Inspiring excellence in fitness and business
~ By Cheryl Long
Years ago, almost anyone could open a fitness club — and they did. As long as it was nicely appointed, offered a variety of programs at a reasonable cost and the owner had a certain amount of business savvy, there was a good chance that the business would succeed.
But since Wynn Fitness made its debut in Mississauga and Richmond Hill, Ontario eight years ago, the fitness industry landscape has changed dramatically. Oversaturation has forced clubs to become increasingly creative and more focused on their customers, said Wynn Fitness CEO Markus Lanz. The days of “build it and they will come” are over.
“The honest answer is eight years ago we probably paid less attention to individual customers than we do now,” he explained. “A lot of that came out of necessity because competition grew dramatically in the first four or five years of starting the business.”
Today, Wynn Fitness is not only succeeding but setting new precedents for the industry with their emphasis on client success, smart location choices and strategic partnerships. In 2009, they began growing by one new club each year, reaching their current number of five clubs positioned in key areas in and around Toronto.
Proposal brought real estate and fitness together
Owned by real estate developer Wynn Group of Companies, Wynn Fitness almost came about by accident when Lanz and another business partner inquired about two of the company’s rental properties. Switzerland-native Lanz had arrived in Canada in 1999 with a background in kinesiology and business, and had spent several years in management roles with two large fitness clubs. Rather than just lease the Wynn properties, they decided to approach the organization with a proposal that would involve Wynn Group as partners in their privately-run fitness business.
Owning the property locations is just one of the features that makes Wynn Fitness unique among other clubs, helping to assure customers that they aren’t a “fly by night” organization, Lanz explained. “The owners are much more vested with owning the real estate at the same time. There’s a sense of security and longevity versus a lot of other companies that have come and gone,” he said.
Wynn Fitness is focused on customizing their programs and services to meet their customers’ needs. That begins with a three-step orientation program (most clubs offer a one-step introduction, Lanz said) called WynnMap that includes three complimentary hours of one-on-one coaching, instruction and guidance during the first 30 days. The program aims to reduce the number of people who give up their fitness goals after a short period of time by dealing with the main factors that cause people to quit: fear of the unknown, feeling self-conscious and not knowing the basic fundamentals of how to exercise.
“Essentially, it’s based on the theory that it takes 21 days to create a new habit,” Lanz said. If a new client can get through the first 30 days and remain motivated, the chances of success increase substantially, and that’s exactly what Wynn Fitness has seen over the past few years. “We have a track record of a higher percentage of customers through those programs achieving results.”
Wynn Physio an added benefit for clients
Three years ago, they implemented another program that puts an emphasis on injury prevention. Wynn Physio is an innovative physiotherapy service designed to restore, maintain and maximize strength, function, movement and overall well-being. Not intended solely for someone suffering from a past or current injury, it’s also helpful for people looking to lose weight, correct muscle imbalances and prevent future injuries. Many extended health benefit plans will even cover costs associated with the service, Lanz said.
Group fitness classes that include spinning, cardio box-fit/kickbox, body blast and yoga encourage camaraderie and mutual support in a high-energy, enthusiastic setting. Wynn’s personal training program is ideal for those who want to achieve their fitness goals even more quickly and their Pilates classes provide a total body workout that is suitable for all levels of fitness. They even offer a 10-day free trial offer, which is a foolproof way to experience the club’s unique range of services and commitment to excellence.
Lanz is the first to admit that Wynn Fitness is not the least expensive option when it comes to fitness clubs. But they also don’t operate like lower-priced players that are entering the Canadian market with $10-per-month offers. Programs such as WynnMap and Wynn Physio mean members are more likely to commit to their fitness goals and achieve results. There’s no overcrowding, lineups or sign-up sheets; instead, clients enjoy a luxurious atmosphere with exemplary customer service, state-of-the-art equipment and a “part of the family” feeling.
The budget-style fitness club is part of a “race to the bottom”, Lanz said. “We can’t operate a business based on that premise,” he explained. Fortunately, there will always be a core group of fitness enthusiasts who want more than the most basic of shower facilities and exercise equipment, not to mention minimal customer service. “They’re still looking for quality and that’s really our strategy.”
Strategic partnerships boost Wynn’s success
Forging partnerships is another successful component to the Wynn Fitness business strategy. Even the most successful clubs will have times when there are no group classes running or few people are using the equipment and facilities. While looking for ways to generate additional revenue, Lanz decided to offer empty studio space in their downtown Toronto Esplanade location to Elite Martial Arts.
Established in 2013, Elite Martial Arts (EMA), Krav Maga Training Centers formed an extremely successful partnership with Wynn Fitness. The two businesses recognized that if they teamed up to provide their services to the communities they serve, the true winners would be their members and students. EMA is an official member of the Krav Maga Association of Canada and most recently established accreditation with Siam Muay Thai. Both affiliations are considered the most highly regarded accreditation that a martial arts school can achieve.
In addition to the award-winning Krav Maga program offered at EMA, the school also provides a 30-minute conditioning program, Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, weapons defence training and a women’s self-defence course. This year, EMA won the Consumer’s Choice award for “Best Martial Arts, Toronto Central”, which was proudly accepted by EMA Founder and Head Instructor Dan Novak and Lanz. The dual acceptance was symbolic of what can be achieved when two businesses come together to help each other and, in turn, the people that they serve.
EMA (www.emakravmaga.ca) now offers their martial arts programs at Wynn’s downtown Toronto and Mississauga locations. Though the two businesses are separate entities, having both in one location offers even more choice to clients.
One partnership soon led to another and in late 2014, Twist Fitness & Conditioning franchises moved into available space in Wynn Fitness locations in Mississauga and Richmond Hill. Each conditioning centre, which goes by the philosophy that everyone is an athlete, combines proper programming, motivation and coaching to help their clients reach their health, fitness and performance goals. While some of their customers are professional athletes — some travel from around the world to train under the Twist program — they also coach children (the youngest client is seven), active adults, weekend warriors and seniors. The only prerequisite is a desire to be active and feel better.
Scott Atkins is area manager for Twist Fitness & Conditioning (twistwynn.com), including the original location in Burlington, Ontario. Based on the three pillars of movement, strength and balance, Atkins said Twist conditioning programs are all overseen by coaches who have post-secondary education in related fields such as kinesiology or exercise science. Ratios are limited to one coach per eight athletes, ensuring a high quality of coaching that can be geared to a particular sport.
Many of the employees at Wynn Fitness have been with the organization for years, bringing a passion for fitness and a sincere desire to see people stay healthy and active. Today the company has approximately 100 full-time and 150 part-time employees including their two area managers, Kym Niles and Don Adam, who all contribute to the business’s success.
“It’s just a great feeling at the end of the day to see people come in who are not in shape and don’t feel good about themselves and see that transformation,” Lanz said. “That’s why (the Wynn team) are here … the drive to get people involved and help them on a journey that they’re not comfortable with or have failed multiple times.”
Giving back to communities is a priority
While committed to helping their clients reach their fitness potential, Wynn Fitness goes a step further with their Wynn Cares program that works to give back to their local communities. Their volunteer work and donations have benefited a number of charitable organizations over the years, including the Salvation Army, the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada, Habitat for Humanity, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the North York Harvest Food Bank. Whether they’re bringing non-perishable food items to company meetings, collecting backpacks for schoolchildren or helping to build a home, the Wynn team is dedicated to supporting the people in their communities.
The future is bright for Wynn Fitness. Plans are underway to build a new 20,000-square-foot signature Wynn club in Toronto’s Dupont Street and Spadina Road area in a space that currently houses the head office for the Wynn Group of Companies. They’d like to see another three to five locations open in the GTA over the next five years, Lanz said, and there are additional projects being planned for the Caribbean that would incorporate a Wynn Fitness location as well.
In the meantime, they approach each day with a desire to share the benefits of an active, healthy lifestyle with the people who make Wynn Fitness an important part of their daily or weekly routine. “For a lot of people, we’re a part of their life probably more than any other organization that they’re with,” Lanz said. “We have business people here every day, Monday to Friday; that’s a huge part of their lives.”
To learn more, visit wynnfitness.com.