Health Club Management June 2017

Page 28

PRO F I L E

NIKOLAY PRYANISHNIKOV The CEO of Russian fitness operator World Class talks to Kate Cracknell about its Moscow stronghold, 50 per cent PT revenues, and new boutique and low-cost ventures When, and why, did you join World Class? I joined World Class in September 2015 – from a background in telecommunications and IT – when I was headhunted on behalf of Russian Fitness Group, which owns the World Class health club chain. I’ve always loved managing people and I was drawn to the energy of the fitness sector. It’s such a fantastic industry – we help people become healthier, more successful, with improved physical appearance and selfesteem. It’s hard to think of a better job.

Can you give us an overview of the World Class business? World Class has been operating in Russia for 24 years and currently has 82 clubs: 74 in Russia, five in Kazakhstan and one each in Kyrgyzstan, Belarus and Monaco. We’re also finalising the details for a club in Dubai, and we’re looking at opening clubs in Georgia. We focus on areas where there are already a lot of Russian speakers. The majority of our clubs are large, premium, full-service facilities. They all have big gyms – up to – plus group exercise studios and functional training zones. Most have a large swimming pool and spa, and many also have a kids’ area. In fact, we have various different club models operating under the World Class brand – luxury, premium, business – but they’re all high-end if you benchmark them against clubs in other markets around the world. Membership is on average US$1,000 a year. We also have four boutique studios in Moscow: Mind & Body Studio by World Class opened in the centre of the city in February 2017, and we also have our Dance Studio. In addition, we have boutique Cycle and HIIT studios within our new club in the Metropolis shopping mall. We’ll open more boutique sites if these go well. Half of our clubs are corporately owned; the other half are franchised.

What are the USPs of World Class versus the competition? Perhaps our most valuable asset, having been in the market for a long time, is the extensive experience embodied in our team – experience in operating health clubs, but also in attracting, developing and retaining the very best staff. In line with this, we have a new development programme, launched a year ago, where we’re training 40 great managers of the future. 28

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Pryanishnikov: ‘It’s hard to think of a better job’ than the fitness business

We also place a lot of emphasis on building an aspirational community. Our members are young, healthy, successful – and others want to be part of it. Customer service is also key for us – finding ways to become closer to our members. We recently reclassified reception as a ‘service desk’, and in the process, we redefined the role of the staff working on that desk. They’re now empowered to help members with anything they need. Initiatives such as this have had a huge impact on attrition, which has dropped from 30 per cent to 22 per cent across the company since I came on-board. Technology has also been incorporated into this customer service strategy. For example, there’s an


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