SNEWS Qs: New BH CEO talks background, challenges

SNEWS chatted with BH North America's new CEO Bob Whip about his goals for the company, what he thinks the challenges in the industry are and what are
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BH North America recently appointed Bob Whip to CEO after Steve Lindenau was tapped to lead BH Bikes.

Whip brings more than 25 years of experience to the post, having served previously as president of Johnson Health Tech Wellness and Leisure, and Horizon Fitness, after starting his career with Trek Bicycles.

Whip, who’s been married to his best friend Cindy for 21 years, keeps active in his spare time, regularly getting beaten by his wife at golf, tennis and ping pong. The pair has three daughters, Megan, Kayla and Emma, and an English Cocker Spaniel named Buddy.

SNEWS chatted with Whip about his goals for the company, what he thinks the challenges in the industry are and the biggest trends in the market right now.

What are some of your goals for BH North America in the coming years?
The most important goal to focus on is becoming an outstanding business partner to our customers. [We want to] really understand and align our customers needs and BH's core competencies, and do our best company-wide to deliver a quality product at competitive values, on time and backed up with great service.

What are some products or programs the company has launched that you're most excited about?
I am getting back into the fitness industry after a short hiatus, and it is really exciting to see how technology has permeated the industry. Globally, BH is taking a leading role in bringing valued added technology to market. [We have] introduced our own proprietary solution, which turns your existing smartphone and/or tablet into a seamless cardio machine interface that will run apps and exercise programs simultaneously. We feel it is a great solution that really leverages the existing phone/tablets that consumers already own, and allows BH consumers an "up-to-date" experience with the frequent introduction of new apps. This, we hope, will keep consumers engaged and on track with their fitness goals.

What do you think the biggest challenge facing the fitness industry is — and how can we address it?
It depends on which side of the business we are discussing. If we are discussing the home-use side, I would say that the biggest challenge is still the economy. People want to look better, feel better and have less stress. These are universal truths that everyone can say "yes" to when asked. Our challenge as an industry is: How do we continue to attract new customers/participants into the fitness segment, while competing against instant gratification categories that are targeting the same customers and same disposable dollars?

Which trends in fitness equipment have you noticed taking off?
Big displays and personalized entertainment options. Today's customer wants a personalized approach to their workout. You could say that today's fitness equipment users can be funneled into two key categories: Those who want more interactivity during their workout, and those who want to be distracted during their workout. The first group may want more personalized programs: programs that allow them to track their progress towards a specific goal, or be able to contrast and compare their workouts, etc. The second group (the "distracted" group) are the ones who want to watch TV, listen to music, read emails, etc. — anything to help the time pass more quickly. We view our i.Concept products as perfect for both of these market segments. We believe the ability to provide both of these groups with what they want represents a big opportunity for both our business and the industry as a whole.

Which consumer behaviors do you think the industry ought to pay attention to?
I just talked a lot about how the industry needs to use technology to engage people into becoming more active and healthy (and, of course, to buy more product). The flip side to that is that technology can make people lazy. We all recognize the danger of childhood and adult obesity. We need to get kids, teens and young adults out from behind the TV screens and video games and impress upon them now the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle. These are tomorrow’s fitness consumers and we need to instill the importance of making small lifestyle changes now that will lead to a healthy future committed to health and wellness.

Tell our readers about your fitness industry background:
I have been fortunate to have worked my whole business career in two great industries: bikes and fitness. I essentially started out of college at Trek Bicycle in a number of leadership roles both in the U.S. and internationally. I left Trek to join Johnson Health Tech to start Horizon Fitness back in 1999. I have had the pleasure of working with a lot of great people at both companies, and now I am thrilled to have been invited to join the BH team. Not many people know that BH is a fascinating global company based in Vitoria, Spain with a rich 100-year history that spans both fitness and high-end, super-high-tech bicycles. Globally BH sponsors gold medal- and Ironman-winning triathletes, the Olympic Gold medal-winning mountain biker racer and triathlete and Tour de France cycling teams. These world-class athletes race BH Bikes and train on BH Fitness equipment. The synergistic opportunity to build the BH brand in these two industries is huge and I am excited to work with the bicycle division to really increase BH brand recognition in North America to the benefit of all of our loyal dealers.

What is your favorite aspect about working in the fitness industry?
Simple, I love interacting with healthy, fun-loving people. This industry is all about improving people’s lives and well-being by making exercise fun, interesting and engaging.

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