How to be an innovator in your industry

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If you’ve always thought that all gyms are pretty much of a muchness then it’s time you pulled on your sweats and took a closer look. The worldwide fitness industry is actually quite a diverse beast and has become increasingly competitive in a bid to lure new customers.

Gyms now feature cryotherapy chambers to boost your metabolism, heated Bikram yoga rooms to boost circulation, trampolining classes to improve agility, and de-oxygenated “altitude training rooms” to increase your red blood cell count and performance.

One man who’s passionate about innovation in the fitness sphere is Brisbane-based entrepreneur Tim West. Tim, 35, is the founder and managing director of 12Round Fitness (12RND), a unique new fitness format causing a stir across Australia. Even though the group only started Franchising in January, there are already 10 12RND clubs open across Queensland and New South Wales. Another 19 sites have been confirmed and will roll out over the next six months including five in Victoria.

Each 12RND club is a purpose-built boxing and functional strength training facility, designed to deliver workouts created around the format of a 12-round boxing contest. They combine boxing skills and drills with functional strength and sports-based cardio exercises within a 45-minute circuit.

However, what really sets 12RND apart is its ‘no fixed start times’.

“Traditional fitness classes times are scheduled and have a limited capacity,” explains Tim. “If someone doesn’t turn up to class, or is late, their empty space is wasted, as gyms usually won’t let someone join a class once it’s begun. This issue of ‘latent capacity’ or a ‘lost sale’ is usually passed onto customers through higher prices.”

1At a 12RND gym you can turn up any time during the opening hours and join a circuit already in motion. So you might arrive at 4.20pm and be able to start within three minutes. You can start at any round and all workouts are designed to be a full body strength session and at the same time target each of your primary energy systems. This means that even if you only get one in per week you won’t miss anything. You can stay for the whole circuit or leave early. Each gym is significantly smaller than a traditional gym, so costs less to run, and can accommodate up to 350 people.

As someone with 17 years’ experience in the fitness industry, Tim, a former personal trainer and gym owner, wanted to solve the problem of scheduling and latent capacity once and for all.

“I’d say over 50 per cent of complaints at a traditional gym are to do with class schedules,” says Tim.

“You simply can’t make people happy with it! If you schedule a class at one time, suddenly the mums can’t train after the school drop off or maybe 9 to 5 workers can’t make another time. The problem had been weighing on my mind for years so I began researching what was working for gyms here and abroad.”

Tim identified that two companies were getting certain aspects more right than others. “One Australian company was having success with high intensity interval training classes despite their fixed class times. Another US business was doing well with their kickboxing circuit using a ‘no start time’ model.

“So I combined the best of these two concepts to create my own unique concept – a high intensity interval training boxing circuit with no start times which maximises returns for the owner and keeps membership costs down for the customer. The timing was right because the industry has moved away from ‘big box’ gyms [everything for everyone] and ‘24/7’ gyms [convenient and affordable] and are now seeing more boutique fitness gyms focusing on relationships and results.”

Tim’s idea captivated investors immediately including world boxing champion Danny Green. “All the science backs up the notion that boxing training is a highly effective work out,” Tim says. “Plus it’s heaps of fun! It actually engages a huge number of women as well as men.”

As a born innovator, Tim has been behind some of the most creative ventures in the Australian fitness industry. In 2002 aged just 22, he developed a personal training program available through SMS, long before smart phones. In 2008 he bought three of the first Jets 24/7 around-the-clock gyms in Australia and launched the second one in Brisbane. Then in 2011 he created an online system where personal trainers could book clients and arrange payment online.

“I think innovation is the only way products evolve to be relevant to the market,” he says. “There are umpteen examples of industry leaders failing because they failed to innovate. You need to innovate if you want to lengthen the life cycle of your business.”

2With that in mind, here are Tim’s tips for innovating – in any industry.

#1. Immerse yourself in research in local and international markets

“When developing each of my businesses I read everything I could about the subject,” says Tim. “I studied reports, subscribed to blogs, bought magazines, looked online, identified industry leaders, and followed experts on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. By understanding what’s already worked or failed, suddenly gaps might start to appear where you can step in with an idea.”

#2. Understand both your direct and indirect competitors

“By understanding where you fit into the competitive landscape you can strategically position your business within it, and effectively market your core value propositions to potential customers. This also applies whether someone has a similar product to you or not because you want to capture all customers in your industry, not just some. Even if someone prefers a yoga studio over a 12RND gym, it’s worth considering the needs of that indirect customer because they’re still in your wider market. Is there a way of providing something that may lure them away from their original choice?”

#3. Get feedback from the very best people in your field 

“To solidify your idea reach out to qualified, reputable people. If you’re trying to get great feedback, forget about being cagey about your idea – I use full disclosure. I fortunately had friends who had a connection to Danny Green, so I felt comfortable approaching him for advice. His belief in my idea allowed me to take the business to the next level. Before approaching someone see if you already have a connection to them through your existing networks including LinkedIn or Facebook. If you don’t, it’s still worth contacting them.”

#4. Plan but be flexible

“One of my favourite quotes from US entrepreneur and academic Steve Blank who says, ‘no business plan survives first contact with a customer completely intact’. In other words, you need to plan to adapt to customer feedback. Once you develop an idea, test it as soon as possible, learn from the feedback and adapt the business model or idea.”

#5. Know your industry cycle 

“Understand where your business sits in the cycle – whether it’s in a start, growth, maturity or end phase. Is your idea so fresh that it’s firmly in the start phase? Or are you locking into something that’s been around for a while so it’s in the mature or end phase? Businesses in these latter phases don’t necessarily disappear, they just might not grow very fast.”

Ultimately Tim says innovation in business is the equivalent of evolution in biology. “You try things and build on the successes and let go of the failures,” he says. “Our aim was to provide the most convenient, results-driven product in the world and people

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