A Brand that Moves - Tom Wingert, Marketing Director of City Fitness
Tom Wingert is Marketing Director of City Fitness. This week, he shares with us how his unique path led him to marketing in the fitness world and how he and his team seek to take a unique approach to standing out in a growing and somewhat crowded market. If you like our podcast, please subscribe and leave us a rating!Podcast: DownloadSubscribe: iTunes | RSS
Tom Wingert: I went to the gym for a very specific reason. It was my refuge. It was my safe place. It was the place that I wasn't going to get hit by a truck. That's the stuff that I'm trying to bring to our brand message overall.
Bill Gullan: Greetings, one and all. This is Real World Branding. I'm Bill Gullan, President of Finch Brands, a premier boutique branding agency. We are back, and hopefully warmer weather is back. We always have a really strong intent to deliver fresh content every week here, either in form of an interview or one big idea, and unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how one looks at it, the pace of things, both in life and in work, sometimes interfere with that. We've had a couple of great interviews recently and have a whole set of ideas for wonderful guests and topics as we continue through spring and summer, so please bear with us. Thank you for your patience.
We're coming back with a vengeance and with a bang today with Tom Wingert, who's the marketing director for City Fitness, which is a brand that in many ways is at least kind of starting locally and emanating out, has a really unique and refreshing take on the health club industry and building real, authentic, sort of deeply-felt communities around fitness and around getting in shape. Tom's own journey ... It's funny. As we talk to entrepreneurs and business builders here, you find folks who come at this in a very conventional direction. They go to business school and they analyze white space and industries that are sort of ripe for disruption. They combine it with something, some sense of personal passion, and there they go. It's a linear. It's a path that makes perfect sense. They come out of private equity and then et cetera.
Then there's others, like Tom, who sort of fumble into this. Tom was, as he'll tell you in a minute, very sort of ambitious and directed and successful early on in his career, but it wasn't as if he indicated that sort of fitness was a place that he really wanted to kind of be professionally, as he'll tell you. He really was curious and was a member of a gym. We'll let him tell it from there, but many, many thanks to Tom. Inspirational story of a brand on the move. Tom Wingert, City Fitness.
Here we are in the ... We work, badass, Northern Liberties, hip, fun offices of City Fitness with Tom Wingert, who's the marketing director, also the managing director of My City Moves, which we will get to in a minute. Thank you for your time, sir.
Tom: Thanks for having me.
Bill: We typically like to start and would love to hear, particularly you and I, as we were setting up the microphones, were talking about the fact that you aren't a creature exclusively of the fitness industry, which, in many ways, liberates you, perhaps. Tell us a little bit, if you wouldn't mind, of kind of the twists and turns in your own journey that's kind of led us here to this point today.
Tom: Sure. I'm right now 29 years old.
Bill: Prime of life.
Tom: Prime of life, you know. I didn't make a 30 under 30, but you know, there's always the 40s.
Tom: Yeah, but basically I've been all over the place for a long time. I studied in school, political science and economics. I spent a lot of time working in the nonprofit world. I had a lot of opportunities come my way very, very early on, which is great. Was an Americorps member in San Jose, California, with City Year. I joined their national fundraising team out of Boston, had the opportunity to work with corporate partners very early in my career, so learned what high-level business and corporate social responsibility looked like, traveled around the United States.
From there, I did a lot of independent consulting, had the opportunity to work on some nonprofit startup projects in the US, abroad, did some of my own things, worked a lot on food security issues, worked a lot on education-related issues. It was really just all over the place. Great track record, great experience, and it just didn't have any particular direction, necessarily.
I got to a point, about two years ago, where I had some personal things going on and professional things happening simultaneously. Kind of took a look at my career and the things that were going on around me and was like, "All right, something's really just not syncing up here. I'm able to accomplish a lot whenever I am given a project to sink my teeth into, but it's not really having any direction. It's proving negative returns on my personal life and my situation."
I was actually a member at City Fitness when all of this was going down, and I was working out one morning. To be perfectly clear, I was at a phase in my life when I felt like, if I were walking outside of my apartment, I was going to get hit by a truck. It was just how everything was going.
Bill: Yeah, great.
Tom: Yeah. I'm at the gym, and I'm working out. I'm sitting there thinking like, "This is a safe space. This is a place where I know that I'm not going to get hit by a truck, for sure, because I'm within four walls, so I'm safe there, but I'm doing something beneficial for myself."
With how disorganized the rest of my life was at that point, I was just like, "You know what?" Like, "Let's take a step back." As somebody who's always cared a lot about fitness and had seen it, through sports and other things, pay a lot of return on my just personal wellbeing, I was like, "Why don't I just sign off for a little bit and sell gym memberships?" I legit just wanted to sell gym memberships at City Fitness for a while, work out, get back in shape, let my life settle down a little bit, and there we go.
It took me a couple of weeks to work up the courage to apply for just a regular job, because I've been working at such a high level or whatever, and like pride's a whole thing within just who I am. I eventually got there, and I applied for a job, submitted my resume, heard back within an hour. As it turns out, it's like you start looking at my resume, it's like, "Oh, well, there's not often that people that can say they've done this, that, and the other in this many countries around the world are looking to sell gym memberships."
City Fitness saw an opportunity at this time. As I started talking to our leadership and ultimately with our CEO, Ken Davies, talking about where the company was, what we were and weren't as a fitness brand and where the company was going in terms of expansion and growth opportunities, in terms of some of the struggles that they were experiencing with how they market, how they communicate their brand and their value proposition, I started to think about this as, "This might actually be a great opportunity for me as a real career move." I accepted a position. We didn't really have a job description.
As I've worked and the company has grown and a lot of the ideas that I've brought to the table and my partners and people that I work very closely with both in and outside of the company, as we've collaborated on a lot of things and the company has grown very successfully into a prominent and successful and engaging brand in Philadelphia, it's turned into something that's been very mutually beneficial for both of us.
Bill: That's terrific. What a ride. You mention the success that City Fitness has had in this region. For those who either haven't encountered it or are beyond the paradise that we inhabit here in Philadelphia, how would you sort of articulate the company story and the brand story at this point?
Tom: Sure. City Fitness was founded in 2007 as a gym. Our founder and CEO was similar to me, and this is one of the reasons that we have a very good relationship. Was just going through some stuff, moved into Northern Liberties, looked around, and said, "I don't see a gym I like. I might as well start one."
He started one, not from the fitness industry, not having any of the experience as to how to start a gym or open that up or anything, just, "Here's a space. We got 18,000 square feet. Let me fill it with people and work out."
Yeah, and that's really where it started. It was a lot of time and a lot of evolutions in the business process that got to a point where we're kind of sustainable, but the business was open. Then Ken had an opportunity to open a second location in Graduate Hospital on 21st and South Street, which, for folks that are familiar with Philadelphia or are not familiar with Philadelphia, really doesn't matter, is on a commercial strip in a very dense neighborhood, in terms of population, with a lot of itinerate living situations, a lot of grad students, a lot of folks with disposable income and a high propensity to exercise with a street that gets a whole lot of walk-by traffic.
This club, it could not be better geographically located for an urban fitness facility. That was the club that really started turning around the company and opening up more and more opportunities for us, simply because we were really profitable and doing some good things. There was a stat. I can't speak to the current truth of this, but there was a point where that club was making more revenue per square foot than any club in the United States.
Anyway, that club was up and running for a while. Then the company starts expanding into other opportunities. We opened an express gym. An express gym is just a smaller club, more of an in-out kind of thing, not a big, robust group exercise program, 6,000 square feet in South Philadelphia. We opened, or experimented with a personal training concept that we've since repositioned as another express gym on Society Hill. Then, just this past winter, we opened our fifth facility in Fishtown, our first facility that was new construction, two floors, floor-to-ceiling glass, all new equipment, skyline views, views of the Ben Franklin bridge, absolutely beautiful, heading into our tenth year, which is the one that we're currently inhabiting.
This year, we will, like I said, be celebrating our 10th anniversary. We are pushing, and we will hit, the 10 million revenue mark, which is exciting. We have exceeded 10,000 members. We'll be opening our sixth club, which is a 40,000-square-foot club in Center City, amongst all the kind of commercial towers, right by Comcast One and Two, their global headquarters.
Bill: I've heard of them. Yeah.
Tom: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, right? We're at that point. Then there's another club kind of immediately on the horizon.
We're at that point now, as a brand, where we have figured out what we do very well inside, but we have a very exciting opportunity outside to make significant contributions to the community. Really, from a City Fitness storytelling standpoint, this is something, going back to my nonprofit background, that I've worked very hard to instill into our just ethos, into our DNA, is I feel that marketing, and I feel that just kind of communicating with the folks that are around us is a responsibility on our end to make sure that we're contributing to somebody's life.
There's that old adage where an advertisement is an intrusion into somebody's day. I don't necessarily want to advertise. I don't want to intrude on their day. I want people to think and experience City Fitness as a brand, even if they're not necessarily a brand, and so they're engaging with us in some positive way related to the product that we sell.
We've started doing a lot of external programming. We've started running campaigns that involve, in an ongoing capacity, people that are not members of City Fitness's gym. We've started to partner with nonprofit organizations and support the construction of public parks in Philadelphia in partnership with Connor Barwin's foundation, started to develop a very, very hefty PR presence, where I am on the news way more frequently than anybody that runs a gym should be. It's just because we're so present and actually doing things, physically doing things in Philadelphia.
We're more than a gym. We're a community. It's our tagline, but it's really what we're looking to espouse as we grow.
Bill: Sure. Well, the fact that you and Ken, as noted, are not from the industry, yet I know that you were presenting recently at the biggest industry trade show fairly early in your fitness career, the success of the company would be the envy of folks who've been doing this their whole careers. What do you think that outsider status and the perspective that it gave to Ken gives to you? What are the benefits of that, as you really write a unique story for this company and this brand?
Tom: Sure. I mean, a lot of it is, because I haven't experienced it throughout, that I haven't developed any bad habits, necessarily. When I'm trying to solve some sort of marketing problem now, like my lead generation numbers are slightly down in February this year than they were in November of last year, is my message starting to get a little stale? Is that a broader market form? Whatever.
My own bad habits might be developed just from running a successful program and over and over again, but it has nothing to do with bad habits that the industry has instilled on me. I think that that goes back to thinking about how the fitness product is purchased by American people.
It's a $30-billion industry. 20% of the American population want to buy my product and want to join a gym and be a gym member, but 100% of the population want to move, look, and feel better. It's just who's going to invest in it.
Knowing all of those things, it makes sense to say why gyms have been, for so long, okay with just sending out direct mailers with price promotions that are timed towards the time of the year that it is: Spring into fitness, burn into summer, all that kind of stuff.
Bill: Bikini season's coming and ... Yeah.
Tom: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. All those things.
Bill: Those got me back in the day.
Tom: It makes perfect sense, because really what people do is they join the gym that's closest to their house. If there's 20% of people that are automatically going to purchase your product, the burden on you as an advertiser is not particularly large. You just have to make sure people know where to find you, and we've gotten lazy, I think, as an industry. I'm perfectly happy to say that.
I think that there's really not a lot of great marketing work being done, especially by smaller brands like City Fitness. In terms of our competitors, I don't think anybody's kind of putting the thought into it that we are. The people that I really look at are Equinox, on a national and international level. I think their work is phenomenal, but their budget is something like 150 times mine. That is what it is.
The thing that I think is the best metaphor or analogy for this, I'm not sure which is which. Who knows?
Bill: We will accept it either way, right.
Tom: Yeah, great. Whichever one it is, it might not even be either, frankly. The first episode of Mad Men, Don Draper is pitching Lucky Strike or whatever, and he can't come up with a creative concept. They're freaking out because the FDC is doing all this stuff with ... They're putting all these restrictions on how cigarettes advertise because they're a cancerous product, and Surgeon General's doing lord knows what.
Don comes up with this revelation at a certain point. It's like, "Everybody's else products give cancer. Yours are toasted."
The same thing is true. He talks about it like the best advertising opportunity since the invention of cereal. Everyone's selling the exact same product. Yours is the only one that isn't cancerous, even though it is cancerous. You just tell a different story entirely.
We're doing the same thing in the fitness story. Gyms are, broadly speaking, a place where they have equipment and weights and people that can help run you through fitness programming. That's basically what happens whenever you're joining any kind of gym, be it a studio, be it a yoga studio, be it a box gym, whatever. Nobody's thinking very creatively or thoughtfully about how to position yourself outside of that.
I think because I was somebody who was really going through some stuff before I joined the gym, and I went to the gym for a very specific reason, it was my refuge. It was my safe place. It was the place that I wasn't going to get hit by a truck. That's the stuff that I'm trying to bring to our brand message overall, and it's just been received very, very well, because I'm not talking about how good our equipment is or how good your six pack's going to be afterwards.
Bill: Right, sure. You mentioned some of your competitors. We won't go name by name, but I mean, there is a ... We've got to get close enough to the industry to know that folks who are sort of traditional business developers and marketers in the fitness business, yes, they take advantage of geography and the convenience impulse for folks who live nearby or work nearby. Lot of high-low promotional pricing, and then there's the inevitable free training session, where you get sold and sold and sold, or you feel that way at least. There seems to be an overriding sense of, "We don't really care where you come or not as long as you pay."
There definitely seems to be, again, just from a consumer perspective, a greater sense of purpose here. You spoke about the association with nonprofit organizations and park systems. You spoke of the kind of tagline and brand platform, about community rather than just a bunch of materials and classes and other things. Could you speak to the role of purpose in what you all are doing? How that ultimately comes out, I think, is part of what makes this such a distinctive experience.
Tom: Sure. I mean, there's two sides. One, it's a more compelling story. I mean, if we have a purpose and we're talking about ourselves as though we're trying to accomplish something bigger than a gym, people just want to look more into that. They want to be a part of that.
Joining a gym is more than just joining, paying X amount of money for Y results. What it is, is it's joining the best part of your day. It's joining a place where you're going to see people on a regular basis, be it the people that are checking you in, be it the people that are taking classes with you or that you see next to you on a treadmill or that are training you or something like that. If the people that you are joining into membership with are all associated with this higher purpose, then that elevates you just substantially beyond somewhere where you're going to get a return on your personal investment, which is something that's entirely personal.
By saying that we're a community, by working hard inside the gym to ensure that we have like a friendly and inviting atmosphere and all those other things that people will talk about, but then beyond that, by creating a real promise, like a truth to our brand promise and being a community outside the gym and building a fitter Philadelphia in some way or another, I think people just want to be a part of that. We are a community institution rather than a gym. That's the one side.
The other side's a very real business one. Like you said, the competitors who we won't necessarily name right now, they do just want you to pay. They don't care whether or not you come in.
From a business sense, our price point is high enough that, if people don't come in, they're going to realize it when they're automatically debited every single month. They're going to cancel their memberships. Everyone knows any business, regardless of what it is, customer acquisition cost is substantially higher than retention cost. It's much more expensive to do, especially at our price point.
What we're trying to do is we're taking people. If people come in, if they feel like they have relationships with other people in the gym, if they feel like their gym is making a positive contribution to the community outside, then that's a place that they're less likely to leave. There's the feel good part of it that I just think is good marketing, is good work. Then there's the reality of it, that ultimately we're all trying to increase retention rates.
We have to have some sort of truth to that brand promise in order for those retention rates to really ... People are smart. Our customers are smart, and gym members are gym members. People that have the most demanding professional jobs are the people that are ultimately going to rely on a gym the most. I'm very much the same way. I work 80 hours a week, and I'm in the gym 7 at least, working out. If I weren't to do that, I'd be blowing my brains out, and that's the case with any executive in any role. Those are people that are thinking very actively about the ways that they're spending their money and the ways that they're being communicated with. If they're able to cut through our BS that we're promoting out there about being part of a fitter Philadelphia, then what are we really doing here?
Bill: Yeah. No, totally. You talk about community, and that makes me think a little bit about culture. The real estate locations that you ticked through at the beginning definitely have, maybe with the exception of 4th and Walnut, very young and high energy and sort of upwardly-mobile residential bases around them.
This industry has also, I think, struggled a little bit finding the right cultural balance. You have, on one hand, your crossfits and your others that are sort of characterized by intensity. On the other hand, you have judgment-free zones and what used to be Curves, where really it was about making it a place where people felt safe, to use your word, and comfortable. Cultures consist of people, of individuals, and then people together, acting in a certain way.
In a case like this, the company drives culture, but so does the membership. How do you think, as an organization and as a marketer and a brand developer, about culture? To what degree is the way that it feels a part of what makes City Fitness as distinctive as it feels from the outside?
Tom: Sure. About a year, Philadelphia Magazine published a piece, in part, about some of the work that I was doing, where it kind of identified this perceived trend, at least within most urban areas, that box gyms are kind of dying out. Studios are crowding in, these things that can do very tailored, personalized things at a much higher price point with a smaller rent footprint on the business side.
One of the things that ... They asked me for comment. It's like, "Well, City Fitness seems like it's completely blowing up. Those two things are in direct conflict." Like, "How are you doing that?"
Honestly, not being a fitness insider, it's not like you walk into the industry and somebody gives you this playbook on what's happened the last 30 years. You just kind of have to be learning as you go. I hadn't even considered, for the box gyms, studios to be something like competition, because I happened to walk into a product that was already very well developed. We have a robust group exercise schedule. We have a great personal training program. People are getting a lot of what they already need.
To your question of like, "Are we trying to identify a very, very, very specific demographic that is our market, and are we trying to cater specifically to them?" The answer is no, and I think box gyms all have this as a great opportunity. They're just not talking about it particularly intelligently.
Box gyms have the opportunity to be the best of the most possible things to the most amount of people you can. There's no way we can offer that intense specialization, but if you're really being honest, you're offering a much better product if you're offering 200 group exercise classes every week, city wide. That allows you to, with some honesty, say, "We are competing with these studio concepts and the things that class pass can funnel people around to and sure to have different stuff."
Yeah. I mean, we're lucky that we have a very web-savvy and ... people that just absorb an incredible amount of communication in the millennials that are in Philadelphia and the upward mobility that we see all around them, because we can very easily communicate that we have basically whatever it is that you're looking for.
That's just it. Instead of just deciding, "You know what? Our marketplace is women between the ages of 24 and 45 because we think they all want to look the best and they're going to treat fitness like a beauty product," which is something that I was told when I came into the industry ... Instead of doing that, we just say, "Wait a minute. I go to the gym, and I am none of those things." You just think about what that is and what I want and then talk to your friends. They're doing different stuff there, but it's all available at City Fitness. Great.
Let's celebrate that, or let's not talk about what goes on in the gym at all, which is really what we don't do. I mean, let's just talk about what we're doing as a brand, and if you want to like hang out and like go for a run, here's what it costs.
Bill: Right, right. We were talking a little bit before we started about your work with My City Moves. The title is managing director. I think largely creator of concept. Tell us about that.
Tom: Yeah. My City Moves ... Yeah, managing director. It could be CEO. It could be whatever, but-
Tom: Badass, yeah, didn't work well on a business card. We just rebranded and have to look all like clean and today, yeah, but that was my original title. It's on the organizational documents.
What my city moves is, is a great opportunity for City Fitness. That's what it originally was, to do things outside of the gym, which is, like I've been talking about, is what I'm most interested in. Growing our brand, positioning us, certainly, for future expansion but also fulfilling our brand promise.
There's this fitness technology, heart-rate monitor called MYZONE. There's a bunch of heart-rate monitors out there right now, Polar, Garmin. FitBit does some heart-rate tracking on your wrist, all that kind of jazz. MYZONE is particularly a B-to-B product, where they partner within gyms to sell the belts to their memberships, project screens within the clubs that show in real time what everybody's output is. It's a cool member experience, and whatever. That's their business.
When my CEO was out in Chicago meeting with MYZONE's president, who's since become a close partner of ours, they were talking just over drinks or something about these challenges that you can run. It's like a designation within the MYZONE app, where you have just all these users of the app together. They're running a challenge, and there's a leader board within the app. It's this whole thing.
Ken gets to thinking. He's like, "Man, we should do like a city-wide competition." As any good marketing executive should do, when their CEO sends them an idea, like 99% of the idea you're going to like send out a thoughtful, long response as to why that's like not a great idea or not like feasible necessarily.
Bill: Well, here's thing, right?
Tom: Yeah. Here's the thing. Here's all the other stuff that-
Bill: We thought through the various-
Tom: ... that's making me too busy for this, and ... but this was one of those things. There was like a text message at like 10:45 on a Friday night, oh my god. I immediately was like, "You know what? Yeah. I think that might be a good idea."
I do a little bit of work to figure out how this technology works. I realize you don't need to measure these challenges within a gym. It can be basically any MYZONE user in the city of Philadelphia. Then I start thinking about, "Okay, Philadelphia and fitness, what's the correlation there?" Normally-
Bill: Not enough, historically. Right.
Tom: Not enough. This is a city that has, in pockets, 75% obesity rates.
Bill: We're a large city, yes.
Tom: Yeah, way above national average hypertension and stuff, cheese steaks, beer, fat, throwing snowballs at Santa Claus-
Tom: ... pain in the ass.
Bill: Right. Losing-
Bill: ... and not gracefully.
Tom: Yeah, not at all. I'm thinking like, "Okay. I can get this cool piece of fitness technology on as many Philadelphians as possible. I can track their workouts. I can create a competition," so we put up a bunch of cash. "I can track all of their workouts on the back end of the technology. Because I'm a millennial and we're all really good at the internet and social media and stuff, I can figure out a way to internet that and turn it into this great user-generated content experience. Then we'll have this great campaign that instead of just rolling it out to our members and selling a bunch of MYZONE belts, we leverage this technology into this campaign that says, 'City Fitness is the brand that is making Philadelphia fitter.'"
What happened, after this last year, we were lucky to have Connor Barwin jump on with us. This is when he was still an Eagle and all that stuff.
Bill: Yeah, tears.
Tom: It's tough. He's a great guy, great partner, was an excellent participant in this campaign. We've done great work together, but, you know, what are you going to do?
Bill: That's the business, yeah.
Tom: It's the business. It's sad. I was sad about it last week.
Bill: I'm sure he'll be okay, but yes.
Tom: Yeah. He will. He's actually, he's a member at City Fitness now.
Bill: Is he? Nice.
Tom: Yeah. He shot me a text about it. I was like, "Oh, yeah, hook him up."
Yeah, so anyway, we were able to get these MYZONE belts on 300 people. Then, with a lot of prominent micro-influencers that supported the campaign. Then, were able to effectively tell this story where we had 300 people in Philadelphia that collective, over a 24-day period of time, clocked 6,600 hours of exercise, burned 3.25 million calories. In terms of marketing KPIs, we got 29,000 uses of the hashtag within a 24-day period of time, unpaid, UGC.
Bill: That's great.
Tom: Beautiful stuff. 10% of the people that did this competition have joined a City Fitness location since, so it's like a nice little lead gen thing there. We got nine, without hiring a PR agency, we got nine press hits directly during the campaign. It's mentioned everywhere now, whenever somebody writes about City Fitness. I was rated by Philadelphia Magazine one of Philadelphia's 40 Most Innovative Business Leaders because of this campaign.
Bill: Sexy singles, 30 under 30?
Tom: Sexy singles, no, that actually happened before I came to City Fitness.
Bill: Right, of course.
Tom: It was a knockout success, but we were also getting interest in that from other clubs around the city, around the country, I should say, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston. What we decided to do with that is say, "Okay, what exactly was that?" At the end of the day, it was a marketing campaign, but how do you replicate it? How do you monetize it? How do you run it? Can that be replicable elsewhere?
We decided yes. We're doing it again currently in Philadelphia. I mean, it's a great thing for City Fitness, and it's kind of our marquee marketing event every year at this point. We have three times as many participants this year, I should say, than we did last year, so 950 people in Philadelphia, I know their heart rates, which is kind of fun. Yeah. We're looking to expand this concept outside of the club.
The idea for City Fitness, which is a part owner of My City Moves with our other partners, is that we would be able to, five years down the line, be running 15 of these campaigns simultaneously. We can talk about things like, "Okay, City Fitness is responsible for activating X amount of people nationwide and burning a billion calories," something like that.
It's just cool work. I mean, sure, it's great to sell gym memberships at a certain point. If we're talking about fulfilling a brand promise, there is no truer fulfillment of a brand promise than that. In terms of positioning from a B-to-B standpoint, that kind of campaign allows us to secure the best vendor deals possible, build high-level relationships. Everybody wants to work with us, and really positions us as innovators on the marketing sphere, on the partnership sphere, the tech sphere, all of those different pieces.
It's a real knockout campaign and something I'm incredibly proud of and grateful to have the opportunity to work with some great partners on and something I'm excited to see how it continues to develop.
Bill: That's terrific. At the risk of overstaying our welcome, one more question. Then we're so grateful for your time and insight. It's a story that we've enjoyed watching just by walking by and living in this city, and to learn more and get inside of it and inside of your head is so interesting.
In that spirit, your journey that you took us through is, perhaps, nontraditional, both for this industry as well as for some folks who, you know, I get out of school and I work in an industry that seems interesting. I go and I go and I go. You found your way here. For those who are inspired by the path you've taken, the choice you made, kind of where you ended up here, are there any kind of core words of wisdom that are motivating for you that you may want to share with others who are about to kind of take their own trip through a career?
Tom: Sure. I mean, I would even challenge what you said, "A career that seems interesting." How many people do you actually know went into something that they thought seemed interesting? They went into a major that they thought seemed interesting.
Bill: Right, right.
Tom: They got an internship. They stayed there. They woke up and they were 40, and they decided, "Oh, crap"-
Tom: I don't know.
Bill: You're going to make me cry, by the way. No, it's fine.
Tom: Yeah. Your gig seems to have worked out pretty well right now. What are you, like ...?
Bill: I'm 43.
Tom: 29, yeah. No, you're fine. Yeah. I don't know. I've never ... I'm lucky. I've had nothing but opportunities put in front of me, and my personal life was maybe never set up the way that it could have been to like organize or leverage those correctly. The way that my 20s looked, and this was the case when I was in school, when I was out of school, when I was trying to figure out what to do with my time, was just to say, "Yes," to everything that seemed interesting.
That wasn't a job. I don't think I had a non-government-issued health insurance plan until City Fitness, because I was just consulting all the time. I'd just find something interesting to do, and I would do it. I was just very thoughtful and intentional about that, and then I was also very present and aware with a lot of support from my parents and my peer group and I've just been surrounded by very people, of when it was time for me to find an opportunity, a brand that would take me in house, and to do some work on that.
Like, thinking about what I was doing before, I was a nonprofit fundraiser, predominately. Now I'm selling gym membership. It just felt right. I was, like, aware enough of what it was that I wanted to accomplish.
In terms of words of wisdom, I mean, it's keep an open eyes. Philadelphia's in this great spot right now, where, because it's relatively cheap to live here, it's relatively cheap to start businesses here. There's so much new energy, be it new restaurants, a rapidly-developing creative economy. There's just the ability to do basically whatever you want if you're willing to take those calculated risks and work at it and organize your time and set yourself up for that kind of success.
It's to take the time to think about what it is that you really want to do. That's not to say, "I want to work in sports marketing," or, "I want to account, account, accounting." It's to really say, "What do I want to accomplish? What's my legacy?" Think way out ahead of that. Then, like, what gives you energy? What gives you life? What does your day look like when you wake up in the morning? Just find people that are like that.
Surround yourself with them, and then just hopefully ... I assume it will happen because it happened for me, and it'll happen for everybody. If you just surround yourself with the right people and are present and aware enough of what makes you happy and gives you life as a professional, you'll ultimately find yourself in a position where you can be the person that leads the world's fitness technology and social media-driven fitness competition with NFL players. What? It's just to surround yourself by the right people and know where you are, why you're there.
Bill: That's great.
Tom: That's really it. Yeah.
Bill: That's great. Thank you. We have a young man on the move with a lot of accomplishment already and a brand that's been very sort of prominent in its growth, that many people really, really like and trust and value here. My City Moves, as sort of a rump initiative, I guess, of the main brand, with so much potential to, beyond the bricks and mortar of gym-by-gym, to really carry this spirit and this belief and this purpose forward and out. We're grateful for time, appreciate it.
Tom: Thank you. Happy to be here.
Bill: Thanks to Tom for his time and insight and his energy, which is so palpable in person, which I'm sure sort of pulsates through the speakers or the earbuds, however you're listening to this. Tom is a really good example of a couple of different things that are kind of core themes here, but one that he really does exemplify is often it takes, for true sort of insurgency, I hate the word disruption, so I'm trying to avoid it, but of an industry that, in many cases, has operated sort of similarly for many, many decades, it takes somebody who understands it as a consumer but has existed outside of it professionally. It gives one a unique perspective on how an industry may or may not be sort of well serving its desired and its target population. Thanks again to Tom.
Three ways, as always, to support what we're doing here. Let's keep the dialogue going on Twitter, either @BillGullan or @FinchBrands. Please subscribe through the app store of your choice. You won't miss any content. You won't miss a week. Given that our schedules have been intermittent the past month or so, with profound apologies of course, this is a way to make sure that whenever we sort of poke our little heads up above the waterline and put something out there, that it floats right into your podcast app. If we deserve it, a rating can help make sure that others who would appreciate the wisdom of the business and brand builders that we feature here will be able to access it and find it as they are searching and seeking new inspiration in the podcast world and to kind of fill up those commutes or those flights or that time on the treadmill or on the trail.
Thank you, all. Thank you, Tom. We'll sign off from the cradle of liberty.