Chantal : Kristen, welcome along and thank you so much for joining us.
Kristen: Thanks, Chantal. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Chantal : It is very nice and quite unusual these days to have a fellow Aussie on the show. In fact, we’re not even that far away from each other physically as we are recording this, which is quite different for me.
As I mentioned before, you have a lot on your plate, so I’d thought we’d start off with our normal question of any apps, systems, or rituals that you particularly use to stay focused, to stay on top of things, and not get overwhelmed?
Kristen: Yeah, it’s a challenge. I guess it’s always a saying that if you want to get a job done, then you give something to a busy woman. One of the keys is really just to keep yourself fairly organised, and particularly while I was working full-time, but also studying full-time, because it was really one night a week or a weekend as well, so it was quite a decent workload. So, in terms of systems, I guess you’ve really gotta keep yourself pretty well organised in terms of time management, and I don’t have a particular app around that.
I’m pretty old school like that I’ll just work on a to-do list. I really just make sure that I carve out, particularly, groups of time so that I can make sure that that’s what I’m committed to and be really disciplined around sort of committing to that’s my time to study. That’s what I do. In terms of being organised, one of the things that I’ll also really need to do is just to carve out time for getting ready for the work week in terms of allowing Sunday time to really do meal prep and just myself up for success that week so that I really keep an eye on what I’ve got to achieve that week.
I guess number two for me would probably be around just self-care and exercise and nutrition. So, for me, the mornings are the time when I need to exercise because when you get caught up in a busy day, then the last thing that I really feel like doing is exercising, for me, at the end of the day. So, I just start my day off with some great nutrition, making sure that I’m looking after myself in terms of self-care.
I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, which is an autoimmune thyroid disorder, some years ago, so it’s really important for me, when you’re coping with extra stress, study and work and all these other things that life throws at you, that you really do take care of what you’re eating and making sure that you’re exercising around that as well.
Probably if I did use an app, the one app that I do use is the Headspace app, and I find just committing to that for 10 minutes in the morning, just in terms of meditating when I get the opportunity … of course I don’t really get to do it every day, but most of the times, if I just create some space in my schedule just to do 10 minutes of meditation, again, to sort of just prepare myself for the day and just set myself up, take that time out. I think that that’s a really great app that’s really convenient and it just kind of gives me that opportunity to take time out before the busyness of the day really starts.
Chantal : That’s interesting, Kristen, because Headspace is fast becoming one of the most mentioned apps on the shows.
Chantal : Yeah, which is really interesting, and I think that a lot of people are starting to appreciate the benefits of some form of meditation or some form of timeout or escape to set up their day, so Headspace is a really great example of an app that you can use to do that. Thank you for sharing those with us.
Now, we alluded to it earlier on while we were having a chat, and you have a very unique employment history, for this day and age anyway, because you were with the one business for 14 years. Am I right, 14?
Kristen: Absolutely, yeah. That’s true.
Chantal : Wow. What is it that’s kept you there so long?
Kristen: I suppose to look at that, you’ve kind of gotta go back and look at where I was and where I come from. On the surface, yeah, it is unusual to have such longevity in a business, particularly as a senior management role for a long time, but I was really lucky because I had this really unique opportunity, literally nearly 14 years ago, to build a fitness business from scratch, which is in southwest Sydney. So, I was lucky in the sense that I suppose I was entrusted because the club approached me really as I had no experience and very little industry knowledge, so I was really charged and trusted with creating this new business. So, I had the opportunity, from scratch, to create systems, recruit, and set up this 43000 square foot multipurpose facility.
The craziness was that was all at the beginning in the space of a three month period, but those crazy [inaudible 00:04:25] back there is that we really achieved some sensational milestones in that time. We were a profitable centre within six months and we had a pre-sales period, which was so successful. We had over 2400 members before we opened the door, within a three month period, so resounding success in the very, very early days and obviously we’ve gone on since then to have some significant milestones and awards, probably to the point that we’re one of the most awarded fitness centres in Australia.
I suppose where I’m going with that is that I’ve really been fortunate to have great ownership in the business, and it’s probably a little bit unique. It’s more around my personality, but I kind of, in a sense, feel like I’m managing my own business, I suppose, without all the financial headaches to that degree. It really helps me with decision making. I can own my decisions, the responsibilities I have, a great ability to influence strategy and the growth of the facility, and I’ve been probably afforded a lot of autonomy, really, to do that. It’s really allowed me to build this business, which is deeply entrenched in our community, and be able to really develop some innovative programmes for our members, and in doing that, what I’ve really done, when you look at it in hindsight, is that I’ve been able to establish a culture, and being able to be there for such a long time, I’ve been able to get that continuity of the business culture through the employees, through my team here, and through our members, and I’ve been able to continue that over the 14 years, which is really meant that the business had great success.
But I also kind of feel that in terms of culture, culture is one of the most critical factors in terms of being able to drive where a business goes through the process of storytelling and passing down traditions, which I’ve sort of experienced firsthand over that time. So for me, I’m passionate about culture, and really, I suppose as being the leader, that’s really given me that uninterrupted opportunity to do that and kind of inherently pass down to our team here the way that we do things in terms of culture.
I think one of the main things is just around the fact that my longevity in the role really kind of aligns with my own personal values, and those values also align with what our business values are, which is around community, respect, compassion, and integrity. So, I think to have such longevity with any organisation, you really need to have that alignment, because if I felt that what my employer was doing was totally different and out of alignment with my personal values, then I’m sure that I wouldn’t be there for such a long time, and also, truly, I’m inspired and motivated by the people that I work with because we have a common purpose and I know that this team of people that I work with really bring their best to what we do every day, and I suppose, like everyone, at time, you do get tired, but really, I never really tyre of taking on the challenges.
We’re in such a dynamic industry. We make such a difference to people’s lives, but it’s a challenge for us always to continually reinvent ourselves, and how can we be relevant, and how can we give back to the community? And I never really tyre of that challenge. I always kind of feel like there’s more work to be done. So yeah, for almost 14 years, but still no sign of saying, “Enough’s enough,” so.
Chantal : As I said, it’s quite a unique position that you’re in and quite a unique achievement to have been with a business for that long, and I’m sure that it’s a point of, I think, frustration for many business leaders that these days, the average employee really doesn’t have anywhere near that same length of stay at a business or at their facility. Is there any advice, on top of what you’ve just gone through, that you would give to other leaders or other managers for really trying to harness someone’s time with the business, trying to motivate them to stay involved? Is there any advice around there that you can give us to really try and extend that longevity of an employee within our business?
Kristen: Yeah. I mean, like I said, it’s gotta be around cultural fusion and you have to work for an employer, no matter who that is, that you actually have that same alignment with cultural fit and values because otherwise, as I said, that is really not gonna be congruent in terms of your longevity and your passion for what you need to do every day. I think we’re faced, obviously with the industry at the moment, that there’s lots of churn, and I think when I look at it, the reason behind that is that why we’re a little bit different is that there’s really such a divergence of different business models which we’ve seen over the last five to ten years, and obviously it has a big influence and impact on the direction and career paths of newer people into the industry, and maybe that’s a 24 model, our HBLC models.
What a lot of these models do and these businesses do is that they don’t necessarily have the same model. I mean, we worked from an employee model. A lot of them are obviously contract models, and whilst there’s pros and cons for both of those models, I think what we’ve done, what really works for us in terms of providing people with a career path, that it kind of assists of in terms of getting high levels of quality service and providing our employees with a greater sense of buy in, I think, to our mission and purpose.
I think part of that is really around managing expectations so that you know obviously when we’ve got recent graduates into the industry, a lot of them who choose to go down the wrong now, I think, are probably encouraged to be self-employed or to set up their own physical premises, which is a different scenario and quite a challenging road to travel as opposed to being an employee as well. So whilst that’s a great thing and the industry does need that as well, I think without good mentorship and leadership for these people as well, we run the very real risk that we kind of lose them to the industry and lose them altogether and set themselves up for failure.
What works for us is really supporting the team of people that we have and encouraging and growing with their self-development and providing that career path. For others, it’s a different road that they travel, and again, neither right nor wrong. It’s just a different road, but certainly making sure, to be successful, that there is people that are available to help them to lead and to provide mentorship, particularly around some of those skills such as business management and things which aren’t necessarily provided to a great deal of the trainers as well.
Chantal : Kristen, you’re personally a great advocate for professional development. You touched on it then and we spoke about it in your bio earlier, and you’ve, of course, completed your MBA, so I wanted to get your perspective on what was it like, first of all, to complete that and how did you or how have you been able to apply that knowledge in leading your business?
Kristen: Yeah. I mean, I graduated last year in July and it was an amazing accomplishment. It was seriously, hands down, probably one of the most challenging, but personally rewarding achievements I guess I’ve undertaken. To give you a little bit of an idea, for me, it took me about five years to complete. That was 12 subjects over that time, which, as I mentioned, I was actually doing evenings or on weekends outside of my full-time job, and it’s a huge commitment to do that. It’s one thing to start, but the challenge is really just to keep motivated-
Chantal : Over five years.
Kristen: Yeah, and don’t worry, it certainly tested my motivation at times and I had to dig deep to really think why am I doing this, is this for me, is it all worth it, those kind of things? Obviously I’ve been managing people and businesses for over 20 years, but what this did was fill in a lot of the theoretical gaps and also give me a more contemporary understanding of some of the issues in business, and you cover things like finance and economics and marketing and governance and things like that, so it certainly helped to fill in the gaps.
There’s a lot of relevance and I think even from the time you start studying, there’s always relevance. It’s, to me, not a sense of like once I finish my MBA, it’s like my world’s gonna change. Really, it’s just a continual process of really taking away insights that you learn along the way and being able to sort of apply that. I think what it really did is really give me a more strategic understanding of business and certainly kind of allowed me to think more critically about the business and the environment that you are creating, really.
Chantal : Would you recommend it for other fitness owners and leaders?
Kristen: I mean, I’m a knowledge seeker, as I said, and for me, I’m committed to lifelong learning it. As far as completing the MBA, it’s definitely worthwhile if you’ve got the commitment and resources. At that level, it is probably quite extreme, but it really depends on what you’re looking to get out of it.
I mean, certainly I believe that everyone needs to read and research and stay up to date with what’s happening as much as possible so that they can keep up to date with trends and factors which are impacting on their business, so it would be largely role-dependent. I mean, it’s certainly something which I would recommend, but obviously there’s a significant opportunity cost involved in committing to that as well in terms of time and resources as well.
Chantal : Well, I guess it is about understand what it is that you receive from undertaking such a long-term, in-depth, intense form of study because there’s obviously so many opportunities that we have in our industry, and I know that you’re a regular at events like IHRSA and FILEX, and we touched on IHRSA institutes earlier. So obviously you find that all of that ongoing learning is beneficial for you. How do you generally judge whether or not an event or a conference or a convention is going to be worthwhile the time and the financial investment before you go ahead and attempt?
Kristen: Yeah, that’s a really good question. Again, it really depends. You’ve gotta kind of be analytical and think what do I get out of that? We’re very fortunate in Australia to have easy access to FILEX, and if I look at it from our team perspective, we would encourage as many of our team to actually go along because it’s close, it’s relevant, and we get some world-class speakers there as well.
In terms of measured outcome for us, there’s a great opportunity to do team-building, to go along and just go to the trade show and have lunch together to come together as a team, which you don’t really get a chance to do, as well as kind of give these guys some insights into the latest trends within the industry as well. So, there’s certainly opportunities for that and whenever you go to whatever education conference or opportunity that you attend, I think it’s really important that you have a clear strategy of how you’re going to implement some of those learnings, like back at your club or with your team, and make sure that you can see, because all too often, and I’m guilty as well, we go along and we feel inspired and we take great notes, and then we close the book and we get on with business as usual or we get back to work, so you’ve really gotta have a conscious intent to really make some notes.
What I find is when I attend these events, I’ll probably come up with maybe 10 or 15 points, which I’ll jot down either on the plane on the way back or when I’ve got some quiet time, and just simple things that you can take away that you can actually implement, so have an actual plan that you can do that, and I think if you can perceive that there’s going to be value in terms of implementing some of those things, then it’s a good investment and it’s worthwhile attending.
Chantal : As you know, Kristen, we’re celebrating our women in fitness month right now and you have consistently lead your business for over a decade now, so do you want to share with us any advice that you can give to our female listeners on how to keep pursuing their goals?
Kristen: Absolutely. I think the idea of women in fitness is just an area that I’m so passionate about, and one of the things that I think we do really, really well as women is network, and if I could say one thing, it’s really just build your networks and really leverage the opportunity that you have to connect to different industry events. In Australia, we’ve got FILEX. We have the Women of Influence Lunch, which is conducted as part of that event, which is terrific. In IHRSA, we’ve got the Women’s Leadership Summit, which is another great thing. So, kind of use those opportunities to really connect and go out of your way to introduce yourself to other women and really build on that.
Really, I suppose one thing, which I would say is great advice, is really just don’t be afraid to reach out to other women in the industry who you might look up to, you might admire, they might’ve achieved similar success, and chances are, I’m just saying this, that they’ve experienced the same or similar challenges you’re going through and they’ll be more than willing, in my experience, to really share their experiences and reach out and discuss those, and really try and find someone, or a group of people. It’s not necessarily one. It’s possible to have multiple mentors or people that you kind of really have the opportunity to check what some of those challenges are about, and really, I think it works both ways.
What I really work hard to do is be a good female role model for up and coming female leaders. I think it’s really important to have that support and I really feel strongly that we have an obligation, almost, to grow the future female leaders of tomorrow and use our own experience to kind of mentor up and coming female leaders as well. One of those opportunities, as you know, Chantal, as you’re an executive member, is through the new WIFA, Women in Fitness Association. So, join associations and kind of connect with women, and find some like-minded women who have been through similar challenges and be the conduit sort of upwards and downwards in terms of facilitating up and coming leaders, but also pick the brain of other, more experienced people as well in the industry.
Chantal : Yeah, we have been lucky enough this month to have the founder of WIFA appear on the show, Lindsey Rainwater, in an amazing interview, and she shared some of her experience with us, and, of course, we’ve also got Carrie Kepple, one of the founding members of WIFA as well, so it’s definitely an association that I have had immense pleasure being involved in myself as well, and it’s something that I do recommend to the women out there to become involved, because it’s a growing association. It’s only relatively new, but already the camaraderie among just the women that are involved and the information sharing and the mentor opportunities, I think, are really, really strong, so I’m excited about the future of where the Women in Fitness Association is going as well, so great recommendation.
Now, Kristen, if people want to contact you or find out more about your longevity in the career and the success that you’ve had with the business, what should they do to contact you?
Kristen: Sure. I’m on LinkedIn, so you can contact me on LinkedIn, or I’m also on Facebook and available on Twitter as well. Yeah, feel free, and I’m sure that that information will be available, so I’m more than happy for people to reach out and I’d love to connect with others in the industry as well.
Chantal : Excellent, and of course we will put all of those links in today’s show notes. Now, let’s finish off today’s interview with your FitBizspiration and can you share your top three tips to have team members stay engaged in their role daily, weekly, monthly, and year after year?
Kristen: I think first and foremost, you’ve gotta generally respect and care for your team, and I love the saying that says, “I’ve learnt that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,” so I think first and foremost, you’ve got to have a genuine interest in the people that you work with and you’ve gotta have a connection, and if you can do that successfully, then you’ll have a great relationship with people in your team and you’ll get that longevity.
Secondly, I think it’s really important to manage and recognise and reward in line with your organisational values, so catch somebody doing something good. Don’t always be out there sort of berating them for something that they’ve done or they should have done differently. Try and find an opportunity every day to say, “Congratulations,” or, “Thank you,” to one of your team, and recognise that in terms of how it aligns with your values.
Then I think thirdly, empower your team members to make decisions. So your frontline team, give them the opportunity and discretion to be able to make decisions and trust that they’ll use their judgement to make decisions wisely.
Chantal : Kristen, that saying that you mentioned right at the beginning, that’s one of my all-time favourite quotes.
Kristen: Amazing, isn’t it?
Chantal : Yeah, yeah. I’ll remember that always. Thank you so much for coming on today.
Kristen: Thank you again, Chantal. The pleasure is all mine.
Active Management Members receive monthly tools to make your life as a fitness business owner, manager or team members easier. Become a member today at www.ActiveMgmt.com.a/joinnow