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Health Club Management

Health Club Management

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UNITING THE WORLD OF FITNESS
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Health Club Management

Health Club Management

features

HCM People: Rich HutsonCEO of CHi Fitness and Co-founder of Fire Fitness

The business wasn’t getting the numbers needed, so I raised the prices by 25 per cent. It worked and we didn’t skip a beat

Published in Health Club Management 2019 issue 8
Rich Hutson is based in Malaysia
Rich Hutson is based in Malaysia

Tell us about your career
I started as a personal trainer in Canada, teaching women to box. I realised early on that helping people better their lives makes me feel really good.

I moved to Australia for a change, found a job at a gym and got into sales, quickly realising it was something I liked.

A stint at Fitness First in Australia followed, where I helped lead our Asia expansion as FF Asia sales director. After two years I was asked to go to Europe to take on the European sales director role and spent five amazing years there and met my future wife.

Fitness First sold Europe and I came back to Asia where I spent another eight years before parting ways in 2015.

I then partnered with my friend Dave Nuku to start Fire Fitness. After opening our second club I made a decision to find another job, because you can’t have two families living off a start-up! I spent six months in Dubai before I was offered my dream role, as CEO at CHi Fitness, which allowed me to come back to Malaysia.

We turned the business around and sold it last September to Evolution Wellness. Now back where I started, working for my old colleagues and friends!

Tell us more about Fire Fitness
We have two clubs in Kuala Lumpur. We were the first boutique fitness operator here. Our marketing and approach were very different – we made a big noise coming into the market and it made people wonder what we were.

Right from the start we had success because of our trainers and the experience that we provide. We run four classes: Stride (HIIT); Ride (cycling); Force (low impact strength); and Strike (boxing).

Our audience is a mix of expats and locals. We have a 70/30 split of female to males and a range of ages from millennials to over 60s, which varies by type of class and the trainer. We love the fact we get such a wide range of ages.

How did you turn CHi around?
I had three offers in front of me and I chose the role with CHi because it was the one that got me the most excited. I felt it was time to take a lead role after being in sales and operations for so long, even though I was nervous. I knew the business and believed it could do better.

I was transparent about my goal: to put some major results on the board so we could attract investors. This was the key to our future and I wanted every GM to be on-board with the goal and not be nervous if they heard rumours. I wanted to empower them to feel as though they were part of it.

When I looked at the strategy, pricing and what the clubs were offering, I couldn’t see how we were going to reach our goals. The business was trying to run a budget model but was a full-service offering.

It wasn’t getting the numbers needed, so I raised the prices by 25 per cent. It worked and we didn’t skip a beat.

This gave the team confidence and confirmed that their clubs were worth it.

We also closed our struggling clubs. We started with 20 and worked our way down to 13 and we make triple the EBITDA. It’s mind blowing how much time you can spend on clubs that are losing money, and this just takes away your time from building the future.

What’s the potential in Asia?
It’s an exciting time to be in here as there’s considerable growth to come.

The greatest challenge is finding a way to cater to the less affluent. In many parts of Asia you see a wide gap between those who can afford fitness and those who can’t. Catering to those less well-off is an opportunity worth pursuing.

The level of instruction in many clubs isn’t yet near the standard it needs to be. In most Asian countries there’s no governing body setting standard for qualifications, so anyone can walk off the street and say they’re a trainer.

What’s your career taught you?
It’s taught me to take chances in life and business. I’ve left what I’d consider ‘home’ more times than I can count and have loved every moment – win or lose.

I’ve worked in 17 countries and lived in a further seven, and don’t regret a single move, as everything has provided me with amazing experiences.

Hutson raised prices and sold struggling clubs to turn CHi around
Hutson raised prices and sold struggling clubs to turn CHi around
Fire Fitness was the first boutique fitness offering in the Malaysian market
Fire Fitness was the first boutique fitness offering in the Malaysian market
CHi Fitness aims to offer a full service at excellent value
CHi Fitness aims to offer a full service at excellent value
Hutson and business partner 
Dave Nuku have two Fire Fitness clubs in Kuala Lumpur
Hutson and business partner Dave Nuku have two Fire Fitness clubs in Kuala Lumpur
Fire offers four group fitness classes: Stride, 
Ride, Force and Strike
Fire offers four group fitness classes: Stride, Ride, Force and Strike
http://www.leisureopportunities.com/images/imagesX/137776_588227.jpg
The CEO of CHi Fitness, in Malaysia, discusses how he turned the business around
Rich Hutson, CHi Fitness, Fire Fitness,Fitness, Malaysia
People
HCM people

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Years of studying the greats – Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs – combined with my own life lessons – led to the Awakn 7 pillars process and my goal to Awakn London
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Groupe Arkose: co-founders
Bouldering is more than a trend: it’s fun and healthy, strongly aspirational, easily accessible, highly motivating and promotes social interaction
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We have a new flagship location in Bangkok called Icon Siam – which is spread over three floors, with an infinity pool and the country’s first dedicated Lagree Pilates studio. We’ve also opened The F Zone in Bangkok, which is a heart rate training, athletic performance club
Features
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Fusing great kit with tailored workouts and cutting edge technology, Technogym products create peak experiences for members
Features
Talking point
As we begin a new decade, will boutiques extend beyond the major cities? Will the budget boom continue? How will digital fitness impact the sector? Kath Hudson speaks to some of the industry’s big hitters to find out what 2020 could have in store
Features
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We talk to two high-end operators who've established a valuable USP by offering EMS training
Features
Corporate wellness
Corporate wellness is getting on to the agenda of a growing number of companies, who appreciate the fact their employees are their number one asset. Kath Hudson reports
Features
Design focus
Fitness giant Les Mills has launched three new studio spaces at its Auckland City Gym in New Zealand
Features
Trends
Retreats are where boutique fitness is at in 2020. High-end operators are now designing packages to take their communities to inspiring locations, in order to escape everyday life and immerse themselves in exercise, mindfulness and relaxation. Kath Hudson reports
Features
Running
How many of your members pound the treadmill with poor technique, risking injury and hating every leaden-legged second of it? It doesn’t have to be this way according to Danny Dreyer, founder of ChiRunning, who says he can turn anyone into a runner. Kath Hudson discovers how
Features
Latest News
The Third Space has opened its sixth full-service club in Islington, London. Located at the ...
Latest News
People from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds are still far less likely to ...
Latest News
Those who use fitness trackers are twice as likely to enjoy their gym workout (61 ...
Latest News
Technogym has secured a deal to equip 30 Olympic training centres in Tokyo this year, ...
Latest News
Leisure trust 1610 will begin offering DNA testing to members at the leisure centres it ...
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David Lloyd Clubs has opened a pop-up restaurant in Hackney, London, designed specifically to complement ...
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Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) is dipping its toe into the wellness tech market with a ...
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Health-tech brand hero has acquired Revitalise London – a preventative health and vitality specialist – ...
Job search
POST YOUR JOB
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: Incorpore: Creating a fitter, happier and more productive workforce
Inactivity is described by The Department of Health as the ‘silent killer’ of our generation.
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Featured supplier: Gympass expands in Ireland with flagship operator Gym Plus
Gympass, a leader in corporate fitness sales, has expanded its network to Ireland following a new partnership with Gym Plus.
Opinion
promotion
Gyms need to look at ways to deploy technology that helps them engage with customers on a human level. This can be done by encouraging customers to leave as much real-time feedback as possible
Opinion: Customer Feedback: the Good, the Bad and the ‘Could be Improved’ Why health clubs need to take action in 2020 to retain their New Year customers
Video Gallery
How to use the MZ-Bodyscan
MyZone
The Best Product for the Best Clubs Read more
More videos:
Company profiles
Company profile: Power Plate
Power Plate is a vibrating platform that enhances any movement to help you prepare faster, ...
Company profiles
Company profile: Proinsight Research Ltd
We take time at the outset to understand your unique customer journey. Then we work ...
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Trade associations
International SPA Association - iSPA: Trade associations
Spa software
ResortSuite: Spa software
Locking solutions
Monster Padlocks: Locking solutions
Whole body cryotherapy
Zimmer MedizinSysteme GmbH / icelab: Whole body cryotherapy
Audio visual
Hutchison Technologies: Audio visual
Flooring
Total Vibration Solutions / TVS Sports Surfaces: Flooring
Management software
Fisikal: Management software
Lockers/interior design
Fitlockers: Lockers/interior design
Wearable technology solutions
MyZone: Wearable technology solutions
Fitness software
Go Do.Fitness: Fitness software
Property & Tenders
Derby City Council
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
28-30 Jan 2020
Ericsson Exhibition Hall, Ricoh Arena, Coventry, United Kingdom
Diary dates
29-30 Jan 2020
Holiday Inn San Francisco-Golden Gateway, San Francisco, United States
Diary dates
20 Feb 2020
The Old Truman Brewery, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
06-07 Mar 2020
Palazzo del Ghiaccio, Milan, Italy
Diary dates
23-25 Mar 2020
Hilton, Barcelona, Spain
Diary dates
25 Mar 2020
Executive Boardroom, Middlesex University, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
25-26 Mar 2020
Eastwood Hall, Nottingham, United Kingdom
Diary dates
26-29 Mar 2020
The Winter Gardens Blackpool, Blackpool , United Kingdom
Diary dates
19-24 Apr 2020
tbc, Beijing, China
Diary dates
04 Jun 2020
Marriott Forest of Arden Hotel & Country Club, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Diary dates
13 Jun 2020
Worldwide, Various,
Diary dates
17-18 Jun 2020
ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
21-24 Sep 2020
Loews Coronado Bay Resort, Coronado, United States
Diary dates
17-23 Oct 2020
Pinggu, Beijing, China
Diary dates
30-31 Oct 2020
NEC, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Diary dates

features

HCM People: Rich HutsonCEO of CHi Fitness and Co-founder of Fire Fitness

The business wasn’t getting the numbers needed, so I raised the prices by 25 per cent. It worked and we didn’t skip a beat

Published in Health Club Management 2019 issue 8
Rich Hutson is based in Malaysia
Rich Hutson is based in Malaysia

Tell us about your career
I started as a personal trainer in Canada, teaching women to box. I realised early on that helping people better their lives makes me feel really good.

I moved to Australia for a change, found a job at a gym and got into sales, quickly realising it was something I liked.

A stint at Fitness First in Australia followed, where I helped lead our Asia expansion as FF Asia sales director. After two years I was asked to go to Europe to take on the European sales director role and spent five amazing years there and met my future wife.

Fitness First sold Europe and I came back to Asia where I spent another eight years before parting ways in 2015.

I then partnered with my friend Dave Nuku to start Fire Fitness. After opening our second club I made a decision to find another job, because you can’t have two families living off a start-up! I spent six months in Dubai before I was offered my dream role, as CEO at CHi Fitness, which allowed me to come back to Malaysia.

We turned the business around and sold it last September to Evolution Wellness. Now back where I started, working for my old colleagues and friends!

Tell us more about Fire Fitness
We have two clubs in Kuala Lumpur. We were the first boutique fitness operator here. Our marketing and approach were very different – we made a big noise coming into the market and it made people wonder what we were.

Right from the start we had success because of our trainers and the experience that we provide. We run four classes: Stride (HIIT); Ride (cycling); Force (low impact strength); and Strike (boxing).

Our audience is a mix of expats and locals. We have a 70/30 split of female to males and a range of ages from millennials to over 60s, which varies by type of class and the trainer. We love the fact we get such a wide range of ages.

How did you turn CHi around?
I had three offers in front of me and I chose the role with CHi because it was the one that got me the most excited. I felt it was time to take a lead role after being in sales and operations for so long, even though I was nervous. I knew the business and believed it could do better.

I was transparent about my goal: to put some major results on the board so we could attract investors. This was the key to our future and I wanted every GM to be on-board with the goal and not be nervous if they heard rumours. I wanted to empower them to feel as though they were part of it.

When I looked at the strategy, pricing and what the clubs were offering, I couldn’t see how we were going to reach our goals. The business was trying to run a budget model but was a full-service offering.

It wasn’t getting the numbers needed, so I raised the prices by 25 per cent. It worked and we didn’t skip a beat.

This gave the team confidence and confirmed that their clubs were worth it.

We also closed our struggling clubs. We started with 20 and worked our way down to 13 and we make triple the EBITDA. It’s mind blowing how much time you can spend on clubs that are losing money, and this just takes away your time from building the future.

What’s the potential in Asia?
It’s an exciting time to be in here as there’s considerable growth to come.

The greatest challenge is finding a way to cater to the less affluent. In many parts of Asia you see a wide gap between those who can afford fitness and those who can’t. Catering to those less well-off is an opportunity worth pursuing.

The level of instruction in many clubs isn’t yet near the standard it needs to be. In most Asian countries there’s no governing body setting standard for qualifications, so anyone can walk off the street and say they’re a trainer.

What’s your career taught you?
It’s taught me to take chances in life and business. I’ve left what I’d consider ‘home’ more times than I can count and have loved every moment – win or lose.

I’ve worked in 17 countries and lived in a further seven, and don’t regret a single move, as everything has provided me with amazing experiences.

Hutson raised prices and sold struggling clubs to turn CHi around
Hutson raised prices and sold struggling clubs to turn CHi around
Fire Fitness was the first boutique fitness offering in the Malaysian market
Fire Fitness was the first boutique fitness offering in the Malaysian market
CHi Fitness aims to offer a full service at excellent value
CHi Fitness aims to offer a full service at excellent value
Hutson and business partner 
Dave Nuku have two Fire Fitness clubs in Kuala Lumpur
Hutson and business partner Dave Nuku have two Fire Fitness clubs in Kuala Lumpur
Fire offers four group fitness classes: Stride, 
Ride, Force and Strike
Fire offers four group fitness classes: Stride, Ride, Force and Strike
http://www.leisureopportunities.com/images/imagesX/137776_588227.jpg
The CEO of CHi Fitness, in Malaysia, discusses how he turned the business around
Rich Hutson, CHi Fitness, Fire Fitness,Fitness, Malaysia
Latest News
The Third Space has opened its sixth full-service club in Islington, London. Located at the ...
Latest News
People from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds are still far less likely to ...
Latest News
Those who use fitness trackers are twice as likely to enjoy their gym workout (61 ...
Latest News
Technogym has secured a deal to equip 30 Olympic training centres in Tokyo this year, ...
Latest News
Leisure trust 1610 will begin offering DNA testing to members at the leisure centres it ...
Latest News
David Lloyd Clubs has opened a pop-up restaurant in Hackney, London, designed specifically to complement ...
Latest News
Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) is dipping its toe into the wellness tech market with a ...
Latest News
Health-tech brand hero has acquired Revitalise London – a preventative health and vitality specialist – ...
Latest News
Wellness tech platform Mindbody has signed a five-year partnership deal with fitness franchise F45. The ...
Latest News
Luxury resort Coco Bodu Hithi has revealed plans to launch the first "floating yoga studio" ...
Latest News
Tech giant Apple is venturing further into the wellness space by launching a new Apple ...
Job search
POST YOUR JOB
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: Incorpore: Creating a fitter, happier and more productive workforce
Inactivity is described by The Department of Health as the ‘silent killer’ of our generation.
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: Gympass expands in Ireland with flagship operator Gym Plus
Gympass, a leader in corporate fitness sales, has expanded its network to Ireland following a new partnership with Gym Plus.
Opinion
promotion
Gyms need to look at ways to deploy technology that helps them engage with customers on a human level. This can be done by encouraging customers to leave as much real-time feedback as possible
Opinion: Customer Feedback: the Good, the Bad and the ‘Could be Improved’ Why health clubs need to take action in 2020 to retain their New Year customers
Video Gallery
How to use the MZ-Bodyscan
MyZone
The Best Product for the Best Clubs Read more
More videos:
Company profiles
Company profile: Power Plate
Power Plate is a vibrating platform that enhances any movement to help you prepare faster, ...
Company profiles
Company profile: Proinsight Research Ltd
We take time at the outset to understand your unique customer journey. Then we work ...
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Trade associations
International SPA Association - iSPA: Trade associations
Spa software
ResortSuite: Spa software
Locking solutions
Monster Padlocks: Locking solutions
Whole body cryotherapy
Zimmer MedizinSysteme GmbH / icelab: Whole body cryotherapy
Audio visual
Hutchison Technologies: Audio visual
Flooring
Total Vibration Solutions / TVS Sports Surfaces: Flooring
Management software
Fisikal: Management software
Lockers/interior design
Fitlockers: Lockers/interior design
Wearable technology solutions
MyZone: Wearable technology solutions
Fitness software
Go Do.Fitness: Fitness software
Property & Tenders
Derby City Council
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
28-30 Jan 2020
Ericsson Exhibition Hall, Ricoh Arena, Coventry, United Kingdom
Diary dates
29-30 Jan 2020
Holiday Inn San Francisco-Golden Gateway, San Francisco, United States
Diary dates
20 Feb 2020
The Old Truman Brewery, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
06-07 Mar 2020
Palazzo del Ghiaccio, Milan, Italy
Diary dates
23-25 Mar 2020
Hilton, Barcelona, Spain
Diary dates
25 Mar 2020
Executive Boardroom, Middlesex University, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
25-26 Mar 2020
Eastwood Hall, Nottingham, United Kingdom
Diary dates
26-29 Mar 2020
The Winter Gardens Blackpool, Blackpool , United Kingdom
Diary dates
19-24 Apr 2020
tbc, Beijing, China
Diary dates
04 Jun 2020
Marriott Forest of Arden Hotel & Country Club, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Diary dates
13 Jun 2020
Worldwide, Various,
Diary dates
17-18 Jun 2020
ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
21-24 Sep 2020
Loews Coronado Bay Resort, Coronado, United States
Diary dates
17-23 Oct 2020
Pinggu, Beijing, China
Diary dates
30-31 Oct 2020
NEC, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Diary dates
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