Flavia Abbate's road to entrepreneurialism started when a consulting client asked her to create an executive health module. She collaborated with her identical twin sister's husband, who was a trainer to Mr. Universe. The modules were so successful that in 1998, they started the first CityClinic because they wanted a physical space where these executives could come to learn more and get trained.
CityClinic offered a revolutionary approach by housing all experts under one roof - from physiotherapists to osteopaths to chiropractors. People in the industry thought they were nuts since these disciplines compete with each other. But to Flavia Abbate, this seemed like the natural approach since it's more patient-centric to house all these options under one roof.
Five years after the success of CityClinic, they got into another business when they bought the assets for BodyBolster. At the time, everyone at CityClinic were fans of this dowdy, grey treatment tool. So they decided to throw in a bid, never thinking they would win. Next thing they knew, they owned BodyBolster. Flavia and the team spent the next 18 months repositioning the product to make it more marketable. It quickly became popular in both the rehab and general marketplaces.
Today, CityClinic and BodyBolster employ 44 people. Flavia cites the two most important strategic assets of her businesses are:
(1) People - the entire staff have a personal interest in health and wellness. Almost all of them who work there were came via word-of-mouth. The glue that keeps them close is a deep interest in health for themselves, their community, and their clients. They also spend a lot of time rolling on the floor during their meetings and when trying out new exercises to keep it fun.
(2) Product Personality - Flavia says BodyBolster has a tribe-like following. These people are all about being active and healthy.
Flavia Abbate shared the following lessons to help fellow entrepreneurs and business owners:
*Open Familial Culture - In her past life, Flavia worked in publishing. She loved the atmosphere that the owner of the business cultivated. He created a family-like workplace, and Flavia felt that they could achieve anything while working there. The owner provided them leeway to do and create beyond normal boundaries to stand out. Everyone put in the extra hours because they all felt that they were part of something special and that they could make a contribution. This is the culture that Flavia strives to create at CityClinic and BodyBolster.
*Rallying Point - Everyone is driven by the health crisis and by the mission of making people healthier. Unbeknownst to me, Australia supposedly possesses an obesity problem. To combat this, CityClinic just acquired one of the first new Body Composition Analysis Technology machines. This machine measures visceral fat deposits around the heart, liver and kidneys. In addition, it provides extremely accurate body fat % measurements without needing to be dunked into a tub of water the old fashion way.
Flavia states that children as young as 15 have muscular-skeletal problems seen previously only with adults. This is definitely a concern for her, and it's an issue that she wants to raise awareness for and to tackle. I really felt Flavia's passion when she talked about this subject.
Does your company have a rallying point? Be it a competitor, a social problem, etc.?
*Product Recruits - Amazingly, all six of the employees at BodyBolster were BodyBolster users before they worked there. I can't think of any other company that possesses such a high ratio. Flavia spends $0 in HR recruiting for BodyBolster. These people find her through word-of-mouth when there may be an opening. To all business owners out there - how much do your customers love your offering?
*Outsource Data Collection for Reviews - To prepare for her annual reviews, Flavia Abbate outsources that to a HR person. This individual collects and collates all the information for the direct reports who she'll review. But Flavia has the luxury of outsourcing this task because they take careful notes during their monthly company performance reviews. These monthly reviews are then collected and rolled up for the annual January review.
*Daily Three Questions - At the end of each day, they ask their staff three quick questions. (1) What have you achieved today that was good? (2) What would you like to do better? (3) What was your enjoyment level today? They rate the enjoyment level on a scale of 1-5. This helps Flavia quickly catch and address any issues before they fester.
*Conclusion - I've never heard of a business with a staff who were users of their product prior to working there. Flavia and the team rally around the mission of health and fitness which becomes the glue of the culture that keeps them inspired and motivated. She also lives and builds on the culture by holding many staff meetings on the ground in gym clothes while they use their BodyBolsters to stretch, tone, and try out new exercises. I don't think they'll be training the next Mr. Universe anytime soon, but they're definitely building more fans by creating healthier habits for their clients and community.
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