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In an exclusive interview with Club Industry, former Precor President Paul Byrne discusses his accomplishments and failures at Precor, making the difficult decision to retire and the legacy he hopes to leave behind.
During his 28 years at Precor, Paul Byrne helped the Woodinville, WA-based company grow from a home fitness equipment manufacturer to a global supplier of commercial and home fitness equipment. He also helped introduce the elliptical to the industry.
But after spending 13 years as president of Precor and the previous 15 years as vice president of sales and marketing for the company, Byrne says he's "ready for another adventure."
That adventure began on Sept. 1, when Byrne retired and Rob Barker, Precor's former vice president, assumed the role of president.
Byrne began his career in the fitness industry selling Paramount Fitness equipment out of his apartment while getting a master's degree at Syracuse University. Several years later, he co-founded Concept 90, a chain of specialty fitness retail stores. (For more on how Byrne got his start in the fitness industry, watch Club Industry's exclusive video interview.) While at Concept 90, he got to know Precor founder David Smith, who offered Byrne a chance to join the young company in 1985.
"[Byrne] was there at the earliest stages of the development of the company, and he has just grown immeasurably over the years," says Rick Caro, president of consulting firm Management Vision, New York. "He was someone who really believed in change and creating more answers to challenges we had in the industry in terms of new equipment and new expertise."
Byrne's willingness to pursue new ideas was crucial not only to Precor's growth, but in getting other fitness companies to take risks as well, says Jim Birrell, Precor's chief innovation officer and Byrne's longtime colleague and friend.
"I think that ultimately Paul will be viewed as somebody who was instrumental in pushing the entire industry to innovate," Birrell says.
In an exclusive interview with Club Industry prior to his leaving the company, Byrne reflects on the changes he's seen in the industry and offers advice to the next generation of fitness entrepreneurs. He also discusses his accomplishments and failures at Precor, making the difficult decision to retire and the legacy he hopes to leave behind.