Changing lives through caring, compassion
By any measure, David Patchell- Evans ( or ‘ Patch’ as he is widely known) is a Canadian success story. Since founding GoodLife Fitness in 1979 with just one location, he has led its growth to become Canada’s largest fitness company with more than 350 locations across the country.
Patch remains approachable and accessible to GoodLife’s 14,500-plus employees, attending new club openings, congratulating and inspiring his team with seminars and leading celebrations recognizing the company’s best and brightest employees. From day one he has stayed true to his passion to help Canadians be fit and healthy.
Inspired by his own experience rehabilitating and recovering from a serious motorcycle accident while he was at university, Patch switched majors from business to physical education — and the rest is history. He spent the next five years finishing university, participating on Canada’s national rowing team (Patchell-Evans is a five- time medallist) and running his fitness business.
Over t he years, many entrepreneurs have approached Patchell- Evans to partner with them in a widerange of business ventures.
“I’m often asked to part i cipate in development projects, like building a restaurant or a shopping plaza,” Patchell- Evans says from his Victoria home, which he shares with his wife, Canadian Olympic rowing cham- pion Silken Laumann. “As a rule, I focus on projects that fulfil my health- and- fitness mission, because that’s the way my brain works. I know that focusing on the health and well-being of Canadians is where I can make the biggest difference.”
Patchell- Evans says the reason GoodLife is successful is because of its emphasis on caring — one of GoodLife’s core values.
“There’s nothing that says you can’t be caring and successful,” he says, eschewing a tough-as-nails approach to doing business. “In fact, you become more successful if you actually care, because it forces you to do things right and to do things better.”
In his business, caring about people means empowering his club members and would- be members to find their strengths and maintain their commitment to fitness. Staff are chosen for their willingness to demonstrate caring when t hey greet members, provide fitness orientations and lend members a helping hand. This is consistent, whether it’s leading a fitness class, providing health services like massage therapy or coaching members through personal training or team training programs.
That kind of caring comes with the responsibility of caring for themselves, too.
“We care about our employees’ mental and physical well- being, their financial health and emotional success,” Patchell- Evans says. “We say: ‘ We’re going to care for you, and we expect you to care for yourself.’”
By the success of the chain, which has experienced tremendous growth over the last decade and counts one in every 30 Canadians as a member, the care is there. “You can only grow like that if you’re doing something right,” Patchell-Evans says.
According to Selina Guy, the general manager of the GoodLife Fitness co- ed club in Woodstock, Ont., her employer is doing lots of things right.
“The j ob s ati s f action within this role is incredi bl e because we really make a difference in other people’s l i ves every day,” says Guy, who has worked at the club for six years and t eaches a group cycling class once a week. “That makes it worth coming in to work each day.”
Guy regularly talks to members about their fitness goals or gives them a pep talk when they’re feeling low. One of her favourite moments on the job came after a member who had been injured in a car accident worked with a personal trainer and eventually became strong enough to give up his cane and get back to his normal life.
“After coming to the gym regularly, he was finally able to stop using the blue- andwhite disability sticker for his car” Guy says. “That was a huge step for him.”
That’s the kind of success story that has an impact on all Canadians. The healthier we are, the lower the shared costs are on our health- care system, which is an issue that will be increasingly important as the Baby Boomers move into their 70s.
Patchell- Evans, who is 62 and works out every day, points out that physical fitness has a positive effect on almost any medical condition imaginable, including diabetes, depression, stress, arthritis and back pain. He knows this first- hand as he was diagnosed with debilitating rheumatoid arthritis in his 30s and believes that exercise has been the key differentiator that allows him to live life to the fullest.
Aside from building fitness clubs in every province and helping people access gyms and trainers more easily, GoodLife Fitness has a hefty philanthropic program. The company has donated more than $25 million to charities over the years, mostly related to human health and well-being.
Just over three years ago, Patchell- Evans donated $ 5 million to University Health Network’s Peter Munk Cardiac Centre to help establish the GoodLife Fitness Centre of Excellence in Cardiovascular Rehabilitation Medicine and appoint Dr. Paul Oh as GoodLife Fitness Chair in Cardiovascular Rehabilitation and Prevention. The donation represented the first of its kind publicprivate collaboration to improve the lives of all Canadians suffering from cardiac conditions.
For the average person, t he company’s motto of “health and fitness for all” is what matters most.
“Physical fitness boils down to being functionally happy,” Patchell- Evans says. “You want to do the things you want to do, when you want to do them.”
If Canadians can play with their kids, dance at a wedding or work at their jobs all day and still have energy to get through the evening, then Patchell- Evans and his team are doing their jobs.
THERE’S NOTHING THAT SAYS YOU CAN’T BE CARING AND SUCCESSFUL .... WE CARE ABOUT OUR EMPLOYEES’ MENTAL AND PHYSICAL WELL-BEING, THEIR FINANCIAL HEALTH AND EMOTIONAL SUCCESS. WE SAY: ‘WE’RE GOING TO CARE FOR YOU, AND WE EXPECT YOU TO CARE FOR YOURSELF’ — DAVID PATCHELL-EVANS, FOUNDER/CEO, GOODLIFE FITNESS
Since founding GoodLife Fitness with just one club in 1979, David Patchell-Evans has remained true to his purpose: to help Canadians be fit and healthy.