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Feb. 19 2020

5 questions to ask when considering technology for your fitness business

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Seven in ten business leaders today are worried about their ability to adopt new technologies, according to the 2018 Insight Intelligent Technology Index; and according to a 2017 survey by the firm The Alternate Board, 72 percent of business owners feel overwhelmed by their roles and responsibilities. This is not surprising given that most business owners have so much to do with little time to do it amidst a period of rapid technological and business change. The fitness and wellness industry is no exception; the Global Wellness Institute recently citing a 12.8% growth rate for the $4.2 trillion global wellness economy from 2015-2017. Fitness and wellness businesses and entrepreneurs are rushing in to take advantage of growth opportunities while juggling a lot of uncertainty in a changing and hyper-competitive marketplace impacted by increasing technological change.

The implications of technology on fitness and wellness businesses cannot be understated. According to We Are Social, for example, the average U.S. consumer now spends 6 hours and 31 minutes online with about half of that via a mobile device. Tens of millions of consumers are now using streaming fitness services, apps, wearables, and new business models are all part of the fitness landscape for consumers and competitors today. At the same time new technologies have emerged and then disappeared rapidly; remember the Blackberry and MySpace? With these trends increasingly impacting operations, business models, marketing, and consumer interactions, how can fitness businesses navigate the challenges of figuring out what technology to adopt or how it should be implemented?

The answer? Context is key. When evaluating technologies for your fitness business as an owner or operator there are five key interrelated questions you should focus on to form the basis of a plan and strategy so that your adoption of technology - to the extent you need it - can be wisely deployed.

1. Assessment: Where is your business now and where is it going?

Technologies should serve a business strategy. Having a strategy begins with the basics of a SWOT analysis: what are your internal strengths and weakness, and what are your external threats and opportunities? If you have been operating a traditional health club business for years in a competitive marketplace and are seeing declining membership, you might ask, “Is it time to sell?” Alternatively, if you are evaluating becoming a fitness business owner you want to understand how you might best compete because there is a plethora of available models available today. Truly understanding your specific marketplace, capabilities, options, and the stage of your business lifecycle are the foundation for understanding the reasons behind what you might do or not do when it comes to technology adoption.

2. Mindset: Are you open to change?

A big challenge and opportunity for many fitness businesses is how they view the world and how adaptable they are to change. Today, relying too much on past beliefs, or being romantic about past practices and what worked in the past, can hinder a business from seeing the benefits of change. A “why” mindset that is open to new possibilities is essential in a world full of change. Of course, your mindset must be tempered by the reality of where you are today and where you want to go.

3. User experience: What value proposition and experience do you provide your clients?

This can be a complex question. In a growing marketplace, diversification or segmentation of your business model can have a large bearing on your ability to execute, your ability to target specific clients, and your ability to deliver on a very specific and valuable user experience. The brand SoulCycle, for example, was able to create a specific experience that enabled them to adapt their mobile app and business model in a highly seamless way. The more generic or broad the services you provide, the greater the complexity in adopting technology. It is essential that you have a clear idea of what you are delivering so that when you are evaluating technology it is clear as to how it might best be applied from the perspective of the user. The good news is that today, cloud platforms enable fitness business owners to adopt a multitude of technology solutions which support user experiences in a way that was nearly impossible and too expensive not long ago.

4. Economics: Is your business model sustainable?

How you make money, not just this month, but for years to come, is very important to understand. In the fitness business, as with many industries, really exploring the economics of the business is often left undone. Without working capital and a true understanding of costs and revenue opportunities, the wrong priorities and business measures are set. When evaluating the adoption of technology without understanding key economics, you might be barking up the wrong tree. Seek economic benchmarks from industry associations like IHRSA and others. Do your homework on your business model. Understand how your business is going to sustain itself in the long run. Explore how can new tech tools can lower costs or enhance revenue.

5. Execution: Do you have a plan around your business platform?

Execution is key and SaaS (Software as a Service) platforms which enable the automation of marketing and service functions while recruiting the talent you need are all part of executing a profitable user experience. As costs rise to hire people, automating low value tasks so that you can deliver great user experiences through your highly trained professionals is key. Delivering this experience consistently in a convenient, frictionless manner enables a fitness business to scale. Having your hands around a plan that leverages technology platforms to execute on user experience and economics is key. The next time you are evaluating technologies, keep these five interrelated considerations in mind. Technologies are a tool. If you consider them in the context of your business while answering these questions you can be clearer about what to do, where to go, and why.