I’ve just returned from a trip to Cesena, a town near Italy’s Bologna, which houses the 150,000 square meter mega-campus of Technogym, the purveyor of fine exercise machines. In the fitness industry, there’s nothing else like this in the world; perhaps only Google or Bloomberg can compare as ‘destination’ employers. The site is both strikingly vast and visually exquisite, crafted by the virtuoso architect Antonio Citterio, and comprising a super-slick factory, a clandestine R&D facility, a university, a vast gym, a spa, a medical facility, an organic restaurant and far more. This ‘Wellness Village’ is the iconic focal piece of a totally unique firm, regularly recognised as offering the ‘Best European company working conditions’. I’ve had a privileged behind-the-scenes peek into their HQ, and this post shares my findings on something you’ve probably never considered, but certainly should! Click MORE to see it all…
My whole ‘active’ life, I’ve taken for granted that my gym will provide a working treadmill that simply delivers me a sweaty run. Never have I stopped to appreciate what happens under the belt, nor have I thought it worthy of consideration. I train regularly to improve my physical conditioning, not to admire the kit, right? Well, yes, but no! This trip has vividly illustrated for me that the equipment doesn’t just magically appear, fully formed, created by the gym fairy, and delivered onto the workout floor; each machine travels an incredibly complex journey, and that these Technogym products we unknowingly use, are artistic masterpieces as much as they are equipment. Here are my 8 perceptions about the whole Technogym campus…
1) HISTORY & CULTURE:
Important disclaimer – I’m not being paid, and I haven’t been indoctrinated (just charmed by everyone’s passion for the cause of wellness); I simply feel this is a necessary preamble before we start talking about the equipment itself because its all so interlinked. 30 years ago, their talismanic founder, Nerio Alessandri (now one of Italy’s most decorated entrepreneurs, pictured below) started constructing fitness machines in his garage at night, with a shoestring budget, at a time when there were only dumbbells on the mass market. Today his vast enterprise sells c.$400m of the finest machines, globally each year. They’ve been awarded the coveted Olympic partnership for the past 6 consecutive games, and are the key partner to the World Expo in Milan 2015. There are no chairs in the meeting rooms; everyone sits on fit balls, grazes on healthy snacks and wears smiles. They can finish at 4pm, pick up the children from school, and head to the beach2. Technogym enjoys that rarest of corporate cultures, where the staff genuinely love it!
There are hundreds of people working on a fully integrated production floor, seamlessly blending automation with artisan craftsmanship, machining 100,000 units every year. The ‘testing’ process deserves special mention too; their “worst client imaginable” actually works at the factory, and is called Cyclops. He’s a 150kg monster who runs SOLIDLY for 60 days straight at precisely 50kph (covering 72,000 km in one go!!!). After the treadmill survives his punishing workout, they know it’s built to last for you and I!
Part staff-perk, part showroom, their gym is unsurprisingly equipped with all the latest (including unreleased) products. What IS surprising is the sheer scale of it, with an endless array of machines from all ranges within their price architecture, spread over 2 enormous floors. Unlike in your home gym, you never have to wait for anything, ever!
The staff are entitled to complimentary meals cooked to order by the onsite team of chefs, using local organic produce. Nutrition forms one side of their ‘wellness pyramid’ (alongside Movement and Mental Approach), whereby regular physical activity, correct nutrition and a positive mental attitude are the companies key to a fulfilled workforce!
5) THE BUILDING:
The seductive, flowing lines of structure itself were designed by the world-leading architect and furniture designer Antonio Citterio. Opened by President Clinton in late 2012, it’s been constructed from sustainable materials, harnesses air-recirculation, and enjoys a flood of natural light flowing through the all-glass walls. The vast gardens make up 2/3 of the space, and are a fabulous place for a workout. A totally avant-garde masterpiece office!
6) THE KNOWLEDGE:
I’d totally underestimated how much research goes into making a piece of equipment. There are academics, research facilities, scientific R&D areas (hidden away from the outside world), biomechanical studies… not to mention the aesthetic work that goes into each piece. Most of it, I can’t show you, but take it from me that it’s there behind the scenes!
Not just reserved for tech mega-companies like Microsoft, Apple, SAP etc; Technogym have embraced the concept of universally-available data, stored remotely and accessible via the internet. They understand that we gymgoers obviously want to exercise smarter, but we won’t tolerate increased admin or hassle. Their solution, called ‘MyWellness Cloud’, lets you wave your smartphone near the equipment, and easily register every rep of every set of every workout, then keep track of your progress from anywhere on the planet. It’s the data ‘glue’ which binds their wellness suite of products together.
Staff are given a 2 hour lunch break, are encouraged to stay active and work out in their huge gym (for every 1$ invested, the return is between 2-20$ of efficiency improvement from fewer sick days etc), fed complimentary organic healthy meals cooked in house by a specially assembled team of chefs, given an on-site advanced medical screening each year… it all breeds a workforce that’s productive and smiles more often than not; I’ve seen the evidence!
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