Frank Napolitano Jr. used the recession to develop a new perspective Featured

12:47pm EDT July 5, 2011
Frank Napolitano Jr. Frank Napolitano Jr.

Like most business leaders, Frank Napolitano Jr. has a recession story.

His company, Global Affiliates Inc. — which does business as GlobalFit — saw a decrease in the number of consumer products sold. So the $20 million fitness solutions company, which Napolitano heads as president and CEO, needed to pull back from the consumer market and find new ways to provide fitness-oriented services.

Natpolitano’s company didn’t completely reinvent itself, but it certainly developed a new perspective on driving revenue.

Smart Business spoke with Napolitano about how to get creative when it comes to finding customers in a challenging economic climate.

How did you minimize the negative effects and capitalize on the positives?

The only thing you can really do when outside forces are driving prices down is sell fewer of those products and more of the others. We certainly worked to expand the number of gyms we worked with that gave us an opportunity to sell more, even though we were making less on each.

That is the way we mitigated the negative. On the positive, consumers were not so excited about spending money, and while prices on consumer products were largely declining, we found that companies were more interested in buying programs for their employees. We shifted our focus toward getting companies engaged in buying products that would help prevent employees from getting sick, injured or overweight in the first place.

What would you tell other business leaders about mitigating the negative and focusing on what the business does well?

 

The lesson every leader learns is that when you’re in the middle of battle, when things like a major recession occur, sometimes it’s hard to think strategically because you’re just trying to keep your head above water. If you do look at any of those situations from a strategic perspective, there is pretty much always something good mixed in with all the bad. The key is to find it, grab it and make the most of it.

How do you scan the market to figure out the best way to serve it?

Accumulating information about what is going on in your market is absolutely critical. It is important that you never lose sight of the competition, but it’s also important that you don’t let them drive your strategy.

You can’t put your head solely in your business. You have to be out there participating in the community, and in the community of your business. There are a fair number of organizations that bring together industry leaders trying to establish what they want and what they need, to help their employee populations and their insured populations be the healthiest they can be. It’s by participating in those outside activities that you learn a great deal about what they want and need. From there, you develop products and programs to meet those needs in order to have the greatest chance of success.

But you don’t want to be a lemming. Just because everyone is heading in one direction doesn’t mean it’s the right one, and it’s usually the creative idea, the one that is not the same as everyone else’s, that produces the greatest return on investment.

How do you lead the market instead of following?

That has to be the hardest question in the history of the world. The reason why there is always one person that has to end up making the final decision when the many options are presented to them by their senior staff is because part of that decision is made based on the facts available. But part of it is always based on your instincts, and you rely on your instincts. As imprecise as that answer is, it’s probably as good as it gets.

How to reach: Global Affiliates Inc., (215) 751-1992 or www.globalfit.com