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FITNESS, HEALTH, WELLNESS

features

Life lessons: Martin Seibold

The CEO of LifeFit Group tells Kath Hudson how the pressures of the pandemic tested him and his team to the limit, while customer support turned out to be an unexpected and invaluable lifeline

Published in Health Club Management 2023 issue 9
Martin Seibold is CEO of LifeFit Group / photo: LifeFit Group
Martin Seibold is CEO of LifeFit Group / photo: LifeFit Group
I discovered our customers are more loyal than I imagined, so I wish I’d worried less

In 2012 I was appointed to handle the restructure and sale of Fitness First in the UK. It was an old-fashioned mid-market brand that had been built in the 90s to the standard of the 70s, so as soon as the low cost operators came in, it lost market share.

That period was very challenging: we had to dust off the old Fitness First, starting with how the teams worked and then the whole look and feel of the brand. But it wasn’t stressful, because we had a huge investment programme, successful teams and members who liked the product, which meant there was a lot of excitement.

It was a fantastic period and I would do it over again.

In 2017 I moved to Fitness First Germany, which was experiencing a lot of self-created troubles. We took the appropriate learnings from the UK and strategically invested in and repositioned the company, founding the LifeFit group in 2019 – a multi-market segment platform with a number of brands, including Fitness First, Elbgym and Smile X at the beginning. These were followed by brands such as Barry’s and Xponential’s Club Pilates.

But the pandemic stopped our ambitious expansion plans in their tracks, and the last three years have been by far the most challenging of my career on many levels: people, cash position, process transformation, as well as on a personal level.

With more than 20 years’ experience in the international fitness market, I’ve experienced many ups and downs, but none have been as bad as the pandemic. We didn’t know what we were dealing with and hadn’t been trained for it.

Thanks to my international connections we had some warning about what was coming when the coronavirus hit, so we made plans and got off to a good start, but the length of the pandemic meant the challenges just kept on coming, which put an enormous strain on everyone.

It felt as though I was in crisis mode 24/7, dealing with the uncertainty of how long the lockdowns would last and responding to the regulation changes against the backdrop of the huge disruption in society itself. I was concerned about the health effects on co-workers, friends and family.

A time to invest
When our operating business was at a standstill we used the time to invest in our clubs and drive digitisation forward across the business. This led to a decisive leap forward in the development of our brands and fortunately we’re now benefiting from this investment, with membership numbers now back above pre-COVID levels.

I learned that every crisis helps you to grow personally and from every crisis a learning or even something positive can be drawn. I was reminded about how important teams are: the combined resilience of our teams helped us to succeed. I also discovered that our customers are more loyal than I imagined, so I wish I’d worried less.

It made me appreciate the importance of defining small challenges and keeping personal fitness levels high. I allowed myself to get very unfit and had to challenge myself to do a family relay Ironman to come back strong.

All senior operators had the same experience as me. Looking around our colleagues in Germany, it’s obvious who had a brilliant product and good market position before COVID, as they are fine now, while those who didn’t invest during the pandemic are experiencing problems.

The rebound has been strong in Germany, which means we’re still adding members. We haven’t experienced the inflation issue which the UK is dealing with and individual wealth tends to be higher in Germany so there are more households that can stomach five to 10 per cent inflation.

Sign up here to get HCM's weekly ezine and every issue of HCM magazine free on digital.
The combined resilience of the teams helped the company survive the pandemic / photo: LifeFit Group
The combined resilience of the teams helped the company survive the pandemic / photo: LifeFit Group
German consumers have been loyal to LifeFit Group / photo: LifeFit Group
German consumers have been loyal to LifeFit Group / photo: LifeFit Group
LifeFit has the Barry’s master franchise for the region / photo: LifeFit Group / Pascal Rohe
LifeFit has the Barry’s master franchise for the region / photo: LifeFit Group / Pascal Rohe
Fitness First Black is the premium brand in Germany / photo: LifeFit Group / Pascal Rohe
Fitness First Black is the premium brand in Germany / photo: LifeFit Group / Pascal Rohe
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/2023/817025_557124.jpg
Martin Seibold, CEO of LifeFit Group tells Kath Hudson how the pressures of the pandemic tested him and his team to the limit.
Martin Seibold, LifeFit Group, life lessons,Pandemic, health club management
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features

Life lessons: Martin Seibold

The CEO of LifeFit Group tells Kath Hudson how the pressures of the pandemic tested him and his team to the limit, while customer support turned out to be an unexpected and invaluable lifeline

Published in Health Club Management 2023 issue 9
Martin Seibold is CEO of LifeFit Group / photo: LifeFit Group
Martin Seibold is CEO of LifeFit Group / photo: LifeFit Group
I discovered our customers are more loyal than I imagined, so I wish I’d worried less

In 2012 I was appointed to handle the restructure and sale of Fitness First in the UK. It was an old-fashioned mid-market brand that had been built in the 90s to the standard of the 70s, so as soon as the low cost operators came in, it lost market share.

That period was very challenging: we had to dust off the old Fitness First, starting with how the teams worked and then the whole look and feel of the brand. But it wasn’t stressful, because we had a huge investment programme, successful teams and members who liked the product, which meant there was a lot of excitement.

It was a fantastic period and I would do it over again.

In 2017 I moved to Fitness First Germany, which was experiencing a lot of self-created troubles. We took the appropriate learnings from the UK and strategically invested in and repositioned the company, founding the LifeFit group in 2019 – a multi-market segment platform with a number of brands, including Fitness First, Elbgym and Smile X at the beginning. These were followed by brands such as Barry’s and Xponential’s Club Pilates.

But the pandemic stopped our ambitious expansion plans in their tracks, and the last three years have been by far the most challenging of my career on many levels: people, cash position, process transformation, as well as on a personal level.

With more than 20 years’ experience in the international fitness market, I’ve experienced many ups and downs, but none have been as bad as the pandemic. We didn’t know what we were dealing with and hadn’t been trained for it.

Thanks to my international connections we had some warning about what was coming when the coronavirus hit, so we made plans and got off to a good start, but the length of the pandemic meant the challenges just kept on coming, which put an enormous strain on everyone.

It felt as though I was in crisis mode 24/7, dealing with the uncertainty of how long the lockdowns would last and responding to the regulation changes against the backdrop of the huge disruption in society itself. I was concerned about the health effects on co-workers, friends and family.

A time to invest
When our operating business was at a standstill we used the time to invest in our clubs and drive digitisation forward across the business. This led to a decisive leap forward in the development of our brands and fortunately we’re now benefiting from this investment, with membership numbers now back above pre-COVID levels.

I learned that every crisis helps you to grow personally and from every crisis a learning or even something positive can be drawn. I was reminded about how important teams are: the combined resilience of our teams helped us to succeed. I also discovered that our customers are more loyal than I imagined, so I wish I’d worried less.

It made me appreciate the importance of defining small challenges and keeping personal fitness levels high. I allowed myself to get very unfit and had to challenge myself to do a family relay Ironman to come back strong.

All senior operators had the same experience as me. Looking around our colleagues in Germany, it’s obvious who had a brilliant product and good market position before COVID, as they are fine now, while those who didn’t invest during the pandemic are experiencing problems.

The rebound has been strong in Germany, which means we’re still adding members. We haven’t experienced the inflation issue which the UK is dealing with and individual wealth tends to be higher in Germany so there are more households that can stomach five to 10 per cent inflation.

Sign up here to get HCM's weekly ezine and every issue of HCM magazine free on digital.
The combined resilience of the teams helped the company survive the pandemic / photo: LifeFit Group
The combined resilience of the teams helped the company survive the pandemic / photo: LifeFit Group
German consumers have been loyal to LifeFit Group / photo: LifeFit Group
German consumers have been loyal to LifeFit Group / photo: LifeFit Group
LifeFit has the Barry’s master franchise for the region / photo: LifeFit Group / Pascal Rohe
LifeFit has the Barry’s master franchise for the region / photo: LifeFit Group / Pascal Rohe
Fitness First Black is the premium brand in Germany / photo: LifeFit Group / Pascal Rohe
Fitness First Black is the premium brand in Germany / photo: LifeFit Group / Pascal Rohe
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/2023/817025_557124.jpg
Martin Seibold, CEO of LifeFit Group tells Kath Hudson how the pressures of the pandemic tested him and his team to the limit.
Martin Seibold, LifeFit Group, life lessons,Pandemic, health club management
Latest News
The HCM team were busy at the recent FIBO Global Fitness event in Cologne, Germany, ...
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The fitness sector’s pivot to active wellbeing is being discussed in a new weekly podcast, ...
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Planet Fitness has a new CEO – Colleen Keating. She will take up the position ...
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UK Active has announced details of its annual health and fitness industry awards ceremony, which ...
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Social enterprise, Places Leisure, which is part of the Places for People Group, has appointed ...
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Basic-Fit has signed up to trial Wellhub across its recently expanded Spanish network, giving access ...
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Having redefined the model of public-private collaboration in Spain, Go Fit is now expanding into ...
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Panatta will consolidate its global presence throughout 2024 by attending a host of major industry events around the globe.
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Featured supplier news: Study Active acquires Premier Global name and select branding assets
Study Active has legally acquired the name “Premier Global” and select Premier Global branding assets from Assessment Technologies Institute LLC, part of Ascend Learning in the US.
Company profiles
Company profile: Power Plate
Power Plate is owned, manufactured and distributed by Northbrook, Ill.- based Performance Health Systems LLC, ...
Company profiles
Company profile: GLL
GLL
As the UK’s leading provider of both leisure centres and libraries, GLL operate nearly 400 ...
Supplier Showcase
Supplier showcase - Jon Williams
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Featured press releases
Power Plate UK press release: Power plate + red light therapy: life-changing ‘biostacking’
“We combine Power Plate and red light therapy in all our small group classes,” says Natt Summers, founder and owner of Accomplish Fitness in Hungerford, Berkshire.
Featured press releases
Zoom Media press release: Zoom Media expands partnership with Fitness4less
Zoom Media, the UK's leading provider of health and fitness digital media, has announced a new contract with Fitness4Less to deliver Out of Home advertising across its estate.
Directory
Flooring
Total Vibration Solutions / TVS Sports Surfaces: Flooring
Cryotherapy
Art of Cryo: Cryotherapy
Snowroom
TechnoAlpin SpA: Snowroom
Spa software
SpaBooker: Spa software
Lockers
Crown Sports Lockers: Lockers
Salt therapy products
Himalayan Source: Salt therapy products
Property & Tenders
Loughton, IG10
Knight Frank
Property & Tenders
Grantham, Leicestershire
Belvoir Castle
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
22-24 Apr 2024
Galgorm Resort, York,
Diary dates
10-12 May 2024
China Import & Export Fair Complex, Guangzhou, China
Diary dates
23-24 May 2024
Large Hall of the Chamber of Commerce (Erbprinzenpalais), Wiesbaden, Germany
Diary dates
30 May - 02 Jun 2024
Rimini Exhibition Center, Rimini, Italy
Diary dates
08-08 Jun 2024
Worldwide, Various,
Diary dates
11-13 Jun 2024
Raffles City Convention Centre, Singapore, Singapore
Diary dates
12-13 Jun 2024
ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
03-05 Sep 2024
IMPACT Exhibition Center, Bangkok, Thailand
Diary dates
19-19 Sep 2024
The Salil Hotel Riverside - Bangkok, Bangkok 10120, Thailand
Diary dates
01-04 Oct 2024
REVĪVŌ Wellness Resort Nusa Dua Bali, Kabupaten Badung, Indonesia
Diary dates
22-25 Oct 2024
Messe Stuttgart, Germany
Diary dates
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QEII Conference Centre, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
04-07 Nov 2024
In person, St Andrews, United Kingdom
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