned mid-market brand that had been built in the 90s to the standard of the 70s, so as soon as the low cost operators came in, it lost market share.

That period was very challenging: we had to dust off the old Fitness First, starting with how the teams worked and then the whole look and feel of the brand. But it wasn’t stressful, because we had a huge investment programme, successful teams and members who liked the product, which meant there was a lot of excitement.

It was a fantastic period and I would do it over again.

In 2017 I moved to Fitness First Germany, which was experiencing a lot of self-created troubles. We took the appropriate learnings from the UK and strategically invested in and repositioned the company, founding the LifeFit group in 2019 – a multi-market segment platform with a number of brands, including Fitness First, Elbgym and Smile X at the beginning. These were followed by brands such as Barry’s and Xponential’s Club Pilates.

But the pandemic stopped our ambitious expansion plans in their tracks, and the last three years have been by far the most challenging of my career on many levels: people, cash position, process transformation, as well as on a personal level.

With more than 20 years’ experience in the international fitness market, I’ve experienced many ups and downs, but none have been as bad as the pandemic. We didn’t know what we were dealing with and hadn’t been trained for it.

Thanks to my international connections we had some warning about what was coming when the coronavirus hit, so we made plans and got off to a good start, but the length of the pandemic meant the challenges just kept on coming, which put an enormous strain on everyone.

It felt as though I was in crisis mode 24/7, dealing with the uncertainty of how long the lockdowns would last and responding to the regulation changes against the backdrop of the huge disruption in society itself. I was concerned about the health effects on co-workers, friends and family.

A time to invest
When our operating business was at a standstill we used the time to invest in our clubs and drive digitisation forward across the business. This led to a decisive leap forward in the development of our brands and fortunately we’re now benefiting from this investment, with membership numbers now back above pre-COVID levels.

I learned that every crisis helps you to grow personally and from every crisis a learning or even something positive can be drawn. I was reminded about how important teams are: the combined resilience of our teams helped us to succeed. I also discovered that our customers are more loyal than I imagined, so I wish I’d worried less.

It made me appreciate the importance of defining small challenges and keeping personal fitness levels high. I allowed myself to get very unfit and had to challenge myself to do a family relay Ironman to come back strong.

All senior operators had the same experience as me. Looking around our colleagues in Germany, it’s obvious who had a brilliant product and good market position before COVID, as they are fine now, while those who didn’t invest during the pandemic are experiencing problems.

The rebound has been strong in Germany, which means we’re still adding members. We haven’t experienced the inflation issue which the UK is dealing with and individual wealth tends to be higher in Germany so there are more households that can stomach five to 10 per cent inflation.


Originally published in Health Club Management 2023 issue 9

Published by Leisure Media Tel: +44 (0)1462 431385 | Contact us | About us | © Cybertrek Ltd