A Clarity of Purpose for IHRSA & the Fitness Industry

Bill Davis, CEO of ABC Fitness Solutions and chair of the Industry Partner Advisory Council, tells us what he hopes to accomplish as a representative on the IHRSA Board of Directors.

  • January 04, 2023

In a bold move last October, the IHRSA Board, led by Chair Chris Craytor, approved a motion to open up three new seats—one each from the National Health & Fitness Alliance, the Global Health & Fitness Alliance (GHFA), and the Industry Partner Advisory Council (IPAC). While each group is eligible to name a representative to the IHRSA Board, the final decision is dependent on full board approval.

Spearheading the decision to allow these new voices to join IHRSA’s leadership was IHRSA President & CEO Liz Clark, who feels that more diverse voices strengthen the association’s ability to accomplish its objectives.

Representing the IPAC on the IHRSA Board is Bill Davis, CEO of ABC Fitness Solutions. As chair of the nine-member group, Bill is responsible for bringing a strategic vision from the viewpoint of industry suppliers. Formerly CFO of Paycore, Inc., and previously serving as CFO for other major firms, Bill took on the role of CEO of ABC Fitness Solutions in July 2019, leading it through the worst years of the pandemic.

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We recently caught up with Bill to ask him how he views his role on the Board and what he believes should be IHRSA’s priorities from an industry partner perspective.

CBI: Why was it important for you to join the IPAC?

Bill Davis: My primary motivation for joining was to be an active voice in encouraging all industry partners, regardless of what they provide, to participate more holistically in IHRSA's mission. I believe IHRSA has a responsibility to come forward with very clear, concise expectations of what they will do for the industry, especially in the context of a realistic assessment of the resources they have available both in monetary terms and human capital.

IHRSA was hit hard through the pandemic and had to make some tough choices. There has to be some recognition of that and support has to be given to really bolster IHRSA to where it's providing the impact that it's capable of providing.

CBI: What do you think should be the priority of the Board right now?

BD: It starts and ends with a concise articulation of where IHRSA wants to focus its resources over the next three to five years. IHRSA needs a clarity of purpose, whether that's focusing its attention on advocacy work, deciding what the next generation of the IHRSA Convention & Trade Show entails, or what types of educational and/or insight experiences IHRSA can afford to give its members.

There's a lot that IHRSA can decide in terms of its prioritization, but I think that declaration is critically important. Are these priorities unequivocally aligned to stated strategies and commitments to the marketplace?

At the moment, IHRSA is attempting to do a lot with limited resources. A greater level of support from the industry as a whole can elevate IHRSA to a place where it could have a positive influence on an industry that, quite honestly, needs leadership like IHRSA's capable of providing.

CBI: Where does advocacy fit into this “clarity of purpose?”

BD: I think it's big. Make no mistake, the industry was left behind in the pandemic. Liz talks a lot about those industries that arguably have a less profound effect on the wellness of the world's population garnering more support than the fitness industry received, and this led to the realization that we were not well positioned from an advocacy perspective.

Liz was brought in with a very clear understanding of her strengths in that area, and it's incumbent on us to find a way to capitalize on that as much as we possibly can. But that, unto itself, necessitates real funding. It's not just simply walking the halls of Capitol Hill, it has to be reinforced by a PAC that has real substance behind it. I’m optimistic that we can garner strong support for that.

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CBI: Do other industry suppliers feel that, too? Are they ready to commit?

BD: Liz has done a phenomenal job rekindling support that may have waned in the past, but that's largely been prioritized towards the operators first—I think appropriately. She is leaning on me and the Industry Partner Advisory Council to do the same.

Are we seeing that manifest itself in a similar way? I'd say not yet, to be totally honest with you, but there's a lot of critical assessment going on under the auspices of return on investment. These companies are making tough choices in terms of their overall cost profile due to inflation concerns and the risk of recession.

“With a clarity of purpose of how IHRSA will produce a tangible return for industry partners, I think that support from them will come. I absolutely believe that.”

CBI: Does your voice on the Board help to supercharge that effort?

BD: The appointment has garnered a lot of excitement. I've had numerous conversations around the notion that everyone is starting to recognize the value and contributions that we make to the industry that we support. The fear that there might be personal motivation or company-specific motivation while serving on the Board has lessened dramatically. I have attended only one IHRSA Board meeting now, and I was afforded numerous opportunities to contribute over the course of five or six hours of interaction. My input was very much sought after, and I felt that I had an opportunity to be a positive influence in the dialogue.

CBI: As the first industry supplier to sit on the Board, do you feel a greater responsibility to make a difference?

BD: Yes. I take on a tremendous sense of responsibility in my inaugural appointment, to demonstrate that having a voice at the table enriches not only the dialogue, but what IHRSA is ultimately capable of doing. A clear measure of that success will be, to your earlier question, the level of support that's garnered from the industry partners themselves over time.

I'm very excited by the opportunity. As a trade association, IHRSA has tremendous potential, and I'm excited to support it as best as I possibly can, not only as a Board Member, but as part of an Industry Partner Advisory Council that is equally motivated to lend their support in advancing IHRSA's causes.