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In today’s increasingly digital age, it can be easy to lose sight of the importance of relationships. That is why each year, Club Solutions hosts the Club Solutions Leadership Summit at The Kentucky Derby — a space for health club operators and sponsors to gather, network, exchange ideas and forge friendships that will last a lifetime.
From May 3-5, 2018, 25 of the top minds in the industry and six sponsors met in Louisville, Kentucky, for the 2.5-day event. There, they tackled four roundtables and witnessed Justify become the first 2-year-old colt to win the Kentucky Derby since Apollo in 1882, breaking a jinx that had previously lasted 136 years.
“The Kentucky Derby itself is an experience of a lifetime and on many people’s bucket lists, including myself,” said Ryan Utsman, the vice president of sales for UFC GYM. “To be able to experience this with fitness industry professionals and veterans in the industry really took the experience to new heights.”
According to Cheryl Barnett, the vice president of client services for Epsilon, the relationship building aspect of the event is the reason why the marketing company has continued to sponsor the Club Solutions Leadership Summit since its launch in 2014.
“This event is so special that you walk away with an incredible bond,” said Barnett. “The connections that are made transcend the more typical, formal meeting to facilitate something more casual, conversational, and ultimately more impactful. You walk in meeting new faces, reconnecting with those past, and leave feeling like family. The networking with industry experts is why we sponsor the event every year.”
In a rapidly-evolving industry, relationships are more important than ever to a club operator’s success, said Chuze Fitness co-founder Ray Barshick. “I think the real benefit of the Summit may come over time as we build on the friendships we made at the event and we reach out to each other to continue to strategize and share our ideas about how to better not only our own brands, but also how we as operators can enhance the member experience in the industry as a whole,” he said.
Here are what some of the attendees had to say about the 2018 Club Solutions Leadership Summit:
Ryan Utsman, VP of Sales, UFC GYM: “The most valuable aspect of the event were the roundtable discussions at the Club Solutions Leadership Summit itself, which gave me the opportunity to slow down and look at the business from different perspectives to increase profit.”
Kent Stevens, Executive VP, Commercial Sales, Matrix Fitness: “Matrix is one of the inaugural sponsors of this celebrated event, for five years now. The Club Solutions Leadership Summit is truly a one-of-a-kind experience. It is a perfect blend of learning from our health club industry leaders through insightful roundtable discussions in the mornings and the excitement and magic of Churchill Downs in the afternoons. I have met new friends/customers at the Summit and have gotten even closer with existing friends/customers over the years. So that is really what brings me back each year. The camaraderie felt while singing ‘My Old Kentucky Home’ with 25 of our industry’s best club owners and operators right before the Kentucky Derby race starts ranks right towards the top.”
Andrea Brown, Marketing Manager, NuStep: “Being part of the Derby is always my favorite part, but meeting and interacting with leaders in the fitness industry and learning first hand of their vision for the future is invaluable.”
Thomas Fiorini, President & CEO, Cincinnati Sports Club: “Attending the Kentucky Derby with first-class arrangements was a bucket-list item for me. The hospitality by the Club Solutions staff and sponsors was over the top. My biggest surprise was how many actionable takeaways I secured from the roundtable sessions. The attendees were made up of well-respected owners, operators and vendors in our industry. As someone who has worked in a number of different industries, I am continually humbled by our industry leaders who are connected by a common desire to do the right thing for their members, employees and community.”
Dean Giamundo, Director of Sales, Jonas Fitness: “It is hard to pick one favorite part of the Club Solutions Leadership Summit. If I am forced to pick one I would have to choose Derby day. The excitement of the race, the venue, the amazing people who attended and the attention to detail the Club Solutions team put into this event made it extremely memorable. The relationship building and ability to really get to know all of the attendees was the most valuable aspect of this Summit. I truly feel I have built relationships in those few days that I will maintain for years to come.”
Eric McCauley, Regional VP of Sales and Operations, EOS Fitness: “The Club Solutions Leadership Summit is an amazing event with over-the-top hospitality. The most valuable aspect of this event was being around some of the best professionals in the fitness business to absorb and share great innovative ideas and solutions to make us all better operators.”
Holly Surface, Technical Sales Manager, ABC Financial: “As a first-time attendee it was inspiring to see the collaboration of the health club industry leaders, sharing their wealth of knowledge with their peers/direct competitors at the roundtable meetings. The most valuable aspect as a sponsor are the relationships built over the three days with the club owners, their spouses and the other sponsors. These relationships are invaluable and will last a lifetime.”
Amy Thompson, National Account Executive, Les Mills: “The Club Solutions Leadership Summit was a first-class experience with VIP treatment throughout. The business discussions set the stage for meaningful conversations around challenges and successes clubs are experiencing. Sponsors were able to spend quality time with each attendee to build upon relationships.”
Ray Barshick, Co-Founder and Board Member, Chuze Fitness: “As a first-time attendee I was impressed with the balance of time spent between the roundtable discussions, networking with the other invitees and lastly, the time spent enjoying the Oaks and Derby experiences together. I thought the event was well organized, productive and fun. That is a nice trifecta.”
Chad C. Waetzig, Executive VP of Marketing and Branding, Crunch: “There were so many valuable aspects of the Summit — from the excellent roundtable topics, to meeting and connecting with a diverse group of industry leaders, to the excitement of the Derby itself. It’s hard to pin it down to just one. A worthwhile and fantastic event all around.”
The opportunity for such strong bonds to be formed wouldn’t be possible without the sponsors of the Club Solutions Leadership Summit, including ABC Financial, NuStep, Epsilon, Matrix Fitness, Jonas Fitness and Les Mills. In addition, thank you to Blair McHaney, the event moderator, for facilitating invigorating conversation and insights during the roundtables.
Until next year!