With more than 20 years of experience working in the fitness industry across four countries, Mr. Dane Fort, CEO of Fitness & Lifestyle Group Vietnam, owner of California Fitness & Yoga, is aggressively facing the Covid-19 pandemic. He shared his strategy of leading the business through the pandemic: “I believe that Vietnam is still an incredible place for us to expand and grow.”

First arriving in Vietnam in 2007, Mr. Fort and his team founded California Fitness with a single center in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 5.  13 years later, they have over 50 locations across multiple fitness brands including California Fitness & Yoga, Centuryon by California, Jetts 24 Hour Fitness, UFC Gym, Yoga Plus, Hypoxi and Calikids.  In addition to that, the group also operates 12 Eri International Clinics.

Mr. Fort believes that having a strong, cohesive and unified leadership team is the most important element to sustain the business through crises, along with a clear playbook for the tamm to follow and a solid path forward for the organization.

Throughout this interview, Mr. Fort mentions his team many times, amazed and proud, calling them the “heroes” for their contributions to the business during this hard time and the significant outcomes they have been able to achieve by following the strategy Mr Fort outlines below: 


In order to achieve success in fitness, or any other, industry, the first step is to define the target audience.  In our case, that meant to understand whether we would be chasing people driven by status or wealthy people or people that we call “curious intenders” which means that they want to make the first step toward their fitness but still need more information before committing, or whether we target people who are already workout fanatics. Also, the business needs to understand the market they are working on. The stereotypical Vietnamese household has always been “three generations under one roof” and, in that case, we need to be having conversations with all three.

For us, all of Vietnam’s 96 million people are potential customers. We are offering products and services that are needed. If you asked any of them if they would like to live a happier and healthier life, you would likely hear 96 million people say “absolutely!” in reply, so understanding how to ask and answer that question in a way that appeals to them all is crucial.

We can say that the key is to educate the market, to help consumers understand we have not only what they need, but also the best. From there, we create loyal customers and together, we go through the crisis.

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Despite closing temporarily in this social distancing period, all of our clubs and clinics are still working in many ways. We are ensuring we are operating as best we can throughout the pandemic, and ready to get back to business as soon as it is over.

Throughout the pandemic, it was important that we proactively dealt with any circumstances that arose. For example, we were very quick in increasing all of our cleaning staff to make sure that our clubs were constantly being cleaned and disinfected, immediately closed clubs where COVID patients visited and thoroughly disinfected all areas.

When the government later announced that fitness clubs would have to close, we immediately launched the Cali x Home series of videos and livestreams.  In these videos, we have taken some of our most popular instructors, and arranged produced fitness videos and live-streamed classes to people all around Vietnam who want to improve their health by practicing at home. 


To overcome a crisis, all businesses need a clear vision for how you want to come out of this crisis, and solid values as an organization to which we can anchor this vision and remain true-to throughout. 

Our vision has always been to bring health to everyone. We want to see obese people lose weight.  We want people who don’t have the cardio to take the stairs to start climbing mountains. We want smokers to quit.   We want everyone to live longer, and doing that is all about adopting healthier habits.

In the pandemic, We have been very active and very public of late in talking to the media and working with the government to begin a conversation about the importance of diet, exercise, adequate sleep toward the strengthening of our immune systems.  This period is going to serve as a big wake-up call to people around the world and here in Vietnam about the importance of their health and wellbeing. This matches with the value we create.

This message has certainly been getting through, and we believe that this period will serve to educate people on all that they need to do to keep their bodies performing at an optimal level.  

In our case, we have been very active in developing new materials for our members and the wider community including CALI x Home workouts series of video clips and live-streams for people at home to watch and workout with us. We looked at these as a socially responsible way to support our members and the wider community in Vietnam, and Vietnam responded. It’s our way of giving back to a country that has given us so much. Within the first week, we saw hundreds of thousands views across our social channels for these, showing how people are recognizing how important their health is during this pandemic and taking action in their own homes.  


We consciously “overcommunicated” with all of our stakeholders amid the chaos. In our case, that means our team of professionals nationwide, clients, staff as well as the 300,000 members of our clubs all over Vietnam. 

It’s vital that an organization’s leadership shares and reshares what is truly important to these stakeholders so that no one is left behind, they all know that there is a clear playbook for them to follow and a solid path forward for the organization.

In addition to that, we have worked closely with our Members and Clients to ensure that the suspension of services has not impacted their memberships in any way, and have been very open in our communications with them.

We have also been very open with our team, constantly supplying them with official news and information on the status of the pandemic and our activities to combat it to ensure that morale stays high despite the challenges of the current environment.


Apart from developing the CALIxHome workout series, we have also taken this opportunity to revise training materials for all of our team to ensure that they emerge from the Coronavirus era as better professionals in their fields.  

Some managers may think of downsizing their businesses to solve the difficulties in the short term. However, I think we are seeing a revolution in people’s mindsets that parallels the industrial revolution and the information revolution.  Instead, I have faith in the values we create, we are focusing on how we will be able to add value to the millions of Vietnamese people who will wake up post Covid-19 and say “I need to make a change and get healthy!” and they will realize that we are always there and willing to assist them to become healthier. 

I am confident when I say Vietnam has led the world in the management of the Covid-19 pandemic, and it is a chance for Vietnam to enhance its position in the international environment. The government has already announced stimulus plans post-COVID, and we certainly hope that this helps struggling businesses to get through this time. Still, the fundamentals of Vietnam’s economy remain unchanged. As a foreigner working in Vietnam, there will be a tough storm ahead that we all have to weather, but on the other side of it, this will still be a great place to market goods and services to a young, dynamic population with a rising middle class. To me, it will still be an incredible place for FLG Vietnam to expand and grow.  

Source: CafeBiz, https://lotus.vn/w/blog/ceo-flg-viet-nam-chu-so-huu-chuoi-phong-tap-california-fitness-yoga-chia-se-giua-mua-dich-toi-van-luon-tin-viet-nam-la-noi-tuyet-voi-de-phat-trien-va-mo-rong-kinh-doanh-158649749136670592.htm