Technogym’s country manager on his journey with the business, the passion he has for fitness, as well as his future vision and goals for the company.
Options: You used to work with Technogym 21 years ago and then went on to pursue other things. What made you decide to rejoin the company after two decades?
Lester Neil Francis: It has been almost 30 years since my last stint with the distributor — at the time, Techno Leisure Sdn Bhd. Undoubtedly, it was a learning experience, being very early in my career, and I was fortunate to have been exposed to Technogym’s innovative development strategy, corporate structure and vision. Even back then, it was a force to be reckoned with in a growing industry — always being two steps [or more] ahead of the competition.
I left only because the fitness/wellness industry in Malaysia at the time wasn’t moving as quickly in the direction I had hoped for. I am a physical education grad from Australia, where sports and fitness (back in the late 1980s/early 1990s) is a grassroots phenomenon, inculcated in a proactive and professional manner — even in primary schools — and valued by the community. This, unfortunately, was not deemed a priority locally at the time. Although it remained a passion of mine, I chose to explore new challenges outside the health and fitness space and to do some ‘soul-searching’.
Rejoining Technogym was totally by chance. In 2018, I decided to ‘retire’ from the digital mobile tech space, into which I had been actively assimilated for almost 20 years, and wanted to pursue a project aligned with something that I was more passionate about. Or, if all else fails, liquidate and travel the world.
I believe it was fate that led me to this — reconnecting with a company I had a lot of admiration for back in the early 1990s — because it was by pure coincidence that a friend knew a friend who was the newly appointed distributor for Technogym in Malaysia. The opportunity was a no-brainer really. At this stage, Technogym was already a globally renowned leader in the health, wellness and sports performance arena, and miles ahead of the pack. I didn’t need much convincing. And the rest was, as they say, history.
What has been your most memorable and significant career moment thus far?
It has been a pretty remarkable journey thus far, and there are too many [such moments] to list. But perhaps in hindsight, leaving Technogym and my comfort zone in 1996 to get into industries I honestly had no expertise or experience in at the time, would certainly rate as the most significant [and scary] career moment. I don’t believe I would be the person I am today had it not been for that move.
What does your role as country manager for Malaysia entail?
Managing the company’s day-to-day operations and aligning them with the global strategy, including sales planning and processes, execution of strategic initiatives, setting and monitoring targets and operational KPIs (key performance indicators), recruitment, budgets, overall company planning and ensuring that the company continues to strive towards excellence in client and employee satisfaction, brand representation and profitability.
But it is important to note that I’m working for the No 1 brand in the industry, which I absolutely love. So this role, although it does have its fair share of challenges, is to me a passion project. I love returning to work on Mondays!
In your opinion, how is Technogym different from other companies out there? What makes it unique?
In so many ways, it is the company’s vision, which encapsulates being at the forefront of the wellness space. It is continuously investing in always being ahead of the competition, studying and understanding global trends, and assimilating its development and campaign strategies to be aligned with what the consumer wants while catering to what the consumer needs — creating a total wellness ecosystem that is ever-evolving. There is also the shared unified culture practised by every Technogym practitioner, to be an ambassador of wellness, not merely of the brand.
What are your goals for the rest of the year?
To continue promoting healthy living by educating different segments of our community on the wellness pillars — healthy body, healthy mind, healthy eating. To continue increasing Technogym’s market share in Malaysia, not only in the commercial space but also at home by creating awareness of the comprehensive products and solutions in the Technogym ecosystem. For our local team to experience recognisable positive growth, both personally and professionally, through alignment with our company’s core values: Reliability, Relentlessness, Resourcefulness and Respect. And to continue striving to be a better version of myself — spiritually, physically and emotionally.
How is Technogym evolving for the future and what innovations can we look forward to?
It’s safe to say that Technogym’s innovations moving forward will continue to focus on fulfilling its commitment to develop and offer the best in design and quality, state-of-the-art products and digital solutions for its clients and partners in all segments in the wellness space — building on its existing ecosystem to help you achieve superior results, faster.
Tell us a bit about your fitness philosophy and exercise habits.
Discipline is the foundation of my philosophy. It’s all about consistency and adhering to a routine. Programming variety is also essential, but everything is geared towards pushing the limits and making every session count. The thing is, as I’ve been training for over 30 years, it has become more of an ‘addiction’ now, with withdrawal symptoms if there is zero daily physical activity over a short period of time.
My exercise habits have changed over time. In the past six years, it has become an early morning routine, as opposed to training after work. It took a while to get used to, but I can’t see myself doing evening sessions now — unless it is a ‘double play’, which hardly ever happens these days at my age.
Mornings work for many reasons. It gets my day off to a positive start, setting the tone for the challenges ahead. There are no distractions, and you’re not only physically but also mentally fresh — the post-workout endorphins gear you up for the day ahead. With a morning routine, you get your training over and done with, so it eliminates potential excuses after a tough day at work that might leave you mentally [and physically] drained.
What inspires you?
Personally, inspiration today comes from like-minded fitness enthusiasts more than books and podcasts. Witnessing another person, ‘middle-aged’ or otherwise, push his/her physical limits with an intense focus on achieving their individual training goals — their energy — transcends and inspires me.
Where do you hope to travel to this year and why?
I have a lot of travelling to catch up on. Technogym Village in Italy is most definitely on the cards for the annual global conference later this year, and most definitely being out of the country for Christmas plus, hopefully, a number of regional beach holidays in between.
Describe your idea of a perfect weekend.
Morning sweats, quality family time throughout the day and watching Liverpool FC win their match later that evening — preferably all experienced at a beach resort.
This article first appeared on June 27, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.