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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.

Sign up here to get HCM's weekly ezine and every issue of HCM magazine free on digital.
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
We did some research comparing monthly turnstile swipes with online classes during lockdown, and found the correlation was 96 % – people were maintaining their usual routines
People
As Technogym launches its new virtual and on-demand services, Francesco Arlotti, head of digital solutions, shares his thoughts with HCM
People
Catch-up is already happening. We’re up to 80% of the visits compared to the same day in 2019 and membership sales are up 150-200%
Features
Statistics
You may think you're succeeding, but you won’t really know until you hear it from your customers.
Features
Editor's letter
The pandemic is stretching the industry to the limit and it’s a time none of us will ever forget. Moving forward, we need to make a plan to ensure we’re better prepared to represent ourselves in the corridors of power
Features
Supplier showcase
University College Birmingham has invested in elite performance facilities for students and staff, in partnership with Matrix Fitness
Features
Accessibility
Sport England has teamed up with 15 health and social care charities to find ways to support people living with 10 different health conditions to be physically active. Kath Hudson finds out more
Features
Insight
As some of the UK’s top gym operators unveil their reopening videos, insight specialists, Paul Roberts and Mike Evans, analyse members’ reactions on social media
Features
Strength
Fitness enthusiasts are on the hunt for new ways to elevate their workouts. Fusion fitness is fitting the bill by making strength training more accessible
Features
Immunity
Finding the best ways to boost immunity using exercise has never been more important. Two fitness equipment developers have taken up the challenge, with protocols that assist in strengthening the body’s defences
Features
Latest News
Boutique operator Digme Fitness will open two new studios in London over the next two ...
Latest News
A government investment of £1.75bn – to pay 50 per cent of rents across the ...
Latest News
Health clubs and gyms in Catalonia have reopened their doors once for a second time, ...
Latest News
Health clubs, gyms, indoor pools and leisure centres have reopened in Wales – nearly five ...
Latest News
Today (10 August) is the last day for companies to enter the follow-up survey to ...
Latest News
A significant proportion of leisure facilities in England have not reopened since lockdown measures were ...
Latest News
Industry body, ukactive, has questioned the decision to close gyms and health clubs as part ...
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson has paid a surprise visit to a branch of The Gym ...
Opinion
promotion
Data-driven businesses are some of today’s greatest global success stories, providing blueprints for success.
Opinion: Up your ‘data game’ to successfully relaunch your fitness business
Opinion
promotion
Evidence suggests that over many years personal trainers have been forced to leave the fitness industry because employment patterns are erratic, earnings are inconsistent and it is difficult to build up value needed to secure an appropriate lifestyle.
Opinion: Personal trainers need support as employment opportunities diminish: FREE on-demand webinar
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: Digital education: TRX trains more than 14,000 professionals for free using live virtual training
In response to the pandemic, TRX, the global leader in functional training equipment, world- class training content, and app-based training technology, transformed its TRX Suspension Training Course into a free, live virtual edition via Zoom.
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: Fisikal chosen as tech partner for ‘JP4’; new health app from fitness expert, Jessie Pavelka
Fitness expert and television host, Jessie Pavelka has collaborated with Fisikal, experts in digital management solutions, to create the new JP4 app, a premium 12-week personal health and fitness transformation programme that takes the user on a journey of change through four key elements of health.
Video Gallery
THROWDOWN
Core Health & Fitness
Throwdown® creates opportunities to push boundaries by enabling everyone to reach their peak performance. Read more
More videos:
Company profiles
Company profile: Keiser UK Ltd
Keiser began its history of visionary sports science leadership over 40 years ago, rejecting the ...
Company profiles
Company profile: Harlands Group
Harlands Group is the leading provider of membership management services to leisure operators, processing over ...
Supplier Showcases
Supplier showcase - Speedflex
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Fitness Software
FunXtion International BV: Fitness Software
Skincare
Sothys: Skincare
Design consultants
Zynk Design Consultants: Design consultants
Whole body cryotherapy
Zimmer MedizinSysteme GmbH / icelab: Whole body cryotherapy
Wearable technology solutions
MyZone: Wearable technology solutions
Exercise equipment
Power Plate: Exercise equipment
Flooring
Total Vibration Solutions / TVS Sports Surfaces: Flooring
Fitness equipment
Healthcheck Services Ltd: Fitness equipment
Direct debit solutions
Harlands Group: Direct debit solutions
Gym flooring
REGUPOL/Berleburger Schaumstoffwerk (BSW): Gym flooring
Property & Tenders
Waltham Abbey, Essex
Lee Valley Regional Park Authority
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
21-24 Sep 2020
Loews Coronado Bay Resort, Coronado, United States
Diary dates
21-24 Sep 2020
Messe Stuttgart, Germany
Diary dates
22-23 Sep 2020
Heythrop Park, United Kingdom
Diary dates
17-23 Oct 2020
Pinggu, Beijing, China
Diary dates
03-06 Nov 2020
Online,
Diary dates
27-28 Nov 2020
Athena, Leicester, United Kingdom
Diary dates
23-26 Feb 2021
IFEMA, Madrid, Spain
Diary dates
03-04 Mar 2021
NEC, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Diary dates
03-06 Jun 2021
Expo Centre & Riviera di Rimini, Italy
Diary dates
16-17 Jun 2021
ExCeL London, London, 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.

Sign up here to get HCM's weekly ezine and every issue of HCM magazine free on digital.
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
Boutique operator Digme Fitness will open two new studios in London over the next two ...
Latest News
A government investment of £1.75bn – to pay 50 per cent of rents across the ...
Latest News
Health clubs and gyms in Catalonia have reopened their doors once for a second time, ...
Latest News
Health clubs, gyms, indoor pools and leisure centres have reopened in Wales – nearly five ...
Latest News
Today (10 August) is the last day for companies to enter the follow-up survey to ...
Latest News
A significant proportion of leisure facilities in England have not reopened since lockdown measures were ...
Latest News
Industry body, ukactive, has questioned the decision to close gyms and health clubs as part ...
Latest News
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has paid a surprise visit to a branch of The Gym ...
Latest News
Planet Fitness' share price on the New York Stock Exchange has remained steady at between ...
Latest News
Two of the largest health club operators in the US have announced that members and ...
Latest News
If you're a personal trainer working in the UK, you can now get online PT ...
Opinion
promotion
Data-driven businesses are some of today’s greatest global success stories, providing blueprints for success.
Opinion: Up your ‘data game’ to successfully relaunch your fitness business
Opinion
promotion
Evidence suggests that over many years personal trainers have been forced to leave the fitness industry because employment patterns are erratic, earnings are inconsistent and it is difficult to build up value needed to secure an appropriate lifestyle.
Opinion: Personal trainers need support as employment opportunities diminish: FREE on-demand webinar
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: Digital education: TRX trains more than 14,000 professionals for free using live virtual training
In response to the pandemic, TRX, the global leader in functional training equipment, world- class training content, and app-based training technology, transformed its TRX Suspension Training Course into a free, live virtual edition via Zoom.
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: Fisikal chosen as tech partner for ‘JP4’; new health app from fitness expert, Jessie Pavelka
Fitness expert and television host, Jessie Pavelka has collaborated with Fisikal, experts in digital management solutions, to create the new JP4 app, a premium 12-week personal health and fitness transformation programme that takes the user on a journey of change through four key elements of health.
Video Gallery
THROWDOWN
Core Health & Fitness
Throwdown® creates opportunities to push boundaries by enabling everyone to reach their peak performance. Read more
More videos:
Company profiles
Company profile: Keiser UK Ltd
Keiser began its history of visionary sports science leadership over 40 years ago, rejecting the ...
Company profiles
Company profile: Harlands Group
Harlands Group is the leading provider of membership management services to leisure operators, processing over ...
Supplier Showcases
Supplier showcase - Speedflex
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Fitness Software
FunXtion International BV: Fitness Software
Skincare
Sothys: Skincare
Design consultants
Zynk Design Consultants: Design consultants
Whole body cryotherapy
Zimmer MedizinSysteme GmbH / icelab: Whole body cryotherapy
Wearable technology solutions
MyZone: Wearable technology solutions
Exercise equipment
Power Plate: Exercise equipment
Flooring
Total Vibration Solutions / TVS Sports Surfaces: Flooring
Fitness equipment
Healthcheck Services Ltd: Fitness equipment
Direct debit solutions
Harlands Group: Direct debit solutions
Gym flooring
REGUPOL/Berleburger Schaumstoffwerk (BSW): Gym flooring
Property & Tenders
Waltham Abbey, Essex
Lee Valley Regional Park Authority
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
21-24 Sep 2020
Loews Coronado Bay Resort, Coronado, United States
Diary dates
21-24 Sep 2020
Messe Stuttgart, Germany
Diary dates
22-23 Sep 2020
Heythrop Park, United Kingdom
Diary dates
17-23 Oct 2020
Pinggu, Beijing, China
Diary dates
03-06 Nov 2020
Online,
Diary dates
27-28 Nov 2020
Athena, Leicester, United Kingdom
Diary dates
23-26 Feb 2021
IFEMA, Madrid, Spain
Diary dates
03-04 Mar 2021
NEC, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Diary dates
03-06 Jun 2021
Expo Centre & Riviera di Rimini, Italy
Diary dates
16-17 Jun 2021
ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
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