Hitting its Stride
Aaron Moore knew early on in life that a traditional 9 to 5 job sitting at a desk wasn’t in the cards.
Growing up, Moore loved being active, spending time outdoors and getting his hands dirty. He played a variety of team sports, including baseball, basketball and football — and spent the majority of his free time camping, hiking, and enjoying all that mother nature had to offer.
Initially, he chose collegiate athletics as a career path, taking a job right out of college as an assistant football coach at Ohio University. However, Moore soon realized the role lacked the ability for work-life balance.
“I’m a bit of a workaholic, so I needed a career change that was going to force me to take time for myself and my family,” explained Moore. “That’s where I really fell in love with the fitness industry. Although we as an industry are ripe with opportunities to work ourselves to death, we also embrace wellness and balance.”
As a result, when Moore was presented with the opportunity to join a budding new gym in Washington D.C. called VIDA Fitness, he jumped at the opportunity, coming on board in 2007 as assistant general manager of the brand’s single location.
According to Moore, the early days of VIDA were like the wild, wild west — lacking systems and processes for employees to fall back on. “Everyone was kind of doing their own thing,” he said.
And although Moore’s career as a coach didn’t work out in the long run, it had taught him an important lesson. “The great thing about coaching collegiate athletics is that you can’t just step in and do it yourself,” he explained. “Coaches can’t play the game, so the only way to achieve your goals is through the success of others. This requires exceptional communication skills and the willingness to empower those around you with the autonomy to make educated decisions.”
As a result, as VIDA began expanding the brand to multiple locations, and as Moore climbed up the ladder to director of operations, the need for decentralized command and empowered staff became even more prevalent.
“It was easy as a single club, because everyone who worked for the company was in the same building and we saw each other every day,” said Moore. “However, things kind of got away from us as we grew to five locations and there was a lot of inconsistency from one club to the next, even though all of our clubs are located within a very small geographic area. The disconnect was palpable and we weren’t performing to our potential.”
As a result, Moore dedicated all of 2013 to learning as much as he could about company culture. He attended as many industry events as he could, consulted service-oriented companies outside of the industry, read a business book every week, and joined REX Roundtables.
“I was really able to learn the process inside and out from some of the very best operators,” said Moore. “It was a 15-month timeline from start to finish, and probably the single biggest factor in setting us up for long-term success.”
Today, VIDA has a strong corporate culture supported by service and experience standards that span all five of the brand’s locations in D.C. No matter which location a member visits, they can expect uniquely designed and laid out spaces, industry-leading facilities and programming, highly educated fitness professionals, and a community where people with shared values can make meaningful personal connections.
However, in a highly competitive market like D.C., the brand has strived to stand out beyond just beautiful facilities and amenities. This is where its top-notch staff come into play.
“While VIDA is a strong brand with beautiful design and the latest equipment, it is really our team that makes the difference,” said Moore. “We believe we have the very best personal trainers, instructors, spa professionals and registered dietitians in our regional marketplace. Our greatest asset is our dedicated team of career-track professionals. They are highly-educated, highly-motivated, data-driven and results-oriented.”
Another way the brand stands out is through its results-oriented approach. To ensure customers are set up for success, VIDA’s staff collect three key pieces of information from every member, including their specific interests, quantifiable goals, and why those interests and goals are important to them.
“We’re successful because we’ve been able to consistently get our members to demonstrate a little vulnerability and open up to us in these areas,” explained Moore. “Once we have this crucial information, our team members have everything they need to deliver results.”
And, just as Moore strove to find a career that would support work-life balance, VIDA’s philosophy is one that seeks to strike a balance for members as well — believing that physical exercise is only one fourth of balanced wellness, with the other components being good nutrition, proper sleep habits, and spiritual fulfillment.
“Spiritual fulfillment is not necessarily religion, but simply represents time away from the business to positively impact family, friends, community, or whatever feeds your soul,” explained Moore.
Another key philosophy for VIDA is innovation. Being located in a highly competitive, urban setting has required the brand to be nimble.
As an example, Moore shared that a few years ago, VIDA completely revamped its cycling studios to appeal to outdoor cyclists — the trend at the time. And then SoulCycle and Flywheel entered the market.
“We had built these new studios, had brand-new bikes — they weren’t even a year old,” recalled Moore. “And we threw everything out the window, gutted the studios, rebuilt them based on the trends, bought all new bikes. And I find that to be a very rare thing in the industry, where people don’t necessarily reinvest in the club unless the trends are kind of passing them by or things need repair. You’ve got to be willing to reinvest when needed.”
Another challenge for VIDA that requires an innovative approach is limited space — a side effect of being located in an urban setting. Moore shared that at their U Street location, the largest, they recently relocated an entire floor of corporate offices to make room for a growing membership base.
“We were occupying a fairly good-sized corporate office, and we said, ‘Hey, we need more space, we’re bringing on more members, the neighborhood is growing — we’ve got to kick ourselves out,’” explained Moore. “So we did that, and now we have an entire floor where we have a ton of space now. It’s really just making sure there is no single square foot that’s not completely maximized.”
And although innovation has proved an asset in helping VIDA maximize its space and resources, Moore does feel the brand is close to reaching its growth potential in D.C. As a result, they’ve begun setting their sights on the D.C., Maryland and Virginia (DMV) area at large — with one location already scheduled to open in Ballston, Virginia, in 2020.
According to Moore, the Ballston location is the culmination of everything they’ve learned over the past 12 years, occupying three floors in the tallest mixed-use residential and commercial building in the Ballston area.
Highlights include an entire floor dedicated to boutique experiences ranging from Pilates and yoga, to indoor cycling and VIDA’s signature SweatBox concept. The location will also feature VIDA’s Aura Spa and Fuel Bar brands, along with a co-working space and the latest in cardio and selectorized equipment.
“We couldn’t design the building to better express the evolution of who we are as a brand than this location, so we’re super excited about it,” said Moore.
And VIDA isn’t stopping there. According to Moore, the company has already signed letters of intent for another location in Virginia, with plans for more. “We think in the next five or six years we’re going to have five clubs in Northern Virginia as well,” he said.
It appears VIDA is hitting its stride. And, even in the face of increasing competition, Moore feels the brand is certainly up for the challenge.
“Competition is harder than it’s ever been, but it’s also a lot more fun,” added Moore. “Everyone is offering a great product and has talented people, which makes all of us work that much harder to stay relevant. We’re having the most fun we’ve ever had and appreciate the healthy competition that has forced us to elevate our game.”