Ray Algar delivers talk at Portugal Active Congress 2021

On October 22 I was invited to deliver a talk to members of the Portuguese health and physical activity industry as part of their annual congress. This year’s theme was how individual entrepreneurs and businesses can begin recovering from the pandemic. The title of my talk was: Navigating your business through the pandemic, but to where?

The idea that I put forward was that now is the perfect time to begin to reflect on the purpose and mission of a business as it emerged from and survived the worst of the pandemic. Portugal is facing some significant demographic changes over the coming decades with large forecasted declines in its population as well as a smaller population radically ageing. I argued that it needed to start looking for consumers who have not historically thought of themselves as exercisers and users of gyms. Also that these businesses should begin to think clearly about how effectively they are set up to help people change their lives through physical activity and better health and if they have the measurement systems to demonstrate their efficacy.

Introduction to my talk

A few years ago, I was at a family and friends party and got speaking to a British Airways (BA) pilot. We began discussing pilot training during an emergency. With their adrenalin pumping and numerous calls on their attention, what is the pilot’s immediate priority to ensure the safety of passengers? It turns out that pilots follow the mnemonic A-N-C – Aviate, Navigate, Communicate.  First, they ‘Aviate’ which means keeping the plane and all passengers safe by checking airspeed and altitude because communication does not matter if you are about to fly into the side of a mountain. Only when the plane is safe, do they ‘Navigate’ their position and set a course. It’s at this point they ‘Communicate.’

Aviate, Navigate, Communicate (A-N-C) — Eastern Air Lines Flight 401

A famous example of a failure to follow A-N-C happened in 1972 with the crash of Flight 401 en-route from New York to Miami. The experienced four-person crew was single-mindedly focused on the malfunction of a $5 landing gear position indicator light bulb while the plane descended and crashed into the Florida Everglades killing 101 people. There is an important lesson here from the aviation industry for fitness industry business leaders. The majority of businesses have successfully ‘aviated’ through the pandemic — they have avoided ‘flying into the mountain’, but now the focus moves to ‘navigating’ their business to a future position where customers can be profitably served and supported.

Navigating the fitness and exercise industry ecosystem

We should all be very aware that how people can access and ‘consume’ exercise has dramatically changed over the past decade which is shifting power and influence from providers to customers. For example. 71,000 new health and fitness apps were launched in 2020 according to a report from App Annie. Yes, competition between clubs still exists, but increasingly consumers are looking beyond a single place or solution and so the question that should now be asked is: “how can my business continue playing a valued role in this person’s life?”

Some of the world’s largest technology companies are also, directly and indirectly, involved from Apple with their new Fitness+ instructor-led platform for €93 per year (for up to five family members) and Netflix whose mission is to win an ever-greater share of a person’s disposable time – more time spent watching Netflix normally means less time spent exercising. So, the message here is that consumers have an abundant choice and you and your business must be razor-sharp in understanding what your members are looking to accomplish at your club.

My talk is below with Portuguese text.

Swing short film — Estaban Azuela

The beautiful film on slide 37 can be viewed using this link:

Navigating your business Ray Algar Portugal Active Congress 2021