Since she was young, Swedish entrepreneur Annie Fältman has proactively, and persistently, pursued her career path of choice. At 16, she started her first fitness business—teaching group classes and courses for spinning instructors—and today she owns and operates four 360 Träningscenter clubs.
Fältman understood the importance of professional development, and appreciated the special value of attending The IHRSA Institute, held each year at the Kenan-Flagler Business School, at the University of North Carolina (UNC), in Chapel Hill. Undeterred by the distance or financial burden involved in traveling from Sweden to the U.S., she applied for and was awarded the John McCarthy Merit Scholarship.
The scholarship made it possible for her to attend the 2018 session of The Institute.
“I’m very proud and honored to have received this scholarship!” says Fältman, who holds a degree in physiotherapy. “The Institute represents a unique opportunity to learn and network with the greatest leaders in the global fitness industry.”
The scholarship covered the cost of the Institute, and provided a travel stipend that enabled Fältman to make the trip from the city of Skellefteå, where all four of her clubs are located. The flagship 360 Träningscenter, which opened in 2009, is the original and at 22,000 square feet is the largest of the four facilities. Centrally located in Skellefteå, it’s her premium offering. The other three units are low-cost models, ranging in size from 2,000 to 5,000 square feet, and situated on the outskirts of the city.
Combined, all four 360 Träningscenters serve a total of 4,000 members, a number that’s rising.
At home, Faltman regularly attends networking meetings and trade shows, as well as the annual IHRSA European Congress, regardless of which country it’s held in. “It’s important to stay updated and participate in discussions about the latest trends and predictions about the industry’s future,” she said.
Her abiding curiosity and ability to adapt made Fältman a natural fit for The IHRSA Institute, where she had the chance to engage in rewarding conversations—one on one—with some of the industry’s most accomplished veterans, as well as a number of its rising stars.
“It was incredibly valuable to be able to talk to colleagues from all over, and to share information and experiences with them. It not only yielded a wealth of new knowledge, but also confirmed that we’re moving in the right direction with respect to improving and developing our business,” she says.
“Sometimes,” she says, “it’s just as important to stop doing things as it is to start doing things. This is where networking comes into play. Meeting experienced industry people can inspire you and give you the courage to make critical, sometimes difficult, changes.”
In particular, says Fältman, she gleaned telling insights from an IHRSA Institute seminar on marketing strategies, conducted by Alan Leach, the chief executive of West Wood Clubs in Ireland. Leach described the makings of a successful marketing strategy. He offered detailed advice on creating marketing campaigns; developing timelines; defining and learning about one’s audience; and integrating one’s plan with the club’s sales, social media, and member communication efforts.
“Alan’s seminar provided actionable ideas about how we can enhance our premium brand and, as a result, increase our price level,” Fältman reports. “He also inspired me to ‘stay true’ to our brand, and remain focused on our business model, even in the face of growing pressure from low-cost competitors.”
Overall, she says, the event challenged her to think about new approaches to doing business.
“The IHRSA Institute offers you four solid days to think about the way that you’re doing things, and to consider how they might be done differently—and better.”