Billionaire designer reveals the business of radical innovation in the wellness space
The Technogym name is renowned in elite athletic circles thanks to its reputation for innovative and inclusive design, which has been built over four decades without ever compromising on style.
Beyond its premium product offering, which provides unparalleled personalization and design innovation to satisfy its discerning clientele, the global brand’s origins are firmly rooted in the ancient Roman concept of mens sana in corpore sano (a healthy mind in a healthy body).
"Technogym products are the result of a unique combination of design, technology and sport science," says Nerio Alessandri, Founder and President of Technogym.
To this day, Technogym’s philanthropic initiatives, stunning headquarters and Wellness Foundation provide a refreshing and distinct interpretation of wellness as a lifestyle, which encompasses art, culture, physical exercise, nutrition and, importantly, a positive outlook.
With extensive products that cover just about every sport discipline as well as rehabilitation, it’s no wonder that more than 10,000 athletes train using Technogym equipment.
"Wellness has always been our compass, the philosophy that guides our 360-degree strategy."
"Wellness has always been our compass, the philosophy that guides our 360-degree strategy: from product development, to marketing, to HR management," Alessandri reflects.
The genius behind the company’s state-of-the-art colossal headquarters, Technogym Village in Cesena, Italy, is none other than Antonio Citterio, world renowned architect and furniture designer. Citterio’s expertise is woven into the DNA of Technogym through the brand’s Personal Line, which includes a range of Italian-crafted cardio, strength and stretching equipment.
When the building was first unveiled in 2012, its monumental presence attracted the President of the Italian Republic, Giorgio Napolitano and the former President of the United States, Bill Clinton.
Alessandri has engaged with a wide range of institutions across multiple disciplines, which reflects the philanthropic and educational function of the business. In recognition of his influential role in society, Alessandri was named Cavaliere del Lavoro (Knight of the Order of Merit for Labour) by the President of the Italian Republic in 2001, and "Entrepreneur of the Year" by the Chamber of Commerce of the United States in 2007.
"We are lucky to work in an industry like wellness. Today, more than ever, wellness is one of the global macro trends and increasingly a priority for people," Alessandri says. "Collaborating with different stakeholders from different sectors is crucial to attracting more and more people to wellness."
Inside the mind of Technogym’s Founder
While the brands that most of us interact with often stop at eye-catching products and a mission statement, Alessandri’s vision and business acumen are the powerful duo required to deliver immense global impact.
"Even though today Technogym is a global brand, I still feel like a startupper," he admits. "When it comes to business, I still feel the same as when I was in my garage. Every day for me is like the first day and the startup approach is what I try to share every day with my team."
During the 80s, when Alessandri was working out at his local gym in Cesena, he noticed that fitness was very much a niche sector, reserved for avid gym-goers and bodybuilders. In the spirit of a true entrepreneur, the industrial design graduate decided that he would make wellness everyone’s business.
"I realized that there was a lot of potential in the fitness and wellness sector, the potential to get the world moving again."
"Being an entrepreneur has always been my dream. I first tried with the fashion industry, then I realized that there was a lot of potential in the fitness and wellness sector – the potential to get the world moving again," he explains.
Alessandri initially designed the first fitness equipment in his family’s garage where he married his passion for sport and design. "My idea was to introduce a new vision: more inclusive, easy to use, aesthetically attractive equipment in order to target a wider population," Alessandri recalls.
When it works, it is obsolete
Like an agile athlete who never stands still or loses sight of their end goal, Alessandri’s business philosophy is the key to Technogym’s growth and innovation success.
"Innovation is so at the heart of the Technogym world that a pillar of our business philosophy is "When it works, it is obsolete". A concept with a very clear meaning: when a project is at the peak of its success, it means that it is already time to change and move on," he explains.
It is through adopting this mindset that Alessandri has been able to stay ahead of the game. "In order to stay relevant and keep winning, you need to change and innovate at a very fast pace. When things are at their maximum success, if you wait till they start declining, it’s too late to change."
"When a project is at the peak of its success, it means that it is already time to change and move on."
Anticipating industry trends and opportunities has led him to introduce the fitness sector’s first cloud-based platform, internet-connected equipment and a Wellness Foundation headquartered in the Palazzo Romagnoli in Italy’s historic region of Romagna.
The Wellness Foundation serves as a means to engage with a variety of stakeholders and promote the company’s social mission – providing a solution to combat society’s current sedentary lifestyle and rising levels of obesity. The culture of wellness is something that Alessandri is not only passionate about, but keen to share with the world at large.
"Twenty years ago, I created the Wellness Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of wellness as a social opportunity for all stakeholders: governments, companies and citizens. The Wellness Foundation is active at an international level by involving international institutions like the World Economic Forum and the World Health Organization," he says.
Beyond making a profit
Through the Foundation, Alessandri found a way to bring the global fitness community together to support a good cause with the social campaign, ‘Let’s Move for a Better World’.
"Every year, the Wellness Foundation, in collaboration with Technogym, promotes the ‘Let’s Move for a Better World’ campaign to activate the entire fitness community to work out for a good cause," he explains.
"Basically, the more people work out at the gym, the more MOVEs [Technogym’s exercise unit of measure] they collect, the more Technogym donates to local charities selected by fitness clubs."
"The future is all about personalization, and digital will help us a lot to deliver this."
Reflecting on the evolution of the company, Alessandri notes how it has progressed from focusing on the mechanics of equipment to a whole other level in line with technological advancements.
"The future is all about personalization, and digital will help us a lot to deliver this," he says.
"If we want to attract a huge number of people, we need to be able to give different solutions to them. In the future, we see digital technology, digital innovation and digital content providing every single person a fully personalized and authentic experience following their own needs."