ONE-ON-ONE WITH FRED HOFFMAN
July 1, 2019
Fred Hoffman, the author of “Going Global: An Expert’s Guide to Working Abroad in the International Fitness Industry,” and the recipient of the 2007 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year Award, has been working in the fitness and health industry for more than 30 years. He holds a Masters Degree in Health Education and is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Council on Exercise (ACE). Fred was born in the United States and attended university in Boston, which is also where he began his career, and he has been living in Paris since 1989.
Hoffman is the owner of Fitness Resources, an education and consultancy company that specializes in staff training, professional career development, social media strategies and marketing solutions for health clubs, fitness centers, boutique studios and personal training companies. Fitness Resources also provides expert services accompanying fitness companies with the launch, rollout and international market development for their educational programs and/or products.
He has collaborated with numerous companies and organizations on a variety of diverse projects, including Reebok, the OECD Annual Forum, Sveltus France, BOSU and KeepCool.
Fred Hoffman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
FF: You certainly have been involved in a large number of fitness activities. How did that all come about?
Hoffman: It’s a long story, so here is the abbreviated version. I have been very lucky to have had many opportunities to work internationally. Early in my career I was the fitness consultant for Reebok France and a global master trainer for Reebok International. I had many opportunities to travel internationally, so I was able to learn about what the fitness industry was doing on a global level and at the same time learn about different cultures.
What did that lead to?
I love to teach and to share, so I started to present educational sessions at conferences and conventions and I never looked back. I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Respiratory Therapy and a Masters Degree in Health Education, so I have been able to use my university education throughout my entire career. My interests have evolved and changed over the years and during the past decade I moved towards the professional development side of the industry — consulting and educating on a variety of topics such as management issues, communication, networking, social media and new technologies. These are subjects that interest me and it’s been an enriching transition.
So what’s your focus these days?
My main focus for speaking engagements is talking about the future of the fitness industry and what is essential for businesses to consider for future and continued success. This encompasses many different topics, including education, management strategies, generational issues in the workplace, social media and technology. I also speak to a growing interest in wellness, health coaching and medical fitness.
What are you telling your audiences?
That technology is changing the face of the fitness industry and it is shaking things up at a rapid pace. Big-box health clubs and fitness centers are no longer the norm as there is a lot of non-traditional competition in the industry. This includes boutique studios, the Crossfit model, boot camps, live steaming services, fitness apps, the Apple watch (and others), fitness trackers, chatbots and on and on. I enjoy bringing all of this to industry leaders’ attention and giving recommendations of what I believe is necessary for staying relevant and succeeding during the next few years and beyond.
With that in mind, how would you characterize the state of the fitness business in the United States? What are its strengths and weaknesses?
It is a vibrant industry, but like many others it is going through a lot of change. The Internet and technology, generational differences and economics have all contributed to this, but I think that it is good that we are seeing change. The industry needed to be shaken up a bit — health clubs and fitness centers have been selling memberships and programs the same way for many years. And unfortunately, we are only impacting about 20 percent of the population. So hopefully some of the changes will help to attract and engage the other 80 percent.
What are some of its strengths?
Players in the industry are proposing alternate ways of working out and being active. Many are also partnering with the medical community, allowing them to get to the people who really need to exercise and make lifestyle changes. On a different note, more and more trainers are seeking higher education and certifications, which is helping to elevate the industry on a professional level. This, in turn, is helping to make the industry more credible overall.
How about weaknesses?
Some in the industry are still preaching to the choir, attracting the same 20 percent. Also, the public is not always taking trainers and instructors seriously. This is unfortunate, as there are some incredible fitness professionals who are having a positive impact on a lot of people’s lives. Thus, we need to better educate the general public as to what we actually do, who we are, what education we have and what certifications we hold.
What are some of the unique challenges the industry faces?
One major challenge that I see is the new competition to traditional health clubs. Again, those include steaming services, fitness trackers, smart watches, YouTube, etc. Many operators still do not see them as competition, but they are.
Can we learn from the examples of other industries that have faced the same challenges?
Entrepreneurs from other industries are seeing opportunities that some of our own industry people don’t see and they are coming in with different ideas and proposals. I actually find this a normal situation, but if the existing industry players want to continue and be successful, they need to start making some changes and look outside of the world of fitness. We can learn from other industries, such as the hospitality industry (hotels, spas, etc.), and we should.
Since one of your areas of expertise is employee training, how would you rate the training most fitness clubs provide for their employees?
I am not in a position to rate the training most clubs provide, but what I can say is that I encourage all clubs to provide educational opportunities for their employees. Continuing education keeps employees and staff up to date on the latest trends, programs and products in the fitness industry as well as other areas such as management and communication. Studies show that employees across the generations appreciate opportunities from their employees to learn. I also encourage fitness professionals to go to conferences and trade shows like FIBO to see what is happening in the industry and to network with other professionals.
What could be done to improve that aspect of their businesses?
Education always leads to improvement, but also strategic planning for the next two to three years. It’s difficult to know how the industry will actually be any farther out than that time frame, but we do know that technology is going to continue to impact the industry, so we need to be educated and prepared for changes and managers need to budget appropriately.
How important is social media to fitness clubs and what kind of investment does it take to have a significant social media presence in this environment?
Social media is extremely important for fitness clubs. Social media is a great way to market and communicate, but I highly recommend that clubs create a clear strategy for their social media and to manage it properly.
What does that entail?
To have a significant social media presence there is a need for investment. That does not necessarily mean a financial investment, but a time element as well. That is why I recommend having a clear strategy with specific goals and measured outcomes. Having a dedicated person or staff for social media is important as well — despite the size and scope of the club.
What one piece of advice would you give to the typical club owner or trainer on how to be better – and make more money – in the fitness business?
Quite simply, invest in your staff’s education and the club’s infrastructure. Learn from other industries and don’t stay complacent.
Finally, in what direction do you see the fitness business in the U.S. headed in 2020 and beyond? Where are the growth opportunities and how do we take advantage of them?
I do believe that it is going to continue to grow. That is a good thing and should be encouraging for professionals in the industry. Growth opportunities abound, but I see the following areas as ones which will see significant growth and change — technology-based programs, a growing aging population, health coaching, professional certifications, more emphasis on nutrition and just getting people moving more.
What role do you see FIBO USA playing in the U.S. fitness business in 2019 and beyond?
FIBO USA can provide opportunities for fitness professionals to learn new programs and learn about new products and services and it is a great networking opportunity. It will also allow fitness enthusiasts to learn about and experience more fitness modalities. Lastly, I believe that FIBO USA can also attract people who don’t normally work out to explore and learn about the fitness industry at large and hopefully interest them in participating in a fitness program.