Driving innovation at club level

Adrian Worsley is a Regional Manager with more than a decade of experience. Currently with Bannatyne, he oversees their largest region with 13 sites and 40,000 members. Most recently he has spearheaded the development of a functional class series, created by talent within his region. B:Functional, started as a single club concept, and now has been rolled out to the entire Bannatyne estate. 4.5k classes have taken place with 26k attendances since January 2017.

We spoke to Adrian about:
– Empowering operational teams to create innovation at club level
– Recognising products and services with potential
– Supporting the growth and roll out of the best products and services


Are major operators missing a trick by not using their local teams to drive innovation?

Buying an off-the-shelf product is the easy option. You pay a licence fee, receive some training and you’re good to go, but you miss the opportunity to provide a platform for talented employees to contribute to the business they work in. Take fitness products for example, there is nobody better placed to write programmes best suited to your equipment, space and membership base than the PTs that work within that environment every day. Driving innovation internally also gives you more options to incorporate that product or service into the member journey, and to keep it constantly updated.

There is nobody better placed to write programs … than the PT’s that work within that environment every single day

Promoting innovation at club level provides talented individuals with a platform to showcase their skills and feel engaged with all levels of the business, positively impacting staff retention. It also helps senior staff to identify emerging managers and those suitable for progression.


What are the benefits of allowing individual sites more freedom to create innovative products and services?

It’s more cost effective as the only expenditure is the allocation of internal resources, rather than paying an external provider to develop a product or concept. I also believe the quality can be as good as or even better than off-the-shelf products. Most importantly, you get superior buy-in from colleagues when it comes to rolling out that product across multiple sites. Success is a great motivator and we’ve found our latest innovation, B:Functional, has inspired colleagues to want to be involved in next phase of development. We want colleagues to contribute to the business and they want to feel engaged. It’s win win.

It also allows clubs to create a great local product in response to local need. That said, not every local innovation will be suitable for development; sometimes I will just retain it for a part of the region if it isn’t suitable to move to the next level.

It’s also great for team development. I am passionate about assisting teams in bringing ideas to the table. If everyone in the business is thinking proactively it creates a club-wide mentality of innovation and continual development, and not just settling for a product or system just because it’s always been there. I’m committed to giving people who can contribute, the platform to be able to do just that.


What (if any) are the drawbacks of this approach versus top-down implementation and how do you overcome them?

Developing a new product or service from an initial idea to the finished article can be time consuming from both a club resource point of view and in terms of central support. It is important that the projects and concept are well vetted and selected at the right time to be developed further.

It is also vital to have key staff members in each area / region to champion the product and assist with the implementation and buy in. One advantage of club-generated innovation is that we are able to engage with these members of staff, using their input and knowledge in the development of the product which results in superior buy in and greater excitement around the innovation.

The biggest challenge is to encourage managers to be innovative but at the same time give strategic thought to what the concept is, what it will achieve and, if applicable, what the ROI will be.


How do you empower teams to drive good ideas forward?

The concept of driving innovation needs to come from the top of the business, and I am fortunate to be working with a forward-thinking board that actively promotes innovation and creativity.

Working within a fast-paced industry where new trends continually emerge there will always be opportunities for innovation. I have an expectation that staff within the business perform as high achievers in their roles and are given the opportunity to be innovative. Innovation is discussed within appraisals and forms part of an individual’s personal development, providing an opportunity for high achieving individuals to make a contribution to the business.

Innovation is discussed within appraisals and forms part of an individual’s personal development


How do you recognise ideas with the most potential?

I am looking for a clear objective and ideally a working concept with data and results we can appraise – what has been achieved to date? I’ll then consider how the concept can be refined and what the potential might be. It also has to come with the full belief of the person who is creating and developing the concept at club level, in order for it to have a chance of succeeding.


How should group managers support the growth and roll out of the best ideas?

It is easy to shut down individuals and not give time to their thoughts or ideas, however for strong leaders and talented managers this can create a stale and frustrating environment. Senior Managers must see the value in nurturing talent and providing site level staff with the opportunity to excel and contribute to the wider business.

My role within the development of concepts often revolves around the critiquing and quality control of the product and concept as well as ensuring that the team have all the necessary resources. If an idea is to be successful, the level of expectation needs to be set from the start, and that is to create an industry leading product. With these foundations and continual development throughout the stages of implementation the idea has a chance of succeeding.


Do you think a product or service which has been created at club level is received differently to a completely new innovation when it’s rolled out to the estate?

If it’s communicated effectively, then yes, absolutely. If you want to achieve superior buy-in then you need to invite your teams to contribute during the developmental stage. For instance, we are inviting all fitness colleagues to contribute new exercises, programmes and ideas for a fourth programme in the B:Functional series. Colleagues will play a part in the product or service and if you can get that engagement, that’s when you get maximum buy-in. To my knowledge, no other operator is providing opportunities for colleagues on this scale.

If you want to achieve superior buy-in then you need to invite your teams to contribute during the developmental stage


Posted in Gyms & Clubs, Interviews, The Fitness Network.