The Ultimate Fitness Mix For Your Gym

Instantaneous, personalized, and hyper-flexible: this is what today’s consumer has come to expect from services across the board. And when it comes to the gym, in particular, research shows that the modern fitness consumer isn’t going to settle for a gym simply because it’s close. Their gym of choice will need to offer exceptional value, flexibility, and the unique fitness mix they’re looking for.

The stats tell us that up to 50% of Americans won’t be returning to their gym after reopening, and up to 60% prefer outdoor and online fitness. Your potential clients don’t want to schedule their day around their workout any longer, instead, there must be an offer that fits into their schedule and provides extraordinary value and freedom beyond the traditional brick-and-mortar gym.

That doesn’t mean that your on-site services are lost to time. It simply means you’ve got to put together the ultimate fitness mix that attracts and keeps clients coming back. At this point in time, all trends point to on-site training coupled with outdoor and online fitness offerings. 

Outdoor Fitness Mix

People readily took to all manners of outdoor fitness when it was one of the few available ways to get in a quality, socially distanced workout during the onset of COVID-19. Not wanting to lose the social aspect of in-person classes, the popularity of outdoor fitness skyrocketed.

Outdoor fitness was an easy integration for gyms and personal trainers alike who could plan classes based on their schedules, not to mention the obvious benefits of working out in the fresh air and taking in some vitamin D. These have remained popular even as many gyms have reopened. And even with the beginning of fall, outdoor workouts are still going strong, especially in regions with milder climates.

Outdoor fitness classes are a way to significantly expand your brand and get more clients. Especially those who might otherwise have chosen to forego joining a gym altogether. Considering how your gym or facility will integrate engaging and challenging outdoor fitness experiences for your clients is a critical piece to the new hybrid fitness mix approach.

Haven’t yet set up your outdoor fitness offerings? Here is Everything You Need to Know to Start an Outdoor Fitness Class.

With many clients still asking, is it better to work out outside or in the gym? Research continues to be published stressing the importance of good ventilation, thus outside workout spaces endure as a COVID-safe option.

Online Fitness & Fitness Apps

Online fitness has gone through an unprecedented boom. Since lockdown, smartphones have become, more than ever before, an extension of the people who use them. An app exists for almost everything you could ever need, including fitness.

And all signs point to nothing but growth in this area: as 85% of all gym members also now do workouts at home, and 70% intend to maintain or increase their use of online fitness, offering online fitness options for your facility is imperative.

People have become more health-conscious, but have also become more accustomed to convenience, as life has become a lot more flexible since we started working from home, and we like it. Getting all your gear, packing up the kids or finding a babysitter, commuting, finding a parking spot… The list of hurdles to work out goes on.

When fitness can be as simple as changing into your workout clothes, getting your digital training plan, queuing up your workout video or favorite class and working out, people will gravitate to these simple digital solutions. Offering online options will help you keep your members engaged for longer. As well as attract new clients looking for this flexibility.

See More: Are Fitness Apps the Future of the Fitness Industry?

But, can digital fitness improve health? It certainly looks like it. Online fitness is engaging, offers a sense of community, is inherently flexible and available at the touch of a button. Fitness apps offer customization and personalization that can rival any in-person trainer.

And, when it comes to onsite training, online fitness apps can handle scheduling bookings. But also taking payments and many other backend solutions to make your client’s life easier. But you will also free up time for yourself and your team! Virtuagym is your one-stop shop for streamlining your business with an all-in-one software solution, with your own branded app.

See: 10 Advantages of Having a Gym Management System and How gym management software will save you hours of time and Gyms Share How Virtuagym’s Fitness Technology Helps Them Thrive.


Gen Z

It’s impossible to speak about online fitness offerings without specifically calling attention to Gen Z. Millennials and Gen Z together now account for a whopping 80% of all gym-goers, according to

As Gen Z enters adulthood with more discretionary income, not having an online or mobile presence means you are missing out on a massive segment of the population. This generation has grown up on the internet and this is where their life takes place.

They are a group of health and budget-conscious digital natives looking for fitness to fit their life, which is why livestreaming, in particular, has been a monumental solution for engaging these clients remotely. Gen Z’ers focused on health and wellness require a fitness experience that is as connected as they are.

But when it comes to Gen Z, the social aspect of fitness is just as important as staying connected. In fact, Gen Z’ers account for 81% of all fitness class participants, meaning they are also going to want the added value of a hybrid approach to in-person, outdoor and live-streamed classes.

Your Ultimate Fitness Mix: A New Business Model

One thing we cannot deny is that COVID-19 has awakened within consumers a deeper awareness of the underlying importance that fitness plays in their overall health and wellness. Some 68 percent of survey respondents communicated that they are now prioritizing their health more since the beginning of the pandemic.

This means that though the fitness industry is changing, a new normal is taking its place. The focus must be on providing digital and outdoor solutions in addition to on-site offerings so that our health-conscious consumers may pick and choose the fitness experiences that appeal to them, on their own schedule. Keeping your clients connected in-person as well as digitally will build up your relationships and keep them engaged as a community.

The ultimate fitness mix for your business will ultimately be about offering both outdoor and online fitness. The emphasis will be on group workouts and special attention paid to bringing in Gen Z’s and Millennials. A mix of digital and physical workouts will keep members engaged and connected in and out of the gym.

Half The Effort, Double The Impact: How To Maximize Employee Wellbeing

Wellness programs were often viewed as a challenging initiative for organizations around the world. Finally, times are changing and companies focus on how to maximize employee wellbeing.

The COVID-19 pandemic acted as a catalyst for a huge change in the workplace with the utilization of technology revolutionizing how, when, and where we work.

Worldwide, an increase in remote and hybrid model working has resulted in the formation of a new normal’ that, in turn, requires companies to adapt how they deliver corporate wellness programs to their workforce. 

The rapidly changing needs of employees have been increasingly recognized by employers worldwide. Companies are understanding the bottom-line value of employee wellness in their organizations better and better. But while change is vital for corporate health and wellness, it can feel overwhelming.

Below, we discuss the crucial role of health and wellbeing programs and their relationship with workplace philosophy and values. If you’re looking to revolutionize your company’s health and wellbeing initiatives, we reveal how digital platforms are leading the way for corporate wellness and discuss some common challenges faced by HR professionals.

Find out more about our Corporate Health software!

Corporate Health and Wellbeing Programs Matter

We are living in unprecedented times. Research indicates that more than 7 out of 10 Britons are not exercising enough, with a quarter of over 55’s not exercising at all since the pandemic began.

In addition, remote working has increased the likelihood of a sedentary lifestyle by up to 28% throughout the pandemic.

Data published by Vitality from Britain’s Healthiest Workplace (the UK’s largest workplace wellbeing survey) indicated that the UK economy loses almost £92 billion a year through workplace absence related to ill-health.

According to OECD Health Policy Studies, the direct costs of absenteeism and presenteeism are around £4,600 per employee per year, with obesity resulting in a 3% loss of productivity across the workforce due to illness, lower performance, and absenteeism.

And our Mental Health is Suffering Too!

Research indicates that stress is the number one cause of absenteeism in the workplace, with 50-60% of absent days linked to work-related stress. 41% of people also stated a decline in their mental state since the start of the pandemic.

Organizations are now challenged with recognizing, reflecting, and responding to changes in their workforce. Part of this challenge is learning how to adapt to the unique shift in the wants and needs of their human capital. This means providing tools for employees to nurture their health and wellbeing in a time of extreme stress and anxiety.

The 5 Biggest Challenges for HR Professionals to Maximize Employee Wellbeing

When it comes to nurturing and growing the company workforce, HR faces 5 common challenges:


A company’s health and wellbeing program can either positively or negatively impact each of the above five areas. Many companies are now giving their wellbeing initiatives a more focal position in the workplace.

Data published by Vitality found that 85% of homeworkers stated that companies who take employee health and wellbeing seriously would be an important future career consideration! However, forming an effective, successful health and wellbeing scheme isn’t a simple process.

The Overarching Corporate Health and Wellbeing Philosophy

A wellbeing philosophy is a formalized way of creating a vision and mission statement around wellbeing support and coverage within a company. Traditionally, company culture and wellness schemes were siloed rather than informing one another; this often created miscommunication and misalignment between the two areas.

The new workplace revolution calls for a more integrated approach to culture and wellness, following the increase in remote and hybrid working. By allowing both areas to work side-by-side, the company can foster its culture and respond to the ever-evolving wellbeing needs of its employees.

For example, if a company’s culture is to cultivate community, how can they support this via their wellbeing initiatives? How can they bring people together?

How a Corporate Health and Wellbeing Philosophy is Built

Company culture should define a health and wellbeing program. You can form and manage this philosophy according to these three aspects:

  1. Defining how resources are distributed
  2. Deciding how decisions are made
  3. Determining how things get done

Ultimately, our behavior shapes every stage of formation and management; this creates a culture within the company which can then inform its wellbeing practices.

The Best Practises for Building a Corporate Health and Wellbeing Philosophy

There are 5 best practices for building a philosophy:


By incentivizing the process, employees feel involved and invested in the company and its beliefs. But with such an overhaul in workplace practices since the start of the pandemic, how can companies adapt and execute programs to suit ‘the new normal?’

The Benefits of Healthcare Technology for any Company

According to a Workplace Wellness Programs Study Report, employee wellness programs improve long-term healthy behaviors in employees- both physically and mentally. In short, we need them! So how do we make them effective and relevant?

We live in a digital age with a vast array of digital tools at our fingertips; technology is a great enabler for improving workplace culture in this way. Simple mobile applications can allow companies to provide effective, digital wellbeing programs to both employers and employees.

Health and wellbeing content can be rich, varied, and personalized. And so it can facilitate better engagement and enhance community interaction within the workplace. Regardless of business level.

It is also an incredible opportunity to embrace the new working environment by connecting and engaging people regardless of location.

With the rise in the usage of wearable technology for employees, technology has fast become the most intelligent way to access content, whether employees are remote working or in the office.

Maximize Employee Wellbeing: The Takeaway

Well-executed health and wellbeing programs form an integral part of company culture, particularly in more recent times. Technology allows companies to offer a more personalized wellness journey to their workforce, catering to the unique needs of each individual.

By diversifying wellness content, companies can provide more choice and better support for their team with more inclusive and relevant content. After all, we don’t hire the same people, so why do we offer everyone the same wellness journey?


Our 24/7 digital platform is accessible by mobile app and features home workouts, food tracking, meditations, a digital community, and plenty of health and wellness content- all at the touch of a button and connected through HR software.

How to Scale Your Fitness Franchise and Become a Master Franchisor

James Cotton is the Franchise Development Director at Franchise My Business GymSales Software and he joined us in the FitNation Lunch & Learn webinar today. He will be sharing his experience and knowledge about how to scale your Fitness Franchise. 

James Cotton has over 15 years of experience in fitness and franchising and worked with various brands from a private equity level and some new starts in the UK in the fitness sector. You can say he has experienced it all. With his current business, he scaled up to over about 180 units, about 250 franchisees across the network. The person to share tips and tricks for growing and managing a franchise at scale.

View the full episode here:

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Alex: Welcome everybody. We’re back on for another round of FitNation’s Lunch and Learn. As always, we want to thank everyone for taking the time to join us. On today’s show, we’re diving into franchising in the fitness industry. Now I think most of us can think of a few franchises that have had massive success in our space. Many of those started from either one or a small number of sites and were able to grow based on the right business plan. So that’s what we’re focusing on today is how to scale your fitness franchise.

The person qualified to talk about this with us today is James Cotton. He’s the Franchise Development Director at Franchise My Business which is based in the UK. The key topics that we’re going to focus on today are guidelines for turning your fitness business into a franchise, successful practices of industry-leading franchises, and tips for growing and managing a franchise at scale.

So whether you’re thinking of starting a fitness business, you’re looking to gain momentum and scale your fitness franchise by adding some new locations into your portfolio, or you’re in the process of trying to get one of your fitness facilities into every city around your country, I think there’s bound to be something valuable in today’s session. So James, thank you for taking the time to join us.

James: Yeah. Thank you, Alex. Yeah, much appreciated. I look forward to it.

Alex: Nice. Well always a good way to kick off, maybe you can give us a little bit of background on who you are and what you do.


James: Yeah, thank you. So first of all, my name’s James Cotton. I’ve been in fitness and franchising now for just over 15 years. I’ve worked with some of the larger brands. I initially developed and delivered Anytime Fitness in the UK in 2010.

Then I’ve worked with various brands from a private equity level and some new starts in the UK in the fitness sector. So I’ve pretty much experienced it all. I’d like to think.

I opened the first couple of businesses and started scaling now over a period of time, actually got up to just over about 180 units, about 250 franchisees across the network then. So you know, I’ve experienced a lot in the franchise industry when it comes to fitness. It’s very passionate.

Different types of owners, everything from investor types to owner-operators to give you a bit of an overview and I’ll delve into a little bit more details about how they work differently with fitness and franchising as we go through today.

Alex: Nice. Can you tell us a little bit about Franchise My Business? Your role there and kind of what you guys do from day-to-day?

James: Sure. So I’m one of the co-founders of Franchise My Business and what I do is support new brands. Even brands that have been operating for at least three years being profitable and looking to take a step into the franchise industry. So some of that’s in leisure, some of it’s outside leisure.

What we do is put into place a kind of project management approach to turning your business into a Franchise Your Business. It takes about 16 to 20 weeks and we go through a range of phases. Those phases focus on the products you serve, seeing what your offerings going to be, what you’re going to be charging, legalities as well as setting up systems and processes.

So when a franchisee comes into your business, they actually can get into business in a timely manner and have a good experience. So we offer that service. The service is called Launch, Recruit, Grow. So launching is the bit I’ve just spoken about. Recruit focuses on recruiting the right type of franchise profiles and grow is consulting with you as a franchisor for the length of your business as you start scaling your fitness franchise up.

Alex: Okay. Nice. Great. Thanks for that. And I guess to just start diving into the conversation one of the key topics we mentioned was that it’s guidelines for turning your fitness business into a franchise and generally just getting started.

Now, I think most people who are listening probably understand the high-level basics of what a franchise is, but maybe as a general overview of franchising as a business model and then also looking at who should consider this and why. So as a general overview of franchising maybe you can give us your take on that.

General Overview of Franchising as a Business Model

James: Yeah. Just to give you the general aspects of it. So what franchising is, is you taking your concepts, your business, and you’re looking for partners that are franchisees, and you’re selling your operations, your business concepts and you’re looking to replicate that, so copy and paste it with a franchisee in either territory or different locations.

You’re doing that and you’re looking at taking fees from a franchisee. You’ll take fees in different areas and normal areas of franchise fees initially. That could be for your license or for the know-how of your business, including you as a franchisor training them. The second aspect will be the ongoing fees or you could call them continuum fees and that will be for the length of the franchise agreement. Those are typically done in two different ways. It can be a licensed model or it can be a turnover-based model.

So licensed is typically a flat fee, maybe with some increments of payments coming through based on science targets or they can be a turnover-based model and that’s where you pay a percentage of turnover to your franchisor for the rights to be able to operate your business.

Alex: Nice. And from a business perspective, who do you think should consider this as a model and why?

Who should consider Franchising as a Business Model?

James: Yeah. Good question. So anybody considering franchising really probably has been through developing and growing their own business already. So first of all, they probably should have been running or trading their business for at least about three years. And in those three years, they would experience probably the ups and downs of what it’s like to run a business.

Firstly, any business should be profitable to a certain extent. It should be. So there should be some clear indicators that business has been growing and there are other interests. Maybe they’re at the point of where they would like to take the business on but don’t have the capacity to do so. That’s a really good time to consider starting franchising or thinking about franchising.

Bringing on the franchisee, Alex, is slightly different because rather than being an employee or a staff member, whilst employees are obviously fantastic, but having somebody with invested money into your business obviously could make a real difference.

Alex: Yeah. I can imagine those can be some of the pros and cons where you’re growing the business, but you also don’t have as much, let’s say autonomy over each individual site. What would I be correct in thinking that?

Pros and Cons of Franchising

James: Yeah, definitely. So there are pros and cons to franchising. It’s not perfect. Definitely not at all. So you know, the reason why it’s pro is because it’s a proven business model normally, right? It’s an effective process the company has already been through and you can kind of skip those first couple of years of learning what the franchisor has really done.

You just delve into their experience. You normally find that banks as well are more friendly to franchise. Banks than somebody starting their business on their own. So banks, well most high street banks in the UK, the four main ones or outside [unclear10:17] franchise departments and they normally cover the UK itself. Plus, you get economies of scale.

So if you’re thinking if you’re a franchisee and you want a franchise suddenly, if there are multiples of you, you can start driving down buying privacy services that supply you. So you start to make margins, better margins, and products. So these are all good reasons why to become a franchisee.

Another one would be the experience that you’re kind of tapping into. So if you had, you know a wealth of experience, you’ve already gone for it, and then the franchisee is got a support process that they can work for you on and that is their original concept, maybe problems have come across. [Unclear11:08] got a hand-holding experience of what you expect in franchising.

That’s why franchisors and franchising are so successful, the failure rate is very, very low versus a business that generally just operates on its own.

There are cons of course, as you said. So yeah, sometimes creative license can be a little bit limited, you know, but you’d normally buy into a franchise based on if you have the over inactive business interests, but one won’t always have the creative license that you want to, but you bond to a proven model.

Yes, there will be fees to pay, and financially there are, as I said already. But there will be fees that will be due to the franchisor but you got expect some can return. Give you an example, national marketing. You may pay to national marketing to help promote your brand and that national marketing, you as a franchisee want that to be spent on you in the right way to get more members or more marketing materials or campaigns to help your business grow.

Sometimes there is a restriction in products and services that you can sell, but again, you buy into a franchise but you’re looking for a proven model. So there are different aspects. You need to weigh that up as part of the due diligence process for any franchisee with a franchisor and that’s something that Franchise My Business help with as well.

Alex: Nice. Okay. And would you say there are any common misunderstandings about the business model that when you’re meeting with someone who’s unfamiliar or you hear this kind of come up time and time again, that you think people should be more aware of?

Common Misunderstandings About the Franchising Business Model

James: Yeah, I think that’s a good question. I think probably the biggest question that we have is a proven concept. So if you’re looking to franchise your business, well, there has to be data on it. It has the information behind why your business has been successful today.

So I would say of any franchisor and don’t be afraid to actually share that kind of information with your prospective franchisees. Now, just give you a good example. So if you’re looking to buy in a business, you won’t understand how it’s performed and seasonal trends and what worked, what hasn’t worked.

So offering the information up very early in the process, we create something called a Franchise Disclosure Document and that disclosure gives you all the financials of how much money they’ve made, how much money they’ve spent, where their sales have come from, and who’s the audience. What type of audience is out there and what kind of channels they’ve developed to be able to bring that income in.

Now, behind all of that, when a franchisor will normally supply a franchise manual, a bit like an operations manual, but it’s got a little bit more guidance. So kind of imagine tasks, like a project plan and for you to achieve as you go through your franchise lifecycle. A franchise lifecycle in a plan could be five or even 10 years, depending on what length of franchise agreement you’re looking to sign.

It wouldn’t be unusual to do a franchise agreement for five or 10 years, especially in the fitness sector. A lot in the fitness sector, I won’t go into who they are, but typically 5, 10-year franchise agreements with an automated another five afterward. So depending on what kind of model you’re looking to go for, it’s all consideration of what you believe is the right length agreement and what the returns are going to be.

You want to retain a franchisee so offering good service as the franchisor throughout the whole process so they can renew at the right time that suits them. Sometimes there is brick and mortar involved, so there are fixed costs. Normally fixed leases are typically the minimum is normally five years and they can be as long as 15 years. So again, giving yourself surety of what you’re working towards is really important.

And then there’s outside. It always doesn’t have to have bricks and mortar involved, but if it’s a territory itself, you may work within a defined territory and offer services outside or even educational and they work really well as well. So you can control your costs but your overall business might be slightly different based on the level of service or capacity that you have. So it’s trying to get a balance.

One of the businesses that we work with or I’m involved with is called RISE and RISE Fitness, we’re supporting personal trainers looking to get into the group delivery sessions in relation to personal training. So it’s a great franchise to look at to take a business model.

Personal training’s been around a long time, but evolve that with partners to be able to actually get some good returns. So that’s a really good franchise that we’re working with now.

Alex: Okay, nice. Yeah. We’ll make sure to put some links in the show notes to see if anyone here listening is interested in that in the UK. Hopefully, this isn’t too loaded of a question, but how does one start to build this business model from scratch? Like, if they are thinking that they have this business plan and they want to franchise it from day one. What differences do you think they need to consider versus someone who’s starting just a gym A.K.A. a non-franchise business.

How Does One Start to Build This Fitness Franchise Business Model From Scratch?

James: Okay. So if somebody is totally new and looking to franchise from day one, and it’s in their business plan from day one, well, the likelihood is you need to do a decent amount of research. Does it already exist in the market? What are the unique selling points? What I mean by unique selling points is what’s the experience going to be like? Is that core experience going to be different?

It’s going to make you stand apart from what’s already out there in the franchise industry. Don’t forget about the core products. Franchising, we sometimes believe why don’t we get franchisees that we can develop. Core products are really key. Core service, core product. And if you can really know a decent framework around that then building out your processes at the same time as you’re getting into business or getting the concept alive because you’re going to need all that information to be able to start replicating your business later on.

Devil’s in the detail. So going into real detail when you’re looking at space is really important. So understanding what’s there, having a really broad scope, a broad view look at the competitive landscape is really important and look the basics in probably what you’ve heard before is doing a business plan. I like to do financial pro forma, and that’s at least a three-year plan of what your financials are going to look like for yourself or your franchisees.

Now, that pro formas would cover off your typical costs, your income lines, expenditure lines, and of course the return on investment. You’re going to have to stick some investment in your business, I’m sure to start off. Franchising is key for that. But the difference is those costs have already been drilled down on. You’re probably should be getting the best price and best in most areas, and it might be systems and processes very much like Virtuagym that you may be using to understand what the processes are actually are going to be. Having partners like that onboard make a real difference to actually delivering something for the long term.

It has to be scalable. So scalable what I mean is, you know, if we can copy and paste that in the right way without too much hassle in a simplistic point of view, and you’ve got the right process and pillars for franchisees to follow, it becomes less time-intensive for the franchisor. Where you don’t have processes in place, what happens is your franchisee is going to be working and the franchisee is always going to be calling the franchisor all the time.

[Unclear19:46] come a time drain and what you want is really defined clear guidance. So having partners to do that is really important. When you have partners who will work for you like that, it can be a really, really good match or a marriage for a franchisee because they can see that define process that they know exactly where from Point A to Point Z and what steps they need to take to be able to achieve their return on investment and enjoy their business as well.

Alex: That’s good. So being ultra-systems-oriented, it’s kind of what I’m hearing from you.

James: I guess. Maybe I’m highlighting that point a little bit too much.

Alex: Yeah. Well, I think it’s important, especially as you look to grow. And would you say any company can be franchised or does franchising need to be the goal from day one?

Can any company be franchised?

James: No. I get this question quite a lot. Not every franchise, not every business can be franchised. We think we can, but in reality, if you’re going to franchise a business, you want to have some scalability in it. If you can identify the market where if it hasn’t happened before, well, there’s got to be a good amount of sales data behind your business to be able to go into that market.

If it’s in the market already, then somebody’s probably already opened the door for you. So it probably is franchisable. My first advice is if you’re looking at a particular space, do some research, first of all. Speak to us, Franchise My Business, we can give you some free advice have a quick look at that market for you, and just give you an idea of what’s out there and is it a market we suggest stepping into.

Some markets cost more than others in their nature. Some industries are actually bigger than others in their nature as well. So you need to give yourself a good amount of time. We normally do a study. We do something called a Franchise Readiness Questionnaire. We go for about 35, 36 questions about some of the things I’ve already spoken about. Is your business already trading? What kind of level is it trading at? What’s the marketing like? Are you ready as a franchisor? What kind of processes has he got in place? Are they scalable?

If not, you know, there might be some gaps that we can work with you guys to be able to gently move in the right direction. There are always going to be gaps in the business. That’s inevitable in life. We always [crosstalk22:27] business. It’s just having a plan or you’ve worked the right plan to be able to get there in the right way.

Alex: Got you. And one of the next key topics that we want to focus on was the successful practices of industry-leading franchisors, maybe we can also look at some of the common pitfalls that you guys see. But I think we’ve already touched on some of these, but, you know, let’s really focus on what enables a franchise to be successful.

What kind of things do you see there, outside of say like just scalability things like that we’ve already discussed? What other things do you see that enable some of the best franchises that you’ve worked with to really hit the levels that they want to hit?

Successful Practices of Industry-Leading Franchisors

James: Sure. So having, first of all, laser focus on what you want to deliver is really important. So if you’re in a gym environment and you’re looking to franchise, the key thing is that core product.

The core product and your delivery are really good and you believe it’s really good and you can impact yourselves. The next thing would be around what services that you can provide to your franchisees to be able to scale your fitness franchise. To give you an example, having like a service commitment of each other, having the time to speak around their key areas. An example would be a balanced scorecard.

So balanced scorecard and maybe a five or six different areas in that business, and that could be financial performance to sales to the retention of your members to product delivery and talking about those over a number of weeks, a number of months, really having a laser focus on those key areas.

What I’ve found is good franchise systems do that, and sometimes it can be a bit repetitive for a franchisor but for the franchisee, it’s really key for them because you’re focusing on key things for them to be able to scale their fitness franchise in the right way.

It is process-driven again, as you can probably tell. But core products, having the time to work with the franchisees on those key areas is how you scale a wonderful business. Those franchisees will then learn a lot. Guess what happens? Their success, they suddenly turn Franchisee Number One into Franchisee Number Two, and they’ll start taking multiple territories.

Proud to say one of my ever first franchisees got them up to about 15, 16 territories in the fitness center. So that gives somebody a real opportunity to grow their business or their franchisees grow their businesses as well.

There is the other side to this. So things that I’ve gone into franchise systems where you’ve had franchisees that aren’t as happy or happy franchisees. The reason why that normally is because they’re not getting the return on the investment, normally as number one. Number two is they’re obviously working hard in the business, but maybe it’s not working as well and maybe the relationship with a franchisor and a franchisee.

Of course, there’s normally a legal agreement in place, a franchise agreement. But really all that franchisee wants to do is get a return and be successful. So concentrating on their core products is normally what’s required to be able to get them moving in the right direction.

But there are other examples where a franchisee might not be suited to your franchisor network. And that’s making sure there’s a recruitment and selection process, clearly defined. I say about territories, but really a franchisor should be awarding territories based on if they believe that franchise profile’s right for their market or right for their business.

You know, they’re going to have the energy, entrepreneurial drive. Do you know if they going to follow systems and processes to a point? They’re going to bring some flair to it under your umbrella. Not every franchisee is successful of course, but you [unclear26:54] top 50 or top 20 franchisees why they’re successful is because they follow processes, the systems and what the franchisor brands are about is some of the reasons why it works. When you start trying to change what’s already worked are sometimes the reasons why it doesn’t work as well.

Alex: Yeah. Okay. So a lot of trust is needed from that franchisor for the franchisee to carry out not only like the business vision, but that they trust that they can follow the systems in place and that they’re not going to be too rogue or anything like that.

James: Yeah. Look, you know that’s the reality of it. That’s why, I guess I talk that way, I talk a little bit in relation to systems and processes. You don’t have them there, guess what’s going to happen? That franchisee might not get the return on investment and that’s quite a big thing in my view, you know.

They should get a return on their investment. If they’ve bought into processes that have defined that they should expect that and the franchisor should work for them to be able to deliver that in the right way. That’s as long as it works for both parties, of course.

Alex: Great. Yeah. And I remember one thing that we talked about in our pre-call was really thinking about how you can communicate a competitive edge and then how to stand out from other franchisees. Now, this is obviously important for any business model, but how do you think this shows up perhaps a little differently in the franchising world and maybe what advice would you have there for anyone listening in?

How Can You Communicate Your Competitive Edge And How to Stand Out From Other Franchisees

James: Yeah. So having a competitive edge or somebody looking into your business and understanding straight away what that core product’s about, what does it do, and then they’re going to compare you, irrespective, they’re always going to compare your business with somebody else.

So if you can summarize your business within a few, three, or four words, and you can convey what your business is about or even a sentence and get that across to either a consumer or franchisee why they should be buying into your brand. That’s really important. I’ll give you some examples. Initially, when we launched the leading franchise brands in the UK, there are only two franchise brands there. So it was very easy to communicate, well, 24-hour gym, franchise midmarket. You know it kind of hits home very quickly.

High-end quality finish versus a budget offering and that’s all. So at that point in time that was coming out of the last recession in 2009, 2010. It was very easy to communicate what the landscape was like. If I look at that industry at the moment, there are probably some 15 or 16 main players, looking at the fitness industry.

So you need to be really clear about, hey, this is the space that I’m going to own in that industry and this is why. If you can communicate that really well, that sets you apart from the others. That’s why I say concentrate on that core product to be able to set yourself apart.

Alex: Nice. Okay. And we mentioned as well, it would be good to highlight or shine some light on some of the common pitfalls you see, and maybe this is with people you work with or people you don’t work with, but you saw the franchise maybe not hit the targets that they need to or falter a bit early. So what would you say are some of the common pitfalls that people fall into when trying to scale their franchise business?

Common Pitfalls When Scaling Your Fitness Franchise

James: Yeah, I think there are a couple of areas. So first of all, a common pitfall is marketing not having enough resources to scale your fitness franchise or understanding that a sales process takes a period of time. So you need to generate a certain amount of leads. What we normally see is in our 50:1 franchise prospect kind of sale ratio, it’s not unusual and you’ll see that with higher-priced brands.

You may even see a higher ratio with maybe a lower price kind of a business and brand. Well, if you need to generate that amount of prospects, you need to use your marketing money well. So on a broad spectrum, but also having a specific marketing plan that’s going to really drill down on the franchise profile you’re looking for. Sometimes we can be too broad stroke and advertise here, here, and here.

You might be hitting some of the audience, but your audience profiles are probably down here. [Unclear31:24] in the details. So focusing on, right, I need to focus on this individual, this profile type, where does that lead me to. Well, that leads me into certain marketing channels and that’s probably where you need to be.

So having enough money initially. I’d normally say to generate a franchise, it’s not unusual to commit about 3000 pounds to generate about 50 prospects of the right profile type and individuals who have the money to invest in your brand. And of course, if you’re trying to scale multiples, if you said over the first year, you want to try and scale between four and eight, well, very quickly you can work out what kind of financial commitment you might need to find that kind of right kind of profile.

Alex: Okay.

James: Yeah. Does that make sense? Was that the first part of the question?

Alex: Yeah. That makes sense. I’d be curious to know how people react to that 50:1 ratio. Do they think that’s super high? Do they think it’s low? I mean do you meet some people who think one in 10 is going to sign up?

James: Yeah. You’re probably right. So I’d probably meet both sides. They probably think sometimes it’s lower. But in reality over franchising a lot of different businesses over the years, it’s probably where it ballpark kind of sits. Just to explain why. So if you’ve got a franchise inquiry, first of all, we need to go through a sales process. Give them a disclosure of what your business is about. You know, if you’re going to buy that book on the shelf, it’s probably the dummy’s guide of your business and it’s pretty much what you need to kind of disclose to them. It’s all the financials and everything.

Alex: Yeah.

James: Then you need to walk them down a path and that’s the path confidence of that your business is right for them. How are they going to work in that business? What kind of role are they going to take? Spoke about owners’ operators versus investors types. Normally a cheap based, lower level based branding in relation to financial input, we’ll have owner-operators normally behind that.

But where you’ve got business that may need half a million or up to a million pounds’ worth of investment, you normally see franchise types that are owner investors, or investor types. It may be multiples of them. So you may have three or four owners owning one franchise brand. That’s not unusual because they’ve collected lots of money together to be able to give the opportunity.

Then this all falls back again, down to your franchise profile is who you really looking for? Who do you really want? So that kind of process. And then moving into a franchise agreement. A franchise agreement is different than an employment contract, of course.

There are some legalities in it and it works both ways. There are commitments for a franchisor. So what they need to commit to that franchisee. Then there’s the franchisee, what are their obligations with the franchisor. Normally we always suggest that should go through franchise law solicitors.

They may have that for a few weeks. So the sales process from inquiry to sales, the quickest really is six weeks. But normally we find about three months is the sales process for somebody to come into the franchise sector as a franchisee.

Alex: Okay. And this is one I guess I’m more curious about from a personal perspective who have had these conversations with people who are trying to scale their own fitness franchise business and their growth plan it seems a little ambitious. Now, would you say like being too ambitious or thinking that you’re going to have 500 locations in three years? What would you say to someone who has that plan?

James: I would say that’s great to have fantastic ambitions. I would never knock the attitude for that. The realities are slightly different.

Alex: Yeah.

James: Yeah. From experience, I think the most that I’ve been involved in one year in opening physical locations was about 48 locations in one year and that had a team of about 40 to 50 people behind that plus franchisees. So, you know, nothing’s impossible.

I’m not going to say it is impossible, nothing’s impossible. It’s all about resources and how are you going to force yourself to get up to those kinds of numbers? I would normally say I’ve had lots of conversations like that. You know, I want to get three to five, but in reality, I look at it in five levels.

The first level is your first baby steps and that might be four to eight franchisees. Your next level is; I normally find you double. If you’ve got four and then maybe you’re moving up to eight or even 12. And then you’re looking to try to double again. And if you can go through these first three levels, you’ve probably got a really solid foundation of this franchisor.

And then level four and five is what I call kind of outrageous kind of numbers, if you can push up to above 50 and onwards, then you are probably on good track to do that. Those five levels can happen quickly. It doesn’t have to be each year. They can just be five levels that you’ve set yourself based on what resources you have to be able to scale a business.

Alex: Got you. And as far as data, like the data perspective, what kind of information are you guys providing at Franchise My Business that you feel is really important to position your new franchisors for the best growth?

Data Provided by Franchise My Business for Growing Fitness Franchisors

James: Yeah. Good question. So we look at data a couple of ways. So we obviously see what sells and what doesn’t sell across various different sectors. We work with probably about 23 different franchisors in different sectors. And we can probably give you an idea of what your prospect levels are going to be like.

We can give you an inkling of the cost typically what it’s going to be like across those sectors and what you’re going to kind of generate through franchising. So we have the data in relation to proof of what a franchisee will cost. In relation to your data, it works both ways as well.

So bring your data into franchising and using that to underpin your franchise sales. So it’s kind of a marriage. We kind of expect you to be the expert in your business because it’s your business. We’re kind of the expert of franchising, and we kind of try to marry those up together to ensure there’s a really strong proposition.

Almost look at Franchise My Business as that kind of a back of the house support. So when I said about having 40 people, of course, that’s great but that’s a lot of costs. You can look at Franchise My Business in relation to resources to be able to get house resources to kind of push that franchise elements forward.

Alex: Nice. Okay. And I think any topic or any webinar in the fitness industry right now, it’s almost obligatory that we need to ask about how COVID has impacted things. How have you felt the pandemic has impacted the franchising side of the fitness industry specifically?

The Impact of COVID on the Franchising in the Fitness Industry

James: Okay. So surprisingly going through the lockdowns, we had seen an actual increase in prospects. We did through the lockdown. The reason for that was I think obviously a lot of people had time to think about their own lives and we have seen an impact slightly in relation to performance. There was a backing off. And then what we’ve seen, we’re almost back up to pre-COVID levels, not too far away now. So it’s been strange in a way.

So we’ve had strange enough in a positive way if I can say that. We’ve had more inquiries. People are suddenly taking the time to think about their careers and think about, well, you know what? Do I need a second career? Do I need to own something? Do I need to be a bit pragmatic about what my future looks like?

Our franchise profiles are really interesting, probably average age between 30 and 45. It’s always that kind of age group and that’s not unusual. So I think the franchise arena fitness has changed a little bit. You know very much the consumer is thinking about the safety, but they’re thinking about the experience. So experience works a couple of different ways. One, they want an online provision.

They want a handhold provision and they want something they can work out at home or outside. Likewise, they also want the experience still. They still want to experience something with a trainer or inside a facility. So the consumer is looking at it where before maybe pre-COVID, they might be looking at one or two angles and now they’re multiple angles.

What would happen if COVID comes again, or do I have at-home exercise available? Do I have virtual freedom? Maybe they don’t use it, but it’s nice to have. It’s reassurance. Plus, you’d be surprised how many consumers in the franchise industry will not blend their offerings. So you spoke about these USPs, well, rather than just the four walls, if you need to have a virtual offering to your consumers or your franchisees and there has to be development within that. So I think it’s really important now.

So going back to your question, COVID has changed the landscape of fitness from a consumer’s perspective, but there is comfort in understanding that these pre-COVID levels have almost got back to quite quickly. Confidence is coming back. But what’s happened the markets opened up, I believe, you’re seeing the home workout marketing really explode during these periods.

Alex: Yeah. Definitely.

James: I don’t see why franchising and the gym industry or fitness industry as such can’t grow the market because of this and I think it is. I think the next couple of years are going to be really interesting especially from a digital perspective. You can involve technology within your workout.

Heart rate monitoring is really important, tracking your maps, tracking your workouts, suddenly understanding your dietary requirements and what they mean to a consumer or a franchisor. Plus, we’ve always kind of felt that it’s been a face-to-face discussion, but guess what? We doing it obviously Zoom today. A lot of Franchise My Business inquiries, if I told you in the last 12 months, most of the business has been closed and franchisees have been closed over Zoom.

I’ve never met them personally, but it’s just shown how the world’s changed a little bit over the last 18 months or so.

Alex: Yeah, I think that’s a lot of different sectors as well. I mean, in my day job I feel the same way. I meet a lot of people only digitally. Maybe I’ll run into a minute event or something like that, but I think the business trip as well, having them come down to London to visit you, or you go somewhere else to visit them, maybe you can just like skip a lot of that.

And do only one or two, like kind of finalizing meetings to just make sure that the relationship is solid there. But I think, a hundred percent, we see that in our side of the business as well, that things have just changed as far as how you meet and how you communicate and how you close deals.

James: Yeah. A hundred percent. I think being really informative and going into more detail at the front end with a client now and he can visualize that. So if he has to visualize that gives them confidence and then you have the testimonials and the experience of your business beyond that. Seems to be winning and people accepting and buying like that.

I think it is a really good experience for everybody. Makes everybody work a little harder, I think, which is good. But makes you think about the details. So which is great as well.

Alex: Yeah. Nice. And one of the final topics, I think there’s been a lot of threads of this already, so we may not need to revisit it in its full depth, but it’s all about growth and managing franchises at scale. So we’ve talked about, I think it was your five pillars of how people can grow. 

So, you know, imagine you’re discussing with an existing franchisee who has maybe two to five locations and they want to take that up to 20 to 50, if there’s anything else like I said, I think we’ve discussed some of this already, but what kind of advice do you have for someone who’s in that position who’s ready to really step on the gas and make the business really start to expand?

Advice for businesses who want to scale their franchise

James: Sure. If you have a couple of units out there already and really want to kind of kick start the next step, well, first of all, it’s just looking down in your business. What has worked, what hasn’t worked, and being really honest about those. The next step is building up layers in relation to how you’re going to get out to the audience. You know what your audience is now.

You’ve tried a couple of things and it’s really, really homing in and being very narrow-focused on those channels. Start with something that we can do for sure with you. So we can focus on those channels. We’re going to get you results and getting results needs all that wonderful kind of data that you have in the experience of people in your business. We kind of bring that together.

Then we go quite hard at it, in relation to the prospect numbers. So if we look at those ratios, we put a plan in place so that if you’ve got three or four units, you want to get up to 20, we can talk and we can give you a very clear idea of how much it’s going to cost you. What kind of resources we would need to put into this, you would need to put into this so we can get those up to 20 units within a timeline that you’re looking to achieve?

You’ll find that there are lending institutes with a very clear plan. We can support those conversations. We can say some of those high street banks are speaking about, very close relationships with which we can help navigate those conversations and just give you a stamp of approval from Franchise My Business of what the plan looks like, where that money is going to be spent if you’re looking to borrow money to stretch you and hit those targets.

Alex: Nice. Yeah. And once they start to reach a larger scale, just using a name that I think most people in the industry will know, let’s say like Anytime Fitness, once they start to reach this scale, what would you say starts to change as far as the business operations are concerned?

James: Yeah. So you’ve probably been generalizing quite a lot up to probably 21 units. You need to kind of specialize. So how your business kind of runs, you will need to get specialists in certain areas. Give you an example.

Maybe business performance, performance of the businesses is key so then getting a return on investments who may be specialists in those areas. You also find that core products and delivery, you may have been generalizing that to a point, again, you want to specialize in those key areas because they’re going to drive certain initiatives for your business so you can start scaling up again. I probably would say interacting with your franchisor is really important.

So that would include having franchisees come together, talking about what works, what doesn’t work. Taking that as ammunition to be able to go again is really important. Getting feedback because it’s not a perfect world. Getting feedback on what marketing initiatives work. What got the best feedback? What are your consumers saying? So having a broad stroke or a plan.

Let me put a kind of map in place and that helps those individuals that want to specialize because then the franchisees are just going to get the best kind of advice getting enforced and support to ensure that the business is deliverable.

The last thing I’d say here is it’s really important to be really consistent with a franchisee from a franchisor and Franchise My Business with a franchisor in what that plan is going to be. You must have that plan and he must have those touchpoints about either that those balanced scorecards or the overall metrics and what the business is going to perform on.

I think if you have those touchpoints and they’re very clear for everybody to see, there’s no ambiguity of relationship. Relationships are strengthened, and everybody understands what they need to do. It’s when there’s ambiguity there, you tend to trip up, and franchisees kind of deviate a little bit from the core product and start doing their own things because you’re not fulfilling what needs to be fulfilled as a franchisor.

And that’s why they started deviating. Be it marketing campaigns and things like that they shouldn’t have done if that makes sense.

Alex: Okay. Yeah, it does. You did remind me of one of our larger franchise clients in the US, they have an annual conference that they host for, I think all franchisees. There are about 180 franchisees under their portfolio.

So maybe that’s a good one to just highlight. How often would you say you should bring franchisees together or how often should there be this kind of group communication? Should it be annually? Should it be half-year or maybe it depends on the business model?

James: Yeah. Well, I guess it does depend a little bit on the business model. [Unclear50:21] a smaller franchise network, then I think more regularly is actually better, so at least twice a year or twice a year. If it’s a bigger franchise network, it’s got a few hundred or even a thousand franchisees and it’s not always possible, so I would normally put key personnel in those key territories or nominated franchisees nominated by the group that comes together, maybe three times a year for an enhanced session with maybe it might be only eight or 10 people, but they’ve been voted in or selected by a franchise network.

I would say there is a need to be a franchise conference, maybe not annually, but at least every 18 months to two years, which would be the maximum that I would wait. They’re greatly beneficial. They normally happen not over one day, a three-day event or longer, depending on the size of the franchise businesses. Normally a lot costs, a lot of expense that goes into those. We do them at Franchise My Business as well.

We’re franchisors actually bringing franchisors together to talk about different industries and ideas sometimes, and then that kind of works. So but yeah definitely have the events. It’s great for networking.

Audience Questions

Alex: Awesome. Okay. And one last, we had an audience question come in. It was just about to say like a book recommendation for anyone in this sector that you could recommend.

James: Yeah, that’s brilliant. I probably can recommend a few books. There is a franchise book, I can’t remember his name. I’ll send it to you after Alex but I’ll just describe what it talks about. It talks about the franchisees’ experience and what they go through is kind of the happiness curve, if you want to call it that. Every franchisee will have peak excitement normally when they sign up. They would go down below what I call the normal lines.

They’ll be quite emotional, unhappy because of spending money, maybe business isn’t performing, and they’ll finish up kind of midway. Every franchisee goes through this kind of curve and what will happen they might go through it multiple times. They may go through it very, very slowly. You as a franchisor will need to recognize where they are in kind of their happiness curve.

And the reason why you want to recognize that is you can work with them in different ways. They might be feeling pressure, stress. Think about their mental health. You want to kind of think about how you as a franchisor are going to interact with them when you know where they are. And that’s something I actively discuss with franchisors and their franchisees.

Where are they in that process? Where are they in their curve? Where are they at this point in time? That just helps you kind of manage them. I do have a couple of books. I will email them over to you though.

Alex: Certainly. Nice. I think one that I feel like it gets mentioned pretty much every week on the show, but it’s Atomic Habits by James Clear and when I hear you talking about super clear cut systems in order to really reach your goals, I think that’s one that always can be threaded into this kind of conversation.

So, you’re starting with the small systems in mind and focusing on those, and then that leads you into achieving these big ambitious plans that you have for the business.

James: Yes.

Alex: Okay. The final question then. Where can listeners who are interested in learning more about you and what Franchise My Business does, where can they go to find out more about the work you’re doing?


James: Yeah. The easiest place hit me up on LinkedIn, I guess to start off with, James Cotton, Franchise My Business. There is our website. Again, it’s So quite simple there. Those are the two most regular places, or you can email me just is absolutely fine. I’ll get back to you fairly quickly.

Alex: Awesome. Well, hope anyone who’s listening in has gotten a lot of value from today in how to scale their fitness franchise and if they want to reach out to you, they now know where to find you.

James: That’s great. Alex, I appreciate your time. Thank you for that.

Alex: Likewise, James. It’s been a really good conversation. I appreciate your insights.

James: Thank you.

Alex: Great. All right. Well, this has been another week of FitNation’s Lunch & Learn. Thank you for tuning in, and we will see you next time.

James: See you!

How to Build Outstanding Fitness Experiences

This week we chatted to Tom Skyrme from Affinity Spaces in our bi-weekly Lunch & Learn webinar. In our conversation with Tom, he revealed how you can build outstanding fitness experiences for your clients.

Affinity’s mission is to fundamentally change the way health is perceived through the creation of active spaces. Active spaces are not a type of facility such as a health club, big box or boutique, nor is it a franchise or workout.

Host Alex von Hagen and Tom discuss how to get online more effectively, how you can build experiences to increase retention and the Space Station modelCurious to what that is, and why organizations should adopt it? You will hear all about it in this episode of FitNation Lunch and Learn.

Watch the full episode here:

Sign up for future webinars

Alex Von Hagen: Welcome everybody; it is that time again for another episode of Fitnation’s Lunch and Learn. We want to thank everyone for taking the time to join us for today’s session. It will be one that shines a spotlight on the role of online presence and also member experiences in the fitness industry that, as we all know, is changing by the day.

The person who’s going to help us give us the insight and the actionable points here is none other than Tom Skyrme. So Tom is the founder and CEO of Affinity Active Spaces. It’s a team of people whose aim is to fundamentally change the fitness industry with a focus on the development of active spaces and they’re also helping usher in a new era for the industry that’s really centered around the ability to deliver personalized coaching at scale.

So in today’s session, what we’ll be discussing is getting online more effectively, building experiences that ultimately retain your members better and then also why organizations should adopt something called the space station model, which Tom has developed and I think has a lot of actionable insights within it as well. So as mentioned, this topic is going to be super prevalent for an industry that is changing pretty much by the day. It will be a really important conversation for those who are looking to keep their competitive edge in the next 12 to 18 months. Tom, thank you for taking the time to join us.

Tom Skyrme: Thanks for having me on, excited for the chat and what a lovely introduction that was.


Alex: Thanks. So Tom, always a good background point here, maybe you could tell us a little about your background and what you do.

Tom: Certainly, so I started off like a lot of people in the fitness industry as a coach, started down in the bottom in the gyms doing all the coaching. From there I sort of moved a slightly different angle, I was working towards nutrition and that’s where I first started working directly with gyms with Affinity.

What we were trying to do was help gyms get better nutrition support within that framework of health support. So in a lot of cases there, wasn’t a very clear message going within the gym about what supplements to take, maybe what recipes are good, where to get good meal plans and as we know, there’s that huge opportunity within nutrition as an addition to fitness within the gym spaces.

So what we started doing was working with gyms to ensure that they had much better systems to allow them to deliver nutrition and so that was helping them get nutritionists on or in a lot of cases using a framework that allowed them to gather the right information and then deliver that to their members and that’s sort of where the next stage occurred, which was just before the pandemic.

We were doing a lot of work with helping gyms deliver these nutrition strategies, but a lot of it was online because you didn’t really need to be in the actual gym itself and so the support came through these online networks, whether it was via an app, whether it was via their social media pages or whether that was via sort of just their online sites that they had.

So we started working to make sure that all the information that they were getting was being delivered in a really efficient way through their actual digital platforms that they were having and then all of a sudden the pandemic happened and everyone had a digital platform. So that was sort of when the time came for us as well and we’ve been working with gyms first of all, to get their nutrition online and then we thought, okay, this is really now the opportunity to help, not just from a nutrition perspective, but to look at different elements of health that a gym could provide on top of that fitness services and really then start to stick out in an industry, which very quickly moved online and the market became very saturated and everybody came quite competitive and so it became, okay, how do we add more than just fitness to a portfolio when it comes online?

And that’s where we’ve been really focusing over the past 18 months is how do we get online more effectively? How do we do things differently to the way everyone else is doing? And that includes the likes of Peloton and Apple Fitness Plus that they have that’s really a good way of bringing in members, but in the same way, the average gym has such an opportunity to do something different and to bring in members in a really unique way.

So together with all of those components, we built up all of these strategies and systems that can be implemented into businesses, which is a really effective way of expanding the business and doing more for your members. So it’s been an exciting 18 months of development for us.

Vision and Mission of Affinity

Alex: Nice, definitely. So, yes, it sounds like you guys are really, as you said, growing from nutrition and then pulling in a lot more different areas of this. So as far as Affinity goes, I mean, what would you say is your vision here or ultimately the mission that you guys are really trying to help with?

Tom: The much broader vision and sort of what we talk about on a day-to-day basis is how do we get more people being active and how do we get more people into gyms and studios and I think there’s always been this case within the industry that we target the individuals who want to be healthy and we target the people that are already wanting to invest their time and money into the ends up being active.

So we help apply strategies that reach out to people who are maybe taking their first steps and so we do a lot of work to really consider who are those people that are on the fringe, who are those people that really aren’t active, and what does it take to get them to step one and then to step two and if we will do that as an industry, we can make so much of a bigger market of individuals and make such a difference to the way that we make more people healthy and not just that the sort of 20% that we know are going to continue to buy from us.

So the big picture for Affinity has always been, how do we get more people into the industry? How do we make health more meaningful, more accessible and that’s important to us.

Alex: Yeas, and I’ve also had this conversation with a lot of other people, it’s that 15 to 20%, we knew that they were going to be part of the industry. We knew that they were going to be, as you say, buying from the industry, using gym subscriptions, but as the pandemic hit, you kind of realized that it was that other 80 to 85% where attention should have been focused on because that’s where probably most of the problems occur within the pandemic.

I’m glad to hear that you guys are really focusing on that because I think this is the next stage of the fitness industry, it’s not just about that small 15% and fighting over the same members, it’s about addressing that wider audience and really making health accessible for more people.

Tom: Yes, don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy. It’s that sort of situation where everyone wants to be a part of that solution, but it’s never just oh, okay, we need to do more of this since there’s a really dynamic set of sort of situations that everybody is on their own unique health journey and we’re finding people on completely different points and we have to really understand where each individual is with their health and start to then bring that person in step by step and it sounds so difficult.

How do we get one person and how would we get every unique individual to take that step? So it’s about really trying to understand where everyone is in a society that is changing so quickly and with so many different ways of actually influencing our health and so we bring those together and we really try and focus on, okay, what are the best strategies of getting this done more effectively? So no two days are the same when trying to work all these things out.

Current Status of Fitness Industry

Alex: A lot of different things to consider or consider for sure. I mean, it’s a huge population set now that we’re all trying to focus on here. So one of the main talking points we wanted to focus on today was getting online more effectively. Obviously, this show, this kind of reared its ugly head for a lot of operators when the pandemic hit, when they realized they had no solution whatsoever, but at the same time, it also accelerated that move towards digital by maybe some estimates five to ten years for some organizations.

From your perspective or the position that you guys are sitting in, what would you say is the current status of gyms or just the fitness industry as a whole? We don’t really want to target just gyms only here, but I think the industry as a whole being online.

Tom: Absolutely. So a lot of times when we talk about it internally, we talk about traditional health and fitness or traditional fitness, which is like the gym studios, health clubs and what their transition has been from almost strictly physical, maybe five years ago to a very, what we’re now calling a hybrid approach where they have to have digital services and what scale of digital services are they going to apply?

Is it they’re now more a digital service than they are physical service or they find a balance which optimizes more for their members. So there’s definitely that traditional side of gyms and studios that are trying to focus on that transition that they need to make, which is manageable for them as a business and then we’ve got new fitness as well, which is you’re saying connected fitness, the apps that came out of almost nowhere and have tens or hundreds of thousands of subscribers, they’re very much part of the industry and they’re very much a massive support system for bringing new people into the industry.

So if they’re digitally native, then what strategies and services are they using, and why are they so effective in bringing people together online and supporting around a brand.

So, I mean, we’ve seen numbers that 84% of traditional health and fitness businesses went online during the pandemic. I saw 84% in on top of all of those other businesses, there’s a lot of competition, but some of them have dropped off. Some of them have decided, look, now things are beginning to reopen and our physical space is more accessible and profitable, we can go back to just doing that and so there is been a drop-off from a lot of the traditional fitness, which is fine, but then there’s also those who have gone right, okay, we’re really into this market now, and not only are we competing, but we’re really starting to make grounds on the way our business works.

So it’s exciting to see where the blend is between new fitness, new health and fitness services, especially those who work in a particular vertical and then the traditional brands who are really [inaudible 12:51] weigh-in and said, look, we are a more traditional brand and our training and our services are of a really high standard and now we’re doing this online and we’re doing it really effectively. So it’s great to see that sort of amalgamation of all of these brands come together online. So it’s definitely a big step forward in helping more people be active and be healthy and a lot of it is online.

Alex: Nice. Two things to point out from what you just mentioned. I think some good points from my day job, I talked to a lot of fitness chains and I am talking with a lot of different players in the fitness industry, you’re totally right that now there’s just this plethora of new providers on the market.

I mean, I can’t remember this is a big difference in the numbers, so I don’t know how publicly I should say it, but it was something between like either 20 or 70,000 different kinds of fitness apps were released onto the app stores I think in 2019 or 2020. I should probably have these stats a little more drilled down before I announced something like that but the point is that this is a huge number and so, yes, there’s obviously now it’s just like this, what do they call it?

Analysis paralysis on what should be the best one for you on that same note, I’ve also talked to some gym chains who are more or less actively not pursuing the online avenue because in the presence the physical club, like that experience, that face-to-face experience, that’s the most important thing for them. So I think as you mentioned, it’s about helping people understand what’s best for them and understanding what their options are.

Tom: Absolutely. Every business is different in terms of what is going to be the best direction for them moving forward because they can have a really good community of individuals and they can secure that business going forward without having to go online or doing it in a certain way. And like you said, I’ve heard some data similar to what has been rattling around in your head there about 20,000 or up to 70,000 new apps being put onto an app store and I’ll tell you now, 90% of them will not last a year because it’s just not good enough in terms of the standard of coaching they’re providing. It does have to be better online.

It’s certainly different online, but when it comes down to it, a stat that I saw, which was probably more staggering and hopefully I don’t misquote here, but it was 1.1 billion downloads of health and fitness apps and so it’s just a staggering amount of people. A download doesn’t mean they’re using it every day, but it just goes to show there really is a market for people being active online.

Alex: Yes, absolutely. I mean, I also think I’ve seen a similar statistics to that one probably from the same, if not similar source and it shows you where that interest really is and you figure people also have multiple apps on their phone for fitness. I mean, I think I probably have six or seven apps that are related to one form of fitness or another, whether it’s biking or [inaudible 15:48] for my gym or forest tracking progress or something like that. So yes, there are a lot of options out there for people.

Tom: Absolutely.

Strategies for Growth

Alex: Okay. Let’s talk about some of the strategies that you guys are helping or discussing with your partners in order to help best position them for growth. What kind of conversation topics are you guys usually having?

Tom: Yes, sure. I mean, we touched on it at the very start about the space station model, which I know we’ll come on to, but as a company, we look at the idea of the space station actually came from this idea of a galaxy because within online fitness, there is just absolutely so many components that go into delivering it effectively and operating the business effectively and so we were like, okay, how are we going to contain this tool?

And so we started off by saying, right, it’s the galaxy model and so within there is the space station model, which is how you deliver experiences online and then there’s the idea of complete health and that’s an assessment on the different opportunities we have to deliver different forms of health online.

I think in the physical space, as a contrast here in the physical space, we’ve built out for a gym, there are machines there, it’s all built to do physical fitness. But online those same gyms are now capable of delivering nutritional advice, mental health support, creating very unique communities that you wouldn’t be able to harness necessarily in the physical space and so it really opens the door to helping any individual work on their health in a much more dynamic fashion and I think that’s a massive step forward when we consider some of the flaws of the traditional industry was that someone could be working out four times a week and they could be active, but it was their nutrition that let them down, it was their mental health that’s got them going and so it was so uncontrollable for these gyms and that they would lose members because of well beyond their control.

So one thing that we’ve really tried to focus on is how do we make solutions that go beyond fitness and online there are huge opportunities for that. We can dig into that further because it then links to personalization, because again, with the tech that we’re getting, whether that’s the wearables that people have on their wrists or the belts that they wear, the heart rate monitors that they wear, whatever it may be, it adds that layer of personalization. We have more data, we have greater access to what their motivations are, what their goals are, who they’re interacting with, why they’re interacting, what coaches do they want to work with, which coaches are best for that particular set of goals.

We have all of this data, all of this information, and it’s going to be so important to start understanding what data we have available to us as a business and then how do we start applying that data in a way that can personalize every member’s experience, whether we have a hundred, 300 thousand, a hundred thousand members, and that really will be the case of we’re going to be able to personalize a lot of the services.

How do we understand that data? What have we got to use and what avenues do we need to look to secure more opportunities for personalization? So it’s a huge opportunity within different systems and strategies of working online and operating a business online, whether that’s in addition to the physical space or whether that’s as a primary role.

Role of the Community in Effective Online Strategy

Alex: Gotcha. I think when we talk about personalization communities [inaudible 19:20] to start popping up as well, it’s one that they usually mention in the same breath. So maybe, could you talk to us a little bit about the role you see community playing in terms of an effective online strategy?

Tom: Perhaps it’s the most important factor. I mean, I’ve seen so many different brands go online and I’ve seen some incredible programs through my time as a coach, I can tell what’s a good program and a bad program and I see all these good programs, and I see all this fancy marketing and I see all these really good components, but the business has nowhere near the same amount of growth as another business who just clearly has this core community of people who are all doing it for each other, who were there supporting each other and this business is just doing a lot better.

It’s acquiring members quicker, they’re retaining members, all of the key statistics that you’re getting from a good, successful fitness business is coming from the ability to connect people much more effectively and it isn’t easy. A lot of the time when you’re making a community the big problem is keeping people engaged, getting people to sort of be open to other people online, which is always difficult. You’re not meeting someone face to face.

You’re not necessarily building a bond in person. We’ve all been online over the past year and some of us have struggled and some of us have sort of seen the opportunity that’s making friends online and creating relationships online is doing for our own health and it’s doing it for our own wellbeing in general. So community is playing this massive important role in bringing people together and essentially having that accountability and having those people around you to continue to reinforce good health habits and good health behaviors and the better the community is the less it feels like you are building a habit or working out every day or any of those sort of circumstances that a lot of people seem to think are a tool or something I don’t want to do.

If you have a community around you, it completely changes the dynamic of how you adjust your health. So, yes, definitely the most important component.

Alex: Do you have any good examples or initiatives you’ve seen some operators take on that you could share?

Tom: Yes, I mean, there are loads of great ideas and often, when I see it, I’m always writing them down because I’m like, that’s a great idea. Stuff like daily challenges it alerts everyone to something different every day towards their health and so it doesn’t have to be okay, this is our daily challenge, go and do a kilometer or two and a half kilometer run or this is our workout.

It can be get out and meditate in a local park or go and find a recipe which allows you to cook with certain foods, which will enable you to have more fiber in your diet. So it’s challenges that you don’t know what’s coming because it’s a daily challenge and it’s something new and it keeps the idea of being healthy fresh, because you always have something different to do. So I like the idea of daily challenges and another initiative I really like is it’s time away and I can’t remember which brand and what it was called, but what they tried to do was say, okay, we’re going to do half an hour, anyone who wants to do this particular class, you have to stay for half an hour after and all it is is just having conversations with people who have also done that class.

So I think quite often when we’re doing classes online, whether that is the live classes or on-demand, it’s okay do the class and we’re done, next thing what’s going on in life? Have I got to do this, have I got to do that, am I back to work, what might it be? To take that half an hour and to have those conversations with people that you wouldn’t have necessarily had the conversation with, it builds community in a way that a lot of us expect from the traditional, the physical spaces and it gives you a moment because a lot of the time you’re either wrapped up in work or you’re wrapped up in family life or whatever it may be and you don’t get the opportunity to spend all the time with people who are like-minded and so those are some of the initiatives that really help build community online.

Alex: I think that that second one is actually interesting because that is a great community builder right there. It’s almost like a forced community builder, but not one that seems like it’s too forced like speed dating or something. So it’s like, hey, stay have a chat, hang out, see who else is also interested in the same class as you are and yeah, those are the kinds of things when you see those people at the gym, they’re probably going to attend around the same time that you usually do as well and then, yes, that’s exactly how these things start to get built and it’s organic as well, which is really nice.

Tom: Yes, as you say organic is spot on, those are those authentic organic connections that you can get from just setting time aside and the people who would sign up for that class knew that it was just almost semi-compulsory. They want it to be there afterward because they knew other people would be there and other people who wanted to share that time with them as well. It’s not like you’re going into a room and no one’s really paying attention now. Everyone’s there just to be with each other and I think it does feel really organic because people just start chatting and people would just like really feel like they’re in a room together and it’s so important when we’re talking about online fitness, building communities online, it can often feel very disconnected from what it means to build relationships in real life and so any strategies and systems that you can apply, which makes things organic and authentic are absolutely vital to that.

Delivering Content

Alex: Yes, big fan as well of the daily challenge that’s not just about, hey, do a hundred pushups or go run X amount of distance. It’s not just physical, it’s the finding the finding that new recipe to help you do this, and then that starts to just connect it all together. I think that was brilliant. I’m going to start sharing that one with some of the conversations that I have as well. There’s a huge amount of value in that to just get people doing something different. As far as delivering content most effectively, what kind of things are you guys advising on here?

Tom: See, when I was sort of thinking about the best way of delivering at home fitness, which is going to make you unique, you can’t compete with the way that Peloton sets up their cameras and their leader boards and all of that sort of software that they developed, and the same thing with Apple Fitness Plus.

These big brands, you don’t want to try and compete head to head with them, you want to think of what makes your brand unique and what makes your brand different and how do you start implementing that into the way that you deliver your experiences and so if you’ve got an hour of someone’s day, how are you going to make it the best hour of their day and it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to be a sort of a 45 minute class and then 15 minutes stretch, whatever the class is, think outside the box a bit, think how can we add different components of the health of sort of an individual’s health on top of what the class may be and so don’t just make it hit class, don’t just make it a yoga class, think of what you can add and so there’s plenty of opportunity to show what your brand is really made of and how it’s unique and definitely lean into that.

Alex: Nice. Also, I mean, it’s worth mentioning, since the pandemic there’s been a lot of at-home videos of varying quality. Do you have any tips here as far as what can we do to up the quality of our video, if we don’t have well, as most people don’t have the endless pockets of the Peloton and the Apple Fitnesses and things like that?

Tom: Yes, sure. I’d say keep it simple. As long as your audio and video are good enough standard. I mean, you don’t need to buy a very expensive camera and all these microphones and apps and all these lights and just make it a good enough standard so that people can hear you clearly, people can see you clearly and make sure you get feedback on that.

Don’t just assume whether people can or can’t, just make sure you’re having those conversations and some of the things that we do with the companies we work with is say, listen, you need to be very open with the way that you’re developing online with your community, because if you’re new to it and if you’re a gym that’s moved online and you have all of these new individuals coming in, some of them were members and are members in your physical space, but some of them are coming in through referrals and through seeing your adverts and marketing and whatever that may be, bring them into the community of we’re building online and we want to know what we’re doing right and what we’re doing wrong. So give us that open information, because we’re only making things better for you here.

I think a lot of businesses are afraid to say, what are we doing wrong and getting that feedback saying, oh, your video’s horrible but if enough people were saying your video is a bad quality, that’s when you need to know you need to upgrade your video as opposed to thinking, or someone or loads of people saying, oh, we’d love like a leader board, or we’d love to be able to see some sort of data about where we are.

Then you think, okay, well, what software is out there that we can look for to apply that on top of now that we’ve got a good foundation of good video and good audio, so what’s that next step for us. So always be listening to what your community is saying and what your feedback is saying, because that’s where you’re going to get the information of where is the priority of adding to our digital service and whether that is the service and the experiences themselves, which is the delivery of it or whether that’s the backend making it smoother, making it easier for them to decide off and making it easier for them to engage. So there are all those components that just listening is the best way of finding out.

Alex: Nice. I think it’s always really good from a retention standpoint too, is really kind of putting yourself out there and say, look our core reason for asking this is we want to make this the absolute best experience for you possible, what kind of feedback would you have and just it’s all about how you approach it. I think that’s a pretty good tip.

Tom: More and more brands are starting to sort of build-out in public in terms of saying, we’re a business, but we’re as much part of this community as all of the coaches and individuals. So we want to make the business a part of the community and the more you do that, the more open people will be as opposed to saying well, there’s the business and then there’s a community and they’re separate and they’re only sort of linked between the coaches who are the ones who are delivering the experiences.

As a business owner, if you put yourself in the community and say I’m building this business and we want the business to excel, we want it to grow because the more it grows, the more we can add, people to this community, so they’re going to help everyone out and so it helps bridge the gap between the idea of having a community of people and a business and if you bridge that gap, then it makes it a lot more comfortable for the people in the community to provide support for the business.

Building Experiences that Retain Members

Alex: Nice, yes. Okay, and so moving on a little bit to the experiential side of things, one of the things we wanted to really focus on was building experiences that retain members. So just as a basis point, always good to just kind of say what does your definition of an experience at a gym look like? And then from there we can dig in a little bit deeper.

Tom: Yes, absolutely. I know we’ve sort of been saying it a few times here. I’ve been saying experiences in a way that I like to define it and I think in a lot of circumstances, when you say customer experience, you think of everything that is involved in what the customer is going to do within the dynamic of the GM or of the business. The way we see an experience is that period of time where the individual is working on whatever it is to do with their health.

So it could be a class, it could be a workshop, it could be a community discussion forum that is an experience in of itself and I think where services and content are consumed, so if you were to just deliver a hit class, which is a bit more like a sort of a service then it’s just consumed and they just burn some calories, they don’t really know what’s going on with it.

But if you give them experience, which is continuing from the idea of a HITT class, if they understand why they’re doing certain movements, if they understand sort of where they are developing different areas of muscle groups, why they’re burning calories and what this means and so if you build out an experience, you can add ideas of themes and what you’re doing within your brand, learning what outcomes are coming from it and there are loads of these components that help make an experience more defining to each person.

Alex: Nice. I agree with that perspective on it. As far as how you guys are consulting, different fitness professionals on how to help them build these experiences, maybe we can do a deep dive on, you’ve already touched on it a little bit, but maybe just dive in a little bit deeper of like, hey, how can we help you take your, well, I don’t want to say just hit class, but let’s take the hit class example, you offer this, how do we turn this into that much more of an experience that’s going to get people coming back into more and more and more and really understanding it?

Tom: Yes, so I was just say in the particular hit class, what you want to do is you want to build more components around it in the way that enables each individual to take more from it in a personalized way. So if you say like a service, you can get a hit class on YouTube and you can press play and you can just follow the steps and that’s absolutely free in a lot of circumstances.

So you will think, okay, what do we need to add on top of that to make it more accessible and more meaningful to each individual? So it’s being able to have, obviously the coaches who are there engaging during the class is important and so you think of, oh, okay, wait, what are they doing to essentially bring everyone closer into the way that they’re looking after their health and so, yes, they’re doing the movements and they are understanding why they’re doing the movement?

Are they understanding what benefits is having and so you can link it to the way that each individual is working on their particular health and working on their particular goals and so, like we mentioned at the start about the importance of personalization, it’s bringing that back to, okay, why are we working in a certain way? What are your motives to continue to push harder? What are these components that go into the experience itself, which is going to benefit each person?

So I think that there’s all this depth that you can find within the certain avenues of delivering a class online and so irrespective of whether you’re doing a HITT class, or if it’s a yoga class, whether it’s a hybrid, I think we’ve got a lot better at programming for a larger range of individuals and so when we are online, say if 20 people turn up or a hundred people turn up, there’s still the opportunity to provide the depth that is in each individual’s ability to give them that personalization. So there’s all this opportunity that exists within it.

Alex: Nice. Would you say, are there any common things that you see pop up time and time again, that in terms of creating a better experience that you’re telling your customers you know, hey, these are the first two things that you can implement today to craft a better experience? Sometimes it can be a little hard to maybe just blink at that across the whole industry, but I guess what kind of common things are you seeing pop up that anyone listening right now could implement in the next one week or so like that to improve the experience that they offer?

Tom: Yes. Again, I like the idea that I always think is most effective, which is also most underutilized is the idea of emotion. So there’s not enough reflection on, okay, how are we going to make people feel during different stages of this class? So how are we getting them to feel as soon as they log on and as soon as they are in that space ready to go, they’ve turned up, they want to be there.

What emotion are we trying to craft from there? Which is going to heighten the experience for them. Because if we just turn up and say, all right, okay, off you go and then you’re doing this, you’re doing that and then it just gets away from them and it doesn’t ever become a true experience as opposed to just the service of doing a class. If we grabbed that emotion and think, oh, okay, well, we need to heighten the emotion at this period and we need to calm things down here, we need take a breather, we need to understand where our body’s moving and that can happen right in the middle of a hit class and it completely changes the perspective that an individual has of doing that particular class.

Then that kind of, okay, they’re more present in the experience and by being more present in the experience, whatever type of exercise it may be, or even if it’s something to do with sort of nutrition and mental health, which is the other opportunities that exist within experiences is how do they feel and how does that emotion trigger their continued success because they can flash through the class, they can finish it and burn the calories like we were saying, but how are the emotional triggers working to ensure that that’s taking more from the class and what we often find that the end as well is at the end of the session, what are the emotional triggers that are going to make them come back again?

Because we don’t necessarily think it’s going to be an emotional trigger that makes them come back. We think it’s, oh, they’ve enjoyed that class and they’ve burnt a certain amount of calories or they know that they’ve improved their mobility or their strength because of doing the class and we think that the issue of presumed progress is what really makes them come back again. But if not, it’s the emotion that they felt at the end is that, are we doubling down on that euphoric sense of achievement or are we say, okay, good job, well done, off you go.

So it creates that different emotion, which leaves them in a much better position long-term to think, oh, okay, that was a success. Not just because of the way that I did the class, but the way I felt and the way I applied myself during the class. I want to have that again and I want to have the sort of range of emotions that I got from within that class and a lot of people were like, oh, I really enjoyed the challenge of doing that class or I really enjoyed doing something different that I wouldn’t have necessarily done.

So you have to latch onto those emotions and say, right, okay, well, you have to negotiate a way that you continue to put those emotions into the experiences. I think that’s one of those big opportunities that not enough gyms and spaces sort of really reflect on when they’re making the programming or when they are thinking of what classes to put on. I think it’s very easy just to make sure the timetable is full or to make sure that there’s a arrange of an offering for example.

But the reality is if you think about the fundamental reasons why your members and your community are in those classes and are really focusing on different elements of their health and what emotional triggers you can utilize to help them advance the health and that sort of direction, that becomes the biggest opportunity out of all of them when creating experiences.

Adaptation to the Space Station Model

Alex: I definitely agree with that because, I mean, there’s certainly, it’s not everyone, but you can imagine there’s a certain amount of people who are there probably just because they feel like they need to be there and they may be probably on autopilot a little bit while they are there. So if you can start tapping into something a little bit deeper there, then it really starts to shift perspective.

So I think that’s a super good shout what you’re saying that it really appealed to like the different, not only just one emotion, but the different emotions that come throughout a session, whether it’s a HITT class, like you said a few times or a nutrition consultation or some good mindfulness, there are so many different aspects and avenues to go there. Okay, cool. A segue to revisit the space station model that we touched on a little bit earlier, but as you mentioned, there’s a few different things going on here. You feel that a lot of organizations should adopt the space station model and that you guys have created. So maybe we could revisit this, what that means, what’s entailed in that, and then what the opportunity is here?

Tom: Yes, absolutely. Because as you say, we’ve been touching on points throughout this conversation so far, but the space station module itself is a better way of crafting experiences that enable you to put them out efficiently and if you’re putting out new experiences efficiently, whether that is a different type of physical fitness class, whether that entails yoga, a strength class, or whether it’s a nutrition cost, a nutrition workshop, or whether it’s a talk on mental health, whether that is social health components and communication, there are so many avenues you can take when it comes to delivering health and fitness online that you want to have a system or you want to have a model, which works effectively as you go this is what we need to do, and this is how we need to do it effectively. So we broke that down into five stages.

So the first is the discovery stage, and that’s understanding each of your members and as a community, what are the real sticking points that each individual has with their health and that only happens through communication and that only happens by really understanding your community and this needs to be scaled because we’ve worked with sort of smaller gyms who have had a hundred to 300 members, and we’ve worked with others who have 5,000 or 10,000 members.

So you have to be able to gather not just the data itself, but the sort of you have the quantitative side, but you have the qualitative side as well. You have to understand where the feeling is within the community, about where the struggles all with health and that so often comes down to lifestyle components. So you have to work within your community to gain a better understanding. So stage one is always about that discovery. What are people’s real sticking points? There is no point in putting on classes that aren’t as beneficial as what your community really wants when it comes to that health.

So to create an experience, you have to start from the very start of it. What are your communities sticking points and what can you start to do to really work on them and that’s really what leads into the second point, which is the development stage.

In the development stage where you have a better understanding and now you want to make sure that when it comes to delivering the experience, you’re actually doing it right and you’re doing it in a way that is going to be beneficial. It’s one thing to say, oh, okay, we’re struggling with our nutrition, potentially around sort of summer and less people have keeping on top of their nutrition. So everyone you’ve gauged from that discovery stage that people were needing help in a certain direction and that may differ at different times of the year as well.

So you’re trying to understand where and that second development stages, how are we going to appeal to the breadth of our community and find a solution that is going to work effectively for them, and how are we going to focus on delivering it? So is that going to be like a workshop or is that going to be as just a class or a talk from a nutritionist? Is it something to do with gut health or is it something more broad to do with sort of the way that fiber is an important role within the diet as a whole?

So it has sort of levels of depth and breadth that you need to understand in that second stage, so that you deliver exactly where the struggle is for the majority of people who want to commit that point of view of their health.

So that leads to stage three, which is the practical stage, and that’s actually delivering the experience and that’s actually creating something which is meaningful to every single person. So when they log on and they come to do this experience with you, they’re like, this is exactly what I needed, and it doesn’t come without stage one and two, because you have that understanding and so in the third stage, that’s when you’re applying all of this, and that’s very similar to sort of the conversation aspect we just had about the experience themselves is when they’re there, what are they doing to really optimize that experience and that applies to both the coaches each member of the community and every person involved in the experience themselves.

We like to think of it as a whole system approach, who are the stakeholders, who are the people that have a role within this experience. So everyone needs to have an opinion on what the outcome is going to be, because at the end of the day, that is what is going to make your strongest opinion and that is what is going to allow the coaches to coach to their full potential and to deliver outcomes that are really going to be changing people’s lives long-term because it’s one thing to [inaudible 44:53] an experience and other things to deliver a service.

If you’re delivering just a service, you’re not connecting an individual to their health long-term. So that’s why we find stage three as the practical stage, sort of the pivotal stage, because what it does is it really transforms their idea of that component of their health.

So sometimes it is just a class that they’re doing every week, but when you’re turning into an experience, or sometimes it’s as a completely one off class, which they know they’ve needed for a while and you’ve been able to understand that as a fundamental way of doing it. So that’s what’s great about the build-up to stage three and experience itself is that you have with that information about what is the perfect delivery mechanism and going to really maximize outcomes and that needs to then stage four, which is what we call the specialized stage.

Because in so many circumstances, you can take a component of health and you can get it to a level that your coaches are able to deliver at and then once you get past that stage, a lot of individuals want something more, perhaps there’s a deeper level of personalization, and perhaps there’s more to it but you need specialist help and that is often always the case that there any certain level you can take it to before you need some sort of specialists to come in and really reinforce some of those core lessons. In stage three, you’ll learn a lot from those experiences, because you’ll be able to understand that, oh, okay, well, these are the points that we missed and like we said, at the start with a good set of feedback options, you can hear from your community to say, this is where we want to take it next.

We had a problem, you solved the big part of this problem, but look, if we can keep digging deeper on this area of health, or we can understand more, or we can paint it in a new light, and that’s going to add so much more to the way that we advance our health in that particular area.

So to specialize in the stage four is all about finding the right people to come in and support your brand and that’s certainly difficult and that’s a challenge we’ve definitely faced with working with a number of brands is identifying the right people, not just to come in and deliver something on top of which they may have done two or three times with other gyms or with other areas of their business, but how do they come in and really personalize it?

So we feel like a big part of stage four is helping them build the systems to ensure that they are finding the right individual, they’re asking them the right questions and so they’re getting the best out of that in that specialist, whether it’s a nutritionist, physiotherapists, wherever it may be, they’re getting the very best out of them and translating that into exactly what your community needs as the next step after what is the first level of experience that they would get.

So that often, when I tend to sit in, or when I see recordings of the stage four specialists experiences, I’m thinking about like wow, you can tell that everyone’s really engaged, and you can tell that with all the feedback coming in, that everyone’s really turned a new perspective on that element of their health, because it added more to it and they’ve created that depth and almost asked those questions, well answered those questions, sorry that they were sort of asking internally, but they couldn’t quite get out there and I think in a lot of circumstances within the fitness industry, is there are a lot of unanswered questions about different components of our health and that the services that we provide a good, but a surface level, and to really engage people with their health and to really engage people with the way they manage their health long-term, they have to apply more to it.

So what’s great about enhancing the experience through to what we call the stage four experiences is being able to sort of dig deeper and a lot of people have those sort of mini eureka moments where they’re like, that was the missing piece of that particular bit of puzzle for my health. And now I can move onto the next stage and now I can go and continue to eat in a much short of a healthier way, or I can go on to that advanced class that I was never able to do because I was never able to move in a certain way, or I never thought I was confident enough.

So having that extra layer of specialism on top is really, really effective and from a business point of view, bringing in a specialist in and adding an additional layer to the experiences helps you to charge more as a business and offer more premium services in different aspects. So to try and sort of push that across onto the way that we help with membership structuring as well, is that you can have say 15 to 20 pounds a month, which would be your base membership.

But if you want access to some of the specialists experiences, then you pay up to 30 pounds or a little bit more a month and so you get that advanced metric within your training. So to have those stage three practical experiences within the business setup, then you have the stage four, which is that climb up and you encourage more people to make that climb because they want to, because they know that there’s that extra progression up there and that’s the sort of the exciting addition to it.

Then to sort of cap it off, stage five is all about commitment. It’s all about bringing people together. It’s all about saying alright, you’ve learned, you’ve taken so much from that, how do we apply that into the community? How would you really reinforce the idea of stage five is going to be about retention because you’re going to bring people together at that end and you’ve shared these experiences together, you’ve worked on this area of your health together.

How would you sort of continue that as getting people engaged and really thinking more about how do we help each other’s health from the perspective that we’ve just learned? So stage five I think is great because it then completes the circle of a loop of right now, everyone in the community is talking about this particular experience and they’ve learned so much and had done so much, and they’ve taken so much from it that as soon as you introduce a new experience, so once you start a new idea from stage one and move that to stage two and three, they are already thinking of being engaged in that circle and so you’re adding so much to every individual’s health, because you know more about their health and you are adding so much more depth as you move through the sort of the circle of the space station model and that’s the sort of the crux of it, of like that the ability to work on each individual’s health with so much depth, even within a massive community and that is the space station model in it’s drawn out way.


Alex: Nice. Awesome. We’re going to have to start winding down here a little bit. I think the perfect segue that I can see is for someone listening to this right now, and they say, this is exactly what I am looking for, I need this, I as a business owner need the specialist help, where do people, or where to listeners go to find out more about the work you guys are doing, or get in touch to have them help you out?

Tom: Yes, absolutely. So you can come find me on LinkedIn, so Tom Skyrme, S K Y R M E, shoot me a message on LinkedIn if you’re on LinkedIn. We’re on social as well, Instagram everything. If you want to check out our website, it’s, go and have a look around their, contact details there and any other questions, any other ideas feel free to message me, I’m always open.

Alex: Awesome. And we’ll of course put some notes in, or some things in the show notes as well. Okay. Awesome, Tom, we really, really appreciate your help and your insights and just kind of the perspective you shared with us today. I hope it was enjoyable for you. I think our listeners are going to get a lot of valuable things from what we’ve talked about today.

Tom: Excellent. Cheers.

Alex: Awesome. All right. This has been another week of Fitnation Lunch and Learn. We will see you next time.

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Health and Fitness in the Post-COVID Era and Preventive Health Care

Post-COVID, health and fitness have become more important than ever before – not only to keep our lives from becoming completely sedentary but to help our mental health through quarantine. 

We know that fitness is integral to a healthy lifestyle. And any trainer worth their salt will know that a large part of preventive health care is exercise. People who keep fit, suffer less from preventable diseases such as type II diabetes. And every little bit helps!

As vaccination programs are well up and running now, and our lives are on the verge of returning to ‘normal’, the importance of physical activity remains at the forefront of our minds. Research shows people are fatter and unhappier than before the pandemic.

So how can fitness entrepreneurs answer the growing need for physical activity, not just for aesthetic purposes, but for better future mental and physical health?

And how can the fitness industry grow and develop from what they have learned in the pandemic and change from health clubs into health hubs?

Fitness for Health in Post-COVID

Fitness is more than just lifting heavy weights and getting ripped – since the pandemic, people who are not typical gym-goers are looking for ways to get healthy. Online fitness has opened new doors for these new health-conscious yet gym-averse crowds. It offers them a variety of at-home workouts, daily step challenges, beginner yoga, and Pilates classes.

These people might be looking for aesthetic outcomes like losing weight and muscle definition, but their main goal is to get healthy. Lockdowns have changed habits and made us realize how daily physical activity is important for our overall fitness and health post-COVID.

Quarantine made us discover new ways to work out without going outside or to the gym through technology.

And if anything, fitness technology has democratized the industry. It has lowered the threshold to engage in physical activity – solo or in socially distanced groups – significantly. This has been especially beneficial to persons who chose not to, or could not, join a regular gym. Be it because of mobility issues or because they were a risk group, they now have a rich choice in content for fitness and health post-COVID.

How can gyms, studios, and personal trainers cater to these new target audiences? With a complete hybrid offering! 

And don’t think that because you’re offering digital training to your new customers, it’s going to be any less personal. Take a page out of DAG ÉÉN‘s book, whose unique program is fully remote, but incredibly engaged with their clients through technology. And it’s a resounding success!

No matter their age, no matter their goal – a hybrid offering where digital is mixed with indoor and outdoor (group) training – is a must-have business model for the fitness operator looking to fulfill the wishes and needs of the new customers looking to work on their health and fitness post-COVID.

Fitness Helping Against COVID-19

Above, we talked about new types of gym-goers looking to get healthy after being confronted with the limitations of lockdown. And the subsequent effects on their overall health. But there is one new and growing target group in particular that will benefit from fitness: sufferers from long COVID.

Long COVID patients suffer from many symptoms, such as chronic fatigue, muscle and joint pain, and shortness of breath. It seems almost counter-intuitive, but research shows that regular exercise helps patient’s fitness and health post-COVID.

And it’s there’s more. Regular exercise helps boost immune function – which in turn may increase vaccine efficacy. And it doesn’t even have to be much. 30 minutes of activity, five days a week – reduces the risk of falling ill and dying of infectious diseases by 37%.

This goes to show that there is still plenty of room for gyms, studios, and personal trainers to grow their businesses. Most importantly, listen to what is happening in your community, and what the needs are. You have the skills and knowledge to help these clients to reach their health goals.

Fitness and Exercise in Preventive Healthcare

Preventive medicine is much more important now that we have been confronted with the fact that healthier people, who exercise regularly, tend to get less sick. And we are realizing more and more that this goes beyond COVID-19. 

The increasing number of chronic diseases among the population generates the demand for places where the clients can do physical exercise and receive medical assistance. These are so-called Clinical Gyms,  where local health care practitioners facilitate access to specialized fitness and health services.

Some regular gyms have started collaborating with medical professionals too. Be it, doctors or physical therapists, they now offer preventive healthcare services to their clients. This can range from physical exams to medical massages and nutritional advice, all the way to acupuncture, hypnotherapy, and sculpting. The possibilities are endless.

However, adding new services means some additional responsibility. It is crucial that new services would meet established requirements.

For example, medical professionals should approve exercises. Moreover, the exercises should be focused on effectiveness and not on the latest trend. Finally, the staff needs to be properly licensed and certified. In addition, all the activities should comply with local or state law.

A consultation with a lawyer will help your business avoid some legal issues and make sure everything is compliant. Providing some valuable services to the surrounding community will help maintain a healthy society and improve the quality of life.

In conclusion

Our world has changed, as have we. And fitness and health post-COVID are essential. With fitness technology democratizing the industry and giving more and more people the freedom to exercise and practice preventive health care. Where and whenever they want.

We are moving away from the idea of fitness and health post-COVID is for looking good on Instagram. It’s more important for people to be happy and healthy, no matter their age or fitness level. These are great opportunities for growth for everyone in the fitness industry: growing from health clubs to health hubs.

Gyms Share How Virtuagym’s Fitness Technology Helps Them Thrive

Fitness technology is becoming more and more important to the industry. Rapid digitization has given way to a host of fitness technology trends – it’s hard to imagine running a fitness business without a gym booking app or maintaining an active online community. And there’s so much more! So how does technology actually help fitness businesses?

In this blog, we share how Virtuagym technology has helped certain fitness businesses thrive. We will look at their journeys through quarantine and since reopening. And, of course, how it can help your gym, studio, or as a Personal Trainer to get ready for a tech-driven future and growth!

DAG ÉÉN – Hyper-Personalization Through Fitness Technology

How does technology help fitness? In many ways – but the personal trainers at DAG ÉÉN make the absolute most of the digital tools at their disposal. Their unique and highly successful, yet completely remote, program utilizes Virtuagym’s app for nutrition, coaching, and fitness together with the NEO Health Watch and the NEO Health smart scales.

Specifically, technology helps the trainers securely gather data on their customer’s daily lives remotely. And so they can hyper-personalize the plans for their clients and give them the exact support they need. Ultimately, fitness technology helps their clients to stay accountable, as the trainers successfully lead them through a uniquely personalized 6-week program.

How successful? Let’s just say that since starting in October 2020, there has consistently been a waiting list for new clients.

“It is a daily ritual – every day we check the weight and measurement results, the number of steps taken, how they have slept and their nutrition according to the nutrition plan – it is a lot, but that is the secret to success: data is the means to achieve the goal.”

Patrick Janssen, Co-founder DAG ÉÉN

Your Personal Training – Offering an all-in-one solution for Personal Trainers

One of the United Kingdom’s most successful personal training management companies, Your Personal Training helps Personal Trainers reach their goals with a team of dedicated and skillful regional coaches. So they, of course, could not miss out on the fitness technology trend to help them hybridize their approach.

With Virtuagym’s fitness technology, Your Personal Training launched their ‘Your Wellbeing’ app. This is a unique fitness management app that can be personalized for each user – consolidating the aspects of three or four different fitness apps into one.

Your Wellbeing supports Personal Trainers in running and managing their business in a more efficient and streamlined way. And ultimately this enables them to focus on what they do best – training clients!

By embracing a hybrid approach, our Personal Trainers can give their clients direction and support based on their needs in a cost effective way, helping them to achieve more holistic all-body health”

Aaron McCulloch, Managing Director, Your Personal Training

040FIT – Engaging the Local Community Online and Offline

You would assume that with seven locations, it would be a real challenge to keep clients engaged through the lockdown – and beyond. So allow us to introduce 040FIT, known for the tight-knit fitness communities at each of their locations, who didn’t hesitate to jump on the hybrid fitness trend and move their community online.

Through their gym booking app they offered outdoor classes, slots for indoor work-outs, and livestreamed lessons for their remote customers. In the meantime, staff personal trainers have intensified their efforts with the coaching and nutrition apps too. And so they have made huge strides in personalizing workout schedules for clients at home and in-facility.

040FIT kept their online community engaged with challenges and prizes, but also organized social events such as hikes, which clients could enjoy while socially distancing.

And this all achieved great success. The combined effort of digital outreach to their online community through their app, and good old-fashioned phone calls from trainers to customers, resulted in an average of 1,500 class bookings a month in 2021.

Through the app we were able to coach our clients remotely and support them with nutrition advice, work-out schedules, outdoor training and a lively community! It’s an asset to every club.

Eric Thus, Manager Asten – 040FIT

Power40 – Enabling a Complete Health with Tech

How can you grow your fitness business in the middle of the pandemic and thrive? Power40 did it with the help of fitness technology: by providing their clients with additional value outside their brick-and-mortar gym.

Customer demands have changed, with people looking for fitness services that accommodate their schedules – not the other way around. If you ask this future-focused team, fitness technology and gym booking apps are the way forward. Above all, they will give the customer of tomorrow the flexibility they desire.

Accessibility for everyone is one of Power40’s core values. And with Virtuagym’s apps and content, their clients can access a full suite of health and wellness content. Whenever they want it, wherever they need it.

“About a month ago, we had a snowstorm that hit Memphis, and everything was knocked down for about a week, and people were not able to come to our studio. But, through Virtuagym, we were still able to provide them with workouts to do at home.

Wesley Ashcraft, the Director of Power40


As you have read, fitness technology helps gyms, studios, and personal trainers in a plethora of ways. Virtuagym’s all-in-one software solution supports your fitness business in all aspects – from scheduling, to payments and your own personalized fitness app.  It’s time to discover what we can do for you – so book your free demo today!

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Buying or Leasing Fitness Equipment: What Works Best For Your Gym?

People looking to start their fitness business have to make many difficult decisions: the name of your club, your location, your target audience, business model…and one more very practical question: should I be buying or leasing fitness equipment?

That’s a tough decision. Both have their pros and cons, and making the right decision depends on several factors.

What should you consider when making the financial decision between buying and leasing your gym equipment? You will read all about it in this blog!

Get your must-have fitness equipment

Before deciding whether to buy or rent, you need to determine what equipment you need. What is must-have fitness equipment for your gym? To find out, you need to consider your target audience.

Which age group are you targeting? What kind of fitness machines do you need for the kind of training plans you make for your clients? Are you looking to offer a high-end luxury experience, or are you filling a more budget-conscious niche?

Discover more: 9 essential pieces of gym equipment for all age groups in your fitness studio

While some basic items such as training bench, weights, and treadmills are must-have fitness equipment for any gym, knowing your target audience will allow you to adjust your purchasing decisions to your clients’ demand and thus, optimize the rate of machine use.

For example, if you are targeting an older demographic in a more affluent area, you might focus on more cardio machines and consider leasing top-of-the-line equipment that you can renew to stay current.

Is your focus on groups training, such as spinning lessons? You might consider buying instead, as the upfront investment will pay itself back, and you can start turning more profit on your classes after your gym bikes are paid off.

What to Consider When Leasing or Buying Fitness Equipment?

Let’s take a look at the main factors you should consider when it comes to purchasing or renting fitness equipment.

1. Overall Cost

Buying: Buying fitness equipment is a wise long-term investment. Especially, buying new fitness equipment will last you a lot longer with the proper care.

Of course, the initial investment is significantly higher for buying machines for your gym but in the long term, it is more cost-effective than leasing. The same goes for the choice between buying new or second-hand equipment. While the upfront costs for used fitness equipment may be lower, new has its perks. Newly bought fitness equipment, for example, comes with a warranty in case of damage or defects.

Finally – whether you bought your new fitness equipment outright, or took out a loan for fitness equipment financing – you are the owner of the machines. This means barring any cost for upkeep, the fitness equipment doesn’t cost you anything anymore.

And when the time comes to upgrade your fitness equipment, you can sell them off and reinvest the money in upgraded fitness equipment. 

Leasing: While leasing fitness equipment requires a lower upfront investment, it’s usually more expensive in the long run, and you don’t gain ownership of the machines in your gym – no matter how long you pay for them. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any upsides to renting.

Leasing gym equipment allows you to obtain state-of-the-art machines that always meet current trends. And without having to worry about the logistics of maintaining it or the costs associated with the wear and tear of the machines over time.

When you buy, you have to consider the life cycle of the machines you are purchasing and their declining worth. Leasing allows you to exchange the equipment when it is broken, outdated, or unused.

2. Taxation

Buying: With the recent change in tax laws, small businesses can now be eligible for tax deductions when purchasing new equipment. With this law, companies can deduct up to $1 million in equipment expenses for the tax year in which the equipment was purchased.

Leasing: There are also tax breaks for leasing fitness equipment. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 made lease payments 100% tax-deductible, without limit, for businesses.

Always check your local laws for subsidy and tax options when considering fitness equipment financing!

3. Benefits of both buying and leasing fitness equipment

Buying: Having your own machines and gear is a great asset to your brand identity. Indeed, it allows you to choose the colors and personalize the equipment for your brand – this greatly helps the overall look and feel of your gym. Especially if you are targeting a more high-end target segment, having a complete brand experience – from your own app to your fitness equipment- is essential.

Leasing: The main advantage of renting is that you can change your equipment every few years. This way, it is easy for you to adapt to changing consumer trends and stay ahead of your competitors in terms of innovation. Thus, you won’t have trouble retaining your customers and attracting new ones.

Bonus: renting out your fitness equipment to your clients! Are you dealing with clients that are either reluctant to return to your gym, or whose circumstances have changed that they can’t make the commute to your facility anymore?

Lease your unused fitness equipment it to your clients as a high-end add-on to your hybrid business model –  this way you add even more value to your subscriptions. Combined with an all-in-one fitness software and custom made app you can provide your clients a complete fitness experience at home.

Bottom line

There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to the question of fitness equipment financing. The buying and leasing of fitness equipment both have advantages and drawbacks. Finally, the best solution for you depends not only on your brand and target audience, but also on your liquidity and long-term strategy.

Either way, a gym needs equipment. And fitness entrepreneurs need Virtuagym! Discover what our all-in-one software can do for you today and book your free demo.

Impact of the Pandemic on the Fitness Industry +1 year

What’s in this guide?

One year ago we published our e-book where we reviewed the effects of the pandemic on our industry and compiled the most important lessons learned for fitness business owners and personal trainers who managed to not merely survive the pandemic but to thrive during it.

This year we share the results one year in the pandemic and discuss which fitness trends are here to stay.

How to Start and Manage Corporate Wellness Programs

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.


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?


Tim: Absolutely. I’m on all the social channels, Tim Borys but the main website is or 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 A couple of books the and 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.

The Challenges of Starting a Fitness Business (And How to Solve Them)

Owning a business isn’t as easy as you might think. When opening a new business, you’ll probably end up facing some challenges that might discourage you, make you feel vulnerable, rethink your choices, and like you want to give up.

We aren’t going to let that happen! In this article, we are going to discuss how to successfully run a business by turning the greatest challenges into opportunities for growth and success.

3 Essentials to Make Your Fitness Business Rock

When you decide to run your fitness business, it takes lots of courage and passion to set everything in motion. We’ve summed up three things you can’t forget when going all-in on your new venture.

  • You Have to Love Whatever It Is You’re Doing

Since most of the time is going to be spent by yourself with your own thoughts, if you don’t love what you are doing, don’t feel passionate, or don’t give your 100%, it’s gonna be hard to hype yourself up all the time.

  • Make Your Money Work Hard

Opening up your own space means investing and managing your finances correctly. This is not only about the upfront spend on the facility, but also money spent on acquiring new members, offering the best experience for each member, and making sure your fitness equipment is acceptable to the clients.

  • Ask for – and Accept – Help

Last but not least, you’ve got to ask for and accept help at some point in your life. If you are lucky enough to meet somebody with more experience than you, either in the business or outside of the business, make a move and reach out to them.

Let’s dive into the most common challenges you have to face as a gym/studio owner or personal trainer when starting a fitness business.

What Do Gym Owners Struggle With?

Among the myriad challenges faced by gym owners (and managers), the most common ones are facility maintenance, member retention, securing revenue, and managing staff. If you lift the veil further, you’ll notice other little tasks that often fly under the radar, such as invoicing, filling out yearly taxes, and the works.

It’s plain to say when it comes to what to gym owners struggle with, the answer is… well, a lot.

Compartmentalizing each facet of starting a fitness business will allow you to take things one and a time, and spread out the work in a sustainable way. Most problems gyms have revolve around a lack of planning in regards to business administration, marketing, and managing members and staff.

While multitasking is a given in starting up a fitness business, divvying up tasks is essential to overcome the challenges of opening a new business.

Ensure that you have a good marketing strategy in place, and turn to those who have a head for business to ensure that you set up a profitable business model for a gym that works now, as well as in the future.

For in-depth information about the challenges of opening a new business, give our blog series on Opening a Gym a read.

Starting Up a Fitness Business: Letting People Know About Your Gym or Service

So, you’ve found the perfect location for starting up a fitness business, and you have tons of creative ideas for your business plan. You’ve even got a marketing strategy and now you’re wondering how do you attract clients to your business.


One of the best things that you can do to organically market yourself is to start in your local area and pick a niche market to promote in. Get familiar with hyperfocused marketing. This is a specific form of marketing that requires you to specialize in a single area that you want to thrive in.

For instance, if you love running, don’t tell people about your 12-week strength training program. Instead, tell them about a running group. Engage with them by launching exciting new running challenges and reward their achievements within your community.

If stretching is your forte, tell potential members about a 10-minute morning stretch class that you’re going to teach. Share with them why it is important for their well being and challenge them to participate in a 30-day stretching program.

Pinpoint specific issues in fitness and determine if your skills can bridge the gap. With hyperfocused marketing, you might go down a few avenues before finding your inch, but it will be worth it because your offering will be comparatively unique.

Quite simply, be specific and talk about something true to you. When you’re passionate about something, you’ll be far more convincing than any extravagant marketing strategy.

Finding the Right Business Model

One of the problems in the gym industry is the sheer amount business models there are. How do you choose the right business model for your gym, studio, or personal training service?

As a starting point, define the core values of your business and your unique selling propositions. Will yours be a budget service, mid-range, or luxury offering? Who is your target audience? All of this factor in when developing a business model.

We have already discussed business models for personal trainers in our blogs, but what about gym owners? Analyzing the pros and cons of starting up a fitness business in the current situation is an obvious point to consider.

The coronavirus crisis is not over yet, so your best (and safest) bet is to prepare a long-term strategy that will allow your fitness center to survive any circumstances. That’s right; we’re talking hybrid.


Having gym management software that allows you to digitize your workouts is a must these days. It will reduce manual labor and provide an easier way to manage your business both online and offline.

Many fitness businesses are exploring the option of having a hybrid model – even popular gyms that have historically been strictly brick and mortar.

But what does a hybrid business model mean? In a nutshell, it means that you can have physical location training combined with an online coaching feature that will allow you to keep your business alive if the pandemic strikes again and have to comply with health regulations.

To learn more about the subject, discover our tailor-made software to implement a hybrid business model for your gym.

Convert your business model


3. How Much Should You Invest in Marketing?

What do gym owners struggle with? Aside from the points mentioned above, allocating budget for different facets of the business is a core problem faced by gym owners.

Are you wondering how you can effectively market and recruit clients on a limited budget? Or, are you struggling to compete with all the free fitness content on the market, while at the same time convincing clients to belt out for your program?

We already discussed that hyper-focusing is the best way to make sure the community closest to you is your biggest supporter. But how can you handle your finances to ensure that you’re reaching the right clients?



When it comes to recruiting new clients for your gym, setting up a sales funnel is a must. This allows you to cast a wide net and narrow your marketing efforts to small segments of people who fall through the bottom of the funnel. It’s a money and time-saving method that all businesses use to garner customers.

To learn more about what a sales funnel is, and how you can go about setting one up, read our blog on why a gym sales funnel is exactly what you need right now.

Investing money in the right parts of your business will be an uphill battle between sales, resources, marketing, and more. But an easy way to manage this is by using gym management software that shows you where to focus your efforts.

When it comes to member retention, take a Retention Planner, for example. This is a software feature that lets you easily identify your at-risk members and act quickly with personal outreach to reduce churn and secure your monthly revenue.

Bonus: The Pros and Cons of Owning a Franchise Gym

Being a franchise gym owner comes with its own twist and turns – none of which are any less complex than problems faced by gym owners.

First of all, what is a fitness franchise and how does it differ from regular gyms?

A franchise is a license someone purchases that allows them access to a business’s proprietary knowledge, procedures, and trademarks. The buyer (also known as the franchisee) can then sell a product or service under the business’s name. There are some perks to this, including the franchisor, or larger company, paying up all start-up fees and annual licensing fees.

Most fast-food companies have perfected the franchise model, notable ones being McDonald’s, Subway, and KFC.

When it comes to what do gym owners struggle with when opening a gym franchise, freedom is at the forefront. You’ll have a set-in-stone rulebook to follow to ensure consistent service across the board, and you’ll report to other people. Have an idea for the gym you’re managing? Unless the entire gym chain implements it, you can’t either.

There are definite pros and cons of owning a franchise gym, but it’s worth examining your wants and needs before embarking on this journey. On one hand, the legwork is done for you – you only need to maintain it. On the other hand, however, it can be limiting if you have big plans for opening a gym.

Curious About Issues in Fitness?

There are tons of other ways to be smart about starting up a fitness business – especially in this economic landscape. If you’re interested in knowing more about being a fitness business owner and want to learn from industry experts, give check out FitNation’s weekly Lunch & Learn webinars.

Each week, a new guest speaker will discuss best practices and hot topics in the fitness industry. The best part? It’s free to join!

Register for the webinar