Getting offered the top spot at a company with which you’ve worked most of your life is an honor, said Rob Barker, Precor’s new president.
He should know. Barker's mentor and former Precor president Paul Byrne called to say he was retiring and recommending Barker as his replacement.
SNEWS caught up with Barker at the Health and Fitness Business Expo in Las Vegas to talk about his goals for the future, and how Precor is responding to major trends in the fitness industry.
“It’s exciting and a true honor to be in the president position and have all the responsibility that comes with it,” said Barker, who previously oversaw Precor’s operations in the United Kingdom, Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific.
What’s most important to Barker is maintaining Byrne’s legacy. Byrne took Precor from a $20 million manufacturer of home rowing machines to a nearly $400 million commercial and home equipment manufacturer — all on the back of innovative products.
Byrne (pictured, left) expressed in a news release that the he believed the transition would be smooth.
“Rob has been part of the Precor family since 1995, and I consider him a great colleague and a great friend,” Byrne said. “He has done an extraordinary job leading our international business and helping to shape our overall strategy as part of the global senior management team. I am confident in the future of the Precor business and the Precor culture with Rob as our new president.”
Barker has been working with Precor most of his adult life, he said, since he started in its marketing department back in 1995. But every new position is a new start, he added.
“I have to earn my stripes again in this role,” Barker said.
He recently relocated his wife and 1-year-old daughter to a place near Precor’s Woodinville, Wash. headquarters, and though their furniture is having a hard time making it from the United Kingdom, they’re all settling in nicely, he said.
Precor is known for items like its original elliptical trainers, Adaptive Motion Trainers and its Preva networked fitness technology with the apps to go along with it.
“We need to keep the successful things going and stay focused,” Barker said, adding that the company also needs to continue to focus on research and development of innovative products. “We’ve never spent more money on R&D as we have this year.”
That spending is paying off for the company, Barker said, noting the Amer Sports-owned company is up in sales and profits the past few quarters.
Another goal, Barker said, is to develop more supportive programs and materials for its specialty retailers.
“We’ve always been really strong at providing support on knowing the product; how to sell it correctly; and providing training and resources to manage retail business,” Barker said. But now it’s time to focus on providing more.
Precor is in the process of developing an online training program to help its retailers learn how to best sell Precor products and how to convert walk-in browsers to purchasing customers.
The addition of technology on otherwise ordinary cardio products has been a big trend in the past few years.
“Now you’ve got media and digital technologies converging,” Barker said. Precor launched its Preva technology a few years ago for consumers to both be entertained while working out and track their workout information. Now iPhone, iPad and Android apps allow users to get rewards for workouts and track progress.
With the new updates to Preva and its apps launching now, Barker is certain the company remains on the right track.
“The big thing is to continue our legacy in great innovation,” Barker said. “That’s what’s really powerful.”
Having been involved in sports all his life, Barker knows that just having the title of making the team isn’t all that counts.
“It’s not just about getting the shirt,” he said, referencing sports uniforms. “It’s what you do in the shirt that counts.”