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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.
CI: Why did you decide to retire?
PB: I was just asking myself that. It was just time. I'm 62, and I've been thinking about it for a while. I was actually thinking about retiring earlier, but I wanted to see us through the kind of tough period of 2008, 2009, and I wanted to make sure networked fitness was successful, so I'm feeling good about that.
I'm 10 years out from my own health scare. I had prostate cancer when I turned 50, and luckily it's apparently in full remission, but that's a wake-up call. And my wife, she vouched for running the numbers, and in the 28 years I've been here, I've been away from home for over three of those years flying to different parts of the world. That's a big price to pay for my wife and my family, so I think I owe her a little more time. It may be something she'll grow to regret, but I think that's important. And I just had some other things I wanted to do.
I'm a little conflicted to be honest, but I know it's the right move for me and I'll emerge, probably in some other role, in a couple of years. But for now, there are rivers I want to fish. I'd like to be a little better skier, a little better golfer. I'd like to get my Spanish a little better. But I definitely will come back and talk to people about advisory positions at different businesses. I'll stay involved. I love business, but I'm ready for another adventure.
CI: Why did you recommend Rob Barker to succeed you as president?
PB: I've known Rob since 1995, and we've worked together all that time. He was the guy who I felt embodied what we are. He knows the culture. He knows all the people. He has a demonstrated track record of success. And I felt like he could not only sustain where we are but help take us to the next level. Rob's from the [United Kingdom], and his world has been the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) and Asia. He's run our international business, and he's done a tremendous job running that, so he'll give the homeland here a much better international perspective.
I think he's brilliant at what we call go-to-market. He's a brilliant sales and marketing guy, and having his experience available more closely to our team here is going to be really helpful. I'm super confident that he's the right guy, and he's going to take Precor to the next level.
I'm staying on as an advisor through the end of the year for sure and probably next year. To the extent that he wants me, I'll be available to him. As a senior seasoned executive, you've seen things and you've made decisions and you have the capabilities to put a bunch of pieces together and predict an outcome that is probably better than a guy who is 30 years younger than you. He may be twice a smart as you are, but he hasn't seen those things yet, so you want to be able to take advantage of that experience in some fashion. That's why I'd love to be involved with young companies that are trying to take their business to the next level, because I've done that, and I know I can help people get there more quickly.
CI: What do you want your legacy to be?
PB: I'd like to think that Precor has such a solid foundation, and at the bottom of the foundation is the people and the culture. And from that, we can adapt to anything in the market and continue to grow and be a great company. That's what I try to focus on. Bringing in the best people we can possibly bring and attract them because we have such an amazing culture that people love to work there. They're passionate about what they do. We have a creed that we read before every company meeting. It's about what we believe in. [The creed begins: "I desire a life without limits. I believe fitness is key to living the life I desire."] Those are the first two lines, so when people come in, they know what they are getting into. We want people who are passionate about our mission and that are smart, self-starters, ask questions, always want to be better. So if you can bring those kinds of people in and create a culture that sustains itself, then we'll be great. I'm not worried about that.
I hope that's my legacy. I hope Precor continues to get better and better and better. That would make me feel great.