Nic Monteforte, Chief Operating Officer, Fit N Fast
In 2010 a group of highly experienced industry figures launched the Fit n Fast chain of low-cost clubs into the busy Australian fitness market. Two years on, Network caught up with chief operating officer Nic Monteforte to find out whether this up and coming operation had found its feet.
Can you tell us a little about your background?
My career in the fitness industry started as soon as I completed my bachelor of physical education and human movement, in 1991. Starting in sales, I soon moved on to set up my own business, which I successfully sold two years later. After some time running corporate training programs I returned to the fitness industry. Within a few years I became the first ever female to become a director for Fitness First Australia, where I was responsible for managing over A$250 million in annual revenue and over 2,500 staff.
What prompted you to launch a new gym chain into an already crowded marketplace?
After spending 20 years in the industry and 10 years in a big chain, we felt we had a good understanding of what members want from their gym – from facilities through to membership options, prices, service and flexibility – and we saw a gap in the market that we believed we could fill by creating a new gym option for them.
What is your vision for Fit n Fast?
Our vision is to provide members with a faster fitness option for lasting results. We don’t only care about the physical health of our members, we want to look after their wallets too, by providing them with a cheaper, better, faster way to stay healthy.
What are your primary short and long-term objectives for Fit n Fast?
Our primary goal is to continue to build great quality facilities for members with the intention of growing to over 50 clubs in the next few years. We want to re-educate people that exercising for 30 minutes can get you sustainable results without costing a fortune – and we can provide today’s time poor/money poor society with a great fitness option that meets those demands.
What is your membership model?
We have options that suit most people, from membership of a single club to membership that allows access to all of our clubs, from commitment options to no-commitment. The consumer has the choice and it can all be done online, with no hassle.
Does Fit n Fast have international aspirations, or is it a solely Australian operation?
At this stage we are proud to be Australian-owned and an Australian-only operation. Anything is possible in the future, but our immediate short-to-medium term plans are to provide as many Australian cities, suburbs, towns and regions as we can with what we have to offer.
Do Fit n Fast clubs have a ‘green’ policy for energy efficiency?
Fit n Fast was the first health club chain in Australia to have a complete online membership sign up option which allows us to be as paperless as we can be. Also, many of the cardiovascular pieces we choose are powered by usage, meaning they require no electricity. We also minimise our air-conditioning output by fitting the clubs with ‘BigAss’ (yes, you read that right!) fans that allow air flow and circulation through the clubs.
What is your staffing model?
All our team members are employees, other than our personal trainers who are franchisees running their own business within Fit n Fast.
How do you plan to develop – and retain – a happy staff?
Training and developing our teams is one of the key focuses within our business. Our goal is to develop our club managers and assistant managers from within our teams through a structured on-the-job and classroom-based training program. We reward and recognise all performers within the business, and provide fun team-building events and sessions that allow all our club staff to come together as a whole and blow off some steam.
How important are personal trainers in the Fit n Fast environment?
Personal training is one of the most crucial parts of our business. Personal trainers are the ones that service the floor, and help, inspire and motivate our members to achieve the results they need and want. In our clubs we generally have more PTs than staff, so they have the biggest impact on how the members feel. Our PTs are rostered to spend a minimum of five hours per week on the gym floor looking after our members’ needs – this is time when they are not conducting their own sessions with clients. We have created a model that also gives the trainers a comfortable, flexible environment that enables them to be successful.
What does Fit n Fast offer members in terms of classes and programs?
We have been the first in two areas of group training.
The first is BOXMASTER, a new boxing concept that uses a specially designed piece of equipment. This small group workout is unique to Fit n Fast, delivering a motivating 30-minute boxing workout with strong cardio and muscle toning components. With small class sizes of only eight participants and a personal trainer conducting the session, participants get to experience the benefits of small group training for only $6 per class, or under $5 if they buy a 10-pack of sessions.
The second is our virtual cycle. Managers no longer have the hassle of an instructor not showing up, and participants don’t have to worry about missing a class. The virtual quickie cycle gives every participant in every club the benefit of the top cycle instructors from our National Team via our state of the art technology. We have cycle studios where you can feel like you are a part of a class or you can simply plug your headphones into a cycle bike on the cardio floor and tune into the cycle class running on one of the many TVs in the cardio area. This has revolutionised how people do cycle, and it’s really taken off.
Do you have any plans to move from a low-cost to a full-service model fitness facility?
We have already added a new slightly higher end club to our model, called Fit n Fast+. Our Fit n Fast+ clubs will generally have a few extra features than our standard clubs and these differences will vary by location. Currently there are two of these: one at Five Dock and the other in Westfield Sydney, however we are sure a few more will pop up along the way.
Do you have any specific strategies to assist member retention?
This remains one of the great unanswered questions in our industry. Even the most experienced operators scratch their head over it. We are always looking at new ways to improve retention and one size doesn’t fit all members, so we believe a combination of the right selling process at the front end, the right new member integration to ensure members reach their goals, a good service model in the middle and an easy and flexible exit option are the areas that must be focused on constantly.
When people – both fitness professionals and gym members – think about Fit n Fast, what associations would you like to come to mind?
Cheaper, better, faster, friendlier, non-intimidating, accessible, comfortable and the best gym option out there.