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CLIENT NEWS: Turning adversity into business success

A businessman who’s suffered depression, been in a wheelchair with broken knees, pulled people out of rubble in the Christchurch quakes and ridden a rickshaw across India for charity, has been recognised with an award for running the top gym franchise in New Zealand.

Matty Lovell’s gym recently won the Franchise Facility of the Year at New Zealand’s Exercise Industry Awards and he says he takes the same approach to business as he does in life.

He’s got a list of top tips for leadership that he believes have propelled him forward in business.

Lovell, who owns the Anytime Fitness Cashmere branch in Christchurch with his wife Sally, says business leaders shouldn’t discount the little things and work on encouraging the “soft skills” in their teams.

“Our team has a ‘thousand things’ approach to everything we do. That is, all of the small, positive things we can do for each other and our customers every day counts. On their own they might not seem like much, but all together they create a great experience and atmosphere that our members love.

“Things like smiling, saying hello, making sure the gym is clean, or calling a member on their birthday, they all add up and go a long way.”

Lovell says good leadership is about enabling staff to nurture their own innate skills and abilities. 

“I believe having the right team comes from hiring the right people at the start. We tend to look for people who have innate qualities, such as empathy, compassion, and the ability to relate to others.

“You can always teach people systems and processes, but you can’t necessarily teach someone how to bring someone up when they’ve had a bad day.”

Lovell doesn’t refer to himself as a ‘manager’, but simply a ‘team member’.

“I’ve had jobs where managers have certainly made you feel less-than, or that you aren’t contributing to the bigger picture. But when you focus on nurturing the fundamental skills in your team and encourage them to reach their own goals, success and profit becomes a side effect of that.

“There’s a great quote from Richard Branson – ‘train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to’; I like to think that’s how I operate.”

“My previous experiences have taught me that when you focus on the big fundamentals in life – things like empathy and being a good person, you can’t go wrong, no matter what industry you’re in or the type of business you lead.”

For Lovell, turning his attention to business is a chance to empower others to reach their goals and make a difference in their community.

“It took a while to figure out that business is where my passion was,” he says. “I initially trained as a teacher, then spent five years in media and marketing, before I quit my job post-earthquake and travelled for four years.

“I believe good or bad, our experiences define us,” he says. “The earthquake reminded us all that life is fragile and I try not to take things for granted anymore.

Matty Lovell’s top tips for leadership

  • Lead by example – don’t ask someone to do something you wouldn’t do yourself
  • Look out for the soft skills in your new hires – you can teach them systems and processes later
  • Treat your team well and nurture their goals – success and profit becomes a side effect
  • Don’t discount the little things – on their own they may be small, but together they make the bigger picture
  • Celebrate the wins with your team often


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