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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
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Rich Hutson

CEO 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
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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
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Fitness franchise Fit Body Boot Camp has revealed that it has more than 200 new ...
Latest News
DW Fitness First has launched its new Kit & Collect service, aimed at increasing secondary ...
Latest News
Teenagers' 'incessant' use of social media is radically reducing the time they spend sleeping and ...
Latest News
Wattbike has secured a deal to supply more than 30 Bupa Health Clinic sites across ...
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Fitness franchise YourZone45 has concluded a second round of funding, as it prepares to expand ...
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Leisure trust Active Nation has expanded its portfolio of budget gyms with the acquisition of ...
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Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: Trade in, trade up with Power Plate
To celebrate their 20th Anniversary Power Plate is pleased to launch its new trade in, trade up programme.
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: Collaboration, not aggregation, is the message
MoveGB is a collaboration-based platform, but being a platform, one of the common worries we hear from our partners is about loss of customer ownership.
Opinion
promotion
As an industry, we still underestimate the power of a truly varied fitness regime - and the growing appetite for it, especially among emerging customer segments.
Opinion: Collaboration vs aggregation - what’s the difference?
Video Gallery
Harlands Group testimonial
Harlands Group
Harlands Group - Testimonial from 'The Hampton Health & Fitness Club'. Read more
More videos:
Company profiles
Company profile: MiE FitQuest
FitQuest (MiE Medical Research) are specialists in the field of human performance measurement. We have ...
Company profiles
Company profile: Xponential Fitness LLC
Xponential Fitness is the world’s leading franchisor of boutique fitness studios, with a portfolio of ...
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Member access schemes
Move GB: Member access schemes
Professional services
Deloitte UK: Professional services
Lockers/interior design
Craftsman Quality Lockers Ltd: Lockers/interior design
Spa software
SpaBooker: Spa software
Audio visual
Hutchison Technologies: Audio visual
Governing body
EMD UK: Governing body
Direct debit solutions
Harlands Group: Direct debit solutions
Fitness equipment
Physical Company Ltd: Fitness equipment
Exercise equipment
Matrix Fitness: Exercise equipment
Architects/designers
Zynk Design Consultants: Architects/designers
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
05-06 Sep 2019
TagusPark, Oeiras, Portugal
Diary dates
21-22 Sep 2019
Locations worldwide,
Diary dates
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