Fernwood Fitness founder Di Williams has been officially recognised as a leader in the Australian fitness industry with her induction into the 2013 Fitness Industry Roll of Honour.
Fitness Australia recognises the important contributions of industry leaders and champions, and the 2013 Fitness Industry Roll of Honour inductees include -game-changers' in the fitness industry. These people possess vision and entrepreneurial flair and have successfully used these attributes to create and introduce new concepts, products and services into the Australian fitness industry, thereby changing the very nature of the industry and contributing to its long-term growth and prosperity.
Di Williams founded Fernwood Fitness in 1989 with the vision to provide women with a comfortable place in which to train. 25 years later, with 69 women's only clubs and a presence in every state and territory of Australia, Di's vision has been well and truly realised.
'If it wasn't for our inspirational members and the passion that our staff and franchisees bring to what they do every day, Fernwood wouldn't be what it is today," said Di.
Di joins the other 2013 Inductees to the Fitness Industry Roll of Honour: Tony de Leede, George Holman, Steve Jensen, Robert McClure, Greg Oliver, Bill Robertson, and Andrew Simmons.
Question: How did it feel to be inducted into the 2013 Fitness Industry Roll of Honour?
Di Williams: I felt very privileged to have been considered for such an honour. Over the last 30 years, there have been some amazing people who been involved in various sectors of the industry and have dedicated many years of hard work and passion to take us from a fledgling industry to a strong and professional sector. To have been considered to be named amongst them is very humbling.
Question: Can you talk us through where your initial idea for Fernwood Fitness came from prior to 1989?
Di Williams: The reason I started Fernwood was to create an environment that women would love to be spending time. I used to attend a mixed gym and felt that the mixed gym environment was not that appealing to a lot of women. Most women like to do a serious work out in the gym; they like to wear their most comfortable work out gear. Make-up and hair is not a priority. It's more relaxing and comfortable in an environment where they feel that they are not being judged.
Question: Did you ever think Fernwood Fitness would be a big as it is, today?
Di Williams: Not at all, I wasn't even that sure it was a good idea. I loved working out and thought it would be fun to create this gym for women. I had no intention of expanding it to become a National brand. Of course once it started it became so popular, and I just kept working on it and improving the business until it soon became apparent that expansion was a possibility.
Question: How do you ensure each Fernwood Fitness provides women with a comfortable place in which to train?
Di Williams: We have standards and policies and procedures which each club follows. Our Franchisees, and staff in the club, know how important it is to our members to provide a pristine environment which is fun and friendly, so compliance looks after itself.
Question: How has the Fernwood Fitness vision changed over the years?
Di Williams: Yes it has, we have been in business for 25 years, as women have changed over that period of time, Fernwood has changed along with them. Our purpose of providing women with a fantastic and fun solution to their health and fitness needs has never changed, but how we deliver that service has changed a lot. Women today are more self assured, confident and there is no need to provide them with a safe environment, todays women love Fernwood because it's their space, and their time, and they are doing it for themselves.
Question: How does Fernwood Fitness overcome the difficulties of a competitive gym industry?
Di Williams: There are a lot of competitors in the industry, but I love competition, it makes us try harder, be better and not to rest on our laurels. We are always aware of the competition, but we never want to emulate them. Our point of difference is our strongest asset, our members love us, and even if they leave to join a cheaper or more convenient competitor, they soon come back when they realise that all gyms are not the same.
Question: What makes Fernwood Fitness stand out amongst the many gyms, Australia wide?
Di Williams: We deliver on the promises we make in our marketing, we are professional and respectful to our members, and we have created a brand that has stood the test of time which always stays true to our purpose.
Question: Can you talk us through a typical day, for you?
Di Williams: My days vary depending on what's in my calendar, but generally if I'm not travelling, it starts at about 6.30am when I get some quiet time to plan my day and catch up on things that got left behind the previous day. I generally get into the office at around 9 and from then on it's generally meetings back to back either internally or externally. I am a very innovative CEO, I love change and I always have several projects on at the same time, so it's keeping those plates spinning, keeping our Franchisees up to date with the changes and making sure all of our team at the National Office are happy and enjoying their working hours.
Question: What's next for Fernwood Fitness?
Di Williams: Obviously the digital space is the next horizon, I am not sure how that will look at this point but that will be the focus over the next few years.
Interview by Brooke Hunter