It is easy to forget how big the world really is when you only work in one place. Our team was quickly reminded of this upon attending FIBO 2017 in Germany this year, where we met with many more employees and distributors of SportsArt — including our very own Giorgio Gervasoni and Giovanni Berselli. We sat down with them to learn more about how they handle business outside of the US and their experiences in the international market.
Thanks for joining me guys! We would love to hear what you do for SportsArt and how you got your beginnings in the fitness industry.
Giovanni: “I am the EMEA (which stands for ‘Europe, Middle East, and Africa’) Hotel Channel Sales Director.”
Giorgio: “And I am responsible for all sales in Europe, Middle East, and Africa.”
Giovanni: “As far as how I got started… believe it or not, my start in the fitness industry was with SportsArt! I was an Italian SportsArt distributor for six years before moving onto other opportunities, including the Sales and Marketing Manager at Btech, Country Manager at Gervasport, and Managing Director for Nautilus in Switzerland in Italy. But then I wanted to come back home to the SportsArt Family, and have been in my current position for two and a half years.”
Giorgio: “For me, it was pure chance! My secretary at Chiquita Bananas told me that StairMaster was employing in Lugano-Switzerland. Eventually, I became the Sales Manager for Europe, Middle East & Africa for StairMaster. I applied for SportsArt after talking with one of their distributors because I was looking for a new challenge in the fitness business. I have since then worked for SportsArt for fourteen years.”
And what is it about SportsArt that you feel makes the company special above all the rest?
Giovanni: “As I said before, I really feel like SportsArt is one big family, no matter how far it expands. Our founder Paul Kuo’s vision of an eco-friendly fitness company always resounded with me, and I feel like it does with a lot of others as well. We all have a passion for doing good in the world.”
Giorgio: “I agree. Mr. Paul Kuo is the heart and soul of our company — a real gentleman with a very bright mind!”
So you’ve both been a part of the fitness industry for a very long time. What do you like about it the most?
Giorgio: “The fact that it is driven by people who are passionate and young (at heart). Plus, we work to help people feel better and live better. Nothing is more important than health!”
Giovanni: “Yes. I like that we are helping people become more healthy and elevating their well-being. And the industry itself is fresher — it’s open to new trends, innovation, and change. The latest shift, aside from a movement towards sustainability and green fitness, is one of embracing fitness as a lifestyle. For example — SportsArt equipment can be used by anybody, not just super athletes in their prime. The trend now, rather than what it was years ago, is to permeate the whole lives of active persons, not just when they decide to go to the gym.”
And how do you feel FIBO has changed over the years? I know you have attended it many times.
Giovanni: “Yes, I’ve attended 18 times now!”
Giorgio: “I’ve attended 27 times. FIBO used to be a very small trade show with no more than a few halls. Today it is the most important trade show in Europe, and probably in the world.”
Giovanni: “To me, FIBO has grown in size over the years, but also it has given more opportunities for companies to interact with their customers. You can find almost any kind of fitness industry booth there, so it draws a lot of different people that you can potentially talk to.”
Speaking of talking with people! Giorgio, I saw that you were booked with meetings practically every hour of every day at FIBO this year. How many distributors do you work with exactly?
Giorgio: “I deal with over 40 exclusive distributors spread out over Europe, Middle East, and Africa. Europe and the Middle East are completely covered. In Africa, we have distributors in countries like Morocco, Tunisia Egypt, South Africa with surrounding countries, Nigeria, and much more.”
That’s a lot! You must know a lot of languages, then.
Giorgio: “I speak 5 languages, Italian, French, German, Spanish, and English.”
Impressive! Giovanni, how do hotel channels play into this? How does selling fitness equipment to a hotel compare to selling to a gym?
Giovanni: “Selling to a Global Hotel Chain is similar to gym chains and requires a very well- structured approach. You need to involve and persuade several players and buyers (technical, procurement, marketing, responsible business, general managers, and designers) to buy into your solutions. The decisions are made more on a rational base than emotional. For example, a procurement director of medium-sized hotel chain makes annually purchases for some billions of dollars so there is no space and time for emotions.”
Emotion does seem to have some part in our conversations about ECO-POWR, though, since we’re appealing to people who care about saving the planet. What are your thoughts on sustainability and green fitness in the industry?
Giovanni: “Sustainability is a trend that’s here to stay. Not only is it good for the planet, it also satisfies consumers’ green values; it can also work as a member retention tool, as evidenced in Eco Gym in the United Kingdom. Our ECO-POWR line is a breakthrough in eco-innovation, which is what makes SportsArt a pioneer in sustainable business practices.”
Giorgio: “Yes. Sustainability is one of the key words for the future of the fitness Industry. Facility managers and owners cannot underestimate the importance of offering a sustainable gym to their customers. And since ECO-POWR machines can transform a gym into a powerhouse, I am confident in SportsArt’s ability to maintain its position as a pioneer in green fitness and ability to lead the market.
Okay, I see you guys have another meeting to run off to so one last question: What is your advice for someone looking to be successful in the fitness industry?
Giorgio: “It’s the same for every business: Do it with all your passion, look at your competitors, avoid their mistakes, and try to do things in a different way.”
Giovanni: “Yes! Always have passion in what you do and keep the final consumers’ (future) needs and expectations in the mind. You have to innovate to stay at the forefront of change!”