Chang­ing lives through car­ing, com­pas­sion

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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.



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.

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