What is in this article?:
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.
Trends and Advice
CI: What stands out as the most important changes that you have seen during your time in the industry?
PB: From the equipment perspective, obviously I've seen a lot of changes. When I first got into the business, it was basically a strength business. It was Nautilus and Paramount and some free weights. Augie [Nieto, founder of Life Fitness] was kind of just getting going selling people those funky bikes called Lifecycles to whomever he could convince to buy them. And he may have had some kind of stationary bike, but that was it. Even treadmills weren't there in any major form. There were a few treadmill manufacturers that were mainly medical. So the big change that I saw early on was the move to cardio, not necessarily away from strength, but to balance strength.
I think it's important to understand the underlying drivers. We also viewed it as sort of the baby boomers moving through their life cycle, and that's one of the reasons that when the elliptical came along, we jumped on that. We were thinking, first baby boomers ran. They were running in races, doing 5Ks or 10Ks, and working out until they puke on Nautilus. It's really funny, if you look at it now, it's really the same things that are happening with my kids' generation. They're doing CrossFit and all this really tough stuff, and it was the same then. Then, as baby boomers aged, you could see that the cardio modalities took that into account, like the elliptical trainer. We were the first ones to do a low impact treadmill for that very reason, following those changes that were driven by demographics kind of along the way.
I think in the broader sense, we've seen a lot of changes just in the clubs and how they approach customers because early on, most clubs were going after the same customers roughly in the same ways. And I think what you see now, and what we've been seeing, is segmentation getting more and more fine, in a way. You see the Anytime Fitnesses and the Planet [Fitness clubs] and all the low-cost guys. You saw Curves and how brilliant that concept was going after women who were intimidated to walk into a club. Slicing and dicing these customers into their segments and giving them a lot more focused experience is a change that's been happening, and I think will continue to happen.
CI: What would be your advice for somebody starting out in the fitness industry today?
PB: There would be two pieces of advice. One would be just a general statement that I think this business is poised to go to a whole new level. I think that the focus on wellness and health is only going to continue.
But then the next statement would be to be really clear about your customer segment. Know exactly who it is you're targeting. I'd make sure you were very, very specific around that, whether it's a product or a club. What's the segment? What are you going after? And then make sure if you're building the business that you surround yourself with good people and execute. It's not that complicated a formula, but if you don't go in with a clear vision of who is the customer and how am I going to go after the customer, you risk sort of flailing around for a while. A lot of times when you first get started, you don't have the money to do too much floundering, so do your homework up front.