Ryan Cheal is the Managing Director of Inspire Brands Asia and talks to us about his journey from professional rugby to the fitness industry. His story involves taking a business from losing €8m per year to a €30m sale.
How did you end up sitting where you are today?
Professional rugby. I started my career in the competitive rugby scene in England. My love of sport and the high of endorphins carried into the fitness industry I am now.
After working 17 years in the industry and in 8 different countries, I've learned a lot from every culture and person I've encountered to get where I am today.
What kind of work does your role involve?
My role is mostly dealing with people. I believe that having an over-inflated hierarchy makes you disconnected from what's happening on the ground. So, my work involves lots of meetings and coaching sessions.
I spend time analyzing what's working and what's not - sharing the best practice from all levels and creating processes to increase efficiencies. This, in turn, makes for one hell of an engaged culture with in the team. Problem-solving and visionary work is the most exciting area for me.
I'm lucky that I have great people on my team. It means I can listen to their concerns and ideas and help them articulate a plan of attack.
What gets you excited about your industry?
The industry is untapped. We are the healthcare solution. But across the globe, less than 5% of the population are looking after their health.
I'm just excited to introduce the broader population to how fitness changes your life. Fitness gives you something that nothing else can provide; it gives you energy, confidence, and positivity. Imagine how that can change your everyday life!
I couldn't imagine waking up feeling lazy and jump out of bed, ready to take on the day. My optimism and positivity look after my mental health in any situation. After working 12 hour days, my energy means I still have fuel in the tank to spend quality time with my wife and 2 girls.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?
Ask for help.
Leave your ego at the door, if you want to make it to the top of your game, you have to be somewhat vulnerable. If you're not succeeding or not having success, that's totally normal. If you have the drive and positivity, you will get there.
But, if you don't learn from the immense talent around you, you won't succeed. So, if you're not surrounded by the right people to help you level up, find different people to surround yourself with.
Balance with work, family, and lifestyle is also vital. Being super successful at work but not with family or not looking after your health means you haven't made it yet.
What, or who inspires you?
I tend to find inspiration from anyone but am always amazed by resourceful people.
If you want some names that really aligned with my thinking, I would say Ray Dalio and Tony Robbins. They signify that balance of work and life and encourage unlimited boundaries.
What, or who inspires you?
Anyone and everyone.
I tend to find inspiration from anyone and am always amazed by resourceful people.
If you want some names that really align with my thinking, I would say Ray Dalio and Tony Robbins. They preach that balance of work and life and encourage you to think with unlimited boundaries.
How do you keep up to speed with what's happening in the industry?
I like to focus on trends of health and entertainment instead of solely on the fitness industry. I get excited to read and attend events based on innovation on health entertainment and lifestyle.
What was the most challenging project or assignment you've worked on?
I have two, with one that I am working on right now.
The first revolves around an M&A we are currently going through with three different companies, and it's amazing the talent that has just merged together as one company.
We also have COVID that has jumped in the way of meeting everyone face to face. So merging all those great processes, and systems while being a leader to lots of new staff has been an exciting change.
Yes, it means a lot more ups and downs and longer hours, but keeping in mind the long term goal, sharing it with the wider team and cutting it into bite-size chunks, makes it more palatable. We've celebrated more small successes in the last three months with this merger compared to the day-to-day running of the previous business pre-merger.
The second challenge, I'll keep short and sweet.
I managed a business that was losing 8 million euros a year in a very competitive European market, before successfully selling the company for 30 million euros within two years. It took a lot - and I mean a lot - of tough decisions and grit to be able to get us there.
You finish work today and step outside the office to find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?
Half I would invest in my current business. I have already invested a lot of my savings into anytime fitness. I would do exactly the same with the current organization I am part of with Inspire Brands Asia. I have massive respect for the founders Luke Guanlao, Johannas Raadsma and Andrea Bell, and I am excited to be on their journey.
A quarter would go towards a house on the beach and a home on the slopes. These would be for creating memories with my family on every visit.
The other quarter will just be the rainy day fund because you always have to be prepared.
How do you switch off after a day at work?
I always sleep like a baby which is great to recharge the batteries. I am thankful for that due to my fitness regime every other morning.
But to switch off, it's a simple routine: spend time with the kids as soon as I get home. I am known for building the best LEGO houses in the world! After that, I have dinner with my wife to talk about our days and plan our date for the weekend (no kids allowed for this part).
After that, I read 10 pages of any book before I sleep.
If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?
I would wish for the population to understand what fitness can do to their everyday life. We have so many doctors and health professionals supporting us, but most people will wait until they are ill before they start to look after themselves.
This wish will be our job to share this consistently in the markets we are in. It's a job I take seriously to give people education for free; how to eat, sleep and workout. If by this free education they start using the gym then great.
How should people connect with you?
You can connect with me via LinkedIn, just search for Ryan Cheal.
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