10 Questions with Jon Brady, COO of Midtown Athletic Clubs
1. You’ve lived in a few different places, including the UK, New Zealand and the U.S. So far, where has been your favorite place to live? As a family, we love living in Chicago — it has the best of both London and New Zealand. The big city attractions, music, theatre, museums, etc., mixed with the outdoors lifestyle with ski and beach access, makes it a great location for us.
2. What was the hardest part of your transition to the U.S.? Learning the language. You might laugh but some of the simplest things to take for granted is that we all speak English — but the way words are used and the colloquialisms have made for some hilarious moments.
3. What was the best part of your transition to the U.S.? Our kids settling into the school system and us all being welcomed with open arms. It’s true what they say about Midwesterners being friendly and supportive. We have found life-long friends who just took us under their wings and we remain very grateful for that.
4. How is the health club industry in Europe different from the U.S.? The European industry is dominated by larger chains. It is far easier to grow and have country-wide dominance of a market sector in Europe, as the distances are not as great. In the U.S., there is still a predominance of family-owned, smaller club groups or single site units.
5. If you could pick one key to your success, what would it be? I think I’m a good storyteller and I’m pretty good at getting people to buy into a vision or dream and then relentlessly execute on it. I think you have to make work fun, I try to facilitate a culture where people enjoy what they do and are passionate about it. We’re in a fun industry and we do fun stuff, so it seems wrong of me not to utilize that energy and enthusiasm.
6. Is there anything you learned from being the CEO of a rugby team that has carried over in your job today? Teamwork and talent are vital. You have to recruit the best talent and get the right people on the bus, then give them the same game plan and explain how each of their roles complements the others. That’s when magic can happen.
7. What’s something unique about you that people might not know? I started out in the industry as a 17-year-old high school student teaching “aerobics” at the local YMCA. I still have a great affinity for Group X.
8. Where’s your favorite place to take a vacation? As a family, we try to never go back to the same place, we love to explore new places and cultures. I believe it is one of the best educations you can give your kids. Travel really opens the mind. That being said, I would love to one day go back to Santorini in the Greek Islands (without our kids of course!)
9. What’s the best book you’ve ever read, and why do you like it so much? I am an avid reader of both fiction and non-fiction books, so picking one book is impossible. One that influenced me significantly however, and is not well known, is “The Tao of Pooh.” It is a leadership and philosophy book based on Winnie the Pooh characters. It is fun, easy to read and has some very simple-to-implement ideas to enhance your life and your leadership style.
10. How do you start each day? Do you have a ritual? When I’m at home, I start each day by hugging my kids and telling them I love them and to go out and have a great day today. When I’m on the road I like to get some exercise in. I’m a morning person, so I find it’s the best time for me to get the blood pumping and to get the body and mind active.