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Health Club Management

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ukactive update: Learnings from 2017 ukactive Flame Awrds and Conference

The 2017 ukactive Flame Awards and conference brought key industry players together. CEO Steven Ward shares the event’s main take-home messages

By Steven Ward, ukactive | Published in Health Club Management 2017 issue 8
The industry must create a world class workforce / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
The industry must create a world class workforce / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
Where once we competed with the local leisure centre, today we must contend with start-ups scattered across the globe

For a sector that has so much to reflect on given its sizeable growth in the past decade, perhaps the most pleasing aspect of the 2017 Flame Awards and Conference was the unanimous focus on the future.

Thanks largely to the 800 sector leaders who were in the room, we’ve created a thriving industry that has gone from a niche lifestyle sector to a £7.7bn behemoth acknowledged by the government as being integral to the future health of our nation and economy.

We’re seeing a global confluence of technology, health, fashion, music and social media around physical activity, presenting unprecedented opportunities for growth.

But this is far from a fait accompli. There remain key challenges that we must all overcome if we’re to truly turn the tide of inactivity, and there were several key learnings from Flame on areas in which we must move forward at greater pace:

Tear up the rulebook
Huge opportunities are within our reach, but the ability to seize them will require new ways of thinking. We have to adopt an open mindset, embrace new ideas and be dedicated to disruption if we are to really thrive and flourish in a fast-changing market.

Embracing big data
Meaningful data – once our biggest weakness – is fast becoming one of our biggest strengths. Sharing of data and insight is the bedrock of a successful mature industry and an area where greater commitment will reap even greater rewards. Innovations like the DataHub offer us greater insight than ever, meaning we can mine data from more than 250 million customer visits to identify the trends and behaviours shaping our sector.

A wiser workforce
To make the most of these opportunities, we need to stimulate a world-class workforce of forward-thinking individuals. As a result, we’re developing a stream of new learning and development programmes hand-in-hand with CIMSPA for all levels of staff to nurture the very best talent, informed by the insights we’ve gained from the Future Leaders programme. Ignite was the start of this, but we’re greatly accelerating these opportunities, with more announcements to come shortly.

Thinking global
The rules of engagement in our sector have been flipped on their head. Where once we competed with the local leisure centre, today we must contend with start-ups that are scattered across the globe.

We are now playing an international game and we can only win by adjusting accordingly. That means looking abroad for inspiration and innovation, but also being ambitious and migrating what we do onto the world stage.

Be bolder
Our sector’s future will be determined by how bold we are willing to be in our thinking. Imagine aggregating current exercise referral systems into one comprehensive national therapy service – a true preventative frontline for the NHS – treating over 500,000 patients with physical activity. Imagine a global ActiveLab network of physical activity innovators attracting billions in private investment back into our sector. Imagine taking our vital place as the backbone of Sport England’s national strategy for an Active Nation.

These are things we can and must do. With an open mindset, collaborative working and a healthy dose of ambition, these are things we will do.
ukactive CEO Steven Ward looks at the take-home messages from the 2017 Flame Awards and Conference
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