The Dream Team
Active Sports Clubs’ executive team shares the company’s game plan for success.
Imagine you’re the owner of a basketball team and you have the pick of the crop when it comes to basketball players. In fact, Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Stephen Curry are all a part of your starting line up. Sounds great, right? Well let me throw this curve ball at you — they only get to practice together once a week.
Currently, that’s the predicament the Active Sports Clubs’ “dream team” is in. The company has all of the key players needed to comprise a stellar executive team, but no central headquarters in which to collaborate in. But if you ask each one if this makes the team any less effective, all would say, “No.”
“Being remote doesn’t change the relationships and the amount of respect we have for each other,” said Meredith DePersia, the vice president of operations and human resources for Active Sports Clubs. “We just fit.”
This out-of-the-box working environment (at least for the health club industry’s standards) has been in place since December 2013, when Active Sports Clubs first entered the health club arena. Brought to life by Bill McBride, Jill Kinney and Carey White, the company was founded on the idea that a fitness center should be focused on the local communities in which it resides.
“We enhance the quality of life — well beyond traditional fitness — through tailored community involvement, amenities and programming to best support the well-being of local businesses, families and residents,” said McBride, the CEO and president of Active Sports Clubs. “Every site within all of our various business models are better by looking at the site from a local lens, versus simply stamping a cookie-cutter model on the site. We want to encourage and support active lifestyles beyond our club walls.”
According to McBride, the executive team has been able to work successfully remotely because each individual has bought into this concept full-heartedly. “Our leadership team truly operates in alignment with the vision, values and mission of Active,” he said. “They are the most persistent, dedicated individuals I have ever worked with. They are broad thinkers, candid and put the betterment of the business first with regard to their approach.”
Although Active Sports Clubs as a brand is fairly new, many members of the leadership team have worked together for more than a decade. This is possible because in March 2014, Active Sports Clubs assumed the majority of Club One, Inc.’s asset portfolio, which included most of its site-level employees and leadership team.
“Because we all worked really closely together in the past, we’re still able to keep those connections that we built over so many years,” said DePersia. “We’ve already built the foundation.”
To ensure that foundation stays solid, the executive team tries to be as transparent as possible when it comes to new projects, updates and other business aspects, which can be more difficult when you don’t share an office space. “Lack of information can lead to negative assumptions so we are building a culture of regular and transparent communication,” said Michele Wong, the vice president of Active Wellness, the company’s corporate wellness division.
In addition, the company fosters teamwork in a number of unique ways. “We workout together, we plan outings and we make good use of the time we have together,” said Kari Bedgood, the vice president of marketing and public relations for Active Sports Clubs. “Some of the best moments are as unplanned and informal as they get, simply catching up on life, sharing stories about our families.”
When it comes down to it, Active Sports Clubs’ executive team feels like a family, a sentiment it has tried to enact at the club level as well.
“I like to think of Active as a medium-to -large health club company that operates like most ‘mom and pop’ small businesses,” said Herschel Elder, the company’s vice president of revenue and membership. “We strive to create a strong bond with each community in which we serve. Instead of operating each of our clubs the same way, we really want each club to represent and reflect the members that are in that community.”
Currently, Active Sports Clubs is attempting to execute this vision at its 11 locations in the San Francisco Bay Area, in addition to the 45 corporate, community and medical fitness centers it manages through the Active Wellness division.
“It’s important to us to play an active role in the communities we serve,” explained Bedgood. “Each of our general managers are encouraged and empowered to run their clubs as their ‘house.’ Standards are in place for brand and experience consistency, but our clubs have the tools to immerse themselves in their local community and to create a sense of community within their walls.”
For example, each club has community outreach and event kits, donation voucher books, local Facebook fan pages, dedicated monthly e-newsletters and many “clubs within a club,” such as Mom-focused boot camps and member potlucks. “For many of our members, the club is like a second home,” said Bedgood. “They feel a sense of ownership and that just shows how much they care about their club community.”
In fact, the leadership team’s unique working situation has allowed them to visit these club communities more frequently. “When we had a home office it was really easy to ask folks to come and see me,” said Mike Rucker, the vice president of technology for Active Sports Clubs. “Now, we’re interacting in the places that they work. If there’s something that needs to change we can see it instead of hearing it anecdotally, so I really like that aspect [of the working situation].”
At the end of the day, the fact that Active Sports Clubs’ “dream team” doesn’t practice together daily has little to no impact on the company’s efficiency.
“There are advantages and disadvantages to [the working environment], but it’s been pretty innovative and interesting in how we’ve approached it,” said McBride. “I think it’s worked out fairly well, because everyone has the same clarity around what we’re trying to accomplish.”
As the company continues to grow, McBride explained eventually the team will have a central headquarters in the Bay Area, hopefully by the end of 2015. But until then, the team will continue to make slam-dunks off site, while having a blast in the process.
“We are a small leadership group, and we are scrappy, and no matter what the challenge may be, no matter how many hats we have to wear, we are up for it,” said DePersia. “And what we don’t succeed at, we learn and get better from, together.”
Story by Rachel Zabonick
Photos by Brian Slaughter