A big opening in the fitness-enterprise space

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Health care reform, whether you love it or hate it, has gotten everyone’s attention. With health care costs spiraling upwards and lifestyle-related diseases such as obesity and diabetes gaining attention, fitness is sure to become a preoccupation. As companies begin to think about preventative strategies and introduce wellness programs, new opportunities will open up in the already strong fitness sector.

It is a great time for fitness businesses to step up to the plate and find ways to offer enterprise packages and other flexible, targeted offerings. Health care reform can be an engine of economic growth for fitness businesses if they pay attention.

Large companies are already beginning to offer perks and even cash bonuses in a proactive attempt to stave off the rising costs of poor health. A whopping 60 percent of large employers are already using incentives to get their employees into a gym or fitness program, according to a new study.

Where the big fish swim, the little fish will follow. It will be even more important for smaller companies to get a handle on their health care costs, and the sooner the better. With less cash on hand, but more control on the ground, it makes more sense for companies of this size to build a culture of fitness into the company from the ground up. This will ultimately pay the companies back in two ways. First, it will help in reducing burgeoning health care costs, and secondly in significantly increasing worker productivity and job satisfaction.

Building a strong company culture that supports wellness and fitness may be more effective than the corporate model of exchanging cash bonuses for cooperation. Here’s why: Wellness is a broad concept and “working out” is only a tiny component of it. Everyone knows that person who eats a box of donuts in the morning and runs two hours on the treadmill, sweating like a horse, and nothing ever changes about that person. They look the same, live the same—and one day they have a heart attack on the treadmill.

Smaller companies won’t wait ten years to learn their incentive program isn’t working and then abandon it. They will want results: in the short term, employees that look and work great, and in the long term, a reduced health care bill.

This isn’t a bad thing: these are the conditions in which the best players can rise. If you want to fight to break ground in the fitness-enterprise space, consider:

  • If you plan on working with a company on a wellness strategy you’ll have to have some method to measure its progress. This can be a little complicated. There may be certain indicators that insurance companies are looking for, so it will pay—literally—to keep up on this. On the other hand, individuals will have their own goals. As a professional, you may have even other evaluation criteria, which is fine. Be sure that you can argue for its validity. Thinking about evaluation you’ll want to consider software and gamification. They both can help, but there is a lot of bad software and a lot of bad gamification, so tread with care here.
  • One size does not fit all. Consider an accounting firm, with a middle-aged staff of largely sedentary desk workers, and compare that to a young tech company or creative agency. Both their goals and proficiency levels will be very different, and they will require a very different approach.
  • Creative team training: We know sports like boxing improves the mind’s reaction time, while other activities such as yoga improve concentration. On the other hand, teams can train together to build loyalty, courage, determination and cooperation (this is what happens in the military). Build these ideas into the programs you design, turn out more productive, efficient, and creative employees, and you’ll have all the business you want, and the chance to build a strong brand.
  • Become a thought leader: A thought leader is not an expert, but someone who can understand the experts well enough to judge whether or not information is credible before passing it down. Ideally a thought leader has experience to test new ideas against, in addition to understanding a competent range of specialized knowledge well enough to simplify without distortion. These are the voices that will cut through the hype.

The Close of an Era

Fitness thought-leadership in the magazine era was heavily subsidized by the supplements industry with their protein powders, and the big obsession was with building metric tons of muscle. People care less about being big and more about being strong, or learning a new skill.

People don’t just want to look better, they want to be better.

Understanding this and bringing it into the experience may be the toughest task the fitness industry faces, but those who are able to could build a strong new brand. Let’s hope they are up to the challenge!

Questions? Contact Cover Story and we’ll see if we can help.

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