Full Circle: Erin Kelly Talks New Role at Brick Bodies
In a way, Erin Kelly’s career has come full circle. On March 2, the industry veteran transitioned out of her role as senior director of national accounts for Les Mills U.S. to head back to where she kick-started her career: Brick Bodies.
On March 5, Kelly began her new role as chief strategy officer for Brick Bodies, a six-club chain in Maryland co-owned by industry veterans Lynne and Victor Brick.
“It was a tough decision to make, but will allow me to get back into the clubs again to apply all that I have learned working for Les Mills,” said Kelly.
Here, Kelly shares more insight into how the move came about and what she’s most excited about concerning the opportunity.
CS: How old were you when you first started at Brick Bodies and what was your role?
EK: I started at Brick Bodies when I was 16. I was a fitness trainer. It was one of those things where I was always an athlete — I was a high school and college athlete — and during the off-season I would train at the one club the Bricks owned at the time. So that’s where it started — my passion for the industry really began there and I loved it.
I continued to work at Brick Bodies while pursuing a degree in emergency health and planned to be a paramedic after graduating college. But as I neared graduation I was presented with the opportunity to come on full-time as Lynne’s assistant, which had previously been a part-time position. Over the years I continued to take on more responsibility, serving as group fitness manager for all the clubs, general manager for one of our largest clubs — and ultimately business partners with the Bricks in Les Mills Mid-Atlantic, where we were Les Mills’ first distributors in the U.S.
After the Bricks sold their part ownership of Les Mills Mid-Atlantic back to Les Mills, I stayed on as a partner, which has shaped the past 12 years of my career. During that time, Lynne and Victor have remained two of my strongest mentors professionally and personally, some of my closest friends.
CS: How did the move to Brick Bodies come about?
EK: I loved my job at Les Mills and have for a long time, but at the same time I was looking for the next step career wise, and was actually looking to come back to the East Coast. The primary driver for me was my family. I was splitting my time between Chicago and the East Coast, but it had to be the right job and the right opportunity.
I was also feeling a longing to take everything I’ve learned at Les Mills over the past 12 years and reinvest it back into the club side. At Les Mills we are more or less consultants to our partners, but there’s only so much we can do. We give our recommendations, our best practices, but we’re not the ones in the business actually doing it. You’re affecting change to a degree, but not really as much as you could if you were in the club.
This is a chance for me to get back in the clubs and really apply everything I’ve learned in a way that I feel can really bring real change to the organization.
CS: What’s the first order of business?
EK: I’m really excited to be able to look at everything we’re doing and ensure we’re on trend and aligned with the trends as much as we possibly can be. That’s the first order of business, and that covers everything from group fitness to personal training to small group training.
Second is seeing how that aligns from a branding perspective. We’ll need to make sure everything that’s happening on the outside from a marketing perspective matches what we’re doing on the inside.
I’ll be taking the things that I’ve learned across all of those channels to up our game.
CS: Is it a bit surreal to be back with the organization that kick-started your career at 16?
EK: Yes it is. There is a small level of comfort just because I know the Bricks and I know a lot of people that are still there — but at the same time, the business has dramatically changed over the past 12 years, so it is very new for me at the same time. Not being in the club business for so long is going to require me to re-acclimate myself to club operations and the day to day. But it’s all really exciting.
CS: How will your prior role with Les Mills influence your new position?
EK: What really attracted me to the Les Mills business initially was not only everything we do from a programming standpoint — which is absolutely amazing and world class — but also being able to work with so many different types of health and fitness facilities and seeing what worked well. All of that has really given me a wealth of knowledge and allowed me to have a more critical eye. Sometimes when you’ve been in the business for a long time, you can become a bit blind to what’s really going on, versus coming in with fresh eyes and seeing what could potentially be done differently. So I think all of my experiences with Les Mills have definitely opened my eyes to what’s possible.
In addition, the standard of excellence that Les Mills has for everything it does — I think I’ll certainly bring that to Brick Bodies as well. And that’s kind of the beauty of it too. Even though I’m leaving Les Mills, I’m still a partner with Les Mills because the Brick Bodies locations are very strong partners with Les Mills currently. And that’s a win in my book, to still be affiliated with the Les Mills brand.
CS: Is this move a bit bittersweet?
EK: Yes. I want to say how appreciative I am of all I got to experience and learn at Les Mills. It’s a phenomenal company and I can’t say enough good things about it. For me it was really just a personal opportunity to come back to the East Coast — the family was the main driver — and take that next step in my career. It’s a bittersweet parting, but I am excited about the opportunity and will never forget everything I’ve learned and gained from being affiliated with Les Mills. I’m so very appreciative of that opportunity.