What led fitness industry veteran Justin Tillinghast to SportsArt? Let’s find out!
Thanks for joining us, Justin! Let’s start with the basics. What is your current position, and how long have you worked in the fitness industry?
“I am presently the Eastern Regional Sales Manager for the Direct Sales Team at SportsArt. This will be my 20th year in the fitness industry, including hiatuses in collegiate and professional baseball as a coach and General Manager.”
You’re a coach and GM, too?
“Yes, I’m a self-proclaimed renaissance man! I have many passions, which include completing my Ph.D. in performance psychology and continuing to coach collegiate baseball. I am always trying to find new ways to challenge myself both personally and professionally.”
Sounds like fitness is very much intertwined with both your personal and professional lives. What is it about the industry that you like so much?
“Well first off, I’ve enjoyed an awesome career working out at some of the best facilities in the world. That’s a great perk! But my favorite thing about the fitness industry, hands down, is the people. The fitness industry is unique in both the business itself, but even more so, the personalities of those involved. Like in athletics and especially working in SportsArt itself, you feel like you are part of a large team; and some of the ‘characters’ in the industry would make for a great reality show cast!
“I also love the history of old-school power lifters and bodybuilders. There are definitely enough stories about this industry to fill a very entertaining book!”
Great people can really make a difference! Is there anyone you look up to in the industry as a mentor figure?
“This is a very tough question. I have had some of the best people in the industry on my team. When I started on the commercial side, I have to say that Mike Kelly had a huge impact on me. He hired me at Star Trac, where he used to work as the VP Of Global Sales but recently left for ABC Financial.
“We met at the Marriott by the Philadelphia Airport, and I was hired a few days later to cover about 50 square miles in northern NJ. My territory expanded as my success continued to grow.”
Only a few days and you were hired! You two must have gotten along very well right away.
“It helped that we had similar backgrounds as collegiate athletes. It was easy for me to relate to his drive, and we connected as mentor/mentee because I knew he had my back and vice versa. Mike was always someone who understood the struggles of the industry and could provide solid advice.
“He also had a sense of humor, which was invaluable with the team we had in the Northeast. I was fortunate enough to experience some amazing adventures that can only be found in the fitness industry. We witnessed many wacky and wild things while traveling through New Jersey.
“Even when I left to work for Ripken Baseball as a General Manager in Aberdeen, MD, Mike came and visited. I always enjoyed talking to Mike and have always held him in high regard.”
That’s great! So, outside of the stories and people, what other ways is the fitness industry is different from others?
“The daily blocking and tackling is similar to other industries, but the fitness industry is unique because it is so tight knit. Some of my relationships go back 20 years, and there are people I have helped get their business up and running who are still going strong. The aforementioned stories and characters in the industry are definitely unique to fitness, but I would not trade them for the world.”
Twenty years is a long time. How did you get started in the industry?
“Originally, I started with a specialty retailer, Omni Fitness. Then went to Leisure Fitness and helped grow it into one of the largest specialty retailers in the country. Eventually, I became a territory manager and key account manager for Star Trac Fitness. Then I moved to working in the medical/wellness side of the industry with Technogym and as VP of Sales for HUR. Now I’m at SportsArt!”
And how did you find out about SportsArt? What part of the company won you over?
“I was looking for a company with high growth potential that I could use my years of experience and market expertise to help expand their footprint. Once I learned about SportsArt and their recent hires of a few colleagues from mine at Technogym, I wanted to learn more about the company. From there, I learned of the large upside potential, of an established global business, who wanted to grow its commercial presence in the US.
“What really won me over was the fact that the culture and team are unique in the industry. The culture is more like a technology company from Silicon Valley than a buttoned up Fitness Company. From the daily apple deliveries to the dog-friendly office, it really is a sweet gig. Everyone on the team is a valuable asset and is looked to for creativity and input on projects both domestically and internationally. It is truly a team-oriented company.”
Speaking of unique – SportsArt’s major push is our ECO-POWR™ product line. What are your thoughts on that, and the role of sustainability in fitness?
“ECO-POWR™ is so unique in its value statement. You not only have the energy savings but the fact that your members can have an impact on the environment. Consumers are always willing to pay more for products or services that have a social message attached to it. Recently, Tesla’s market cap value surpassed Ford, which to anyone who understands where our society is moving toward, would not be surprised. Millennials are challenging the market to really start changing their key deliverables and be more cognizant of global impact and mission statements.
“That’s why, if a facility owner or university wants to grab the attention of the fastest-growing population, they had better take notice of what’s happening in the industry. Sustainable fitness is becoming the norm, and the technology that SportsArt has developed puts us on the forefront in this industry-killing product category.
“The growth potential is enormous and many facilities are scrambling to tell a unique and differentiating story, other than ‘Our treadmill or elliptical does (insert some new-fangled bell or whistle here).’ SportsArt’s ability to write a new chapter in the industry is very exciting and we are committed to being a difference maker. We want to pass on an earth that is better for our next generations.”
Thanks for the insights, Justin! Before we go, do you have any advice for someone looking to be successful in the fitness industry?
“It is the same for anyone who wants to be successful. Do your daily blocking and tackling, work hard and play hard. The industry is looking for those who want to make an impact with their intelligence and creativity. At the end of the day, this industry is about helping others help others. If you can truly tell an impactful story about how your product or service is going to improve another product or service, you will be successful. Sometimes half the battle is just showing up.”