Ellen Berg is Co-Founder and CEO of NonStop Gym SA, an innovative chain of sports clubs with 17 sites throughout Switzerland. She launched her career at a major player within the consumer goods industry before deciding to follow an entrepreneurial path. Ellen Berg holds a Master of Science in Industrial Engineering and Management from Chalmers University of Technology and also studied Management and Economics of Innovation at ETH Zürich.
Watch an extract from the interview
How has this crisis affected your growth strategy?
We opened our first club in January 2014 and have grown rapidly since. Not being able to take on new members affects our growth strategy as all of our revenues are linked to memberships. We made a choice not to invoice a single member during lockdown. We were down to zero revenue, which of course was very, very tough. But it’s short term, hopefully not long term. Our priority is to get the existing clubs back and ensure our members feel safe. After that we’ll work on bringing the concept to more people with well-placed new locations.
How do you feel about the future prospects for your industry and your company?
Things are tough for everyone in fitness right now. But we’re operating in an industry that’s becoming increasingly relevant for more people. Long term, this crisis is an opportunity to capitalize on people’s renewed health focus and welcome new members to NonStop Gym when they’re ready. We offer top-quality training at a great price and we’re open 24/7. I think cost will be even more relevant for people as the economic effects of the crisis unfold. And many people will also be more flexible. We’re seeing it already. More people are working from home so they have more flexibility to squeeze in training. Before, we used to have clear peaks – morning, lunch, after work – and now it’s more evenly spaced throughout the day.
We also want to develop our concept to make our training more interesting, inspiring and motivating. That’s something we can do both at the clubs, but also via online tools, for example by offering digital training support. This can continue even during coronavirus times and we’re working on a training app to support people outside of the gym space.
Would you say the crisis is also an opportunity?
At the moment, we’re caught up in the day-to-day of getting through this second closedown so it’s hard to see the positive, but of course there is a bright side. For us as an organization, it’s boosted our team spirit, we’re even closer and stronger than before. It challenges us to improve our concept, especially in the area of COVID-19 safety and security. I’ve also seen some positives for my industry as a community. We share a mission to get more people in Switzerland to work out and stay healthy. I’m not originally from the industry and this has been a great chance to discuss with peers for the good of the industry overall and I’ve enjoyed that exchange. On a personal level, and on a member level, the lockdown was surely tough, but it also pushed us to explore new habits. I’m a big fan of testing new kinds of training and finding what fits.
This has been a great chance to discuss with peers for the good of the industry overall.
Last thoughts – does a crisis like this change your outlook?
Yes, it changes your mindset. I, like many, have gone through different phases. At the beginning, I felt shock at our perfect plan being totally messed up. But it shifted quickly into a sense of gratitude that everyone’s healthy, and that we still have a business. The shock of having the business plan ruined was replaced by a new type of motivation, one of humbleness and of gratitude for working in an industry I find incredibly meaningful and a concept I believe in. That’s the basis for developing a new business plan. Overall, I think this crisis will have some positive effects on helping people get a better work-life balance.
The shock of having the business plan ruined was replaced by a new type of motivation, one of humbleness and gratitude.
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