FBA 61: The mindset shift of collaboration and communication over ‘competition’ (in conjunction with The FIT Summit)



Build the foundations of success by collaborating and communicating with others in the fitness industry.

Jack shares his journey and shift in mindset from being wary and nervous around competition to striving for a more united and stronger industry.

Like our friends at The FIT Summit, at the podcast we believe a connected and open industry benefits everyone and it’s our mission to raise the standards of Asia’s fitness industry.









Welcome to the fitness business asia podcast. I am your host, Jack Thomas, and today’s episode is an important one, it’s a topic close to my heart and that is collaboration and communication in the fitness industry, above obsessing over competition.

Today’s episode and topic is in conjunction with The FIT Summit who are holding their biggest b2b event in April 2020 in Singapore. Collaboration and communication are big values of the FIT Summit and the event was founded to build bridges in the fitness industry and to help us build the industry up together, by working together and simply opening up the channels of communication.

If you are looking to network and connect with others in the fitness industry in Asia and beyond, attending the FIT Summit is an absolute must. Their early bird price is running until the end of November so I highly recommend getting a ticket now to save S$400 on the full price.

There will be over 1,000 business owners, managers and investors and I will also be speaking at the event. Full details are at thefitsummit.com, that’s tfs.com and if you’re in the industry and haven’t yet connected with Ross who runs the summit then do reach out, he’s very open to a chat with anyone in the industry here and is building such a strong and positive network in this region.

So, collab and communication are big values of the FIT Summit and also of mine, so that’s where today’s topic comes from and to give you some context, I want to tell you a little more about my journey.

Before I founded BASE, I was working at another studio in Bangkok called The LAB. Now we were one of the first to market in the boutique sector here and it was pretty much just us and one other studio for a year or two. We had a really strong business, a great offering and we were drawing a lot of attention. Now in any industry anywhere in the world, if you’re doing well, someone else is going to come along and do something similar. That is how the world and a free market works.

Now I have to admit that at first this made me nervous. I thought that if another studio opened up it would split the market in two. I thought that a customer for another studio meant one less customer for us.

Over time, I started to see competition in a different light. Even as other studios and gyms opened up, we continued to do well and although some of our customers would try other gyms, we would get more customers through the door. It was the start of a real industry being born and developing. Other gyms would open and put money and energy into marketing themselves, this would bring more people into the industry and this was an opportunity for us to benefit from a larger market.

A big class aggregator then came in called Guavapass, which was basically a carbon copy of ClassPass in the US. Most of you are probably familiar with the model, but if not then the way it works is that Guavapass would negotiate deals with the studios to pay them a set rate per class per person and then they would list each studios classes on their app in an unlimited class model, but limited to 3 visits per studio. The consumer, rather than buying classes at each gym, could buy Guavapass’s monthly pass and then visit different gyms.

This was a big disruptor in the industry and many gym owners resented the effect it had on the market. Some gym operators didn’t like it that rather than customers buying drop ins or packages with studios, many were now visiting the gyms through Guavapass and the studios were getting paid less per person.

Now there’s two ways gyms would view this: one, is that Guavapass has come in and is taking away customers that used to buy packages and drop ins, and also encouraging people to visit multiple studios. Often, and somewhat bizarrely, this would cause gyms to even resent the customers that came through the door on the Guavapass platform.

The other way to view this market disruptor is to value the huge amount of brand new customers they were bringing into your gym or studio. Guavapass did cheap deals, spent a lot of money on marketing and brought a ton of new people into the boutique fitness industry, people that otherwise would never have even thought about going to a yoga class, or a HIIT class.

With each of these new people the gym had a great chance to win over a new customer and with great service and a great offering, could perhaps turn them into a long term client.

Rather than viewing Guavapass as the enemy and even the Guavapass client as the enemy, gyms could view each person through the door as a potential long term client and someone to win over. In my opinion, it was the gyms and studio that viewed it in this way that stood the test of time.

So, in summary, competition and market disruptors were rampant, BUT the industry was bigger and more vibrant than it had ever been. Some people looked around and said that the market was saturated, there was too much competition but to me, it couldn’t have been a more exciting time and represented a huge amount of opportunity.

It was then, almost four years ago that I left my position at the LAB to start working on BASE.

After working as part of a big team and being a part of the LAB for 4 years since its inception, I was out on my own and to be honest, the time between leaving the LAB and setting up BASE was an exciting but lonely time.

I wanted to meet other people who were in my position – founders, business owners, people who I could relate to, who could perhaps give me some advice on my journey and people who would be allies down the road.

I’d reframed in my mind what it meant to have ‘competition’ and welcomed other offerings as being part of a vibrant, exciting and growing industry.

So I started reaching out to other business owners in Bangkok and made some great friendships in the industry such as Physique 57 here which is a barre studio franchise and Training Ground, which is a CrossFit box here in Bangkok. Some people were more open than others but overall I had some great conversations and made connections that turned out to be very valuable down the line.

The Physique 57 contact turned into a lunch or a coffee every few months and a year down the line, we put in a joint bid to take a space in the business district in Bangkok, which was our second location. So that initial contact with another studio operator basically helped us expand from one to two locations after a year.

As BASE grew, it wasn’t always easy to connect with business owners here and the industry was still quite young here in Bangkok with not many big players. We had some strong relationships but I made a decision to start connecting with founders, CEOs and business owners from around Asia.

In many ways this was easier than Bangkok. People from other countries didn’t view me as a threat or with suspicion and I put myself out there at events and made some great friends.

These friendships have helped in so many ways – sometimes it’s been great to have someone to ask help from or to give help to, sometimes it’s led to events, collaborations and partnerships which I’ll talk about in my next episode and often it’s led to great personal friendships.

Two things have happened since then that have helped take this communication and collaboration to the next level.

The first, is this podcast. Through this channel I’ve met some amazing people who’ve candidly shared their stories and thoughts. I have also shared my best advice on how to run a solid fitness business without holding back. I admit, even with my newfound view on competition, it did cross my mind that this podcast may embolden the competition, would help them. But then, what’s wrong with that? Better competition means a better industry, it helps us raise our game and makes the pie bigger for everyone. The fitness industry has so much room for growth in Asia that helping other gyms and studios get better at what they do benefits everyone – including the people that need our services to get fitter and strong.

I often get asked today about the competition listening to this podcast and I honestly hope they do. I haven’t held back with any of my advice and the more people that listen, the closer we’ll get to our mission of a strong, healthy and long-lasting fitness industry here in Asia.

The second thing that helped me connect with people was the FIT Summit. Asia needed a great b2b event to connect business owners, managers, investors or people aspiring to be one of these things and the FIT Summit came along and did things right.

This podcast has been involved with the FIT Summit since its first event earlier this year and it’s helped us connect with so many inspiring people doing big things for the industry.

I’ve learned so much and made so many connections and friends and it’s really helped me take my business, BASE, to the next level. As we look at international expansion we have so many options that are open.

Imagine if, 4 years ago when I was a lonely founder waiting to open my first stuidio, I’d rejected communication and collaboration? I have no doubt in my mind we wouldn’t be where we are today with BASE.

I’ve got a bit carried away here with this story so we’re going to push out the 6 big benefits we’ve got at BASE from collaboration to the next podcast but I hope today has helped to give some context to what it means to have competitors, how a strong market actually helps you if you’re doing things right and how connecting and collaborating with others in the industry is something to be embraced, not viewed with suspicion.

If you are looking to collaborate and connect, join us at The FIT Summit in April in Singapore. You can visit thefitsummit.com for more info, there’s a link to that in the episode notes or reach out to Ross Campbell of the FIT Summit and he’ll be happy to tell you more.

If you know you’re in then make sure you buy your ticket in the next week before the prices shoot up.

I hope today has helped you reframe competition and hopefully you feel inspired to connect with others who are going through the same thing as you.

We’ve had a big spike in downloads the past week which is awesome – thanks so much for listening.

If you know anyone who needs to hear this message, or who needs some help with their fitness business or their business. Perhaps you know a coach who one day aspires to opening a facility – please please share with them this podcast as I think it will be a great help to them on their journey.

That’s it for today – on the next solo podcast we will be continuing with this theme with 6 big benefits that collaboration has brought us at BASE.

Thanks for listening to the FBA podcast, We’ll be back next Monday but until then, have a great week ahead and we’ll catch you next time…

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