Parent company International Fitness Holdings Inc. (IFH) has been operating the fitness brands World Health (WH) and Spa Lady (SL) for over the last 30 years. The World Health brand recently expanded to 21 clubs due to an acquisition of previously-divested properties in Edmonton but performance metrics were not being met. The leadership felt that there was significant historical brand debt related to WH and SL that a merger of the two brands into a new brand, GYMVMT, combined with a massive investment in facility infrastructure and information technology would propel the business forward. This required rapid transformation for the IT service.
IFH approached Sidekick to help lead strategic IT strategy and project management for seven (7) primary projects:
- Network Infrastructure
- CRM / Sales Automation
- Membership Management Software
- Mobile Application
- Technology Rationalization / Merger
This initiative had a six-month window for all deliverables to be in place.
Sidekick knows that when time is limited, being inclusive, managing expectations and decisive delegation are all essential ingredients to a project completion of this magnitude. With only six months available, leaning into partnerships both internally and with third-parties became the order of the day.
Assessing the current environment was eye-opening and baselines were promptly set. The infrastructure had been limping along for years and suffered from underfunding in both talent and hardware. Systems that had been originally put in place hadn’t been upgraded since. Remote locations had variable, unique networks and inventory wasn’t tracked. The relationship established MSPs was sporadic without clearly defined channels. The environment was as close to a complete redo as it could be. Clearly a unified, cloud-based, easy-to-manage and scalable network platform was required.
Immediately we brought in the established MSP, Bulletproof, and got the ball rolling. Having prior experience implementing and moving data centres, we knew gathering network hardware can take a long time to arrive, not to mention implementation during live operations. Thankfully Bulletproof leveraged their relationships and we met with Meraki quickly thereafter.
“When do you need all the gear?”, the sales rep asked. We had decided on a complete firewall, switch, access point redo across 21 locations for future sizing and capability.
“Tuesday”, I replied, knowing how long it could take.
“Seriously? or is that Tuesday next year?”
“Seriously. You should see the timeline on all the other stuff!”
“Ok, we’ll see what we can do”, after a long, long pause on the phone.
Thankfully, to their credit both Meraki and Bulletproof exceeded expectations and delivered on time.
CRM / Sales Automation
Any company that has customers these days must have a modern crm. It’s foundational to customer experience and engagement. Sidekick understands customer experience and lives design-thinking. At the outset, we preferred a generic large provider to enable rapid development and iteration in workflow. However, once realizing the organization preference for industry-specific and integration capabilities to the member management system, Jonas Compete, it quickly became apparent that VFPnext would be appropriate. This solution provided the basis for an upgraded sales experience, allowing for call-centre activity, context per customer and marketing automation capabilities that had not yet been put in place. Integration with the selected member management system was validated and established workflows were assigned to sales leadership.
Due to the dependency of the member management software, launch of this application had to wait till brand launch day. While it did launch on time, on budget, the workflow change management then had to be managed.
Membership Management Software
When Sidekick started the engagement, the MMS Jonas Compete was already selected and negotiated by IFH. This resulted in Sidekick focusing on the operational effectiveness aspects of using the software and determined that the existing desktop hardware across the facilities needed to be upgraded. The MMS was not an industry leading web-based cloud solution but a fitness-industry specific solution and required specific deployment methods, registrations and peripherals to operate.
Sidekick again leveraged Bulletproof to aid in determining hardware inventory, then engaged leadership to determine hardware specifications per operational level. With those hardware tiers established, Sidekick coordinated with Bulletproof to supply prototype hardware for selection, negotiation and purchase. Bulk ordering allowed for higher discount power and ensured shipping time.
Again, the close relationship Sidekick established with the MSP partner Bulletproof ensured the task was delegated and delivered on time and under budget. Across all locations reception computers, management and sales computers, monitors, signature pads were purchased, installed and configured prior to launch. While those items were addressed, Sidekick continued to project coordinate with the MMS to ensure issues were being resolved.
Upon the initial assessment of the existing infrastructure it became apparent that there was no organized hosting methodology or provider. Websites were historically across various local vendors without SLA’s or cost understanding. Nothing had been touched in years. Sidekick has vast experience with Amazon Web Services, and promptly began replatforming operation with AWS.
Sidekick created the initial prototype website within a day for the marketing department to iterate development. Sidekick went further to establish a new relationship with an AWS-certified CSP, Curious Orbit, to implement best-practice architectures to enable continued uptime of the new brand’s online ecommerce platform. All the new web services were designed, securely, under one extendable platform to contain costs and increase capability for the beleaguered IT team.
The marketing department then engaged the agency, BLKWTR, who required access to the prototype. Sidekick managed day-to-day operations of the site as it went through development and upon launch, was responsible for moving into the public new-brand website, gymvmt.com.
The site went live on time with higher performance than IFH had ever experienced, with various third-parties contributing content and capability, all coordinated by Sidekick.
Part of the experience Sidekick brings to bear in engagements is its history with developing web systems quickly and affordably. For IFH, the term “ecommerce” meant a new ability for their customers to configure memberships online and continue to purchase those unbundled memberships (a la carte memberships) within the membership management payment gateway.
Upon initial discovery, Sidekick worked with leadership to first develop a new set of membership plans and pricing to map out the myriad of options available per membership tier. With that information in hand, Sidekick quickly prototyped a customer experience and high fidelity prototype. This working prototype was then coordinated with the marketing department’s digital agency for development and integration into the website. By leveraging existing talent in place on the project, development times were reduced substantially and the initial version was ready for launch ahead of schedule and vastly under budget.
However, no purchase funnel system works perfectly the first time, as assumptions must be tested and refined. Sidekick followed up after a short period to further refine the selection process and streamline purchase logic. With the development relationships already set, the next iteration took merely days to complete.
Within the first month the online membership purchase (ecommerce) system was on track to generating an additional $250,000 additional new revenue for the business per annum. 10x the development cost.
Technology Rationalization / Merger
Companies with long histories like IFH who also haven’t fully embraced technology tend to have multiple legacy systems and hidden costs throughout their operation. Sidekick is fully aware of how this cultural tendency can happen and how complicated it can be to attempt to fix. In the initial assessment, Sidekick mapped out all applications, their connections and integrations and identified all owners per department. This outreach with operational teams helped reduce anxiety and increase collaboration between teams to determine next steps.
Sidekick quickly identified and helped coordinate two quick wins: Avanti HR Cloud to replace and modernize the entire HRIS suite, and migration from legacy accounting software to Sage Cloud. These two fundamental core systems reduced core IT risk in legacy data centres by shifting to the cloud model. This also invigorated operational teams (HR and Finance) to modernize their systems, reduce complexity and also reduce anxiety of system failure. Employees were happy systems were being modernized and capabilities were now available that were impossible before.
In fact, during renegotiation it was discovered that IFH could get far more, for less cost because they were modernizing.
Thankfully, these two systems were in place prior to COVID-19 further allowing staff to work remotely, securely and safely.
A mobile experience is table stakes in today’s B2C customer engagement. IFH had an existing app for their WH brands but it was determined that the 3rd-party app no longer offered a current, modern experience for the customer base. A change was needed. As Sidekick had experience in cloud development and mobile application strategy, we knew that given the timeframe a custom application would be impossible to craft regardless of the money allowed. An existing white-label application was found.
In collaboration with leadership and the marketing department, Sidekick coordinated discussions with Technogym to white-label their application. The app integrates with existing facility workout equipment and provides for Trainer social engagement and messaging with customers. It is extensible and offers a modern facility experience out of the gate. Sidekick coordinated the initial launch, delivery, app store configuration and creative and established internal owners and superusers to ensure smooth operation and engagement far after the end of our engagement.
The mobile app launched in app stores the day prior to launch and has successfully extended with integrations into the MMS so customers can modify the accounts and gain facility access via their phone. This streamlines the customer experience and positions GYMVMT as a modern technology-centric fitness brand.
IFH launched GYMVMT brand on December 4, 2019 with all IT major initiatives initially available, on time and under budget. While many of these projects would have traditionally taken much longer, Sidekick worked with all stakeholders to ensure delivery and performance of their investments. Sidekick’s unique advantage is that it understands the business drivers that make an organization succeed and then addresses the IT challenges to ensure that business success.
Sidekick picked up other projects throughout the engagement, lending valuable expertise, program management and strategic oversight:
- an additional rebrand website created in 1 day
- re-aligning Microsoft software spend
- launching Microsoft Teams to leadership and management across the organization
- transitioning Active Directory to the cloud
- researching, strategizing and implementing gated access within facilities
- coaching, coordinating and managing sales communication workflows
- …and much much more.
Sidekick continues to work with IFH as it addresses the challenges due to COVID-19.