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Simon Flint on Leading a High-Performance Culture in a Fitness Organization

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Simon Flint is the CEO of Evolution Wellness which is the largest network of wholly-owned fitness studios in Asia. Currently, they have over 170 locations in 6 countries.

Their portfolio includes 5 fitness brands and 1 wellness brand. They also own a software brand focused on the fitness industry.

In this great episode, Simon talks about his decision-making process when investing in wellness and fitness brands, the leadership philosophy that influences the culture in the organization, and how to maintain high performance across a diverse range of brands.

Episode Link

This episode of The Fitness Founders Podcast can be found on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and anywhere you get your podcasts.


Kevin: How is it going everyone and welcome to the Fitness Founder Podcast. I’m Kevin Mannion, VP Marketing here at Glofox. This week we talk to a special guest, Simon Flint, the CEO of Evolution Wellness. Owner of 6 fitness and wellness brands and the largest wholly owned fitness club network in Southeast Asia. In this episode, Simon talks about his decision-making process when investing in wellness and fitness brands, the leadership philosophy that influences the culture in his organization, and how to maintain a high performance across a diverse range of brands. Let’s get started. 

Okay. Simon Flint, welcome to the show. 

Simon: Thank you, Kevin. Good to be here. 

Kevin: Thank you for coming on this morning. I’m really excited about having this conversation. So, for those who don’t know you, you’re obviously the CEO of Evolution Wellness. So maybe let’s get started, tell us a little bit about the organization Evolution Wellness and then a little about yourself.

Simon: Sure. Well, again thank you for having me. Evolution Wellness is Southeast Asia based. Headquartered in Malaysia with operations in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. We have about a 175 clubs or entities, outlets across those 6 markets, and we also have a number of brands from Fitness First that many may know we have the Fitness First business in this part of the world. Another brand that was born from this region called Celebrity Fitness. We also have a new brand that we created recently called GoFit, that’s of the high value low price end, a smaller and local brand call Chi, a premium boutique brand called FIRE Fitness, a wellness brand called Fivelements, and a software brand called Circuit. And very recently, we made an investment into a new company a seed round for a fantastic company called Vitruvian and their first project is something called the V-Form trainer, so that’s a another new venture for us sitting under the Evolution Wellness portfolio.

Kevin: Awesome. This is quite a diverse portfolio. And before we dig in to that, maybe tell us a little bit around your own background and how you came to be the CEO of this group.

Simon: I like to describe it as a happy accident because I graduated with an engineering degree. When I was young, I kind of envisage perhaps being a car designer. That always used to float my boat. As things happen in life, twist and turns along the way, I happen to go to Hong Kong back in the early 90’s to coach sports. I was a sort of swimming and tennis coach in my spare time. And there was a sport coaching business in Hong Kong that was recruiting coaches for the summer season where the kids are out of school and they all had the extra-curricular programs. I went and did that for what ended up being 4 summer seasons during my university years. The company that run that company called Sportathlon ventured into health club management and also leisure management in hotels and so on. And long story short, an opportunity came up, there was a job going at the Meridian Hotel in Phuket of all places. I applied for that position. I was fortunate enough to get it, so my engineering kind of went out the window and I felt well if I can be paid to live in Phuket work in this hotel and run leisure facilities and so on, why not. It was a lot of fun and a great opportunity to do some exciting stuff. It went from the gym side of stuff, the tennis coaching side of stuff into spas. And we opened some of the what it is used to be called massage centers back in the day in the hotels, now spas. We got into that very early and it wasn’t something that I had exposure with so when I got trained, I studied at a Thai temple school, so I learned traditional Thai massage and then learned foot reflexology and a number of other things and enable myself to play an active part in building up this kind of business, again, at Meridian Hotel. 

And then moving forward, I was approached by Club Med if we could do the same for them and then other hotels change. It kind of went from there. I then moved to Bangkok to run the bigger Thailand business which comprised fitness retail, commercial fitness sales, health club management. And step on from there, became the regional Ops Director, then the CEO, then the CEO of Fitness First at the time who bought us out by then. And then the last couple years we became Evolution Wellness with the bringing together Fitness First and Celebrity Fitness into a kind of a mega merger if you like with the ambition of creating a business that had a broader portfolio and move on this kind of continuum from fitness to wellness, embracing all of the things that present opportunities. That’s how we got to today really. The short version. 

Kevin: Yeah, that’s a pretty interesting. It almost sounds like almost a summer job turning into a pretty long career.

Simon: Yeah, as I say, a happy accident. I’ve never quit and such words I haven’t fired yet so I’m still here. 

Kevin: Yeah. Awesome. So, last question on the background is what would you say, like we said, a diverse range of companies in your portfolio, what is the vision for Evolution Wellness? 

Simon: Well, the way we think about is both on the price scale. We got a GoFit brand which is the lowest entry point instead of $20 a month to experience a GoFit brand all the way up to upper end of the Fitness First brands and our small FIRE boutique brands which can be $70, $80, $90 and above depending on tiers. That’s diversity on the price scale. But also as I mentioned on this sort of fitness to wellness continuum, we still got a lot of things to do. But investment in Fivelements for example, Fivelements started life as a retreat hotel; very small retreat hotel in Ubud in Bali offering quite life transforming experiences with people wanted to go on a journey to become perhaps a bit more spiritually aware to understand what it means to be grounded, to be mindful. This sort of brought in the wellness aspect to our portfolio, and we build on the brand architecture of Fivelements to create something called Fivelements Habitat. The first of which opened in Hong Kong last year. That’s taking what Fivelements isn’t bringing in into urban environment, so an urban sanctuary really. We plan to build on that from there so we’re on talks at the moment for the development of a hotel Fivelements. A retreat hotel in Europe for example. Fivelements development in the Middle East and one here in Kuala Lumpur, so that’s a brand that we’re building on as well. 

We recognize that in fitness domain that people don’t get results from just being physically active. It’s a hugely important part, and we know especially since lockdown, it is even more important than ever for mental wellness and reduction of anxiety and all those things. We also realize that people can’t exercise their way out with a bad diet for example. So, nutrition and correct nutrition supplementation are areas that we are moving into as well. We have a great partnership with a supplementation provider that’s now active in two markets that we’re building on. And Fivelements of course brings up plant-based cuisine in to play as well that is very popular and gaining traction. That’s how we see this sort of Evolution Wellness ecosystem if you like; a diverse range of customers, different price points, but also different attitudinal segments across our brands, and of course different interests on this fitness to wellness spectrum. 

Kevin: Very interesting. Just one follow on question is how do you make decisions around what to do and what not to do when you’re working through, you know, you’re building an ecosystem that is a range of offerings. Obviously, there’s things coming to your door all the time. What’s your criteria for deciding what’s interesting and worth investing in versus a distraction from the core of the business?

Simon: That’s a really good question, and it’s really a question that executive teams, and CEOs, CFOs have to be mindful of all the time. We’re private equity owned so from a shareholder perspective our goal is to create value, to create shareholder value. We do that by increasing our customer base, increasing our reach, increasing our customer retention. And from a value creation perspective, increasing the multiple with which potentially new investors would think about our business. And we do that by having proof points in businesses that we can take to scale by entering areas that are clearly growth sectors and areas that people feel that just by playing well in this space, you’re in the growth sector; so that’s a big factor. And being able demonstrate that there’s life beyond the early phase, that ‘like for like, store on store’ is something that you can extract additional dollars and get the very best returns on investments. 

In terms of how we make decisions, we have a very basic strategic outlook that fits on one piece of paper and a border involve with that that says these are the things that we’re going to focus on now in terms of our core business. These are the areas that we’re going to look into where we see good growth and we see good opportunities to scale and expand. I’ll give you an example of that. You know we’re quite a capital intensive business in the sense that a health club can cost from, the very smallest boutiques can cost from a couple of $100,000 all away up to $3 million and over. So that’s a lot of capital tied up in single locations. Part of our strategy is to balance that portfolio with asset light investments so our licensing business for example. We’re licensing our GoFit brand and our FIRE brand, and that means that we have revenue generation from another investor’s dollar which means that at the top core level, our margin tends to improve as a result of that. That’s also an attractive way as looking at it. I suppose a big thing for us as well is going beyond the existing borders. We’re a Southeast Asia based company and we have been that way for a couple of decades, but the new brands that we have being Fivelements, and FIRE, and GoFit we’re able to scale this beyond our borders because there’s no place we can’t play with them. We got the ability to take those anywhere. That also helps create the growth picture by increasing the addressable geography of you like. 

Kevin: How do you balance or what would you say is the split between the things you’re experimenting with and the things that you know were going to work so you just have to scale them out.

Simon: In terms of my time, it’s probably slightly skewered towards the sort of growth initiatives at the moment. That’s my own time. But in terms of the executive time, it’s an appropriately even split. We have with 175 entities, we got a group of people who lead the countries and they lead across brands. They’re focus on extracting maximum value from our existing estate. And then we have a growth in innovation office that’s focused on what comes next. Not only what comes next in the sense of investing in new things and new avenues to explore but in terms of what can we do that we can then deploy across our core business into the existing estate to extract an extra dollar or extra value from the assets that we already have. So, the growth in innovation office looks outward but it also looks to bring the things in to swept the asset as we say to the maximum. 

Kevin: Interesting. Okay, so we move on a little, and very interested from a COVID-19 perspective. First on, what it was like from where you’re sitting in terms of the short term impacts to your business essentially what the last 9 months have been like. 

Simon: Well, the short term impact has been dramatic. It’s been massive. It doesn’t really get any worse than zero when you think about your revenue. And we went to a period of several months where our revenue was zero simply because all our outlets were closed and when we’re not able to render a service, we’re not able to charge. That was the most painful and such an unexpected occurrence to happen. I mean, over the years we’ve had floods, we have military coup’s, we’ve had typhoons and so on that it had disrupted businesses in certain ways. We have the global financial crisis. We’ve had there’s been the absent flows of kind of normal life if you like, but this has been something about unprecedented and of massive impact. 

If I just bring it right up-to-date very quickly, the way we look at things is our first phase is survival quite frankly and very transparently. The second phase is recover and build, and then hopefully we see ourselves thriving again. Internally we kind of look at 2020 as the year of survival, 2021 is the year of recovery and building, and 2022 is return in thriving. I think we have to be I think that’s reasonably optimistic because it is going to take a long time to build back. But I think as well, you know I’ve had several conversations with people in recent weeks and months, and as time goes by, in fact the last week, a lot of people are speaking with great optimism around the pent of demand now that exist for people who just want to get back into being physically active. And even those who may not have been before and now thinking about, “Well, I’ve got to do something about my health and mental awareness. I think I’m going to join a gym” or “I think I’m going to join some community that’s active.” Now, of course that’s dependent on the vaccine for many and the confidence that comes with having that. We don’t know the economic impact and the medium and long term economic impact. I’m sure it’s going to be felt. But I do have a sense of confidence that we’re going to see a bit of a renaissance when COVID is truly over. I think we can expect to see some return to buoyancy in the marketplace.

Kevin: Yeah. Outside of the increased health awareness that may be makes everything a bit bigger, what do you think the impacts are going to be on the fitness industry we’re talking online/offline, actual workouts in the gym, all that stuff. 

Simon: Well, there’s clearly been a change in consumer behavior. Hasn’t there, when people have been locked down. I mean, not only in our industry but in F&B for example, people are dining at home and getting takeaways from their favorite outlets rather than going there even if they can go there. There are people who’re choosing to do that at home. The same is in our industry. We as many have kind of switch our proposition to add a virtual component and at home component to keep people engage. My personal view is that I don’t think that is as enduring as some others might think. And why do I say that? I say it because that’s really what our members are indicating from surveys to say that, “Well, it’s useful to me now but I can’t necessarily see myself paying for this going forward.” We’re back into the community-based real world health club use. There are some members who were saying, “Well, if there’s a kind of nominal charge for it. Yeah, I’m kind of interested because if I’m in traffic or I miss a certain class because I’m held in a meeting, yeah that might have some utility for me but it would have to be nominal.” “I’m not going to switch out my practice because I got 2 kids at home and they trip me up when I’m trying to work out in front of the TV.” “I don’t quite the space because I live in an apartment…” like most of our customers do. 

It certainly going to be a bigger business than it was before but I don’t see the absolute end of bricks and mortar at all. I mean, I said it before, takeaways and dining at home will not kill the F&B industry. Sadly, it’s going to kill a lot of restaurants but it doesn’t mean that others won’t open in their place. I’m afraid to say that a number of health clubs are going to go. We’ve close a couple because landlords have not really kind of responded to our needs. Maybe they can’t afford too. I don’t know. We have a couple that we’ve closed already. It is not many out of 175 but sadly that’s happened. And I think there will be another a number of other victims of closure as well. That just two things. It presents opportunities for those who are still around, and it presents opportunities for others who want to come in when rents have dropped or maybe take a license or a franchise. It’s not going to be V-shape recovery. I don’t think. But in a post vaccine environment, it may not be far from it.

Kevin: Yeah. And even back in the bricks and mortar, how do you see the dynamics of say higher cost boutiques versus lower cost gym options. How do you see that changing or what do you think the impact is going to be there? 

Simon: The way we think about it internally is that the market dynamics are almost like an upended barbell standing on its where the low-cost high value piece of a budget piece has got a really broadly addressable market. A broad market that’s growing all the time. So, cheap cost and really good opportunity, having an effective workout without necessarily all of the frills, without necessarily having live classes which carry a significant variable cost to them. Still going to be plenty of opportunity in that space. I think towards the middle, it gets a bit challenge because people are saying, “Well, I want to be economical and get a really great workout.” Lots of the low cost opportunities provide that. 

And then I think the opportunity is more at the upper end where you got the discerning types who wants increased personal space, absolutely wants a locker and access to a shower of their own and a nice vanity unit with a hair dryer to take their time. That kind of thing. I think that’s still has relevance too in terms of facilities. And then in terms of proposition for the seasoned sort of gym goer who’s belong to maybe a number of gyms over the years wants the extra. They want to get extra value so they want the very best instructors, the want the very best programs, and they want to be able to spending a premium dollar, gives them a premium experience, and it’s something they can do with like-minded people. I think it grows at both ends frankly but I think the middle area could perhaps be a bit more challenge than it has been in the past. 

Kevin: Yeah. I think that’s probably happening a bit anyway. It sounds like in your opinion it’s maybe an acceleration of that. 

Simon: I think that’s probably a fair statement. Yeah.

Kevin: And then in terms of… Do you think it’s going to be harder for single independent operators to survive versus say buying into a franchise, or how do you see that playing out?

Simon: Well, I think that depends on number of factors. I think firstly, it depends on where they are located and whether their proposition matches where they are located. I know that’s very simple thing to say but the local addressable audience must be there for the proposition to work. That’s the first fundamental, but it’s not always the case. But as to whether someone taking a franchise or license versus their own stand-alone entity, I think that’s a very, very simple result of how well they execute against their proposition. I see no reason why stand-alone personally owned gyms and single brands can’t do well even with a number of well-known franchises as long as there is a value proposition that works, as long as the people involved take care of their customers, as long as they give them the value for whatever they pay, I truly think there’re opportunities for stand-alones. 

What I would say is that sometimes people feel it’s easier than it really is. I’m not suggesting it’s easier. I’m simply saying if that people deliver and meet the expectations of someone paying a certain price, there are opportunities. It is a lot of hard work and the business model has got to be right. People get nervous around paying up-front for example. Giving people a confidence they don’t necessarily have to commit if they don’t want to. They can pay as they go or they could pay by the month. That remains as important as ever. If people truly have a passion for what they do and put the extra efforts into making sure that their service, whatever they promise is whatever is delivered, then the opportunities still remain. And now of course with the collapse of certain businesses and landlords feeling the pinch with vacancies, that presents opportunities by lowering one of the largest fixed cost which of course is rent. 

Kevin: Yeah. Interesting. Okay, I’m going to move on because I’ve got a couple more topics that I really want to ask you about. Next question is, Evolution Wellness, you got a broad range of offerings like we’ve discussed but I’m keen to understand how you run the business. So first question is, what do all of these businesses have in common?

Simon: There are several things really. I mean, first of all, what they have in common is passionate people who really enjoy what they do. I think in our industry we’re very lucky that it always an energetic industry, whenever you go to seems such a long time ago and now pre-COVID. If you go to an industry convention or a trade show the buzz there in our industry versus perhaps another, I won’t make any contrast, but it’s palpable, right? Our industry attracts a certain energy. We’ve got people who are passionate and energetic about the brands, whatever brands it is. We’ve got people who are keen to share that and perpetuate it and grow it. But what its behind that from a more sort of corporate perspective if you like is a common approach to leadership philosophy. Evolution Wellness has a very simple one-page documented leadership philosophy that everyone gets behind. And that exist to perpetuate a certain culture, a certain performance, management culture. If you want me to share, I can do. It’s two simple ingredients. 

Kevin: Yeah.

Simon: The philosophy. The first one is we believe that people are likely to repeat the good behaviors if they’re recognized when they occur. It is as simple as catching someone doing something right, giving them a pat on the back for it, a sincere a pat in the back for it, preferably in public on the basis that that perpetuates that repeated that behavior. We have things like what we call our top 10 in our basics in what we call the Well Do. Every brand has its, what are the things that we’re going to do really well on a daily basis, and one of the top 10 things that we do day in and day out and we call them ‘one minute anchors’ on the basis that we take a one-minute management approach for… the academia that’s a Ken Blanchard sort of book. It’s so simple but super, super effective. And that’s been in our business since 2004. So we catch people doing things right and try to perpetuate that, and the one-minute anchors we have are the basics that we pledge to do every day and also our winning ways. So, our winning ways are that we win together, we aim higher, we own it, etc. We have five winning ways. They are values other people would call.

Kevin: Yeah.

Simon: If we catch people exhibiting those values, we praise them for it, so we could perpetuate these things culturally. Those things span across our business. And the second piece to the leadership philosophy is that we believe in empowering people. Now that’s as clichéd as you like. But how do you empower people? Well, the approach we take is by building a coaching culture. So, through coaching has leaders asking powerful questions. What’s a powerful question? A powerful question is one that will make you think and reflect before you respond, so it will have you really think about what’s your solution. So, rather than be prescriptive and telling in directive all the time, we empower people by having them think for themselves, and that happens by people taking a coaching approach. 

We have over a hundred certified master performance coaches in the business. That’s journey we started probably 10-11, maybe even 12 years ago now. And we now have an internal course where all of our leaders in any senior position go through and they become a coach too. And we find that that is a really good way of accelerating people’s growth because you’re not sitting around waiting to be told what to do. They are thinking for themselves, how to problem solve, how to learn and grow, and be a part of the direction of travel of the business rather than waiting around for someone to tell them where it goes. So, those are the two components: catch people doing something right every day and praise them for it preferably in public, and take a coaching approach to empower our team members. 

Kevin: Yeah. Cool. Very interesting. I have two questions after that. In terms of the powerful questions, what’s a good example of a powerful question. What’s the last good powerful question that you asked if you can tell us?  

Simon: Let me turn that back to you. How would you feel about a powerful question if I said that a powerful question was one that made you think and reflect before you answered, what kind of question might that be? I’m being cheeky there. What I’ve done is I’ve just coached you there. So rather than telling you what a powerful question is. I asked you to think. Now, I jumped in before you have, but that’s an example of it. I’ll give you another one. The scaling technique is an example, so if I said to you… Let’s say you’re the scientist who’s producing a vaccine and I say, “How confident are you that we’ll have a vaccine to market by Q1 next year?” And you tell me… “On a scale of 1-10. What is it?” You tell me, “7.” I might ask you, “Well, what it is going to take for you to have a confidence level of 8 or 9 or 10?” By asking that question I’m not the subject matter expert but I’m going to have you reflect and you’re going to tell me why it’s a 7 but why it’s not an 8 or not a 9. Therefore, in position of leadership, I might be able to ask, you might tell me it’s a funding thing. Well, it could be a 10 out of 10 if I had an extra million dollars. This kind of things unlocks solutions that may not come out otherwise without the use of powerful questions.

Kevin: Yeah. I think the last good powerful question I got myself was my own feel ask be what would I do if I was sitting in his shoes in relation to a particular problem. 

Simon: Oh, a good one. Did…

Kevin: No, it quite be alright. It was the first question that I hesitated on for a while. Okay. So, in terms of the structure that you’ve got around your values and those two points around good behaviors and empowering people. How far down to the organization do they get? Do they get all the way down to say the manager of an individual location or is this more within a smaller map leadership team or how?

Simon: Oh, absolutely. So, in terms of the one-minute management approach, that’s core phase, that’s everybody. Anybody in the leadership position, if it is the first tier of leadership. If it’s a team leader of a group of fitness instructors, that happens at that level. We want to perpetuate that right throughout the business of the core phase. When it gets to coaching side of things, generally speaking, that’s the general management level. Anyone who’s a general manager of a club, they will abide that gone through externally facilitated coaching program or more likely of late our internal program which was developed in conjunction with an external coach actually. We have 8 modules that people will go through to the an internally certified coach; but that we take to club level. In terms of our structure, that would be every club manager and above so any heads of department, functional heads like marketing, IT, communications, finance for example. They would all have been through it. And on the area business managers and the regional business manager likewise. They’ll be certified master performance coaches.

You know, it’s not something that sticks instantly. It’s something got to be revisited because people have got to get into that routine of, you know. If you’ve been in the business 10 years and someone who works for you asks you a question and you have the answer on the tip of your tongue. Coaching doesn’t mean to say you don’t give them the answer. If it’s right to give an answer to teach or to be a mentor, it’s important to be able to switch hats. You can’t be a coach the whole time, otherwise it comes like 20 questions. Sometimes giving an answer is used. But if it something about problem solving or they’ll be evaluating someone thinking of that for themselves, then coaching is immensely powerful because it’s the shortcut to personal development.

Kevin: Got it. Now, when you have this infrastructure in place, and obviously you put a lot of work to get there, I’m sure there’s times when maybe in a particular location or a particular brand, maybe you just get the impression that the culture isn’t fully working or the management approach if there’s something wrong with how things operating? How do you address those situations?

Simon: Yeah, it’s a good question. I mean, sure. We don’t live in a perfect world and sometimes that can manifest. I always say to the team, I don’t like the word ‘relaunch’ because if I hear that we have to relaunch an initiative, it clearly means that the first, the original launch, failed. Sometimes when you kick off an initiative and we want to take the business in a certain direction or launch a new program or whatever it is, we’ll gather people together and we’ll have a bit of work done and a nice PowerPoint be created for it with sticky notes and little workshops, interaction workshops, and we’ll get everyone behind it, and we’ll have a great day of it or a great half day whatever it might be. We can always ask, “How did it go?” “It’s fantastic, such energy. It was a great launch.” Then 6 months later, if we having to relaunch something what it simply meant is, that one-minute behavior has slipped. Because if we come out of something having launched it and we know that that’s we want to do, all we have to do is catch people doing that and pat them on the back. Recognize it, preferably publicly. Potentially reward them for it every now and then with that first news, showing the best example. So really, it’s not so much revisiting that we launch program again. It’s getting that one-minute approach by saying whenever you see that behavior, people doing what we agreed that we would do, catch them doing it and make a deal out of it. 

We have another couple of tools, once called a performance map and another one called a game plan. I won’t go in too much detail. Every club has its own game plan. If you likely the framework is what we call the performance map, and it’s the things that we agree to do that lead the customer to feel a certain way about it. And the freedom around that framework or the freedom within that framework is what we call the game plan where team leaders will have their groups together, their club managers will have their groups together, and say, “What’s the feedback from the member based been like this month? What are the things that we can work on? What are the things that went well?” Once they agreed what it is they can focus on, again, applying that catch someone doing something right is the right approach. So, whenever things may fall down, that’s generally what’s happened that people have been distracted from catching people doing the basics right and focusing on something different. It’s never really complex. It’s just a simple reminder to get back to those basics and make sure that we do that because that will perpetuate exactly the behaviors that we want. If it’s something other than that, it’s normally something to do with people haven’t quite understood it the first time around or they haven’t kind of line of sight of the goal that they’re aiming for. 

Kevin: Really interesting because I know that even though you’re operating quite a large scale, a lot of the things that we see successful even out of smaller scale is because people have built these structures around how they are managing the business. I think this is very useful summary of how you’re maintain that high performance. I do have a couple of finishing up questions and the first one is; it’s been a very tough year for everyone in the industry and we’ve got a lot of people here that are maybe running a single location and trying to keep their team motivated or they’re running a larger scale but how do you stay motivated throughout all of this as a leader?

Simon: I think that comes down to the fundamental belief in what is your fundamental belief. Do you think that there is an opportunity or do you think that there is none? I won’t deny that there were some pretty dark days during the middle of lockdown where we think, “Crikey! How long is this going to go on for.?” If this goes on for time x, I don’t see any like because we got expenses every month, we got payroll going out the door, there are 7,000 people that we pay, and we got nothing coming in the front. So, there are moments like that when genuinely you think, “Crikey! Where is this going?” It could be heading towards the cliff. And you can’t do a lot about that except for one thing. You got to say, “Well, what are the things that remain in my control right now and within the team’s control, and let’s plan to do the very best we can with those controllable so that should be there light at the end of the tunnel. We’re going to come out on the best possible trajectory.” And there was a time where, I mean, I lost as many as my team did, a ton of sleep during the early days of this. But if I’m honest, there was a time where even after we’ve been close for a while and things look pretty bleak, I started to sleep better because I felt that the work that the team was doing, and you know, I’m very fortunate to work with people who truly do own it and doing great job with it. But the work what we’re doing and the things that we were progressing with were really good. I felt very comfortable that actually I don’t think we can be doing a better job of what we’re doing right now. Whilst very bleak and I don’t know where the end of the tunnel is, one thing I know for sure, if this is a game of last man standing, we’re going to be it because of these things that we’re doing right now. I think the motivation comes from staying in control of the things that you can address and you can deal with, and committing yourself not to overly stress about the things that you can’t. Because if you simply can’t change something, there’s not much point in stressing about it. 

I think the other piece is you know where to draw your energy from it’s about the vision of the future and what it can be all of the things that we wanted to do in the past while there’s a lot of reflection time during this COVID period on actually how can we do that, how can we get started a bit earlier, what can we do to diversify, what can we look to invest or to partner with to make things a little bit more exciting. And that’s really what we did. 

Kevin: Last question, you can be quick. What was the hardest lesson that you learned in 2020?

Simon: You’ve just asked me a powerful question which was close as reflection. The hardest lesson. Well, I don’t think this is very profound but I think it taught me again the need to be unfazed by a rapid shift of circumstance. Even as we speak today, you know yesterday, our Hong Kong business was told it has to shut down all its group exercise again. If you, of course you got to respond and do something really urgently and intelligently about that. But if you allow it to get you fazed and anxious and all the rest of it, that’s going to affect everything else that you do. It’s going to mean that you’re bringing negative energy to scenarios where someone else is looking for something positive. You’ve got to be there to provide something light there. I think the… it’s not necessarily the hardest lesson but the really big takeaway is to be able to manage those situations that can fluctuate so dramatically from apparently good to disastrous and come out with some sort of positive outlook. 

Kevin: Yeah. I think we’re all kind of getting used to it at this stage so fingers crossed for not too much longer. I think we leave it there. Simon Flint, CEO of Evolution Wellness. Thank you very much for coming on the show. 

Simon: Thank you.

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