After 22 years in the manufacturer and retailer sides of the fitness industry, Jhan Dolphin has traded in talking about muscles for muscle cars. Most recently director of U.S. operations and new product development for Ontario, Canada-based, Northern Lights, Dolphin is now the vice president of sales and marketing for RealWheels Cover Company Inc., an aftermarket auto and truck parts manufacturer in Gurnee, Ill.
Dolphin told SNEWS he deliberately took himself out of the fitness industry primarily because he wants to further develop his side business of speaking, consulting and training with other companies in health and fitness -- which became increasingly challenging while at Northern Lights due to potential conflicts of interest. He is lined up to speak at the IHRSA Convention and Trade Show in March, and in the meantime is doing a number of presentations for companies in other industries.
"It would have been too messy for me to go to another fitness equipment manufacturer at this point," Dolphin said, after spending six years with Northern Lights, a brief tenure at Omni Fitness and 10 years at Pacific Fitness Corp. "But with my presenting and training, I'll still have my foot in the industry, and this is what I want to do."
So why automotive as the new career choice? Not surprisingly, Dolphin is a big car nut, claiming that he has "always loved anything I can drive," and who also is an eager road racer with his 450-hp Dodge Viper throughout the summer season and a member of the board of directors of his local region of the Viper Club of America.
"This is a huge passion for me and where I started learning about the afterparts industry," said Dolphin, who approached RealWheels, a growing company with 50-some employees that never had a vice president of sales and marketing. "It became a perfect opportunity -- I look forward to coming to work and get to wear a lot of hats, and they can benefit from my experience."
RealWheels, founded in 1978, produces Billet aluminum, stainless steel and chrome accessories for Dodge Vipers and Hummer vehicles and wheel simulator products for big rigs, motor coaches and other large truck applications. According to Dolphin, about 90 percent of all fire trucks in the United States have RealWheels products on them.
As a bonus, RealWheels apparently is incredibly supportive of Dolphin's speaking and training career, seeing his experience and exposure as a feather in the company's cap.
Although he officially started at RealWheels on Sept. 1, Dolphin has offered to help Northern Lights during this transition and is handling a few details for his dealers. He also represents Raw Power, an accessories company in Ontario, Canada, and said he will see that through until at least the end of this year.
What's next for Northern Lights?
As for Northern Lights, however, Dolphin shares a concern with others in the industry that the company just might close up shop in the United States, which would be disappointing for many fans of the equipment after Dolphin helped get its products into more than 200 retail stores nationwide. Northern Lights did not return several phone calls by our deadline.
For the time being, Dolphin doesn't mind dressing up for his new job and commuting to an official office. "This is huge fun for me. I'm thrilled."
SNEWS View: Having heard about Jhan's passion for cars and racing -- he's even involved in a racing team -- this doesn't really come as a huge surprise. Certainly, the entire industry will miss his energy and attitude, but we won't lose it completely -- and that's a good thing for all. The fitness industry can't afford to completely lose someone like Jhan who believes the industry can make a difference in the lives of people and works hard to be a part of making that difference while encouraging others to be their best too. Now about Northern Lights: It seems that the line might see its end in the United States since Jhan was nearly a one-man show in promoting the highly respected strength line. That would be too bad for the retailers who are its fans, for the consumers who have benefited from its quality and price, and yes even for the other manufacturers who have been forced to keep an eye out and perhaps take competitive steps. We hope the Canadian company finds a way to keep it on this side of the border. Meanwhile, we wish all the best to Jhan in his endeavors. Honestly? We wouldn't be surprised if he returns to the fitness industry one day down the road in a larger capacity again. But time will tell.