Brain Food: Decisions - Nerio Alessandri, Technogym - Founder of Europe's leading fitness equipment maker

MY BEST ...

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

When I started out on my own in Italy 20 years ago, I took a huge chance by going against everything the fitness industry was about. I decided to challenge the prevailing idea that exercise machines should be about building up muscles in an effort to achieve an oiled-up 'he-man' look.

I made my business about the opposite concept - less about making your muscles bigger and more about being fit. At the time, I was just one of the little guys from Italy, seen as a heretic, a pariah, up against the big guys with their shiny chrome machines. But I persevered and gave up everything to start a business based on the idea of 'wellness'.

And it paid off. Breaking the mould made my name in the industry - we weren't just another fitness company - and it meant that we were able to create our own niche in the market.

A lot of people are copying what we do now, and that has made my commitment to the wellness ethos and daring to be different worthwhile.

MY WORST ...

The hardest choice I had to make was to do with timing, not product. We launched our Biostrength line, an ultimate strength machine, which was revolutionary in its concept and technology. It was an incredible innovation: it adjusts easily to different positions and has fluid movements.

As always, we had invested substantial time, effort and funding in research and development, but we discovered that the market wasn't ready for it. It was still the era of 'no pain, no gain'; workouts were about really feeling the strain and stress, and machines reflected that.

I learned the hard way that to reach an objective, it is not only vital that the product be innovative but the launch must be timed correctly.

In our sector, the first impression is generally the one that follows the product from market entry and determines its success.

Thankfully, that era is passing, and being innovative now works more in our favour. The public and industry is more accepting and curious.

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