Nerio Alessandri, President and Founder of Technogym on innovation, technology and the importance of looking after our health and wellbeing.
Nerio Alessandri literally built his business from scratch in his garage after realising that fitness gyms in Italy lacked innovation and technology. So in 1983, at the age of just 22, this entrepreneur built his first fitness machine from scratch. The idea was to incorporate technology and innovation into fitness and wellbeing equipment, offering a personalised service for the user. Alessandri’s creation was immediately purchased by a local gym and he was soon commissioned to make the machine on mass, revolutionizing the personal fitness industry.
Alessandri has since seen his business grow on a global scale and has continued to enter new realms of fitness innovation from at- home training to the CPR system a scientific algorithm for constant pulse/heart-rate training, which he patented in 1988. The most recent developments in the company have seen Technogym taking on digital fitness – something that became essential in the times of COVID-19. Thanks to Technogym’s ‘MyWellness Cloud’ platform, and the Mywellness app, fitness centres are now able to provide their services and training programs, remotely, to members, when they’re unable to attend the facility, meaning that users can train wherever however and whenever they want. This next level of fitness allowed Technogym to become a 360 lifestyle that can meet the demands of all of its clients. We find out more about this latest innovation and how Technogym has adapted to these testing times.
This year has been a strange year for all – how has Technogym continued operations through the COVID-19 period?
We never closed, but of course, we diligently followed the prevention guidelines (social distancing, masks, etc) in line with the authorities’ indications in the various countries in which we operate.
What is something you have learnt from this period?
It has been a tough period, but the good news is that with no doubts health has risen within people’s priority lists. And this shows the potential of our industry in the long term.
Have you changed anything within your business moving forward?
I believe that the crisis we have been going through in the last months has accelerated some trends that were already happening. In terms of digitalisation, in a few months, we witnessed a step forward that would have happened in a few years under normal conditions. At Technogym, we have believed in digital since the beginning. 25 years ago we developed the first software in the fitness industry and today we feature a complete ecosystem made of connected smart equipment and our “Mywellness” cloud platform which allows people to connect with their personal training experience anytime and anywhere: at home, at the gym, at hotels, at work and outdoor.
Starting from our connected Ecosystem, in the last month we launched Technogym Live, a sort of Netflix of fitness, allowing people to choose from our connected consoles a wide variety of training video-based experiences on their personal passions, needs or aspirations: from trainer-led one-to-one sessions, to athletic training oriented routines, to outdoor scenario immersive training.
This issue is about success – how would you define success?
Success is a combination of talent and opportunity. It is important to be talented and to train your skills, but that is not enough… to be successful you also need to create a lot of opportunities.
Take us back to the beginning – what was behind your decision to start Technogym and what was the vision that you had?
I was a young industrial designer who was very passionate about sports. In the 80s I was a member of a local gym in my hometown of Cesena in Italy and I noticed that gyms lacked technology and design and only offered very basic tools. I saw an opportunity for innovation to create something safer and easier to use, so I designed and built my first machine during my free time in the evenings and weekends. I did it with my own hands in my garage because I had the vision to do something that would help people live better. The first machine was a great success and the gym I sold it to ordered a complete line, so from a hobby, Technogym became a full-time business. I was lucky in that way.
As the business has evolved – what is your vision now?
Innovation has always been the engine behind Technogym’s growth. The company has constantly evolved. We started as a biomechanic equipment company, then we introduced software, then digital connectivity and now interactive media content. Initially, our focus was to manufacture the best possible equipment, we still have this clear focus, but today we have added a broader objective: to offer people a personalised training experience made of equipment, digital connectivity, contents and education. Having said that, the vision is always the same: help people to live a better life thanks to regular physical exercise.
You have been known across the world as the Global Champion within the Wellness industry, what do you think is your biggest achievement so far?
The biggest achievement is still yet to come! I don’t like to look back and celebrate, I like to concentrate on the future and on the many things we still have to do.
You have achieved global success with your company – what was the moment when you knew it was going to be so successful?
I believe that masterpieces are made of details. You need to be ambitious and have a dream, but at the same time, success comes from many small day-to-day happenings. That’s why I believe there was not a specific moment in which we realised we were successful. It is the result of the day by day creativity and hard work of our team of more than 2000 people that work for Technogym all over the world.
What would you still like to achieve that you haven’t done yet?
The best is yet to come! I always share the Iceberg business metaphor with my team: it’s more interesting to aim at the big chunk of the iceberg that it’s still underwater than looking at the smaller part that everybody can see, outside the water.
You started your company when you were very young – what advice would you give to anyone afraid to chase their dreams?
On one hand to dare to have big dreams, to believe in them and don’t give up at the first difficulty, neither at the second, neither at the third, but at the same time be very disciplined with your day by day execution and pay attention to all the small details that all together build a big dream.
What is a challenge you have faced throughout your journey and how did you overcome it?
There have been many challenges and I believe the best way to overcome them is to face them as a team and not as an individual. I believe that people are the number one asset for a company and my priority as an entrepreneur is to have the right people at the right place within the organisation.
What is something you would like to see done differently in the fitness and wellness industry?
The fitness industry is going through a strong innovation and evolution process…the key point for all of us working in the industry is to be able to convey to people not only products or training programs but a truly engaging and on-the-go experience. We strongly believe that in the future we will not be talking anymore about a fitness club or home fitness, but about fitness club plus home fitness. Fitness clubs will remain as central hubs in which people will find professional counselling, define their program, socialise and try out fun activities and at the same time they will train in the convenience of their home when they can’t or don’t feel like going out.
As a company how do you keep up with ever-evolving technologies within the fitness industry and what is Technogym doing to be a leader in the digital space?
Digital is central within our strategy to offer people PERSONALIZED WELLNESS – a fully personalized training experience based on their very own personality, passions, needs and goals. Some people are more fitness-oriented and looking to stay in shape or to engage in activities, while some people are more sport-oriented and looking to specific athletic training programs to improve their performance, and others are more health-oriented and looking for prevention or rehab activities. At Technogym, thanks to our connected ecosystem we can offer people their very own training experience anytime and anywhere with our equipment at the gym, at home or even outdoors, thanks to our Mywellness app.
What is your regular fitness or Wellness regime?
I train regularly three or four times a week and I like to alternate at-home training with some training sessions at the Technogym Wellness Center. I like a variety of activities, from more intensity oriented Skillathletic sessions to some functional work with our Kinesis, to stretching with our Flexibility stations. On the weekends I also love to cycle outdoors with Erica, my daughter and Edoardo, my son.
What can you tell us about the Wellness Foundation?
20 years ago, I decided to create the Wellness Foundation, a non- profit body dedicated to promoting wellness as a social opportunity to ensure a sustainable social and economic development thanks to people health. Wellness Foundation is active both internationally (we take part to many research studies) and locally in Romagna, our region in Italy. Here we created the Wellness Valley the first wellness district in the world: an ecosystem which involves all local stakeholders – public administration, schools, hospitals, fitness centres, universities, the hospitality industry – to promote wellness as both an economic and social development driver for the region.
What can still be done to raise awareness of the importance of fitness and a healthy lifestyle?
It’s fundamental to involve young generations and schools to play a fundamental role within this mission. Within the Wellness Valley we have launched “Play Wellness” that involves more than twenty thousand children within local schools in a program that teaches them to regularly exercise though games that have been ideated by our Scientific Team…this is an example that can be replicated in a larger scale.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
My father who was a very simple but wise man always told me: being always transparent is not only ethical, it’s also convenient in life and business and it’s always rewarding in the long run.
What is the life motto you live by?
If it works it’s obsolete! When something (a product, a process, a service) works very well, it’s time to change to innovate, as if you wait till it declines it will be too late to start the innovation process.
What or who inspires you?
Great brands, like Apple, for example, great culture, like the Italian Renaissance, great events, like The World Economic Forum, but also small things like talks with my team, my kids or my friends. You need to be humble, listen and have to keep your mind open, this way you can learn from every single situation.