Front-Line All Star: Blake Kennedy
Blake is the group fitness manager and social media coordinator for the The Forum. Daily, he oversees a team of 44 group fitness instructors across multiple locations. The path that led him to this point, however, started on the fitness floor.
“Blake’s journey with us started as a participant in group fitness classes,” said Tamara Morton, the human resources manager at The Forum. “His natural talents were identified by our former group fitness manager who helped along his journey from participant to group fitness instructor, gym instructor and member relations consultant, all the way up to manager.”
In addition to managing The Forum’s fitness instructors, Blake also manages the club’s social media accounts.
“As our social media coordinator, he is the driving force behind showcasing our #forumfamily, celebrating both employees and community members alike,” said Morton.
In his roles as group fitness and social media manager, Blake has been extremely effective in building brand awareness and helping elevate the performance of The Forum’s training department. And he does it all because of his passion for fitness.
“Blake is a testament to the life-changing journey that can result from taking that first step through the door of a health and fitness facility,” said Morton. “He is a true asset to the organization and has a huge future in the industry.”
Learn more about Blake and the way he stays motivated to change lives at The Forum:
Full Name: Blake Kennedy
Title: Group Fitness Manager/Social Media Coordinator
Club: The Forum (Newcastle University Sport)
Years of Service at The Forum: 5
What is the favorite aspect of your job? What do you love most?
BK: There are two reasons. Firstly, our members and their journeys. I got into the fitness industry through my own journey, losing weight and changing my lifestyle. Shedding 88 pounds and turning my life around inspired me to want to help others through similar struggles. Now, whether it’s watching members smash goals, try something new or just enjoy their time in a class, I get so much satisfaction out of being a part of their journey. The second reason is my team, but I’ll elaborate on that below.
What’s kept you at The Forum all this time?
BK: My team. I work with some of the most amazing women and men I know — passionate, caring and daring individuals who go above and beyond at every measure. I was part of this team when a dear friend of mine led it. Now that I lead this group of legends, I am grateful for all the challenges it brings that always result in greatness, and the wonderful people I get to work with.
What was your “aha” moment that made you realize you loved this job?
BK: I was attending my first FILEX convention — Australia’s leading fitness industry convention — and there was this brilliant keynote speaker. She was discussing the ups and downs and the dos and don’ts of leadership. She had such a witty and interesting point of view coming from a wide range of past experiences, and was so captivating when she spoke. She really moved us all when she told of a past leader of hers who fostered a beautiful environment with her colleagues and her. It changed her attitude to working life altogether, and she was adamant it set her on the path of success she so freely enjoys today. I reflected there in that moment and realized that was akin to my team and me, and how I felt at work.
How does The Forum make you feel valued as an employee?
BK: The Forum is a fantastic organization. It arms me with knowledge and enriching experiences that further my skills in all aspects. It’s a supportive and people-driven business that cares for its employees, and allows people like me to care for our direct teams. It’s a great place — I was a member there for two years before I became staff, and I’ve always felt like a part of a family.
Where do you get your work ethic? How do you keep a positive attitude?
BK: I genuinely enjoy what I do and the people I work with — part of my job is getting paid to exercise! I think the nostalgic value behind coming from a very sedentary lifestyle and then becoming immersed and enthralled with the fitness industry lends itself to my work being a job I love.
What practices or techniques do you use to make strong connections with members? Do you have any tricks you use for remembering members’ names, or significant aspects of their lives?
BK: I am terrible with names, so I just repeat it back to them immediately, then try and sneak it into the conversation as many times as possible. I don’t know if you can call it a technique, but I’m just real with my members, and I think that’s why they gravitate toward me. I’m real and honest, and I relate to them and have a laugh with them — I don’t take myself too seriously. I always encourage finding a type of exercise you enjoy, because if you don’t enjoy it it’ll become another chore, and we’ve already got enough of those.
What’s the most challenging aspect of your job, and how do you strive to overcome that challenge?
BK: I currently have three roles with The Forum — it’s an exciting challenge, but still a challenge. Just like in life, we can often find ourselves juggling too much work. I love lists — lists help organize me. I try to take work outside the office, whether into the studios or outside to a courtyard. Fresh environments help me stay centered and on track. I just try to do my best — that’s all anyone can ever ask of you.
What best practice tips can you share that would be beneficial to professionals in a similar role at other clubs?
BK: Listen and learn — there’s so much to take in all around you. No one knows everything — together you can achieve much more. I am responsible for a lot in my role, and I can only perform these responsibilities well by keeping an open mind with open eyes and ears. A willingness to learn is a surefire way to do more.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made, and what did you learn from it?
BK: Expecting too much of myself and striving for perfection. I quickly learned the only way to succeed is to strive for greatness and remember you’re human.
What’s one of the best ideas you’ve ever had that improved the member experience?
BK: My team and I make a collective effort to reinvent ourselves and keep our services fresh, fun and effective. Some highlights for me are always large group events that involve stepping out of our comfort zone and trying something new. I always think when a group thinks outside the box and takes a chance, magic will ensue.
We also host a lot of fundraising events for local and national charities. There’s no greater feeling than getting staff and members involved to have a great time and help give back to those who need it most.
What’s your funniest member story?
BK: Whether it’s the almost dictionary full of made up words that spill out of my mouth when my brain can’t keep up with choreography and the physical exertion, forgetting all of my active wear and teaching classes in my corporate uniform, to the countless cringe-worthy karaoke performances I provide when the music gets the better of me. There’s always a funny and memorable tale to tell in group fitness.
What’s the best gift from a member you’ve ever received?
BK: I’m very lucky and receive beautiful gifts, both emotional and materialistic from members all the time. One that stands out to me was the first time a member stopped me after class and expressed how my classes had changed her mindset, and put her on a path of happiness and health during a rough patch in her life. She was so genuine and sincere, and it reminded me exactly of how I felt when I first started attending my mentor Katie’s classes years earlier. It was the first affirmation of why I do what I do.