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Health Club Management

Health Club Management


Interview: David Lloyd

The serial health club and sports entrepreneur speaks to Steph Eaves about creating a brand new adventure park concept and what he learned from his years in the health and fitness industry

By Steph Eaves, Health Club Management and Sports Management | Published in Health Club Management 2017 issue 6
David Lloyd
David Lloyd
I believe in keeping things open plan – that’s what changed health clubs and sport. If you see everything, then you want to try everything – David Lloyd

When you talk to David Lloyd about his latest venture, you can have no doubt as to why he’s been so successful in business. At the first mention of his new adventure parks concept, Lloyd’s face lights up, and it’s clear that he’s never lost his passion for turning ideas into reality. In fact, it’s no wonder that his latest idea centres around play and adrenaline – it’s obvious from his enthusiasm that his inner child is very much alive.

The man who created and then sold David Lloyd Leisure, a full service fitness and leisure offering with a focus on family, is now taking this same idea into his adventure parks – bringing together a wide variety of fun activities, food and leisure under one roof. Although to be more exact, over half of the offering will be roofless, as there’s a huge outdoor component to the parks.

“We’ve got 24 different activities, indoor and outdoor, from climbing walls to ninja warrior races, to zip lines, to gliders, to bouncy castles and mini golf,” Lloyd enthuses.

“I’m very excited about it because I’ve got a young family, and at weekends you’re always thinking, where the hell can I take my five year old? These parks are going to be 60,000sq foot indoor and about 1.5 acres outdoor, and it’s a day out for the family – a whole day out – you can stay as long as you want.”

Family fun
Lloyd came up with the concept while dabbling in trampoline parks. After coming across an indoor activity centre in Florida called Planet Air and looking back on what he had learned from his leisure clubs, he realised that the way forward was an all-inclusive offering, rather than a specialised one.

“I thought, trampolines are great, but it’s going to change. My health clubs started as just tennis and that was the mistake I made. But now they have everything. We called them a sporting city under one roof. So this is an activity city under one roof.”

Importantly to Lloyd, the parks will provide lots of opportunity for guests to see what’s going on around them.

“I believe in keeping things open plan – that’s what changed health clubs and sport, really,” he says. “If you see someone at the club playing tennis, you think, ‘oh, I must try that”, whereas if there’s a wall, you never see it. So if you see everything, then you want to try everything.”

The adventure parks will also feature barbecue pits, where families can choose their own pre-marinated meat and cook it themselves. Lloyd believes this, plus the huge variety of activities on offer will help kids to be healthier. “Everyone is getting obese these days,” he says. “We have to make sure kids get the activity they need to stay healthy. And the way to get kids active is to make them enjoy it.”

A big part of keeping up this enjoyment all year round, explains Lloyd, is the outdoor offering.

“Any indoor activity in Britain – like bowling or trampolines – dies in the summer, because us British people don’t mind getting a little bit wet, and as soon as summer comes, we want to be outside. So having the outdoors with the barbecues and the zip lines, etc, is very important.”

Passion and people
Lloyd is confident that this new venture will be a success, and with good reason. In 1995, 13 years after he opened the first club, David Lloyd Leisure was sold for a reported £200m.
Lloyd says that he learned some important lessons from the years he spent building up the leisure clubs, particularly about the need to be adaptable.

“Whatever you do, you will make a mistake,” he explains. “Maybe one or two, maybe three, but you will. Because although you believe you’ve done all your demographic profiling, you will get it wrong, and then you have to be brave enough to change it quickly. If it’s wrong, it’s wrong – you’ve got to change, you’ve got to put something else in.”

Another thing that Lloyd believes has been key to his success is giving everyone involved a sense of ownership, through share options and a high level of responsibility. He says: “I told all my managers at David Lloyd Leisure – and it will be the same at the new adventure parks – that this was their club. They know their customers better than me. I’m not going to dictate, as long as they stick to the margins I’ve given them.”

Above all else, says Lloyd, the key to success is simply to have a real passion for what you’re doing and to keep enjoying it.

“I just think if you enjoy something and you believe in it, and you pick the right people, then nine times out of 10 you’ll be successful. I love vision – seeing it and then making it happen.

“I’ve always been a great believer in family entertainment, I just think it’s so important. And we’re going to need it more and more in my opinion.”

DAVID LLOYD’s path through sport and leisure

Won both singles and doubles titles at Junior Wimbledon, aged 17

Retired from professional tennis with a career high of 128 in world singles rankings

Founded David Lloyd Leisure Clubs – family-orientated, with an emphasis on tennis

David Lloyd Leisure floated on the London Stock Exchange

Company acquired by Whitbread for £200m. David Lloyd appointed captain of the British Davis Cup team

Created Next Generation Clubs with son Scott. Later acquired by London & Regional and Bank of Scotland, along with David Lloyd Leisure for £925m

Launched MegaJump trampoline parks
with entrepreneur Mitchell Tillman

Announced new adventure parks concept

HIP marketing director David Dean
HIP marketing director David Dean
HIP CEO Martin Helme
HIP CEO Martin Helme
Lloyd has always had faith in the family market – his eponymous fitness business has families at its heart
Lloyd has always had faith in the family market – his eponymous fitness business has families at its heart
David Lloyd playing at the 
Dewar Cup in London in November 1976 / PA S&G/S&G_Barratts/EMPICS Sport
David Lloyd playing at the Dewar Cup in London in November 1976 / PA S&G/S&G_Barratts/EMPICS Sport
The serial health club and sports entrepreneur speaks to Steph Eaves about creating a brand new adventure park concept
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