Fitness pays off Scott Penn From: The Australian November 22, 2010 http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/features/fitness-pays-off/story-e6frgabx-1225958388582 I ALWAYS had an entrepreneurial spirit. When I was 10 or 11, growing up in St Ives, Sydney, I knocked on doors to see if anyone needed odd jobs done. I did the lemonade stand, a milk run, a paper run and delivered pamphlets. I worked at Woolies as a check-out chap all through high school. By Year 12 I was the check-out superviser. IÃ¢Â€Â™m passionate about helping people. I really enjoyed retail and I had my regulars. IÃ¢Â€Â™d have people waiting for me even if there was no one in line at other check-outs. I didnÃ¢Â€Â™t want to just stand there punching groceries through. I would ask them how they were, about their family. We built up a relationship. Communicating with people is a key interest of mine. When I left school I was offered two cadetships Ã¢Â€Â“ one at an advertising firm and another in accounting. I thought accountants made money, so I enrolled in university. After three months I thought: Ã¢Â€ÂœThis isnÃ¢Â€Â™t for me.Ã¢Â€Â Fortunately, the ad agency, George Patterson, had not filled the vacancy, so they offered it to me. I was there five years. My parents, Rick and Heather, pioneered aerobic dancing classes in Australia in 1980, so we were heavily involved in the fitness industry. In 1989 Dad bought a minority shareholding in Weight Watchers Australia, so I became marketing manager. I was an overweight teenager and went to my first WW meeting when I was 13, so there was personal empathy there. The business did very well. In 1999, we sold to a private equity group out of New York. That was quite lucrative. I stayed on as a global vice-president, looking after the Asia-Pacific for six years. In 2005 they wanted me to move to New York, but I was in New York every eight weeks for a week. IÃ¢Â€Â™d done 35 trips in six years and I had young kids, so it was time to make a change. About then the family got involved in the Manly Sea Eagles rugby league club. We took an equal majority shareholding and bought the surf business Aloha. But I had a Ã¢Â€Âœnon-competeÃ¢Â€Â obligation in the health and fitness sector for a year. So I did a lot of thinking about how I would get back into what really was my passion. The only way, in terms of having mass reach and distribution, was to go online. In 2006 SP Health was born. It started with two of us and now there are 20 staff. We have strong relationships with the television show The Biggest Loser. We have the online club business in Australia and 17 nations in Asia and we launched in Britain last month. I looked at The Biggest Loser as a brand and thought there had to be an opportunity for a range of products around the brand. I had a strong meeting of minds with Carl Fennessy, then CEO of FremantleMedia [which produces the program]. I think we are pretty good at delivering really fine products and services with a strong philosophy and overarching brand. So weÃ¢Â€Â™ve done the legwork and theyÃ¢Â€Â™ve overseen it and it has been a terrific success. We pitched for the US business last year, but couldnÃ¢Â€Â™t unwind the existing relationship. Now we have launched Fitness First online. ItÃ¢Â€Â™s primarily focused on giving people the tools they need to manage their fitness in a personalised 12-week program. A personal trainer can monitor online what you do and send notes. ItÃ¢Â€Â™s cutting-edge. It complements face-to-face programs with solid data. Some deals havenÃ¢Â€Â™t worked out while others have worked out even better than expected. The British deal we just did we had walked away from 18 months ago because we didnÃ¢Â€Â™t think there was enough in it. When they came back to us, we were in a better position. But weÃ¢Â€Â™ve probably had to concede more. I have worked with a business coach for about 10 years. In terms of helping to frame long-term goals and objectives he has been terrific. Entrepreneurs tend to get excited about things all the time and itÃ¢Â€Â™s really important to stay focused. My wife, Nicola, runs Aloha. I wouldnÃ¢Â€Â™t be where I am without her as a sounding board. Having her as my conscience is a definite advantage. Your family says things no one else will. - as told to Lyndall Crisp.