LEADING IT OUT
by Sarah Shortt
You’ve had a massive career with Nike, as well as with New Zealand tech giant Spark. What attracted you to Les Mills?
I wanted to get back into something that was a passion… sport and fitness have always been important in my life, so that’s what spoke loudest about joining the Tribe.
If someone asks me what gets me out of bed in the morning, my answer – and what I feel passionate about is – “people”. I really feel strongly about playing a part in helping people to achieve their dreams, to be happy and to be their best. A huge part of this is about understanding that we all have a role to play.
I had my own retail business for many years in New Zealand, and after doing that I moved to Europe where I began a nine-year career with Nike. There I had a range of roles from sales, to retail, to marketing, General Manager roles, with time in both global and local market positions. It was an amazing opportunity to learn how one of the world’s strongest brands wins. However one of the key reasons I joined Les Mills was to work with and learn from Phillip. And over the past year, since joining the team, I’ve come to properly appreciate why we call us the Tribe.
Something that really helped hit this home for me was when I signed up with a few of my team mates to do my LES MILLS GRIT Initial Module Training. It was an amazing experience, that taught me just how hard our Instructors work, how refined our programs are, how strong our training is, and the positive impact it can have on one’s life.
In the new Advanced Training course, we talk about becoming fitness leaders. Can you tell us what leadership means to you?
What I have come to realize is that we are very clearly a company based on leadership. Leadership that inspires others and gets results.
My colleagues on the senior team have all agreed on the way we need to work together moving forward, because functionally we are strong, but collectively we know we must be more united and more coordinated in how we show up, to lead this amazing business into tomorrow.
So it’s about collective leadership and when we get this right – and I am positive we can – it will mean we not only empower people to be the best they can be, but we help them grow and develop, giving them the confidence to achieve their goals. Collective leadership requires everyone to take responsibility for moving this Tribe forward. We all play a role.
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room… should Instructors be worried about the threat of digital classes?
I don’t believe so, because LIVE will always be the pinnacle… in our industry, Instructors build relationships and that’s what people want… we are social animals and human connection is what we crave. So when we get this right and we help deliver an integrated fitness solution… we will help grow the industry.
This is important because we know that 85% of all people who are members of a gym also train and workout at home. That’s why accelerating our Les Mills On Demand (LMOD) business and building a strong consumer brand is something we are doing now with urgency. We need to drive massive demand for our brand and products through LMOD in order to win, and to compete in this industry of ours that is changing fast. It’s not a choice, and when we do this, it supports our core business.
I know that some people are anxious that digital fitness will take people out of our gyms, but I don’t agree – and the numbers don’t say that either. I think you only need to look to the music industry to see where this might go – where live attendance at gigs and festivals is at an all-time high, despite everyone having a digital music subscription.
Why? Because like I have said, LIVE is the pinnacle. You can’t beat the thrill and exhilaration of a live class. That’s why as a key priority we are building out our Instructor brand this year with a big focus on our new Advanced Training course, which we would like to build into the gold standard of Instructor training.
Why should we all embrace change?
Because we can’t afford to stand still. Our industry is in the throes of being disrupted. We’re not alone in that though because what industry hasn’t been? But what if we choose to be the disrupters, not the disrupted, because that’s what Les Mills has always been, right? It’s what we do… and it’s how we continue to WIN.
We also know that as a business, helping our club partners create the “club of the future” is something they are looking to us to help with. It’s about helping them future-proof their businesses, and while people are central to that success, technology will also play a role in helping them move beyond their four walls. This is something they must do in order to stay relevant and to win in the club business, and it’s where we need to play a key role.
What does the next 50 years look like?
I believe it’s about making the choice to lead and not to follow. This is a future where we will be constantly developing the best content, pushing what we are doing today to new heights, and continuing to create the most compelling fitness experiences, led by the world’s best Instructors, to collectively help take the industry and our club partners forward.
As you know, one of our big company goals is to become a Top 10 Fitness Brand – and let’s be honest with ourselves, that is a big challenge, and a big step from where we are today, but I really believe it is there for the taking, and it’s ours to achieve together.
We have an amazing 50 year history, but what’s clear to me is that as a business we must continue to evolve. We have a strong platform to build on, and with a championship winning team that has clarity on our plan and what it is we need to achieve, I feel very excited about the future. How we choose to show up and influence and inspire those around us is massive – which means choosing to lead by example, having a growth mindset, and acting as leaders, every single day.