13 Aug Episode #283: Bobby Verdun, CEO, Active Entities
Pete Moore: This is Pete Moore on HALO Talks NYC. I have the pleasure of having Bobby Verdun coming from Marblehead, Massachusetts industry consultant, veteran expert in independence, big boxes and helping chart out the future of fitness. Bobby, welcome to the HALO Talks!
Bobby Verdun: Thanks. It’s great to be here.
Pete Moore: So why don’t you start off giving us some of your background as a, as a coach and in team athletics, and then kind of walk us through your history and then we’ll talk about some of the trends in the industry and some of the top things that you’re parachuting in to clubs to help them with.
Bobby Verdun: Thanks. Yeah, you know, I was a I was, you know, always the, the smallest and least athletic person on the court, whether it was basketball or tennis. And my only skill is competing. I love to compete. And athletics kind of kept me on the straight and narrow and grew up in Brooklyn, went to prep school here in the Boston area. One of going to Franklin Pierce and I was involved in the basketball program and the tennis programs there tried my hand at playing some professional tournaments after college and quickly learned that, you know, I can’t compete in any close to that level, got into coaching was on a path to, to coach professionally and my wife got pregnant and that was, it got out of coaching and wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I started my career coaching in the Boston area, Steve Goldman who’s the owner of Weymouth was building a club in Canton and said, Hey, let me use your name. I’ll teach you the business. And that’s how I got involved with it.
Pete Moore: Got it. So, you know, as you’ve seen big boxes kind of go in and out of favor kind of view some of the smaller boutique operators as manual weapons of mass destruction, taking a couple of members here, taking a couple members there. I think the pandemic has probably shifted the weight back to bigger boxes that have more square footage, ability to repurpose that space. Maybe find out what some of the trends are locally that people like and then integrate them into an old racquetball court or re re package a basketball court, or what have you. So what are some of the positive initiatives you’ve seen deployed over the last six to 12 months? And what’s your view on the future of an independent big box?
Bobby Verdun: Yeah. You know, when something good always comes out of something, right. And out of this pandemic, I think we learned a lot about ourselves as an industry, a lot of our shortcomings. I mean, when you get grouped with casinos that tells you where we’re at as far as profitability. And when it first happened, you know, we started to get a ton of phone calls from people desperate saying, what do we do? Because people were saying, keep open, stay open at all costs. While if your lifetime you can stay open because you can lose a billion dollars and still be okay, but the guy down the street, he couldn’t stay open. So the first thing we did was we looked into ways that we could, could we open in an affordable way. And the first thing we talked about was reusing space in a different way, altogether, coming up with savings for cleaning products, for clubs we found loopholes in the law that enabled our clubs to not only stay with insurance because the number of uses weren’t weren’t happening anymore.
Bobby Verdun: But also there were a lot of things out there that they could go back to their landlords and say, look, I can only open part-time because of laws telling me I can only park open part-time. So what do you go with that you, you take those lessons learned and you continue with them to grow in a way that’s going to hopefully bring credibility to the industry. Medical fitness, I think, is going to be a huge, huge opportunity how we can bridge on not only after surgery, but pre-surgery opportunities, but you need space to do that. Even in the small gyms and you have to get creative, and I think that’s what we’re seeing.
Pete Moore: So let’s focus on this medical fitness, cause I’ve only been in the industry since 1999, and we’ve been trying to crack this code. I know that there was a company called Genovics trying to do something. I know that there are a number of number of hospital groups that, you know, they’re all in. And then, you know, three years later they haven’t gotten their act together on actually partnering up with commercial clubs. So is the, is the time finally now? And is there a model that you can point to that says this group’s done it it showed success.