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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
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/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
Our pre-sale deal is AED99 a month and if you join up on that rate you keep it for a lifetime
People
As you approach each studio, there’s an area of transition, setting the tone as you move from one space into another, recalibrating your senses. I call it Layers of Wow
People
HCM people

Luca Maggiora

Co-founder, House of Wisdom
People think making a change is easy and fast, but that isn’t true. It’s hard and it takes time
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Talking point
Gym operators in the UK can now open on the high street, without planning permission, thanks to changes in legislation. What impact will this have on the industry? Kath Hudson reports
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Body scanning
COVID-19 is driving huge consumer interest in health, creating the opportunity for operators (with the right kit) to offer body scanning and analysis. We look at some of the top options
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feature
As the fitness industry grapples with the challenge of optimising digital, Volution’s Adam Norton shares his vision for a customised data-centric approach that will lead operators into a new era of success
Features
Editor's letter
The hard work is paying off and we’re earning a reputation for safe operations. Now it’s time to tackle the next set of challenges – increasing capacity, yield and memberships, deepening engagement and rebuilding profits says liz Terry
Features
Research
Five months after the start of lockdown, Leisure-net did a survey to gauge how public sector operators and industry suppliers are faring
Features
Insight
As the physical activity and sports sector unites to fight its corner in making a case for government investment, Sport England has commissioned a research study to prove the economic value of activity, giving weight to the argument. Tom Walker reports
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Supplier showcase
Sporteve has enhanced its in-club digital experience by working with Funxtion to install multiscreens to power the member experience
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Latest News
Chancellor Rishi Sunak's proposals to support the economy through the next six months of the ...
Latest News
The UK government's 'Rule of Six' has come into force in physical activity facilities today ...
Latest News
The UK's physical activity sector has come together to get millions of people active during ...
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A study by Rutgers University has suggested that it could be possible to predict which ...
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Health club and gyms operators in California are suing state governor Gavin Newsom in an ...
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The Global Wellness Summit (GWS) has announced the appointment of C. Victor Brick, CEO of ...
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More than 100 sport and physical activity bodies have sent a letter to UK Prime ...
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Gyms in the UK are continuing to successfully control COVID-19 transmisssion, according to the latest ...
Opinion
promotion
The pandemic has thrown a new focus on health, with sales of body composition analysis equipment at an all-time high, as InBody’s Francesca Cooper explains.
Opinion: Gyms add body composition analysis and health screening to their offering following pandemic
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: Speedflex develops new personalised HIIT programme to support the overweight getting into fitness
As the government announced its new obesity strategy to limit the impact of a potential second wave of COVID-19, HIIT specialists, Speedflex are also doing their bit to help tackle the issue.
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Featured supplier: Carbon Trainer raises the bar in strength training with next-generation AI Fitness Mirror
Carbon, creators of the first AI-powered at-home fitness mirror that tracks workouts announces the launch of Carbon Trainer.
Video Gallery
Freemotion FUSION Team Training
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Company profile: Healthcheck Services Ltd
Here at Healthcheck Services, we want to empower you, your clients & your staff to ...
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Company profile: Premier Software Solutions Ltd
Premier Software was founded in 1994 and has proven experience developing business management solutions specifically ...
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Spa software
SpaBooker: Spa software
Whole body cryotherapy
Art of Cryo: Whole body cryotherapy
Fitness software
Go Do.Fitness: Fitness software
Software
Volution.fit: Software
Trade associations
International SPA Association - iSPA: Trade associations
Hydrotherapy / spa fragrances
Kemitron GmbH: Hydrotherapy / spa fragrances
Direct debit solutions
Harlands Group: Direct debit solutions
Fitness equipment
TRX Training: Fitness equipment
Red Light Therapy
 Red Light Rising: Red Light Therapy
Flooring
Total Vibration Solutions / TVS Sports Surfaces: Flooring
Property & Tenders
11 - 25 Union St, London SE1 1SD
Bankside Open Spaces Trust
Property & Tenders
Waltham Abbey, Essex
Lee Valley Regional Park Authority
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
07 Oct 2020
Online, Singapore, Singapore
Diary dates
17-23 Oct 2020
Pinggu, Beijing, China
Diary dates
03-06 Nov 2020
Online,
Diary dates
17 Nov 2020
Loughborough University, Loughborough, United Kingdom
Diary dates
27-28 Nov 2020
Athena, Leicester, United Kingdom
Diary dates
02-04 Feb 2021
Ericsson Exhibition Hall, Ricoh Arena, Coventry, 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
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/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
Chancellor Rishi Sunak's proposals to support the economy through the next six months of the ...
Latest News
The UK government's 'Rule of Six' has come into force in physical activity facilities today ...
Latest News
The UK's physical activity sector has come together to get millions of people active during ...
Latest News
A study by Rutgers University has suggested that it could be possible to predict which ...
Latest News
Health club and gyms operators in California are suing state governor Gavin Newsom in an ...
Latest News
The Global Wellness Summit (GWS) has announced the appointment of C. Victor Brick, CEO of ...
Latest News
More than 100 sport and physical activity bodies have sent a letter to UK Prime ...
Latest News
Gyms in the UK are continuing to successfully control COVID-19 transmisssion, according to the latest ...
Latest News
Electronics giant LG has entered the fitness and wellness market with the launch of a ...
Latest News
Exercise has been voted the number one way the public can help the NHS – ...
Latest News
Hundreds of thousands of small companies in the UK – including those operating in fitness ...
Opinion
promotion
The pandemic has thrown a new focus on health, with sales of body composition analysis equipment at an all-time high, as InBody’s Francesca Cooper explains.
Opinion: Gyms add body composition analysis and health screening to their offering following pandemic
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: Speedflex develops new personalised HIIT programme to support the overweight getting into fitness
As the government announced its new obesity strategy to limit the impact of a potential second wave of COVID-19, HIIT specialists, Speedflex are also doing their bit to help tackle the issue.
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: Carbon Trainer raises the bar in strength training with next-generation AI Fitness Mirror
Carbon, creators of the first AI-powered at-home fitness mirror that tracks workouts announces the launch of Carbon Trainer.
Video Gallery
Freemotion FUSION Team Training
FreeMotion Fitness
The High-Intensity Cardio-Strength Training. Read more
More videos:
Company profiles
Company profile: Healthcheck Services Ltd
Here at Healthcheck Services, we want to empower you, your clients & your staff to ...
Company profiles
Company profile: Premier Software Solutions Ltd
Premier Software was founded in 1994 and has proven experience developing business management solutions specifically ...
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Spa software
SpaBooker: Spa software
Whole body cryotherapy
Art of Cryo: Whole body cryotherapy
Fitness software
Go Do.Fitness: Fitness software
Software
Volution.fit: Software
Trade associations
International SPA Association - iSPA: Trade associations
Hydrotherapy / spa fragrances
Kemitron GmbH: Hydrotherapy / spa fragrances
Direct debit solutions
Harlands Group: Direct debit solutions
Fitness equipment
TRX Training: Fitness equipment
Red Light Therapy
 Red Light Rising: Red Light Therapy
Flooring
Total Vibration Solutions / TVS Sports Surfaces: Flooring
Property & Tenders
11 - 25 Union St, London SE1 1SD
Bankside Open Spaces Trust
Property & Tenders
Waltham Abbey, Essex
Lee Valley Regional Park Authority
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
07 Oct 2020
Online, Singapore, Singapore
Diary dates
17-23 Oct 2020
Pinggu, Beijing, China
Diary dates
03-06 Nov 2020
Online,
Diary dates
17 Nov 2020
Loughborough University, Loughborough, United Kingdom
Diary dates
27-28 Nov 2020
Athena, Leicester, United Kingdom
Diary dates
02-04 Feb 2021
Ericsson Exhibition Hall, Ricoh Arena, Coventry, 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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