Full Speed Ahead
The fastest train in the world is China’s CRH380A, which propels its passengers at a cruise speed of 217 miles per hour. While the train carries its 480 travelers, the countryside becomes a blur. Houses and fields are nondescript as town after town falls away into the distance.
Rodney Steven II, the owner of Genesis Health Clubs, can relate. Sometimes, he too feels as if he’s charging full-speed ahead, making it difficult to focus on the here and now. “Time goes by so fast,” he said. “I feel like my job right now is to do the best I can to slow down the years, slow down the months and slow down each day. It’s been something I’ve been preaching to myself and my teams.”
Anyone may feel a need to focus on the here and now after doubling the size of their company in just a few short years. In 2011, Genesis Health Clubs boasted 10 locations within a 300-mile radius of Wichita, Kansas. Through a number of key acquisitions and build-outs, it has since grown to 18 clubs in Kansas and three in Missouri, bringing the total to 21 locations.
According to Steven, growth was planned, just not necessarily this fast. “There were a lot of builds that I had in the works that just kind of happened right in a row,” he explained. “Sometimes you work in acquisition for years. There were two or three acquisitions I had been working on, and they all just came to a head at the same time. I think there was an eight-month period where we had eight new clubs. It all just happened pop, pop, pop.”
Growing at that rate, even the most level-headed of executives may feel as if their head was spinning. To keep focused when his business is so busy, Steven draws on lessons learned during his childhood.
“I feel like I’m really a product of my environment,” explained Steven. “I feel very blessed to be raised by great parents. My dad worked extremely hard and took us to work, showing us what true work ethic really was, and my mother took the very best care of us. Between them, [it shows] that hard work and family values pay off.”
For Steven, the pay-off has been leading the charge to bring health and fitness to his members, a cause he is also personally passionate about. “I workout every morning at 6 a.m. in one of the clubs,” he said. “Going a day without exercise would really disturb me. We’re trying to share that feeling among Americans and members of our communities every day.”
Jose Riveros, the director of sales for Genesis Health Clubs, joined the company in 2013, and as a result has been witness to much of the company’s fast growth. He believes Genesis Health Clubs couldn’t ask for a better leader than Steven to guide it as it continues to charge full speed ahead.
“I’ve worked with great companies and had some great leaders,” said Riveros. “But what Rodney brings to the company is that he sets the pace. He empowers his teams, yet he has a pulse on everything.”
The empowerment of its teams has been essential in ensuring Genesis Health Clubs’ growth is executed smoothly. The company employs 2,000 people spanning instructors, trainers, front desk staff and managers, that altogether serve around 63,000 members.
“The main challenge in growth is people,” said Riveros. “Sometimes you can grow faster than you can grow your people. So one of the ways we’re overcoming that challenge is making recruiting, hiring and training our number one priority, and working really hard at the development of our teams.”
Riveros explained that the company’s employees and dedication to service are what make it so great, making the growth of Genesis Health Clubs not only possible, but natural. “Having not only great facilities, but great facilities that provide great service, we’re able to impact a greater segment of the population,” he said. “In Kansas we are in every town over 25,000 people, so we have a great stamp in the state due to the fact that we’re in every [major] city.”
Steven agreed that employees are the fuel to Genesis Health Clubs’ success. “When your average tenure is 15 years in your executive team, and then you walk into a new club and the average tenure is six weeks, six months, a year, you see the strength of our company, and it speaks volumes.”
Because much of Genesis Health Clubs’ recent growth has been due to acquisitions, a challenge has been transitioning existing clubs to its brand standards. According to Steven, construction is easily the most time-consuming aspect of his current day-to-day schedule.
“[Overseeing] construction is literally bogging me down,” said Steven. “The biggest area I could improve upon is the time it takes us, once we purchase a club, to get the construction done. It just takes too long, it costs too much.”
However, the upside is that construction typically comes as a pleasant surprise to members who existed prior to Genesis Health Clubs’ purchase of the location. “The members are pretty ecstatic to see a new operator spending money on the facility,” said Steven. “Overall we’ve had a really good response.”
At the moment, part of Steven’s attention is focused on making improvements to the Midtown Athletic Club in Overland Park, Kansas, which was purchased in March 2015. The site is a historic landmark in the city, originally built in the early 70s.
“It’s already got so many things thanks to Midtown Athletic Clubs,” said Steven. “And now I feel I have a great opportunity to really make it a jewel for that city. The investment we’re making is very large.”
In addition, his focus will also continue on slowing down the clock, as Genesis Health Clubs continues to grow. However, whether or not future growth is as fast as its current pace is yet to be determined.
“I just want to do a good job of slowing down each day and getting what our team wants to accomplish each day accomplished,” said Steven. “So really, that is my goal right now. Just slowing down the days, the months. Because time can just fly by if you let it.”