IMAGE COURTESY OF SACO SPORT & FITNESS
Every month, Club Solutions sits down with an industry expert to share in their wealth of knowledge. In the March issue, the conversation features Scott Gillespie, the president of Saco Sport & Fitness.
1. What was your first job in the health club industry?
I was a “fitness technician” in a Nautilus Center in 1982 before the term “personal trainer” had even been coined.
2. How did you get your start at Saco Sport & Fitness?
The first 10 years of my career was with a management company and spent in six different clubs. In 1990 I was sent to Saco, Maine, to turnaround a struggling club. Ultimately the market could not support the mousetrap and the bank foreclosed, asking me to manage it while they sold it. When they could not sell it for the price they wanted, I offered to buy it from them. And so, it began.
3. What is one key to Saco Sport & Fitness’ success?
A strong desire to help our members achieve the results they came for, and a relentless need to be better every day.
4. What’s your favorite part of being in the fitness industry?
The look on my members’ faces when they walk out of the club smiling, feeling better about themselves, knowing they just accomplished something meaningful.
5. What is the best piece of leadership advice you’ve ever been given?
I believe the best advice comes from great questions. A mentor, Will Phillips, asked a great question one day: “What job are our customers really hiring us to perform for them?”
6. If you weren’t in the position you’re in now, what job do you think you’d be doing?
Growing up I wanted to be an architect — I loved creating and building things. When I realized my math skills were not as strong as my people skills, it followed that I might enjoy and excel at building people and processes.
7. What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome?
In 1994 I watched my dream go up in flames when my club was destroyed in a fire caused by an arsonist. The battle with the insurance company took nine months before we got them to accept liability to pay the claim, then we began negotiations over how much they would pay. During that time, I didn’t take a paycheck, and deeply thank my wonderful wife for supporting our young family while I went to war.
8. And how did you overcome that challenge?
I have a bias for action, so I took my first bite of the elephant, then the next one. Then, I hired a team of people smarter than me to navigate uncharted territory. I also took an hour a day to design the new club I would build after the settlement.
9. If you could give your younger self a piece of advice, what would it be?
I probably wouldn’t have listened to myself, so it’s moot. I had to learn the lessons of life in my own time when I was ready.
10. What’s a fitness trend you’re keeping an eye on right now?
Lifestyle Preventative Care. We are investing a lot of our resources to learn how to better serve those who will benefit from healthy habit adoption and need behavioral change coaching.