Can't We All Just Get Along ? The Need For Collaboration And Transparency Continues

If you read my posts (thanks if you do) I am certain you might get a little tired of the terms “collaboration” and “transparency”. However, the truth is technology is democratizing much of the world; this is a reality everyone should ponder. You just can’t hide anymore and this fact is very hard for some people to accept. What is even more challenging a notion is that competitive collaboration can lead to more fruitful innovations which is unquestionable and done every day in other industries but for some to get their minds around that idea is like asking them to jump off a high rise in the belief they won't be harmed (remember the matrix video?). In reflecting on some events last week, I had to ponder these subjects myself because of what happened, again. You see it is apparent to me thata lack of transparency and a failure to collaborate are some of the biggest challenges our industry faces. Its getting back to the scacity thinking again snd please bare with me while I explain.

In a few of my networks last week I shared that Johnson Health Tech, which manufactures the Matrix Fitness brand, is recalling Matrix Fitness trainers and ellipticals that pose a fire hazard. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced the recall on January 23, 2014.. About 2,800 Ascent Trainers by Matrix and Matrix Fitness elliptical units that were installed from November 2011 through December 2012 are being recalled.

As Club Industry reported and tweeted , this is the second product recall pertaining to the fitness industry that the CPSC has announced this month. Cybex International is recalling 234 Olympic decline free weight benches manufactured from December 2008 to September 2013.

What was interesting were several emails I got from a few people who found my tweeting the recall and sharing it on Linkedin “distasteful”, “tacky”, reflecting a “lack of credibility”, being “negative” and “undermining the industry” .  Are you kiding me ? You might only imagine the origin of some of these emails. By the way, this information was being shared all over the Internet by others and I did not in any way twist the facts or share a particular view on it. I'm not being defensive when I say that many of our customers and industry friends rely on me sharing pertinent industry information, which I try to do. Do some people really believe that tweeting (sharing) public information about an equipment recall is somehow undermining a global brand like Matrix ? Or is the sensitivity a sign of something else ? I think its the later. Give me a break.

Before I get into this subject and In the interest of full disclosure (again to transparency) our organizations have happily done work for  and with Star Trac, Schwinn, Stairmaster and Mr. Michael Bruno with whom we have a wonderful relationship. We also advise and sell other equipment, programs like Les Mills, services and technologies. We work with some of the leading bricks and mortar health club brands in the for profit and non-profit club business among doing many other things. I guess any of these various players could see each other as competitors but we try to be as transparent as we can keeping the big picture in mind. Most people who know me, follow me and read my work would think we are pretty transparent (I hope). I don’t think you couldn’t know what I am doing or where I am on any given day and we don’t try and hide it. If you disagree please let me know.

What the emails and comments I received regarding the Matrix Fitness story did reflect is something I’ve noticed over the years in the health club and fitness industry in general. Its called a scarcity attitude. Of course there will always be a bit of strain and stress in any marketplace and not everyone is going to like you. Robert Dyer and I laughingly say that many of the organizations and professionals we speak with before they get to know us keep waiting for the “hook”, but there is no hook when it comes to us. I don’t think some people believe that though because of other experiences they have, like my emails they are accustomed to a lack of collaboration and scarcity thinking.

I replied to the emails regarding the Matrix recall and asked the folks who did write to call me so we could talk. No one has taken me up on it as of this writing. In the world of transparency its important to be transparent. But there are many who probably didn’t write but might have felt the same way and this is what I want to address. You'll note I did not name names because that would not have been fair.

This attitude of distrust, of short term competitive advantage, of one over another is damaging the fitness and particularly the health club industry. It is a major contributor to why the industry has not collaborated on shared technological development in DECADES for example and its this short term view that could be our undoing. We’ve got to help each other but by working on constructive solutions . I was privy to the behind closed door discussions and negativity put forth by various competitors during the turnaround of Star Trac as Michael Bruno rescued the business; all designed for competitive gain. I’ve seen it happen to others as well. My reputation has been attacked by some leading professionals in the space as well behind closed doors and sometimes not. Like they say, "haters are going to hate." Anytime anyone is leading change its what you’d expect but instead of letting that be the bottom line we need others to stand up and show another way, to fill the void.

This is why I am involved with a number of other leaders in the Fitness Industry Technology Council. We need to create a forum to advance the supply and delivery side of the industry given the rate of technological change. Its why I am thankful to participate with ACE’s Industry Advisory Panel as well as the other organizations like IHRSA and their Public Policy Council where we try and help.

We’ve great respect for almost every major player in the industry including our friend Michael Bruno, Star Trac, Stairmaster, Schwinn, Johnson Health Tech’s Matrix, Cybex, Precor, Life Fitness and Technogym among many others. Believe me, tweeting about the Matrix recall was not done to damage Matrix. But in an age of transparency and with the realization that the biggest threat is not each other but our failure to collaborate I ask that you read some of my other blog posts and content and see my intention is to bring people together to identify a changing world and marketplace and collaborate around the future. Failing to do so will only lead to missed opportunities for us all.

So tell me, should I be more transparent and how ? Should I not tweet anything about any supplier in the industry if it touches upon a challenge they are having ? Would that make me better, less transparent ? Please share your views with me and thanks for taking time to read the post.

About Bryan

Bryan O’Rourke is considered by many to be a thought leader on technology, health club, consumer and wellness trends. He has been quoted in periodicals like the Wall Street Journal, and has been published in journals around the world on his views of how technology will create the dawn of a new era of opportunity for the health club and fitness industries. In addition to being an industry expert, Bryan is a keynote speaker, technologist, financier, shareholder and executive in several companies. He has spoken on a range of business and trend topics on four continents. As a contract executive and advisor, Bryan wears many hats, including working for Fitmarc, which delivers Les Mills programs to over 750 facilities in the US. He serves as a member of the GGFA Think Tank, sites on ACE's Industry Advisory Panel and is CEO of the Fitness Industry Technology Council. To join FIT-C visit . To learn more contact Bryan here

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 . To learn more contact Bryan here today .

What is Computing in the Cloud ?

Collaboration is an essential strategy to the successful navigation of change for any individual or organization. No more evident is this truth than in the realm of IT. The essence of computing in the cloud is collaboration. Find out more about how the most forward thinking people and organizations are utilizing this strategy in this video about and the cloud.