By Fati Gorezi
Dr Vern Neville is an athlete, coach and performance director. He has been involved in elite professional sport for over 20 years, including having trained 4 International teams in 3 different sports. He was a professional America’s Cup sailor and the ‘Head of Sports Science & Medicine’ for top America’s Cup teams, Prada and Luna Rossa. He holds a PhD in Sports Science and is a world leading expert in athlete fatigue and recovery management. He developed the world’s first online athlete recovery monitoring tool, RESTWISETM., which is used and relied on by thousands of elite athletes and teams. He has published, as lead author, over 12 first class research papers in top medical and sports science journals including a book chapter in the ‘International Olympic Committee Encyclopedia of Sports Medicine’. Vern has consulted for teams in International Soccer, Rugby, NFL, Formula 1, UFC, Netball and Olympic Sports, and has Coached and mentored hundreds of the world’s top athletes in more than 15 different sports, including a 7-times Olympic medalist and multiple World Champions
How do you remember the beginning of your career?
I never planned for my career to follow the path it has. My only true goal has always been to be the best at whatever I did. Sport and fitness have been my life since a young child and I have been fortunate to have experienced a career as a Pro Athlete, a Coach, a Sports Performance Director and now the Managing Partner of a gym equipment company. I have always had a keen interest in engineering and having visited and trained in more than 2,000 gyms and sports performance centres around the world. It was probably inevitable that I would end up designing gyms and fitness equipment. Each career has had its challenges and a steep initial learning phase, but without doubt, the toughest has been starting my own company and getting it to a profitable level.
Let’s talk about the growing popularity of fitness. Where is the market heading?
Health, energy management and longevity are hot topics at the moment. We all value, more than ever before, the importance of being healthy, having greater energy, being able to work harder and longer, and trying to slow the ageing process. Exercise and eating a ‘healthy’, low calorie, low sugar diet has now become a high priority to a larger percentage of the population, evident by the booming gym industry, with new gyms opening almost on a daily basis. But this isn’t sustainable, and the market will soon become extremely competitive which will lead to more creativity in the industry and a greater demand for boutique and different gyms.
However, I believe that there will be an even greater shift in the fitness industry in next few years with more and more people investing in high quality gyms at home. If one calculates the cost of going to a gym including the time to travel to and from a gym, and the time spent in the gym, this can equate to between £25,000 and £500,000 per year depending on one’s hourly value. So, it makes sense to invest in a quality and customised home gym, which can cost between £10,000 and £50,000, allowing for more efficient use of time for work or family.
Tell us about your specific ‘speciality’ in the fitness industry?
I founded ESP Fitness 6 years ago, out of frustration that there wasn’t any high-quality user-centered strength and power fitness training equipment. I felt that the majority of gyms and fitness equipment did not understand the requirements of the high- performance athlete or individual. ESP equipment is now used worldwide by many of the best athletes and teams including the UFC in Las Vegas, England Soccer Team, Manchester City FC, Mercedes F1 and hundreds of others.
ESP Fitness is about winning. It’s about being the best and demanding the best. We want to inspire everyone to become a champion and to be the best version of themselves. So, we strive to create equipment and facilities that inspire the individual to push themselves harder and further than they ever thought possible. ESP focuses on 3 main area; 1) The design of high performance strength gyms, 2) the design and manufacture of heavy duty, innovative, user-centered strength and power training equipment, and 3) the design and fitting of specialized acoustic gym flooring.
What would you say is the secret to success in the fitness industry?
The fitness industry has become extremely competitive and one has got to differentiate one’s self from the competition to be successful. The industry is evolving at such a rapid rate that it is important to have a thorough understanding of what is important to the user and how one can add value to their life. We all know that understanding the consumer is key, but do we take the time to really understand what is important to our target market and how we can add value to their life through our products or services? Modelling and learning from the market leaders with regard to how they are thinking, and evolving, is the fastest way to success in this industry. High quality products or services with as much added-value as possible are becoming more important. ESP guarantees all equipment steelwork with a lifetime warranty. When someone buys an item of ESP Fitness equipment, they buy for life.
What has been your biggest challenge and how have you met that challenge?
We manufacture almost all of our products in the UK and the cost of labour and materials is extremely high when compared with products imported from Asia. As a result, we have a far smaller margin than many of our competitors which can be challenging. It demands that we be creative in how we manage our sales and cashflow. Manufacturing in the UK allows us not only to ensure extremely high-quality, but also gives us the flexibility to provide a ‘customised’ service to our clients. We look to tailor our designs to the specific requirements of each client and by having control over the manufacture process allows us to provide a bespoke service and greater value for our clients.
Where do you see yourself in five years from now? And what will keep you going to reach your goals?
We are creating a global fitness Brand. I have a clear vision of where I want to take the brand and how we are going to achieve this. ESP’s slogan, “WINNING IS EVERYTHING” defines ESP’s approach to everything we do. ESP is a winning brand, for winners. We are looking to expand our brand globally and will be launching 16 new products this year and a big part of our focus will be on providing top-end customised solutions to the ‘Home and Hospitality’ markets. We are also looking to expand the ESP portfolio into other markets within the health sector, especially in education and nutrition.
What about your free time?
This is a tough question to answer, because there is no such thing as “free time”. I try to accomplish as much as I can in a 24 hour day based around my priorities on that particular day. Apart from work, work related activities and a few hours of sleep, I do 25 to 40 minutes of high intensity exercise every day and I read for at least 30 minutes a day. Whenever I can, I try to attend business strategy seminars and business networking events as well as major sporting events. When I am on the road, I try to visit or train in as many different training centres as I can. I also have a passion for wildlife and conservation and try to visit my family’s Private Nature Reserve, BRACKENHILLS, in South Africa whenever I can.
What is next for you?
My focus at the moment, and for the next 3 years, is to grow the ESP Fitness brand and our associated portfolio of health and hospitality businesses internationally. At some stage in the future, I would like to share my experiences and help other aspiring entrepreneurs to grow their businesses and avoid the many obstacles that I have encountered.