FITLIFE Insurance: Not-So Risky Business
How Brian Rawlings and his team at FITLIFE Insurance are revolutionizing the insurance world through expert, caring service.
No one likes to think about risk. But at the end of the day, there is an inherent amount of risk that comes with operating a health club. And when things do go south, you want a risk management partner who is there at the drop of a dime, day or night. Or better yet, you want a partner who can help predict and prevent risk before it happens in the first place.
Brian Rawlings, the practice leader at FITLIFE Insurance — a company that insures fitness facilities, health clubs and spas for Venture Insurance Programs — fits the bill for his club partners. No matter the situation, whether it’s a broken pipe, evaluating the risk of adding a new program or simply lending an ear during a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, Rawlings has made it his personal mission to be supportive.
Just ask Mike Hamilton, an 18-location Planet Fitness franchisee in Ohio who met Rawlings almost 10 years ago and partnered with FITLIFE in June 2020.
“I had an incident at one of my clubs where we had extensive water damage from a mudslide that occurred behind my building,” recalled Hamilton. “Brian, knowing the gravity of the situation, came to the site himself and met me and assisted in getting the needed services on site expeditiously so we were able to reopen the business in a timely manner. Brian and his team have been on top of any and all issues that have come along.”
A veteran in the insurance industry, Rawlings actually started his career in fitness, spending 10 years in recreation and YMCA management after graduating from Ohio’s Miami University with a degree in sports organization.
After transitioning to a second career in the world of insurance in 2005, Rawlings was able to reintegrate his passion for fitness on the risk management side by launching an insurance program for the fitness space.
“As someone who has managed programs and entire operations in a recreational setting, and who has coached nearly 30 seasons of youth sports at various levels, I truly feel a connection to and a passion and genuine interest in the fitness club industry and doing what I can to aid in their success,” said Rawlings. “I love the industry and I love the passion of the people. In that respect I look to be a true advocate and resource for the industry.”
There are many risks in today’s fitness space that could result in costly claims if not properly covered, including cyber, professional liability, abusive acts coverage, property coverage and more. As an operator, it can be tough to know what’s covered and what’s not, and how you should be managing risk properly within your operations.
And these risks are oftentimes unique to fitness clubs, stressing the importance of partnering with a person or brand that understands the fitness industry on a comprehensive level.
This is where FITLIFE Insurance and Rawlings are at an advantage.
“I honestly feel our key differentiator is bringing someone to the table who looks at insurance as more than just a product — who has walked the walk and brings a true interest in and passion to their business and the safety of their members and guests,” said Rawlings. “I feel we understand the alignment between a safe, clean and properly working facility to the satisfaction of members and, in the end, the profitability of the club.”
In addition to understanding the ins and outs of the fitness industry, another key differentiator for FITLIFE is its service model. For Rawlings, this is showcased through answering the phone each and every time, promptly returning an email or call, and truly listening to see where they can help.
“These are our primary keys to success and differentiators as it all starts there,” said Rawlings. “Insurance is often viewed as just a commodity, but over time, just as we all may encounter with our personal insurance, we find out it’s more than that when you need it — when you have a claim, when you have a new risk you need coverage for or question on how to best mitigate that risk, when you have difficulties — that is when it really matters. I am extremely proud of the way Venture Insurance Programs’ FITLIFE team and our carrier partner at Zurich have stepped in time and time again to be there to help. We look to bring the needed coverages and counsel coupled with sound risk management guidance to the industry and do so with the highest level of customer service.”
FITLIFE Insurance is also unique in its distribution model. It is not a “direct to market” product, meaning clubs work with an independent insurance broker who — like Rawlings — also advocates for and works for the end-user to find the best, most competitive insurance product for their needs.
“We always keep this in mind: we have two customer levels, if you will — the insurance broker and the end-user club or gym itself,” explained Rawlings. “The best scenarios are when we all come together and form that relationship holistically to best impact the safety and operating efficiencies of the gym itself.”
Ken Reinig, the president of Reinig Insurance Solutions, has worked with Rawlings as a part of the distribution model and said the partnership has been a great one.
“As an agent who has specialized in the health club industry for 30 years, it is vitally important to partner with insurance underwriters who really understand the fitness business,” said Reinig. “Brian and his team at FITLIFE have been amazing. I know when I place the insurance for my clients with FITLIFE, they will have the coverage they need and the claims service they deserve. The fact the premiums are very competitive is a bonus.”
Andrew B. Gregg, the vice president and client executive at Marsh & McLennan Companies and another partner of FITLIFE’s, echoed these sentiments.
“Brian and FITLIFE have been fantastic to work with,” said Gregg. “They are flexible, responsive and fair, which are all extremely important when it comes to an underwriting relationship. Brian and his team provide unparalleled service. Any question I have is met with a timely answer, and if it is necessary to talk in more detail, they always accommodate a conference call. We could not ask for a better underwriting partner than Brian and FITLIFE.”
Through partnerships like that with Marsh and Reinig Insurance Solutions, the FITLIFE team is further empowered to be experts on all things risk management and insurance in the fitness space.
This is especially important during times like a pandemic, when operators have additional risks they should be thinking about.
“There can be very restrictive language sometimes in insurance policies that may take away coverage for something you didn’t know was not covered,” said Rawlings. “For example, some clubs are doing in-home personal training. You may not have professional liability, for instance, for your personal trainers and group exercise instructors. And in the event someone is injured while working out with those folks, that may or may not be covered if you don’t have the appropriate professional liability wording within your policy.”
Rawlings and FITLIFE work hard to ensure negative surprises — like not realizing something wasn’t covered — never happen to their clients.
“Myself and my team are committed to being the most responsive, compassionate, easy and enjoyable to work with in the insurance space,” said Rawlings. “Our aim is to align this service model with excellent, pertinent coverages and counsel on risk management for clubs.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed, in times of crisis it’s important to not only be able to lean on your immediate team, but also vendor partnerships and industry colleagues. As the practice leader for FITLIFE, Rawlings is a great example of someone who is willing to go to bat for your club when it needs it the most.
“The fitness and club industry is one of service and of relationships,” said Rawlings. “This is always reinforced when I attend trade shows and industry events. Keep this in mind with all your vendor and service relationships. The last 12 months have reinforced the importance of this more than ever before. Who will get into that proverbial foxhole with you and fight and support you, your teams and your members?”