Collaboration: What Do Transmissions Have To Do With Health Clubs, and Fitness and Wellness ?

 

I’ve deep respect for so many of the leaders and innovators in the fitness, wellness and health club business. I don’t want to appear as though I’m kissing up by naming names (you know what i mean). But, and this is a BIG BUT, some of those on that list might be suffering from a little short sightedness. You see I think scarcity thinking is holding us back from big opportunities by working together with an abundance view in our industry. What does that mean ?

Ford and General Motors recently announced they are teaming up to design new nine-speed and 10-speed transmissions for use in a variety of vehicles, a move aimed at improving fuel efficiency for the rivals' vehicles. Now you might ask why would rivals work together to design technologies that can provide a strategic advantage ? Because they understand the big picture that’s why. In this case the big picture is dramatic impacts on fuel efficiency. This opportunity pressed against the cost of attempting to develop it alone leads rational business people to conclude working together is truly the best decision.

Enter the fitness and health club space where the largest and smallest of exercise equipment manufacturers seem focused on developing independent solutions for every opportunity. An example are technology platforms and interoperability among equipment brands. Outside of C-Safe , a technology standard created by FitLinxx and generously provided to the industry years ago, there has been little if ANY collaboration around this. The same could be said about many other aspects of the club business, and the fitness and wellness industries in general (not wanting to pick on you equipment folks alone) where fear of competitive advantage prohibits many from working together on universal standards as they could. From caloric burn rates to communication protocols, there is a lot of opportunity for us to agree and move things forward.

Now there have been collaborations. The NSF facility standards, for example, were recently agreed to after many many years of effort. IHRSA has been driving initiatives like the Public Policy Council which relies on contributions to promote public policy and legislative agendas that benefit the industry. FIT-C has started with a group of forward thinking people to create technology standareds. There has been some collaboration among various service providers as well. But its not been enough and that collaboration has taken to long in my view.

Looking at other industries provides many examples of the benefits of industry collaboration. Without a protocol like Wi-Fi there would not have been wide spread adoption of mobile computing. In the instance of WiFi, industry leaders created standards with a vision to what would be possible, like GM and Ford are today. They realized that the benefits of collaboration outweighed the cost because the work would grow the market considerably for everyone and at a faster pace. 

What if competitors in our arena did more of the same: thought about opportunities for collaboration instead of identifying the uncommon ground? I just don’t think there is enough of that type of thinking in our industry today. Often people are too busy protecting their turf as opposed to seeing the bigger picture: the delivery of primary prevention as a larger commercial aspect of people’s health management in the future. If we are going to grow the market beyond the 16% of US adults using bricks and mortar fitness facilities in the US and in the rest of the world we will need to change our orientation. We will have to grow up and meet the promise of the future by seeing what that future will be and by working together to achieve it.

If we don’t spend more effort on this undertaking the risk will continue to rise. If we don’t collaborate more, organizations from outside our sphere are going to enter the space and meet the demand for services with technologies and business models that we weren’t contemplating. While free market economics allow for survival of the smartest and that is good, 

What do you think ? Is there enough collaboration in the health club, fitness and wellness industry today ? Why do you think so ? Thanks for reading and feel free to contact me to discuss your views. 

About the author:

Bryan O’Rourke is a health club industry expert, technologist, financier, shareholder and executive in several fitness companies. He works for Fitmarc, which delivers Les Mills programs to over 700 facilities in the US. He advises successful global brands, serves as a member of the GGFA Think Tank and serves as CEO of the Fitness Industry Technology Council. To join FIT-C visit www.fit-c.org . To learn more contact Bryan here today .

Gold's 2012 Convention - Insights Into The Future Of The Iconic Brand

What a few weeks its been. From San Diego to San Francisco, and from Las Vegas to Vancouver; now I'm back home on this Sunday morning reflecting on what was one of the most interesting legs of my travels; the Gold's Gym 2012 Convention. It was the best I've attended to date.

Our company Fitmarc enjoys close ties to GGI's leadership as well as dozens of its franchisees, who we service through our Les Mills distributorship and via Fitsomo, our social media company. This along with our close relations with the Gold's Gym Franchise Association enables my partner Robert Dyer  and I the chance to learn a little bit about Gold's, which is arguably the most iconic brand in the health club business today.

Notable during the conference, which provided Jeffrey Gitomer as an excellent keynote speaker, was CEO Jim Snow's opening remarks. Here are a few things he said that struck me and showed he has some keen insights into today's health club industry:

"How do we prepare to survive during this era of intense competition and massive consolidation?"

"Social media today won't make our brand but is could break our brand."

"Quality and consistency are more important than quantity."

"We have to change our ways. We have to create a customer service culture."

Jim explained that his goal is to reach a 50 Net Promoter Score for the Gold's brand by 2015. Currently, GGI's NPS is a 32. He shared that the company is seeking to open 25-50 express clubs in the next year and that he feels the real estate market is the best he's ever seen for expansion today. Jim's grasp of the problem the online image of Gold's has reflects a deep understanding of the impact that the web and the connected consumer are having not only for Gold's Gym but for the health club business in general. Although Gold's faces many challenges for its future, hearing its leadership opine on these key challenges makes me think its future is bright. If GGI truly believes that "We are all in it together" as Jim told its franchisees and vendor partners, then there is the potential for a significant upside.

What do you think about the future of the Gold's Gym brand ? Please tell me Bryan O'Rourke, do you think Jim Snow and the leadership of GGI are targeting the right things to enable the company to reach its true potential ? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

On a final note, many thanks to Giger Collins, Deborah Collins, Tim Keightley, Michael Bruno, Bill Austin, Jim Snow, Marnie Saylor, Todd Scartozzi and many others for their support, hospitality and for allowing us to contribute and participate in the 2012 convention. It was a terrific show. You guys rock.

About the author:

Bryan O’Rourke is a health club industry expert, technologist, financier, shareholder and executive in several fitness companies. He consults with global brands, serves as a member of the GGFA Think Tank, is Chair of the Medical Fitness Association’s Education Committee, is President of the Fitness Industry Technology Council and a partner in Fitmarc, Integerus, Fitsomo and the Flywheel Group. To learn more contact Bryan here today . http://test.skimlinks.com

What An Emerging "OPEN" World Means For The Health Club & Fitness Industry

Over the weekend I viewed @dtapscott and his recent and excellent TED Talk "Welcome To The Open World" [VIDEO BELOW]. Mr. Tapscott and I agree: the world is going through revolutionary times . What is most curious to me is how many leaders really don't see it; many continue to see the problems of today in the context of the past and the health club and fitness industry is certainly not immune from this. Business models, like health clubs, are going to experience great upheavel with some leveraging tremendous opportunities while others flounder. Any organization that participates in the fitness and health club business, be it through the delivery of education or industry advocacy, is going to have to fundamentally change how it operates to succeed in its mission. If leaders don't embrace that change their organizations will not survive.

When it comes down to what to do, a fundamental means for success requires aligning ones thinking to the new and present future. As I've menioned, this requires rethinking the problems of today in terms of what is really happening NOW; not in the context of the past. While not an easy task; it is a neccessary one.

 Don Tapscott explores this topic in his "Open World Talk" and shares what he sees as its 4 characteristics (Collaboration, Transparency, Sharing and Empowerment) . A few years ago I described the "Revolutionary World" as having six characteristics:

1. Old School Institutions Vanish

2. Orchestration Trumps Ownership

3. Transparency Modality Is Fundamental

4. The Rise Of The Rest As Wealth Is Redistributed

5. An Explosion Of Participants

6. Human Conciousness Evolves

The drivers of advancing technology ,globalsim and changing demograpgics are not going away. If these characteristics are a central part of how you view the future, great opportunities lie ahead. If you choose to ignore these traits then you are in peril. Watch the video clip from @dtapscott below and please tell me, Bryan O'Rourke, what do you think? Which fitness professionals and industry leaders do you think are preparing for what's to come ?  Whether one calls it the Open World or a Revolution do you think fundamental change is upon us ?  I think it is. Many thanks Don, for your great talk.

About the author:

Bryan O’Rourke is a health club industry expert, technologist, financier, and shareholder and executive in several fitness companies. He consults with global brands, serves as a member of the GGFA Think Tank is Chair of the Medical Fitness Association’s Education Committee, is President of the Fitness Industry Technology Council and a partner in Fitmarc, Integerus, Fitsomo and the Flywheel Group. To learn more contact Bryan here today .

Are Health Clubs & Fitness Brands Paying Attention To The Emerging Connected Consumer ?

 

The fitness, health club and "wellness" industries are all going through massive change as the result of 3 drivers: advancing technologies, changing consumers and globalism. I've been paying close attention to consumer trends as of late, in case you haven't noticed (see my content on millennials). A recent post by Brian Solis raised a number of startling facts about Generation "C" - The Connected Consumer that brought this issue to the forefront of my mind again. Health Clubs and fitness brands in general better take note. Here is an excerpt from Brian's post :

No longer can we blame it on the youth. We must blame, if anything, the disruption of technology. Nowadays, age ain’t nothing but a number. It is how people embrace technology, from social networks to smartphones to intelligent appliances, that contributes to the digital lifestyle that is now synonymous with Gen-C.

Solis bases much of his post on Neilsen's recent report "Introducting Generation C: Americans 18-34 are the most connected". But as Solis and the Neilsen report show, the rise of the new connectedness is not exclusive to this age group, its impacting every generation and as a result every industry (like health clubs).

IBM's Report, The Connected Consumer Challenge, also speaks to these massive consumer shifts. As the introduction states, "Today’s electronics consumers expect much more than quality devices – they demand a quality experience. Their interest has shifted from the device itself to what they can do with the device." You can get the white paper here . Yet despite all of these reports I do not think a significant number of fitness facility or fitness brand players in general get it. Based on my first hand experience, many brands are still marketing like its 1990 or earlier. By the way its 2012....

Why ? I think a combination of factors answer this question. Owners and managers whose experiences are based on old modalities like membership sales being THE emphasis is one. Sorry, its a word of mouth world and if your fitness brand or club isn't delivering outstanding over the top experiences or worse bad experiences you are going to SUFFER. You can't sell your way out of bad programming or poor service. Another reason I think health clubs are failing to excel in this arena is the lack of cross polination from other industries who have done a better job adapting to this new paradigm. Regardless I have a message for leaders of health clubs and fitness brands in general. Here is the bottom line (consistent with my recent quotes on twitter from @Garyvee about business and advertising in general) :

"If you do not care about your end user immensely, especially in the next few years, your brand will die." (BTW these consumers are increasingly connected consumers)

"I'm very passionate about traditional media. I don't think it's dead. I just think it's overpriced." (Perhaps you should stop doing so much direct mail and try something different)

And for those of you who don't believe the Connected Consumer should be a major part of your business thinking I have this last quote just for you from @Garyvee:

"There were people walking around saying the internet was a fad, and weren't joking. They won't admit it now."  (Don't be one of those people who did not see it coming).

So tell me, Bryan O'Rourke, what do you about Generation "C", the "Connecter Consumer" ? Am I wrong ? Do you think Health Clubs and fitness brands have changed there marketing in response to this expanding consumer group ? I don't think that's happened enough and it worries me. What do you think ?

About the author:

Bryan O’Rourke is a health club industry expert, technologist, financier, and shareholder and executive in several fitness companies. He consults with global brands, serves as a member of the GGFA Think Tank is Chair of the Medical Fitness Association’s Education Committee, is President of the Fitness Industry Technology Council and a partner in Fitmarc, Integerus, Fitsomo and the Flywheel Group. To learn more contact Bryan here today .

Lessons The Health Club Industry Can Learn From Struggling Retail Bricks & Mortar Brands

You heard the news last week of course, Best Buy is shuttering 50 locations. Conventional thinking says that bricks and mortar retailers, like Best Buy or Sears (here is a long nostalgic list of failed retailers to prove the point) are becoming dinosaurs. Online competitors, like Amazon, are the future because they don't have to invest in physical locations and offer better pricing and selection. Retailers argue that Amazon's competition is unfair because people don't pay sales tax and customers can come to their retail locations, obtain the information they need, and buy online. While the challenges faced by many retailers can be described as such, the real reasons they are failing, isn't about Amazon's unfair advantages. The key problem is that these retailers failed to understand that its about the customer and not about them. These competitors did not see what was coming as the result of technology and evolving customers. Therein lies a great lesson for the health club industry to learn.

The internet and technology in general is as daunting for retailers as it has been for health clubs. Have you been to a technologically advanced health club lately ? Enough said. The point is that while technology has been revolutionary for the retail industry, to consumers it has been mearly evolutionary. Before the Internet there were many alternative buying channels like cataolgues or infomericals. Online commerce was simply the next step in a logical progression; yet many bricks and mortar competitors didn't understand that and as a result they lost their chance to do something about it; this is the lesson the health club industry needs to make note of.

Moving online demands new thinking, new strategies and the integration of the digital and bricks and mortar experience around the customer. It takes new mindsets. But many bricks and mortar competitors, like Best Buy, squandered their ability to create a new distribution and customer service aparatus. Remember last Christmas and the debacle Best Buy created for its customers, as they missed many thousands of orders that were purchased online ? Amazon didn't have such problems. As @LarryDownes recently wrote in his Forbes article, "Why Best Buy Is Going Out Of Business....Gradually":

Amazon neither invented nor appropriated its basic strategies from Best Buy or anyone else.  It simply does what consumers want.  Best Buy does what would be most convenient for the company for consumers to want but don’t, then crosses its fingers and prays.  That’s not a strategy–or not a winning strategy, in any case, now that retail consumers aren’t stuck with the store closest to home.....(Larry goes on to say)...Best Buy is living in the corporate equivalent of what psychologists call a state of denial.  In business, that’s usually the first step in a failure that ends with a spectacular collapse.

Larry's right; doing what customers want is key and in a world of increasingly influential millennial consumers , more technology oriented buyers, consumers with expansive choices demanding better service; many many retailers simply don't get it. So what can this teach the health club industry ? To be successful brands must rethink the framework of bricks and mortar delivery and start understanding what the customer really wants and give it to them: namely seemless integration of the physical and digital experience. How? Check out this book, Unleashing the Killer App; Digital Strategies For Market Dominance, and check out these reports Change Or Die, 9 Things Fitness Industry Brands And Leaders Must Do as well as Industry Trends Health Club Leaders Should Be Watching. There is a bright future for those who can accept things are and will be radically different. For those who don't, they'll be going the way of Circuit City, Best Buy and others. There is no escaping the future; Digital Darwinism will catch them all.

So tell me Bryan O'Rourke, do you think the fitness and health club industry needs to change its mindset ? How do you think that will happen and what do you believe the bricks and mortar retail industry can teach us ?

About the author:

Bryan O’Rourke is a health club industry expert, technologist, financier, and shareholder and executive in several fitness companies. He consults with global brands, serves as a member of the GGFA Think Tank is Chair of the Medical Fitness Association’s Education Committee, is President of the Fitness Industry Technology Council and a partner in Fitmarc, Integerus, Fitsomo and the Flywheel Group. To learn more contact Bryan here today .