Over the past 40 years, Greg Oliver has seen the fitness industry evolve in leaps and bounds since he first got his start as a personal trainer in Australia.
And that evolution is occurring faster than ever before, thanks to advances in technologies ranging from artificial intelligence and virtual fitness to machine learning and the Internet of Things.
Essentially, health club operations is no longer “business as usual,” and it can be difficult for operators to keep up.
This fact is one that Oliver, who was named CEO of Fitness & Lifestyle Group in 2016, grapples with daily. Ultimately, he said it’s the responsibility of club operators to attempt to predict the future to ensure they don’t get left behind.
“At the end of the day everything will change, everything does change, and so you have to really try and look into the future,” said Oliver. “You continually have to innovate.”
Oliver is leading the charge for innovation at Fitness & Lifestyle Group, Asia-Pacific’s premier health and wellness group headquartered in Australia. The company consists of 10 customer-facing brands such as Fitness First Australia, Goodlife Health Clubs Australia, Barry’s Bootcamp Asia-Pacific, Jetts Fitness, Zap Fitness, and HYPOXI.
Altogether, the group’s portfolio of brands boast 470-plus health clubs, 725,000-plus members, 25,000-plus online program subscribers and 6,500-plus employees in Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia.
That presence is growing. Across its portfolio, Fitness & Lifestyle Group currently has 48 additional sites in various stages of completion; and recently acquired the exclusive territory rights for Barry’s Bootcamp in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia.
“We are also exploring further expansion in Asia-Pacific and talking to some like-minded fitness advocates about the opportunity to get more people moving — both at the gym and via online training,” said Oliver.
One key to Fitness & Lifestyle Group’s explosive growth is its diverse portfolio, consisting of premium brands like Fitness First; mid-market offerings like Goodlife Health Clubs; low-price options like Jetts; in addition to virtual and boutique businesses.
According to Andrew Pears, the COO of Fitness & Lifestyle Group, this has allowed the company to establish a strong foothold in a variety of segments and meet a multitude of consumer needs. “No matter how a customer wants to approach their fitness journey, we pride ourselves on having a solution available for them,” he said.
This includes those customers looking to consume fitness on-the-go, via Fitness & Lifestyle Group’s digital fitness and content business, Loup.
Through Loup, consumers gain access to digital fitness, health and wellness programs featuring popular “Fitness Inspiration” personalities like Emily Skye and Tiffany Hall. The platform takes a holistic approach, boasting meal plans and mindfulness techniques, in addition to workouts.
“Loup is part of what makes Fitness & Lifestyle Group so unique in terms of its diversification,” said Oliver. “We’re thinking differently about fitness, by making sure it’s available not only in terms of physical assets, but also digital offerings that allow us to reach out further, potentially across the globe.”
In fact, Loup is a direct response to Oliver’s call-to-action to predict the future of fitness. “Current trends are showing people want to consume fitness and content digitally, underpinned by the incredible rise of social media, social sharing and online fitness personalities,” he explained. “Loup is the fastest-growing part of our business in terms of month-on-month growth.”
Under Oliver’s direction, Fitness & Lifestyle Group is also investing in innovations on the back-end. Over the past two years it has poured $10 million into a technology roadmap that includes enhanced real-time customer and business analytics.
As a result, it now has access to a robust data warehouse that includes historical and current business trends, key performance indicators and predictive insights on member behavior.
“When you can see the future, you can also help to change the outcome, should you need to,” said Oliver. “These investments are core to our future.”
Fitness & Lifestyle Group’s innovative approach to technology hasn’t gone unnoticed. In 2017, the group was presented with the opportunity to partner with Apple on the global launch of GymKit, a new feature of the Apple Watch.
Using Near Field Communication technology, exercisers can now sync their Apple Watch to compatible pieces of cardio equipment for a more accurate view of their workouts, including calories burned, heart rate, elevation level and distance.
“To be recognized by Apple for our commitment to improve the member experience through the use of technology is a testament to Fitness & Lifestyle Group’s vision in regards to developing world-class physical and digital assets,” said Oliver.
However, Fitness & Lifestyle Group’s current technology stack and reputation for innovation didn’t come about overnight. As Oliver explained, it required a strong commitment to research and development, and a willingness to be OK with failure.
“The challenge is always to fail fast and learn from it,” said Oliver. “We’ve had our failures, but the secret is not stopping. If you’ve got a vision, then you need to continue to work through some of the challenges you face along the journey, because there will be many.”
According to Pears, this is where leadership comes into play. He explained that from the get-go, Oliver’s clear vision and strategy for how Fitness & Lifestyle Group will navigate the future has been vital.
“We’re a business these days with a very clear strategy and a very clear purpose, and what you end up with is a pretty inspired and motivated team around Greg,” explained Pears. “That sense of purpose that pervades the organization is quite remarkable and certainly not something I was seeing in previous roles. The culture that Greg’s created within Fitness & Lifestyle Group is a competitive advantage.”
This clear vision stems from Oliver’s deep passion for health and fitness, cultivated over the course of his 40-year tenure in the industry. During that time he’s drawn inspiration from people utilizing the tools provided by health clubs to improve their lives, sometimes in transformational ways.
And he’s been inspired by the dedicated fitness professionals who make those transformational results possible — including Fitness & Lifestyle Group’s 6,500-plus employees.
That is why, although investments in technology will remain a key factor in Fitness & Lifestyle Group’s ability to innovate, Oliver explained its people remain a top asset as well. Because ultimately, it’s their passion for improving people’s lives through health and wellness that keep things moving forward.
“It’s all about the people,” said Oliver. “It really just goes without saying that if you want to build great businesses, you have to have the right people on board.”
Its people, paired with a clear strategy, technology roadmap and commitment to innovate, will ensure Fitness & Lifestyle Group’s ability to successfully navigate any future evolutions the future holds for the fitness industry.
“I think we’re at a really exciting and significant turning point in history when it comes to health and wellness,” said Oliver. “It’s an amazing opportunity to be able to come to work every day with the goal of finding ways to continue to improve the health, wellbeing and longevity of our community.”