1. What was your first job in the health and fitness industry? My career began in Oklahoma City in the 70s as a front desk person. After two weeks I was promoted to manager. We didn’t have any layers back then, just a receptionist and manager. The general manager did everything — greet members, train members, sell and clean. It was six days a week with 12-hour days. My Australian accent helped and I fell in love with the members and the business.
2. If you could go back and tell your 16-year-old self one thing, what would it be? Develop all of the skills needed in your industry as quickly as you can. Get into business for yourself at an early age, but not until you know your industry well, inside and out. When you are ready to grow and need a partner/investor, look at that relationship as a marriage. Select your partner wisely and you will live happily forever after.
3. What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome in life? Saying “goodbye” to a brand that took 30 years to build (Lifestyle Family Fitness) and no longer working beside all of the wonderful people that helped to build that brand. Fortunately, I anticipate that I will have the opportunity to reconnect with many of these co-workers, as I have no intention to leave the fitness industry.
4. How did you overcome it? By starting over and getting back into the industry, and helping some of my co-workers get into business for themselves.
5. Why is fighting the childhood obesity epidemic important to you? I was an overweight teenager and personally felt the humiliation and lack of esteem that follows someone who is fighting a weight problem. We have opened the doors to our clubs to teenagers for more than 10 years. Every year we see 300-plus teens come through our doors and enjoy the health club fitness experience for the first time. We have changed hundreds of lives through this endeavor and have taught the next generation of health club members that getting in shape at the gym is fun and rewarding.
6. How can health clubs help? It is very simple. Allow teens 13 to 17 years of age to use your club free for two months during the summer months when schools are closed. All visits must be completed by 5 p.m. This is not a sales promotion; it is a community outreach initiative that can position your brand as doing a great service to your community and helping to fight obesity and inactivity. My friend Dave Patchell Evans with GoodLife Fitness in Canada has adopted this program and built it into a huge part of his company, and now has a “GoodLife for Kids” division. Lynne and Victor Brick with Brick Bodies in Maryland have adopted it, as well as Joe Cirulli with Gainesville Health and Fitness.
7. Whom do you admire and why? I admire the entrepreneurs in our industry that started with nothing, have built something great; yet have not lost sight of who they are. We work in an industry where members and employees must come first. I admire a humble leader that treats every employee with respect, regardless of position. I won’t list these people by name because there are dozens of them in this industry and I am happy to say many of them are my close friends.
8. What’s your favorite part of your job? I enjoy the marketing side of our business most. I like the challenge of discovering the best new way to raise awareness about our brand and drive traffic through the doors. Of course, I love to build a company as well. Developing leaders, building teams and systems and finding locations is extremely rewarding.
9. What do you like to do in your spare time? I love the water. I live on the West Coast of Florida so most of my spare time is spent in and on the water. The inter-coastal waterways of the Tampa Bay area offer some of the most beautiful beachfronts and sunsets in the world.
10. How would you describe yourself in three words? Fun, friendly and competitive.