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How to Start and Manage Corporate Wellness Programs

By Nan de Bruin

Published 29 June 2021

In this episode of FitNation Lunch and Learn we are joined by Tim Borys, CEO of FRESH! Wellness Groups. He discusses with host Alex von Hagen how gym owners can start and manage corporate fitness models. Other topics include workplace wellness trends, how gyms can effectively start, scale, and manage corporate fitness programs, and how to create engaging health routines for traditional non-gym users in the workplace.

For in-depth information on these topics and more of Tim’s incredibly valuable insights, watch the full episode below:

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Alex von Hagen: Welcome everybody. We are back for yet another episode of Fit Nation Lunch and Learn. We want to thank everyone for taking the time to join us. On today’s show, we have a topic that spurred a lot of interest from many of our listeners. So we’ve invited someone who’s very qualified to speak on it. The topic is Corporate Wellness, and that speaker would be Canada-based Tim Borys. So Tim is the CEO of the FRESH! Wellness Group. He helps executive leaders ignite their personal and organizational potential and is also the creator of the Working Well Podcast. So today we’ll be discussing workplace wellness trends. How gyms can effectively start, scale and manage corporate fitness programs and how to create engaging health routines for traditional non-gym users in the workplace. So this is a model that is gaining of course a lot of traction because of the pandemic and there is a new opportunity for gym owners to capture that if applied correctly. So Tim, without further ado, thank you for taking the time to join us today.

Tim Borys: It’s my pleasure. It’s great, Alex. And yeah, this is an area that I’m very passionate about, and seeing it grow throughout my career in my own business and it’s something that, as you mentioned, because of the pandemic, there’s so much greater need for this all around. And I think, well with the challenges that the fitness industry has faced over this last year and a bit, if businesses are able to adapt and see this type of market have a huge potential as well to grow and expand.

Alex: A hundred percent agree. And speaking from my day job, where I talk to a lot of gym owners and I talk to a lot of corporate fitness providers, I also see the interest in this and the service level really starting to ramp up as well. So for our listeners, just as some background, maybe you could tell us a little bit about your background, what you do, how long you’ve been involved in the fitness industry.

Introductions

Tim: Yeah. The Cole’s notes or the short version is I’ve been in the industry; I guess over 30 years now. I was a baseball player and coach in high school university. Strength conditioning coach for a national baseball institute here in Canada. I worked with a lot of high-end athletes and then got into the fitness industry after that because I realized that especially 30 years ago, the market for training elite high-end athletes was pretty limited. I think there are a few more opportunities out there now, and it’s something that companies are willing to pay for, businesses are willing to pay for that. But at the time, this is back in the day of pre-internet we’ll call it, I’m that old, yes and not older than the internet, but older than everyone who usually uses it on a regular basis.

Alex: Got you.

Tim: And yeah, I was a personal trainer then started my own business and I have few different divisions of the business now. I run private personal training studios. We do mostly corporate-managed facilities. So out of that corporate-managed facility comes the fitness center designing and consulting as well as the workplace health and wellness consulting. And again, that stems all from the background in the fitness industry. A lot of clients that I was working with as a personal trainer were corporate executives and leaders in companies. And they would come in and say, “Oh, I hate my job.” And miserable. And they would want to work out hard, but I realized that what they were doing from, I’d like to say nine to five, but it was usually about seven till seven. It was basically killing them literally and figuratively from a physical standpoint, from a mental standpoint.

So a big part of my career shifted in that sense, as I realized that I came up with what I call the 165-hour rule is, I usually saw people about three hours a week. And I’m like, if that’s the only three hours I see them, my biggest benefit can be trying to change the other 165 because if I gave them the best session in the world, and then they went home and stayed up till three in the morning and ate McDonald’s and were stressed out and not moving their body and not doing their homework. The next time I saw them, they’d be in a worse situation than when I saw them the last time. So that philosophy, that approach really worked with the clients I was seeing. But I also started to get invited to companies. These executives would say, “Hey, can you come and talk to my leadership team? Hey, can you come in talk to my employees, put on a seminar or workshop?”

And originally it was just lunch and learns and I’d come in and run like a boot camp or fitness challenge out of a company. But then what I started to see is that the people that are coming out are those that are generally fit and healthy already. It’s the people that we see in the gym are the people that want to go to the gym and that’s probably 10% of the population. There is a massive amount of other people that say, “I hate the gym. I would never step foot in a gym.” And as a gym owner, that’s not necessarily a good thing. We want to find a way to attract. Those are the people that need our services the most. So we have to find a different way to approach and I guess, attract those people. And it’s not necessarily the typical gym environment that attracts them and that’s where workplace wellness can really make a big difference and come in handy.

Alex: Nice. Great. And tell us a little bit about the mission that you guys have that FRESH! Wellness Group right now.

The Mission of FRESH! Wellness Group

Tim: Yeah. To put it simply, I believe life is awesome and it’s packed with potential yet a lot of people don’t see that. I mentioned the people coming to work, you know, they’re like zombies. They hate their job every day. They get up and they do the same thing every day and they’re not enjoying it. Very few people are living an awesome life and living into what they believe they can do and that’s something that I saw early in my career. Well, personally myself as an athlete, when I took care of myself and was really training well and working hard, I could see the huge increase in mental capacity, physical capacity, the happiness level, what it was able to do in all other areas of life and that was something that I really worked hard to provide clients that experience. So, yeah, it’s so much more than sets and reps. And I think a lot of fitness professionals have a very narrow approach to what they do and aren’t seeing the really huge power and potential that they can offer people by doing training and coaching in an effective way.

Alex: Nice. All right. And of course, one of the main topics that we have today is really talking about your experience and the work you’re doing right now, and then threading that into workplace wellness. So taking kind of a helicopter approach to start with workplace wellness, to begin with, talk to us about workplace wellness and corporate health pre-pandemic. Like what did that look like before we really dive into how that’s changing today?

How Workplace Wellness looked Pre-Pandemic?

Tim: Yeah, I think it varies a lot from company to company. It also varies between regions of the world. What is normal in Europe is not always normal in North America. Canada and the US are different. And you go to other countries in Asia or Australia, New Zealand, it’s different all over the world. At the base level, we know that people perform better when they’re healthier, happier, and more fit. They just do. That’s like a universal constant. I’ve yet to find someone that didn’t perform as well when they were healthier, happier, and fit. So people are people and when you can help employees in an organization elevate their performance from the mental, the physical, and also the organizational side, companies perform better. And that’s on the basis of workplace wellness. That’s why companies invest in it. That’s why employees even from, you know, there’s a saying that I think Brian Tracy use, “You’re the CEO of your own personal services company.” Even if you’re a solopreneur or you’re in reception at a massive multinational, the fact is you are in control of your own performance and so employees have to take some of that on themselves. But companies also need to understand that people need some help, otherwise everyone would be doing it and that’s where fitness professionals and coaches can come in.

So as far as what did that look like pre-pandemic, I see it more of a nice to have, or a smattering of services, and a lot of companies say, “Oh, we have a wellness program. We do this. We do a Stop Smoking Seminar and we do a Workplace Wellness Week every year. And, you know, it’s, we have a Stress Management Seminar.” And they equate workplace wellness to this service or this service or this service, or some combination of them. And I think that thankfully, one of the benefits of the pandemic is that it’s changing quickly. Mental health just has been a massive focus this last year. We don’t have to look very far to see the negative impact of that on people’s health, performance, happiness, and at the organizational level, a lot of the chaos that’s happening in companies. And another aspect of that is that I think, well, I know that companies are starting to really understand that people are experiencing this pandemic and to expand that beyond the pandemic situation, experiencing life in very different ways. And that what may work for engaging and helping an executive team be more helpful, it doesn’t necessarily work for line-level workers or people in certain other situations. And so leadership is starting to see, wow, you know what? What’s my situation, isn’t it necessarily someone else’s situation? Being able to see that bigger picture has helped more cater programs and delivery of programs to be more effective for all kinds of people and groups throughout organizations.

Alex: Nice. And I know one of the things that we talked about as well as part of these changing tides is some of the common aspects of wellness. I think we had talked about eight of them prior. Do you want to expand on that a little bit?

Common Aspects of Wellness

Tim: Yeah. It’s again, because most companies, and actually I’d hazard a guess to say most fitness providers view wellness through a much narrower lens.

Alex: Like checkbox. Yeah.

Tim: Yeah. It’s like, “Oh, we’ve done this.” And, okay, great. The pandemic has really opened up the fact that helps people be aware that there are more aspects. So there are eight sorts of really common ones and sometimes I’ve seen up to 14 or 15 if you take some of these and break them up a little bit more. I’ve also seen people say four or five and they just combine a couple of them together. I know at FRESH that we have our four pillars of performance. Mindset, habits, movement, and fuel are our four pillars of personal performance and then compass most of these. But you know, if we’re looking at the specific aspects of workplace wellness and our wellness in general actually, there’s a physical, emotional, spiritual, and that’s where I call it the mindset side the environmental, financial, social, and occupational. While all of these areas are not necessarily going to be under everyone’s scope to provide services, it’s important to understand that those are aspects of wellness and so someone might be rocking it in certain areas, but if they’re really struggling in one that can pull down their performance level in other areas. We won’t go into all the different aspects.

The physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, social are pretty well-known I guess you would say. Those are the more common ones. The environmental and the occupational are a little bit different in the sense of environment is the physical office environment. If you’re working in a building with no light or really fake lights and no natural light, poor air circulation, off-gassing from certain chemicals in the building, that’s going to have a negative impact on your health and your wellbeing, your health, happiness, your performance. So if we look at the lead building boom, now people are building structures with more, I guess, wellness-oriented green spaces, natural light, better airflow, collaboration in spaces, which help with the social, emotional, the physical aspects of wellness. So it’s great to see those things happening. On the occupational side, that’s having a purpose and a passion at work, and being able to feel that you’re fulfilling some type of important role or accomplishing something at work. Those are really important things that I think a lot of people don’t think about it from a wellness standpoint. It’s like show up, do your work, get your paycheck, go home.

Alex: Yeah.

Tim: And especially in the knowledge economy, there’s so much more tied to our personal passion and productivity. And that’s something that, again, a lot of people, especially if you’re a gym owner looking for a corporate contract, you’re like, I just want to get people into my gym and work out. But having an understanding of these aspects of wellness allows you to speak differently to the corporate decision-makers that are going to be paying you to provide this service. You need to be able to show you have value because gyms are a dime a dozen. They’re all over the place. From the outside, the onlooker, they all provide pretty much the same service. If you’re just a general membership gym, you’re renting space, renting access to equipment for a monthly fee and how is that different than the person down the road? And what’s that going to benefit from the employees? What if they already have a gym space in their office? How do you say, well? They’re like, “Well, employees can use this for free. Why would I have a corporate membership?” So being able to speak to those things and say, “Hey, you know what? I can do this, this, and this to help with the wellness of your employees.” That’s something they’re not getting from what’s going on at your corporate gym.

Alex: Yeah. I got you. To go back to something that piqued my interest when you mentioned the environmental aspects. I think it’s so true. I mean take lighting, for example, something I experienced myself. Bad lighting in an office led to eyestrain, right and eye strain leads to headaches, which makes me not want to work. So now there’s this big market, of course, for blue light filtering glasses. But you just think of this like, cause-effect string that would be caused by something pretty standard as something like lighting or just the general environment of the office. And so, yeah, I think you’re exactly right. Being able to communicate to leaders about how these external things will impact their bottom line, that’s how you can really start to turn the wheel and turn the tide of these conversations towards the importance of corporate health. Right?

Tim: Yeah. And it’s thinking beyond the gym. And if I go back to that 165-hour rule, if your members spend three hours a week in your facility, what are they doing the other 165? That’s your opportunity to create results. It’s not the three hours they spend in the gym.

Alex: Yeah.

Tim: And so if you can transform those other 165, you can write yourself a blank check.

Alex: Yeah. Yeah. It’s foundational work, isn’t it? It’s not drywall stuff. Yeah.

Tim: Yeah. I run workshops and coaching for other trainers as well and that’s one of the biggest things I had tried to help them understand is that fitness is such a small aspect of it. In order of importance, those four pillars of performance that I mentioned, mindset’s by far the most important, then habits, then movement, and then fuel. And I call it a movement because it’s beyond exercise or fitness. There’s a whole thing called the movement, spectrum. Movement, activity, exercise, fitness, and performance and it has to go through that range too. Most people try and go to the gym and get fit instead of moving properly. And that movement can be an aspect of your habits, but if your mindset’s not in the right place and you don’t have the right habits in place, fitness and nutrition are always going to be a struggle. And I have clients, how many gym owners have sat in front of someone that says, “I want to lose 10 pounds.” I’m like, if you haven’t, you probably not in the fitness industry because that’s the most common thing that people say and I’ll say, “Okay, why? Why 10 pounds?” I’m like, “I could cut off an arm and you’ll be 10 pounds lighter. How’s that going to help you?”

Alex: Yeah.

Tim: And I’ll be like, “And you know that regular exercise and healthy eating are important to accomplish that goal, right?” And they’re like, “Yeah.” I’m like, “Why aren’t you doing it?” So like, they already know what they need to do. They probably even know how to do it. They just aren’t doing it. That tells me more fitness and nutrition isn’t going to solve the problem. They need a mindset shift and they need better habits. So as a fitness professional, I’m not doing my job if I haven’t helped them shift those things. Because if my mindset just gets them in the gym, kick their butt, make them sweat, burn a few calories, make them feel sore and then I see them again in a couple of days, I’m not doing my job because…

Alex: You’re not addressing the root.

Tim: Yeah, exactly. And yet I’d say 90 plus percent of the fitness industry, that’s their approach. Wait for them to come into the gym, give them a kickass workout and send them home. And what we found in my company is that the more we focused on the mindset and the habits, the more we became coaches versus trainers, and we were helping them overcome some of those challenges. And the results came way more effectively than if we just focused on fitness. People got fit, they lost weight, but we weren’t focusing as much on the workouts. And that’s something that was a really transformational shift in my career many years ago. And I see it happening more and more now, which is great. Yeah. But I still think that those companies that are able to shift and adapt to that will see outsized returns compared to those that continue to try and follow the traditional model.

Alex: Right. Nice.

Tim: And workplace wellness fits exactly into that.

Alex: Yeah. And I think from workplace wellness, as we’ve talked about already, previously companies saw it as they’re either ticking the checkbox. Hey, we gave you a smoking webinar or seminar as you know, we did our part to help you be healthier. In that sense, it was considered maybe kind of a perk, like something a little bit extra on the side but now it seems to be shifting more towards a benefit, something that is standard and really important. How do you feel we get or how do we continue to prioritize large corporates to make that shift in their own thinking from perk to benefit?

How do we continue to prioritize large corporates to make that shift in their own thinking from perk to benefit?

Tim: Yeah. And we talked about mindset shift and the big part of that mindset shift is leadership and executives at the company, seeing things differently. That is not going to happen necessarily on his own or as quickly as we want. So as fitness professionals and wellness professionals, it’s our goal or our role to help executives see that differently. The pandemic is a great opportunity for us to continue accelerating that shift in mindset. We just have to look at the last year companies are allocating more for mental health coverage. Telemedicine has exploded. With people working from home, they’re looking at their benefits plans and how they apply those benefits. And this is a great opportunity for us to come in and say, “Yeah, we can help you with this, this or this aspect.” And be a support system for other aspects that maybe are outside of the scope.

So I see getting it prioritized is going to involve a bit more of the shift from treating symptoms to preventative and we’re really in the fitness industry are we can treat symptoms and we’re going to get people coming in with tight hip flexors or back pain and we can help with that for sure. But the huge benefit of what we provide is on the preventative side and the performance-based side. We’ve already got an extensive medical system that deals with the problems and the challenges. Our goal is to help not use that system as much, or at least I guess, relieve the load on that system and that’s something more people understand on the pandemic. A lot of these lockdowns have been to ease the strain on the medical system. So if we can say, “Hey, you know what? We’re here to help people avoid getting into that situation in the first place.” We’re off on a much better footing or [crosstalk 26:01] than we could be.

Alex: Absolutely. I mean there are other pandemics happening than coronavirus, but coronavirus is the one that of course was the most urgent and pressing one in the past year. But it’s actually a really poignant example. Like it was all about making sure that we relieve the load on the hospitals. However, why not rethink that same positioning but for things like obesity and things like bad food habits because eventually, that’s going to also start really piling up and increase the strain just as you say. I think that’s a really, really good example that hopefully more people do start to really understand and wrap their head around because of the events of the past year.

Tim: Totally. And I don’t know what the stats are like in Europe, but in Canada and the US, 80% or four out of the top five causes of death are preventable causes.

Alex: Yeah. I would not be surprised to find it’s pretty on par.

Tim: Yeah. We’d look at heart disease and stroke and a large percentage of cancers are preventable from lifestyle changes, diabetes, you know, the list goes on.

Alex: Yeah, it does.

Tim: Yeah. And those are all preventable based on lifestyle choices. We have so many different, there are multiple billion-dollar industries built around treating those symptoms and everyone has their pill or their potion, or their special shortcut to try and do that, I guess. But yeah people, as a fitness industry, we want to try and package it in a way that is providing a viable solution and it’s fun and engaging. And there are lots of ways to do that, but that’s not something that’s being promoted as much.

Alex: Yeah. Potentially a good segue then, because we’ve acknowledged already that corporate wellness plans, they’re going to vary not only from region to region, but from company to company, but then also from potentially even the title of that person at that company, right. So how they can actually get the benefits from it, from your perspective, like what corporate wellness plans do you see that actually start to have an impact on the people who were taking part in it?

Corporate Wellness Plans That Have an Impact

Tim: Yeah. The ones that are based on strategy. I would say is first it’s that mindset about how they’re approached. If the executive sees it as just a perk or it’s like some random service here and there, it’s not going to be a part of the company culture. So we try and say there is sort of four things that we want each workplace wellness program to have. Executive buy-in is a big one. A strategy that just based on the company, needs their values, the key pain points to that company. Those are going to be different for every organization, but there needs to be a strategy in place. A plan to implement that strategy and then some type of metrics to measure along the way. And ideally, those metrics map back to some type of executive accountability. Who is sitting at the executive table has a KPI based around the performance of their employees. Right now…

Alex: Who’s got the [crosstalk29:38].

Tim: Yeah. I’d say it’s less than 1% of executives actually have some type of financial accountability for employee performance and health.

Alex: Yeah. And typically, who would that be? I mean, executive, so that would be a chief operations officer or a chief HR officer of course will be someone there. But like, who else is someone who, if I’m a gym owner and I want to make sure that I can get this program to be successfully adopted who should I be targeting in a company to make sure that they have the high-level buy-in?

Who should I be targeting in a company to make sure that they have the high-level buy-in?

Tim: And yeah, VPs or C-level executives are the key people that are going to make the decisions and have the power to allocate a budget to that. Because what we’ll find, at least in North America is that there are very few companies that actually have a budget for wellness. They’re already spending a lot of money on “wellness-related things” but they don’t see it. It’s usually the benefits plans and the health care costs and those things. But very rarely do they have a budget for preventative wellness and that’s something that is, if someone in a lower level HR associate may have wellness as part of their portfolio. Usually, they’re running it off the side of their desk as a pet project. They’ve been voluntold to put a wellness program together. Usually, it’s a benefit or total rewards type employee. They’re doing their regular job and then they’ve got this like the little project they’re trying to spin up on the side, yet there’s no budget for it or if they do, it’s like, “Oh, here’s $500 to run.”

Alex: To change everyone’s life. Yeah.

Tim: Yeah, exactly. And it’s like petty cash that gets used and they’re not evaluated in their job based on the performance of the wellness program in most. And no executive is saying, “Okay, have you met your KPIs this quarter on the program? What are the results that we’re seeing out of that?” It’s like, “Did you run it? Yes. Okay. Good.” We can check the box.

Alex: Yeah.

Tim: And that’s something that is, we see in so many companies, even quite large companies that and some have full-time employees to do that. But again, I’ve met, well, we’ve worked with companies that have one to two full-time wellness people, but they struggle because they don’t report to any executive that has accountability for that in their portfolio. So when push comes to shove, there’s no recourse. This gets pushed to the side and if it doesn’t perform well, okay. You can still market it to people from a recruiting standpoint. He says, “Oh yeah, we have this great wellness program. We do this and this and this.” No one knows or cares if it actually produces any results and that’s something that I see is missing. And I think that the next phase of wellness is going to be around, “Hey, let’s actually track what’s going on.”

Alex: Yeah. Let’s quantify this a bit. Yeah. So I would see them too if I’m hearing what you’re saying, so if I’m a gym owner, it’s really all about trying to make sure that whoever I’m speaking to at the company can have some sort of executive, at least aligned to the executive to get that sort of support and be metric-driven. And then trying to establish mutual KPIs with that champion or that internal business partner to make sure that you can successfully launch this.

Tim: Absolutely. And from my experience, anyway, 99% of the corporate contracts that we have signed and the companies that we’ve worked with are from personal connections I’ve made. Networking, clients that I’ve worked with that are executives themselves, or at least have the ear of an executive and can introduce me. We’ve just banged our head against the wall multiple times in terms of marketing directly to executives that don’t know like, or trust us, which it makes sense. You know getting past the gatekeepers to the executive level is really challenging and everyone is trying to do that from a sales standpoint, no matter what your industry is. You know they get…

Alex: Reaching to acquire. Absolutely. Yeah.

Tim: Yeah. And that’s something that is really challenging to do. So my recommendation for fitness professionals is to look at your existing network. Look at the clients you have. When you have your intake forms, ask what their occupation is, find out about their level in the organization. I guarantee if you have more than 50 clients, you could probably unless your market is stay-at-home moms, and even then the fact is if someone’s on maternity leave, they might be an executive. You probably know some C-level or VP executives at companies, talk to them. If you’ve built a rapport with them from the fitness standpoint, talk to them about what things look like in their company. What’s the culture, the mindset around the wellness in their organization? What are the biggest pain points? I guarantee there are ways that you can help them and that is the best for an organization. And once you are in with one organization, you can get referrals to other organizations and build up your portfolio of working with companies at that level.

Alex: Yeah. Like a snowball effect really. Yeah. You see it being applied to a lot of other different people in sales roles and in different industries, it’s exactly that. Like, if you’re doing a good job here, if you can secure that one intro and you do a great job, you can use that to just continue to win more business.

Tim: Yeah.

Alex: Right. The transferring then or transitioning a little bit more towards the business model side of it, then this is as we’ve discussed in one of the show notes that we want to focus on is how to take corporate wellness as a gym operator and turn that into a new revenue stream for your business, a new model that you can start operating. We’ve acknowledged that so many gyms have a corporate membership, but how many gyms do you see are actually going to an onsite premise, for example, to provide corporate services?

How many gyms go to an onsite premise to provide corporate services?

Tim: I’d say, yeah. So the number of gyms that are providing corporate memberships is pretty high, but the ones that are going on site is very low. And even the ones that do go onsite, typically just recreate what they do in the gym. They will go onsite and run a fitness class or they’ll do a personal training or a fat loss challenge or something like that, which is fine. However, if we want to differentiate and we want to look at what we can do for companies to actually create change in the people that need it most, then we want to look at that bigger picture of wellness. At FRESH, we have what we call a Wellness Pyramid and its activity and education at the base of the pyramid. Metrics at the top and strategy tie it all together. So those four pieces need to be in place.

From what I would say, a workplace wellness standpoint, most companies, or most gyms that come in are just looking at the activity side and they’re providing training sessions or classes or challenges or something like that. There’s not as much on the education aspect. There are so many opportunities for lunch and learn, seminars, workshops, things to really help create that change in people and you’re going to attract people that wouldn’t necessarily attend a fitness class, which are the people we want to attract most because if people were coming to your gym on a regular basis, you wouldn’t need to go into the company. And that company allows us access to that 80 to 90% of other people that don’t step foot in the gym on a regular basis.

Alex: Okay.

Tim: The strategy part can be a service in its own right. We started doing fitness center consulting because of the executive clients that came to us from a personal training standpoint and would say, “Hey our company is thinking of building a gym or our company wants to put in a little fitness room for employees. What equipment would we need?” And so we started sitting down with them and consulting and saying, you know what, Hey, how many employees do you have? What’s the demographic? What type of space do you have? What’s your budget? And we would put together a little package for them and some of them were like 250 square foot like file room that they moved some filing cabinets out of. And we would like put some TRXs on the wall or the ceiling and a couple of exercise balls and maybe a set of kettlebells in the corner and that was it. Like their budget was $3,000 for equipment. But what we would then do is go in and teach people how to use that equipment, run workshops, run sessions. So the consulting feeds the other service side of it. And as we got going and doing more of those, that consulting became facility management contracts, where we would run the gym for the employees in that organization, the company would pay us to be there and staff it and provide services and programs.

And once we were doing that, we said, “Hey, that’s great, but we’re still only attracting X percentage of the employee base.” And those are typically the ones that are going to use a gym, whether you have it or not. So what can we do to help the other people outside of that? And that’s where setting up the strategy in the company, helping the company to figure out, “Hey, what are the hot buttons? Where are the red flags in our health plan? What is costing us the most money?” Hey, we have 50% of our population that is overweight or obese, and that’d be actually less than the average. Because I think at least in North America, it’s two out of every three, people that are overweight or obese. So hey, what can we do to our diabetes costs off the charts? How many people are taking insulin every month? And so if we can minimize some of those health impacts, that’s a huge benefit to the company.

Starting to get familiar with things like absenteeism, presentism, lost time, sick days, those numbers, and starting to chat with the company about how you can help make a positive impact on those numbers, that becomes a tangible bottom-line return to the company if you can make changes in those areas. But you can’t make changes in those areas, unless you identify what the red flags are and put a strategy in place, and say, yeah, this is important to the company. Here’s the plan to change that. Here’s our metrics and then you just go back and show them that, Hey, this is what we did last quarter last year.

Alex: So yeah. Really just leveraged data that you guys have been collecting, whether you’re using a platform for it, or whether it’s your own efforts to collect that data, and just make sure that if we’re talking about executives earlier, they are metric-driven people. So if you have the metrics to deliver to them, that’s how you can make sure that this continues to grow and be successful and be in place.

Tim: And most companies are already tracking those metrics. HR tracks a large majority of those. The thing is very few of the executives other than to say, “Wow! Why did our costs go up last quarter or last year?” They’re not tied into those to employee performance. They just think it’s a line item cost to be managed and they’re not seeing it as something that is, “Hey, this is something we can target and minimize, or we can invest in a few key programs that are going to help save hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in larger companies if we can do that. And if you can go into an organization and say, “Hey, you’ve got a thousand employees, I can save you a million dollars every year if we implement this type of program, it might cost you four or 500 grand. Would you pay 400 grand to save over a million?” Most companies would.

Alex: Yeah.

Tim: And so that’s something that when we can go in from that perspective and have those high-level conversations, it makes it that much easier instead of having companies see you as a fitness provider. Oh, well, you know, there’s a gym down the street that does this, and you do this. And while they’re about the same, and you know, we also have a small gym in our facility, so we don’t really need those services. But the big box gyms, they all have corporate memberships and they’ll give discounts and you’re probably not going to compete with them on price. So don’t compete with them on price.

Alex: It could be on service. Yeah.

Tim: Yeah, exactly.

Audience Questions

Alex: Okay. And we have two audience questions. I think we’ve touched on one of them, for sure, and then the other one I’d be interested to get your take on. The first one is from Jason. He’s from the Hormel YMCAs in the US and I think we’re going to circle back to maybe just like a few key bullet points to answer this one. He’s asking how do I get businesses and corporations interested in a collaboration with my fitness club to assist their employees with their health and wellness? So yeah, basically how to promote this interest to make the kind of bite?

How to get businesses and corporations interested in a collaboration with my fitness club to assist their employees with their health and wellness?

Tim: Yeah. And to answer Jason’s question, it’s what is he interested in engaging them on? Is it just corporate memberships to come and go to their gym? Is it in-person services at the company? What services you’re looking to promote are going to depend on how you approach that. I would say what you do is going to vary dramatically based on the service, the type of service, and what region or location you’re in as well. If you’re in a small town, you probably know someone who knows the decision-maker already. Whereas if you’re in a city of millions of people, you might not know them, or you might have to do a bit more legwork to get in touch with the people that make those decisions. Marketing and sales really, I guess, come down to value. You have to be able to show the value of the service you’re offering and have that prospect, see it as something that, yeah, would really benefit what I’m doing. And when you can do that and then have a smooth, I guess, onboarding process or a delivery process that takes the work away from that person makes it easier for them to implement, you’re already setting yourself up for success. So I’d say if it’s just health club memberships at the YMCA, and you’re wanting to provide corporate discounts for volume, then there are certain ways you would look at it there.

But I’m always of the mindset is try and create a blue ocean for yourself. Like, make the service seem so much better and different than what else is out there because as a YMCA, you’re probably competing with lots of other franchise and big-box gyms out there that are doing similar things, again renting space or renting access to equipment. So what is the YMCA doing differently and how are you able to reach the people and demonstrate that to them? Do you have a trial program or a beta program they can test out that will allow you to provide something different?

Alex: Nice. Yeah. Thank you for that. And the other one, kind of more on the pricing side of things. So this is from Josh. He’s has a company called My Fit Crew also based in the US and he’s wondering about recommended pricing structures that businesses like to see.

Recommended Pricing Structures That Businesses Like to See

Tim: I’d say, well pricing is this nebulous thing that at the base level, charge what you can get paid, and obviously that meets your needs. But especially on the workplace wellness side, it varies so much. But even traditional fitness services, like personal training, I know people even in my city, like Calgary is 1.3 million people. I know people charging $30 an hour for personal training. And at FRESH, we charge 120 and I know people who are charging more than that too. So what level of service are you providing? What region are you in? What’s the service type? Some things are more commoditized than others. Even on the group fitness side, you’d think that’s pretty standard, but you go to like one cycle or something like that, or the high-end boutique spinning their yoga studios and they’re $30 a class for drop-in. Other ones are $5 a class. And I know some that the instructors teach at both. So…

Alex: [Inaudible 48:48].

Tim: Yeah. What market are you trying to attract? From the speaking standpoint too, well, workplace wellness is often viewed as again a perk, a supplementary thing. When I do my professional speaking engagements, if I go in as a lunch and learn or workplace wellness speaker, I might get $500 for a session. But if I delivered the same content at a regional sales conference, I may get $5,000 and the same content, the same amount of time, the same amount of time prepping. The value that seen on the sales side is like, oh, well, this information is going to help us sell more, which is going to bring more revenue into the company and so companies are willing to spend much more money on those types of things that they see value for. So how do we create that value? How do we show them the value that can be created from what we’re doing?

And so, as far as pricing, I know when I started in the workplace wellness, I was thinking from a personal trainer standpoint and I would charge what I thought was a decent amount, but at large companies, it didn’t even register on their procurement radar. Like it wasn’t even, like, I’d say, oh, it’s a $3,000 package. And they’re like, “We don’t have a process for anything under 50,000.” They’re like, “That’s petty cash.” And when you’re talking about companies that are tens or hundreds or hundreds of millions or billions of dollars, they’re used to dealing in million+ dollar contracts. And so if we’re going in and saying, yeah, it’s going to be 500 bucks here, and 500 bucks there, it’s almost not worth their time to deal with you at that point, literally. And unless you’re working with you know, a low-level HR person that maybe has $500 in petty cash, that they can run a six-week challenge or something for a small group of people in a department.

Alex: Yeah.

Tim: You might find that. But if you’re really interested in getting at the executive level and a companywide program, think bigger, look at the company itself and think about what is it that I can provide and where’s the value. And for me, I know I had to stretch my comfort zone of what I thought was even possible. And I still remember assigning the first like multiple six-figure corporate contracts. And I was like, sweating. I’m like, “Well, what the hell is this?” And I look back at it now and I’m like, well, it was small and for that company, they were just like, “Yeah, this is just peanuts.” Like I have to make the joke that the paperclip budget in a lot of companies is more than what we charge for wellness. So that’s strangely enough been a barrier because we’ve had to expand our services to be seen as legitimate almost. And so think about what you want to accomplish with an organization and how you’re approaching it. Now if you’re approaching a company of 10 people, a small business, yeah, you might have a different approach, but if the company’s a couple hundred, a thousand people, you’re going to need to have a different approach than you would for a 10-person company and probably a different package structure and pricing structure.

Alex: Okay. Nice. That’s a lot of good content in there. And one last thing that popped into my head related to that pricing, if you do approach a company, or are you usually doing this for the entire employee population? Are you doing it based on a percentage or maybe even if it’s based on a department, depends on who approaches you? Do you see some variation there?

Tim: Lots of variation. Yeah. And my goal, especially these days is to get into the company level. I still end up, we still get approached by particularly, like just had a client the other day who’s a personal training client in one of our studios approached me to come in and do a speaking engagement for just her group.

Alex: Yeah.

Tim: And it was a group of 35 regional salespeople and so I did a little workshop series for them and provided access to our app and, you know, a couple of little small things like that. And with the goal of trying to expand to other divisions in the company. So you get your foot in the door where you can, but ideally, you go in at the top, and then you can run programs throughout the organization. But yeah, absolutely. You’ll get approached by HR people calling and saying, “Hey, we need a Nutrition Lunch and Learn. Can you come in and do that?”

Alex: Yeah.

Tim: We’re looking to do a six-week fitness challenge for our employees, particularly around New Year’s or Back to School or things like that. Summer beach fitness. Same things that happen in the fitness industry, but the idea is that find out who you’re providing it for, what that person’s role in the organization is, and then learn as much as you can about the company so you can start to take that step back and figure out what the best strategy might be to help that company. And when you can, that’s going to open the potential for so many more things to do down the road.

Alex: Nice. And for someone who’s maybe venturing into this for the first time, or they’re relatively new to offering corporate services as part of their model, what would you say are some pitfalls that you’ve seen, or maybe even experienced in the past that you would advise them to avoid of course?

Pitfalls to avoid when offering Corporate services

Tim: Biggest one is thinking like a fitness professional. The services that you currently provide can help people. Absolutely. But if you think only through the lens of fitness, you’re going to be limited in the ability to make an impact on the organization and to be taken more seriously throughout the organization. So if you can say, “Hey, yes, what we do can provide here, but we also are able to provide this.” Think of them, even if we think of that just in a fitness business, instead of just fitness classes and fitness training, offering the coaching service, the lifestyle coaching services more, the mindset, habits, movement, fuel. Really dialing in the educational aspects and the transformational or coaching aspects of it. That’s something that we can do in the fitness business and I fully think more fitness professionals should expand their scope to those things. And if you’re not comfortable with that, there are lots of courses available to do that, but that allows us to make a much bigger impact.

If we take that approach and take it into the business world, yes, we can help people get more fit. We can help them lose weight, but look at why they’re not already doing that because I guarantee every single person you work with knows that they need to exercise regularly and eat well. They’re just not doing it. And corporations are like shooting fish in a barrel to find people that need your help because they’re sitting at a desk all day, they’re not moving, they’re inactive. They probably have poor productivity habits and poor health habits. These are ripe opportunities to help people make changes that don’t involve going to the gym. So if someone is scared of going to the gym, they’re intimidated, they don’t like it, we can still work with that person and help them. That’s something that I find the corporate side is a huge opportunity for fitness professionals. So being able to see that bigger picture.

Alex: Yeah. Yeah. And I think as we transition to one of the last main bullet points we wanted to focus on today, and you just touched on it in the last 15 seconds is how to really engage employees in a meaningful way and then how you can use that to scale that success across the organization? You’ve talked to us about your four pillars of performance already, but perhaps we could revisit those whilst thinking about how a gym operator can start to shift their mindset. So your four pillars of performance again, if you could remind our listeners?

How to engage employees in a meaningful way and how you can use that to scale that success across the organization?

Alex: Yeah. Mindset, habits, movement, and fuel in that order of importance.

Alex: Yeah.

Tim: And that’s really counterintuitive for fitness professionals to think of because they’re so focused on fitness and nutrition and they’re like diet plan, exercise plan, drive it home. But if we don’t shift that person’s mindset, if that person thinks of himself as someone who’s fat and out of shape, and they don’t have the right habits in place. New Year’s resolutions are a perfect example. So people can suck it up for three weeks, four weeks, six weeks. They kick their butt in the gym. They’re going every day. They don’t enjoy it. They hate every minute of it, but they see this light at the end of the tunnel. It’s like I signed up for this six-week program. So I’ll [inaudible 58:38] my butt and they might see really awesome results, but because they haven’t shifted their mindset around who they are as a person and why they’re doing this. It’s always a struggle. They’re always on a diet. They’re always trying to lose weight on a workout plan, but they don’t see themselves as someone who takes care of themselves because they like to be active and they eat healthy because it fuels their body and energizes them, and allows them to do the things they want to do in life.

That’s a very different perspective to come from because now struggle turns into challenge and opportunity, and this whole mindset shift around why they’re doing what they’re doing, makes all the difference in the world and that allows it to sustain over time. I say to clients all the time, I’d rather see someone once a month for 12 months than 12 times in one month because I know that over the course of a year, I can create more change. And while I might only see them once a month, they’re going to have to do more things on their own. It’s that other 165 hours, right. I’m trying to transform their lifestyle, their habits, their mindset, and it doesn’t happen overnight. That’s why we call it the recidivism rate of a fitness pro like people fall off the wagon on fitness programs and diets all the time, because it’s, first of all, usually so strict and restrictive. It’s not sustainable. It’s not real life. And it takes so much willpower and effort to do that when someone’s not seeing themselves as the type of person that does that anyway. Then they always regress back to their old habits and as fitness professionals, that’s our opportunity, right there is to do things differently and we can help people get fit and lose weight for sure. But we do that from a different perspective and a different approach.

Alex: Yeah. Okay. And so it’s really, I mean, there’s more trust there. It’s a mindset shift. Would you say there is a good way that a gym operator could create more trust in the workplace specifically?

Can a Gym creator create trust in the workplace in a good way?

Tim: Totally. One of our most popular programs, and it took a bit of time to get that trust built. We called it Random Acts of Wellness. It’s a service that we offer. It’s essentially micro-coaching. We go into an office for anywhere from one to two hours once or twice a week and we just walk around the office and chat with people. Like it sounds really strange. But it’s been one of our most popular programs in the sense of people have access. Like they know they can hire a trainer. They know they can go talk to a nutritionist. They can phone a psychologist on their benefits plan and have this conversation, but that’s a formal thing. By walking around and just sitting down and chatting with people like you walk by their office and it’s like, “Hey, you have a couple of minutes to chat. I just wanted to get to know you.” And you’re like, “I’m so-and-so from FRESH.” In the beginning, we had this real hesitation. People didn’t want to open up and as we started just chatting and we could like, ‘Oh, what, like, what do you do for fun? What do you do for activity?” We got to know about people. I’m using this example of one particular office we did and it was a company of 30 people and we would just walk around and chat. And it took us probably three to four months before we were able to really connect with everyone. And it would be five or 10 minutes, little micro coaching sessions.

Alex: Yeah.

Tim: The first ones were just chit-chat. By the time we got to the six-month mark, it was like people as soon as they knew we were coming into the office, they’d be seeking us out. “Oh, Hey, I did this.” And they were excited about it. And, ‘Oh, I’m training for this now.” Or, “Hey, I’ve had this little knee issue going on. What do you think about it?” And while we’re not doctors or physios, we were able to have intelligent conversations with people and refer people to “You might want to get that checked out.” Or, “Hey, have you tried, like your knee caps hurting have you tried foam rolling? When was the last time you did that?” And they come back, “My knee doesn’t hurt anymore.” And all these little things that people don’t get the chance to ask or they don’t ask them in a formal situation, or it’s too much of a hurdle to book an appointment with their physio or their doctor or their psychologist. And not to say that we’re any of those things, but people, especially in COVID and we’ve done this virtually since then. And people just love the chance to chat and not from a work standpoint or not in a social coffee chat.

It’s like they get the chance to ask the questions that have been niggling around. They’re typing in to Dr. Google to try and find the answers. So you can help them in that way and it was remarkable when that company ended up getting bought and disbanded and our contract ended with them. That particular company when we first started it, it’s been over 10 years and we still keep in contact with people at that company, they’re at different organizations because they were like, “Oh, that was so cool to how you came in and did that.” But it took a good three to four months before we were able to break through that hesitation around that. But something as simple as that, like just walking around and chatting with people, sounds ridiculously simple, but it’s incredibly powerful.

Alex: Yeah. Yeah. There’s a guy in the UK named Jon Nasta. I’m pretty sure I’ve even shared this quote on this podcast before, but he said, “Trust it arrives on foot and it leaves in a Ferrari.” So what he means by that of course, it’s like, it takes time to build these relationships and you can also lose them just as quick if you don’t do the right things, but yeah you need to slowly build up and really kind of show yourself as that open authority that can help them get their goals. You’re free to take that one from Jon Nasta if you like that.

Tim: I love that.

Alex: It’s honestly one of my favorite quotes out there because it’s so simple and it’s just so true. And I think in the fitness industry, it’s really can be applicable, in business as well, right. Just in pretty much anything.

Tim: Yeah.

Alex: Okay. Yeah. So Tim’s starting to wrap up a little bit here, thinking about more like long-term outlook for the fitness industry, we always like to get our guests’ perspective on where they see things going, obviously we’re going through some pretty rapid changes right now. But I’d be interested to get your take, like where do you see the industry going, especially with new digital options from Apple and Peloton things like this coming in.

Tim’s Perspective of where the fitness industry is going

Tim: Yeah It’s evolving. I think so much fitness has been coming in commodity, particularly on the group side. There were always competitors in our area, but now with COVID, it’s opened up globally and now we’re competing against these large multinationals with multimillion-dollar budgets for marketing and the average fitness company can’t compete with that and we shouldn’t try to compete with that. What those companies aren’t able to do is create a unique experience, create community personalization for people and so that’s why the private and small groups are thriving over this past year. You know group classes have been locked down, you can’t even gather in big groups, but the fact is people are seeking that personalization and individual attention and unless you have access to this massive influx of a steady stream of people, and you’re able to capitalize on that, great, go for the group side, but it’s much easier to adapt and grow in the small and private side, at least from my opinion at this point.

Alex: No, I see that as well. There have been studies coming out of the UK that has shown that smaller operators as they start to reopen are faring much better than the large big box budget operators because it was that more high touch service, more communal based memberships, and communication and so that got people coming back to them more and there’s more trust between that kind of member and facility relationship.

Tim: Yeah. And tons of people over the past year bought home fitness equipment, right and so…

Alex: [Crosstalk01:07:00] for months.

Tim: Not as appealing to rent access to equipment anymore because you already have some. But they will gladly pay to have someone to show them how to use that equipment effectively and help them avoid injury and customize it to their needs. And yeah, there are lots of opportunities for that.

Alex: Certainly. All right. Well, Tim, always a good wrap-up question, where do listeners of today’s podcast, if they are really interested in hearing more or learning more about you or potentially how you could support them, where do they go to find you?

Conclusion

Tim: Absolutely. I’m on all the social channels, Tim Borys but the main website is freshgroup.ca or Timborys.com. For those of you who are interested in learning more about the, like I mentioned I teach fitness workshops, I’ve got an online Functional Movement Coaching Certification at teachmovement.com. A couple of books the fitnesscurveball.com and workfromhomebook.ca. For your interest in the corporate wellness side, the Work from Home Book one has a lot of things that we work with our clients on even from an ergonomics and personal productivity and workstation setup and things like that are helpful and could be a good learning opportunity for you there to use the existing knowledge base and transfers a lot of it to the corporate world.

Alex: Awesome. All right. I’ll be sure to check that out and we’ll have some links, I think in the show notes where people can go to find that as well. So Tim, thank you so much for your time today. It’s been super actionable and as we mentioned, this is something that’s gaining a lot more traction, so hopefully, you know, listeners around the world have been tuning in and can apply this to their own business.

Tim: Fantastic. It’s been great to be on the show, Alex, and look forward to reconnecting again soon.

Alex: Certainly. All right. Thanks Tim.

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