A look back in the rear view mirror shows plenty of highway since Augie Nieto headed out in a motor home to sell a new product he had stumbled across called the Lifecycle. That was 1977. Sure, there have been a few bumps in the road since those early days (including the travails of that ill-fated trip, according to Nieto), but there has been far more smooth black top.
Proof of the up's and down's of that ride will be evident on Sept. 8, when Nieto receives a Life Time Achievement Award during the Club Entrepreneur show in Las Vegas, Nev. He also hopes to raise awareness of, and money for, MDA's efforts to find a cure for Lou Gehrig's disease, with which he was diagnosed in March.
“It is always a great honor when an industry you have been part of acknowledges the work you have done,” Nieto told SNEWS® “When you see who has received this honor in the past it places me with some very good company.”
But although there is plenty of road and accomplishments behind Nieto, he isn’t spending his days lumbering along in a Winnebago. Despite officially retiring in 2000 to help care for his wife who had been diagnosed with reflex sympathetic dystrophy (misdiagnosed, it seems), Nieto is still active in the fitness industry—although today it is more behind the scenes rather than front-and-center.
Advisor and mentor
Nieto currently serves as chairman of Octane Fitness and also is an operating advisor of North Castle Partners, a leading private equity investor that focuses on consumer businesses that address healthy living and aging trends and that earlier this year acquired Octane.
“It is in my blood. I’ve been doing this for over 25 years and I am kind of an evangelist. I really want to try to help people find that magic way that they can get control of their lives and make fitness a daily part of their activities,” Nieto told SNEWS® early one morning after he'd already fit in an hour-long workout.
"Northcastle for me is a wonderful opportunity to work with people and help them evaluate opportunities in the healthy living and fitness space," Nieto said. "The reason for my involvement at Octane is that they are ex-Life Fitness people that I trust; they are in the hottest equipment category, they have unique innovations and they are hungry. It is fun to coach them and watch a group of individuals provide what is in my mind the best value equation for the customer.”
The benefits of having an Augie Nieto around for some coaching have not been lost on those at Octane.
"Augie is a tremendous visionary, and his insights and experience are invaluable for Octane Fitness," Dennis Lee, president of Octane Fitness told SNEWS®. “We really feel privileged to benefit from his expertise once again. And we are thrilled that he has committed to helping the company achieve our present and future goals."
And as he continues down the fitness highway, Nieto said he likes not only the direction he is cruising, but also feels the industry is on a roll.
“I think there is still some great advancement and innovation possibilities for the industry. It may not be a category, but more on the design side,” Nieto said. “The equipment may become less intimidating through looking at how it is designed and how it functions. Manufacturers have to make the equipment more appealing to the public. I think that is where they are headed in terms of developing better-looking product.”
Despite remaining active in the industry, Nieto does take things a bit slower since being diagnosed in March 2005 with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a progressive, normally fatal, neuromuscular disease commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Despite the lack of a cure for the disease, Nieto has taken his usual lead role, this time in fighting ALS publicly. He said he is doing well and hopes to bring awareness to the disease and money for the continued search for a cure. One step is the awards dinner at the Life Time Achievement Award event in September. Upon his insistence, it will benefit MDA’s ALS Research Program (www.mda.org).
“I’m honored so many important people from the industry will be there," Nieto said. "It really provides an opportunity for the industry to get together and raise money and awareness of ALS.
“If your member or employee or customer sees that you are out there helping less fortunate people with your dollars and your time, and they see you raise the awareness and raise money for the cure, they feel better about the association with you," he said. "It is a higher level of marketing; it is all about cause marketing.”
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