Clubs like SoulCycle, Crunch and Barry’s Bootcamp encourage networking in their gyms with lounges, karaoke and happy hours
The power lunch has been replaced by the power lift — and gyms are catching on.
Business coach Lindsey Anvik told Moneyish that when she wants to meet potential clients, she invites them to a Barry’s Bootcamp or SoulCycle class.
“I pitch it as a meeting without the meeting,” said Anvik, 34, from Charlotte, N.C., who makes small talk before the sweat session, and then works in a quick pitch or asks about what her guest is working on afterward.
“It takes the pressure off of trying to force a connection over an awkward lunch,” she said. And people are much more willing to listen and exchange ideas after exercising. “The endorphins are flowing and everyone’s in a good mood,” she said. “It’s easy to say, ‘I had a great time with you, and I’d love to talk about the projects you’re working on sometime next week.’
Anvik has also noticed that clients are less likely to cancel on a scheduled workout together than a coffee date. “With something like SoulCycle or Barry’s, you have to sign up (either you sign them up or they sign themselves up). It’s more of a commitment, which makes it an effective sales tool because they almost never back out,” she said. “It also is self-serving for them. They benefit from an hour of working out, too.”
She’s one of many professionals turning to “sweatworking,” or networking while sweating on adjacent exercise bikes, treadmills or yoga mats, in lieu of more traditional meet-and-greets. Herndon Davis, a mortgage broker in Houston, told Moneyish that “networking at the gym is a constant form of marketing for me … because it’s the one place I frequent the most where I can build a one-on-one relationship with people offline, off social media.”
There’s a file cabinet where he and fellow Houston Gym members place their business cards and promotional materials, and the fitness club even hosts a customer appreciation day where gym members and vendors like Davis can set up tables and have one-on-one conversations with other gym members and prospective members.
“I have picked up clients from the gym, including an instructor here who is going to start processing (a mortgage application) with me in June,” he said. “There’s been a lot of small wins, but the key is to just be as natural and organic as possible. You don’t want to be that guy or gal who is all about the kill in terms of sales. We are all there to workout, after all.”
And Jennifer McGinley, 49, who runs her own public relations firm outside of Baltimore, has also picked up a couple of the instructors at her Brick Bodies gym as clients. “We usually meet at a table near the lobby of the gym to discuss work projects,” she told Moneyish. “It has worked well and been very efficient. And all of these relationships have been completely organic and were never strategic — the best and most authentic kind, in my opinion.”
Businessmen have been schmoozing over golf forever, of course, when you can get hours of a client or colleague’s undivided attention on the green. But the younger and more diverse workforce is skipping the often elite and expensive golf course (players aged 18 to 34 dropped by 30% over the past two decades) in favor of boutique fitness clubs, the fastest-growing segment of the fitness industry worth $22 billion.
“Sweatworking was born at SoulCycle, and we’ve watched the significant shift in people choosing to network over a sweaty SoulCycle class than a fancy dinner over the years,” a spokesperson for the $112 million spinning tribe told Moneyish.
Plus, breaking a sweat with clients or colleagues on adjacent bikes or yoga mats is a way professionals pressed for time can squeeze in business with exercise. “I think it’s a real sign of the times; people need to workout, and they need to network … and people are asking, ‘How can I get everything done in a day and be as healthy as possible?’” Vicky Land, spokesperson at Barry’s Bootcamp, told Moneyish.
And sometimes it’s the only way to get some time on someone’s calendar. Anvik spent weeks trying to book a meeting with her former CEO when she lived in New York before finally joining him for a 4:30 a.m. run in Central Park. “I showed up and basically died for about 4.5 miles, but that was the only time he had available — so if I wanted to meet with him that badly, I had to do it on his terms,” she laughed. “And that has been a very valuable connection for me. We’ve been helping each other in our careers ever since.”
Sweatworking can be as cheap or as chic as you want to make it: $160 to $175 a month for an Equinox membership; about $40 to drop in on a SoulCycle class and rent shoes; $25 to $36 for a single Barry’s Bootcamp class, depending on the location — or $0 for a free run in the park. The beauty of working out on adjacent bikes or treadmills in a studio, however, is that you and your guest can each go at your own pace while still being side-by-side. And savvy gyms and fitness centers are running with this business workout idea.
The new Chelsea Piers fitness club opening in Brooklyn on June 1 features a lounge intended for socializing before and after workouts, along with the requisite sauna, swimming pool and exercise studios. A spokesperson told Moneyish that the communal space featuring a Fresh&Co cafe was included after the company noticed clients were lingering to socialize and network around workouts in the Chelsea location.
Equinox chief marketing officer Vimla Black Gupta told Moneyish that they have also designed clubs to include lounge and hospitality areas for members to congregate or carve out some quick time to work after working out. In fact, the average square footage for lounge spaces has increased from 100-200 square feet to 450-700 square feet, since they’ve found that the larger the area, the longer that members stay.
“Additionally, we’ve added more networking and community events to our programming, including cultural events, culinary showcases, book signings, exclusive classes, networking nights and more,” she said.
SoulCycle has rolled out corporate partnerships with Bank of America, J.P. Morgan, Deloitte, Facebook and Citi Group, which arranges group bikes for employees and occasionally lets companies take over studios for team bonding and recruiting exercises.
Barry’s Bootcamp also offers a $50 concierge service for guests to book treadmills next to each other before the 50-minute classes that mix cardio and strength training. Spokeswoman Land told Moneyish that Conde Nast recently booked a team-building sweat session, and some other corporate clients have dropped $3,000 to book an entire class for their employees. “Taking a class puts you on an endorphin high that’s even better buzz for networking than when you go out with someone for a drink,” she said.
But that doesn’t mean every sweatworking session is dry. “We noticed after certain workout classes that are on the fun side and during particular time frames, members always linger around and talk about class and then relate to each other, even making social plans or planning their next workout,” Marc Santa Maria, the national group fitness director at Crunch, told Moneyish. So they introduced “Cycle Karaoke: What A Drag” at the Bowery Club on the lower East Side on Friday nights; a spin class led by drag queens where riders can also sing karaoke, take pictures and sip Prosecco after the class.
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