Ten questions with Frank Lawrence, CEO of The Athletic Clubs.
1. What drew you to the health and fitness industry? I have always been an athlete. During my banking career I was still drawn to endurance sports and CrossFit. Finally, my neighbor and I decided to open a CrossFit Box in late 2010. That began my “career” in the health and fitness industry. In 2013, we sold that box, and had an opportunity to be partners in The Athletic Clubs, which has three locations. I retired from banking in 2013, and began my full-time career as CEO of The Athletic Clubs.
2. Throughout your time in the industry, what is one of the biggest changes or evolutions you’ve seen? Probably the number one is the impact of functional fitness and the rise of boutiques. Obviously, I have a connection to this by being a current and past CrossFit Affiliate owner. It is interesting to see the change in equipment over the last five to six years, and the movement to be more “functional” — whatever that is. You can see these changes by simply walking around the IHRSA convention trade show floor.
3. What is one accomplishment you’re most proud of? When we purchased The Athletic Clubs, they were mature and successful. My number one charge was “don’t screw it up.” Thankfully, we have been successful in that goal, and further we have grown and improved the clubs from where they were five years ago. It is a process of constantly reinventing ourselves, being current in offerings, adding new trends, yet serving all of are members to the best of our abilities.
4. What gets you most excited to come to work every day? Work and play, it is all the same. It is really up for others to determine if I am playing or working. For me, I am always doing both in everything in life.
5. What is one lesson you’ve learned? Be patient. I am always pushing, going hard. My biggest tendency is “over play” — meaning to rush and not let the things come naturally. I liken it to sports — you can be too aggressive, too anxious, versus relaxing and being confident in your abilities. If you are confident, let the “point” come to you, usually the results are better than overplaying the point.
6. What is one key thing you think The Athletic Clubs does great that other clubs could learn from? We have four big pillars, including tennis, swimming, family and fitness. I think we do all four things well, and all four are legacy builders for us in the future. But within all of these it is about our core values, and I think one of the most important is “family.” We treat everyone like family and build connections.
7. What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome? There is rapid fragmentation everywhere. New big boxes, new boutiques, new technologies, just new competition everywhere. So, staying relevant — yet taking care of current members — is a challenge. Changing to attract new members, but not changing too much that you run old members away from the clubs. This process is a delicate balance act.
8. How do you overcome that challenge? I am constantly looking in our industry and out of industry for companies and groups that do this well. Disney is a great example on a large scale. They always reinvent and the customer experience is excellent.
9. If you weren’t at your current job, what occupation would you have? I loved being a banker and had a great career. However, I could not be more pleased with my current journey. Overall, I am a “bloom where I am planted” type of guy, but for now I am growing like a crazy vine.
10. Tell us one fun fact about yourself. I really do not like to exercise. However, I love how it makes me feel afterwards, and love the relationships that I am able to build through fitness activities.