Burn out in business is a very real thing. One of the main reasons I have been able to avoid it – across a career that has spanned 50 years – is because I have always made my health and wellness a priority. When I’m asked: ‘what’s the key to success in business’ my answer can differ depending on the subject at hand – delegation, people, learning from failure, etc – but when it comes down to it, the key is you. The simple fact is, if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of business.
I start every day with some exercise – no matter where I am, or how busy my schedule is. I wake up and go for a walk, bike ride, swim, kitesurf or game of singles tennis against someone who can challenge me. Physical exercise is great for the brain; it’s a wonderful way to help you focus your energy and keep a positive mind frame.
We’ve recognised this from the very early days of Virgin, where the health and happiness of our people has been a priority long before ‘employee wellbeing’ was a buzzword. Knowing and believing this wholeheartedly, we decided to enter the industry in late 1990s, to get more people thinking about and interested in their health.
Virgin saw a gap in the global health industry – gyms were rather stale places, where the spotlight was on bulking up rather than holistic health. So we launched Virgin Active in 1998: a health club with a mission to shake things up. When the idea was originally pitched to me, I asked the founding team to travel around the world and check out health clubs, so that they could report back to us with ideas that would truly make our clubs stand out. They did, and as a result Virgin Active has grown from one health club in Preston in the UK, to 270 world-class facilities in 10 countries worldwide. And we’re still continuously looking for ways to improve our services – this is best referenced in our newest clubs in Singapore, Thailand and South Africa, which contain some of the most cutting-edge facilities in the fitness industry.
The difference is not only in our spas, steam rooms, exercise studios, spacious workout areas, and equipment, our health clubs also stand out by providing a place where members can also take care of business. Our clubs feature specially-designed meeting rooms, quiet areas, and offer the latest technology to stay connected.
The way we work has changed so much, and everyone should have the freedom to do work – their way. That means being able to work at any time, from anywhere, using any device. I know exactly how they feel: my best ideas have come from working in a houseboat, a basement, a hammock, and even in a crypt. Why not at a health and fitness club?
Since launching Virgin Active, we’ve looked for other ways to shake up the health industry, to make a real difference to people’s lives. Virgin Pulse helps companies take care of their employees through innovative technology – their tools are deliberately designed to help people recharge, so that they can ignite business. While Virgin Sport is soon to start operating high energy events and celebratory occasions, which bring together friends, family and communities to inspire millions of people to enjoy active lifestyles.
Fitness and wellbeing is an area that is particularly close to my heart. Not only has it kept my heart pumping, it’s also keep my heart in Virgin. A healthy body equals a healthy mind, and a healthy mind takes care of business.
Author: Richard Branson
Founder at Virgin Group