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Richmond Hill's Movati Athletic building success one muscle at a time

One of the most recent business arrivals in Richmond Hill is Movati Athletic — the latest entry in a 15-club chain of Canadian locations. We’re glad they’re here! Their facility is beautiful, they’ve created a lot of local jobs, and they’re big boosters of Richmond Hill.

That’s not why I want to write about them, though.

While taking part in their grand opening and a recent Richmond Hill Board of Trade members event, I had the opportunity to speak with Movati’s leadership team, and I was struck by the business philosophy that underpins their success.

Movati president Joseph Lo says the company started in 1997 with a strong sense of mission: to make members feel welcome, feel comfortable and feel healthy. It was a radical departure from many fitness clubs of the day that appeared exclusively focused on muscles and money.

The culture as created by founder and CEO Chuck Kelly, is based on a “servant leadership philosophy,” where everyone within the organization is focused on the customer — with the first customer being Movati employees.

Movati makes the point by dispensing with the ‘head office’ label. Instead, its corporate headquarters are referred to as the Movati Club Support Centre — serving the front-line employees who are closest to the customer.

An organization is only as good as its team, and Movati makes a point of hiring for “fit and attitude,” says Lo. It’s less a matter of teaching the culture from scratch, says Lo. They need “great people to draw on to feed that culture.” There appears to be significant effort made to grow their leaders from within, and many of the organization’s current crop of managers started from entry-level positions.

Team-building and team growth are cornerstones of Movati’s strategy, but at the end of the day, everything is geared toward members and customer service. When asked what advice he would offer a newer business, Lo said, “Understanding your customer is critically important, but it goes beyond demographics. It goes to a much deeper level, as you ask yourself what job your customer is hiring you to do.

“Second,” Lo says, “figure out how to differentiate yourself from the rest of the market while staying true to your values. Distinguish yourself, rather than trying to be all things to all people.”

To that I’ll just add — we’re looking forward to seeing Movati stretch its differentiation muscles in Richmond Hill in the years ahead.


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