It’s Gym Life, But Not As We Know It
Peloton’s Senior Manager for Global Security Discusses the Zeitgeist of the Brand Powering up for International Expansion.
For diehard fans of the original Star Trek television series in the 1960s and 1970s, there is an iconic episode when the Enterprise’s Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy, tells Captain James “Jim” T. Kirk: “It’s life, Jim, but not as we know it!”
It became part of the ongoing narrative of the Enterprise crew as they “boldly went where no one has gone before”—the split infinitive adored by the “Trekkies” because it represented the futuristic nature of a television programme that was truly ahead of its time. Ironically, it represented an aspirational and inspirational future with a truly diverse crew, in terms of gender, ethnicity, and even intergalactic species, that would be the envy of TV casting and commissioning teams of today.
If you move forward to 2021 and rearrange the syntax and the spelling of Bones’ utterance—”It’s Gym life, but not as we know it”—you are suddenly boldy treading and pedalling into the new universe created by the ambitious boutique gym and leisure brand Peloton, whose off-the-scale growth in the last twenty months has captured the very Zeitgeist of a pre- and post-pandemic world where managing our personal well-being in the eye of the COVID-19 storm has become front and centre of our daily lives.
With gyms and leisure centres mothballed as part of the various tiered restrictions, daily exercise was limited to fair-weather outdoor pursuits including walking, cycling, and running, with even this being rationed to once per day during the first lockdown of March 2020.
Dark, often cold winters are also not the preferred exercise environments for the seasoned gym member who needs to keep mind and body together, so it was out of this necessity that a solution that had existed for eight years was suddenly catapulted into the limelight.
With a national advertising campaign extolling the virtues of home-based exercise using a mixture of specialised equipment and high-octane, instructor-led virtual classes, the Peloton solution had found its market opportunity. It had come home, literally.
In the 2000s, the advent of the connected fitness category began with apps, trackers, and wearables, which enabled people to utilise technology to measure their fitness levels and workouts. Around the same time gyms and fitness studios rose in popularity, but there remained a giant chasm between the at-home connected fitness experience and in-person workout classes.
John Foley and Peloton’s other founders recognised the need for a more convenient studio fitness experience. As both he and his wife juggled being a busy, young family with making it to cycling classes that would fill up instantly on restricted schedules, the idea for Peloton was born.
Peloton uses technology and design to connect the world through fitness with the mantra of “Empowering people to be the best version of themselves anywhere, anytime.”
The website extolls its virtues of being led by world-class instructors, with the Peloton library being full of live and on-demand classes featuring curated music designed to keep members coming back.
Formed in 2012, Peloton provides the equipment—including the finance facilities to purchase it through Klarna Bank—and the classes beamed into people’s homes and hotels, an online and virtual model supported by a retail chain of more than 115 showrooms in the US, Canada, UK, Germany, and Australia, where customers can try out the equipment and the experience ahead of taking the Peloton plunge.
With the additional purchase of Precor, a sports apparel brand in 2019, Peloton was ready to provide the full fitness package combining experiential and interactive sessions through best-in-class instructors, without members having to set foot outside their front door.
Peloton itself now has expansion ambitions that take it into different territories, but with a mission to preserve its core brand proposition and take the best-in-class model to all employees as the business grows internationally. Its recruitment drive to find experienced candidates who will add long-term value to Peloton has been as relentless as one of its gym classes, with interviews providing a thorough workout for both the business and the candidate.
“It was a very democratic and thorough interview process—we were really interviewing each other to make sure we were a match for each other,” said Tim Moore, Peloton’s senior manager for global security who joined the business in February after previously heading up the global LP 2021 team at luxury jewellery Swarovski.
“In today’s modern world, going into interviews is as much about your own assessment of the prospective employer as it is of you as a suitable candidate. The interview process for me was a great experience as I was able to meet with many of the Peloton team, who gave me the opportunity to ask them as many questions as they asked me. I could just feel the high levels of ambition and the inclusivity to make Peloton the best place to work, and for me this inspired me to join the business as it ticked the box for my next career challenge. I knew what I wanted in terms of my own values, and I found my match in Peloton,” said Tim.
He added, “As part of my career, I feel humble and fortunate to have worked for some amazing brands and great leaders. In my mind, I was very clear on what I wanted in my next challenge. I was looking for an organisation that would offer me the autonomy to use my skills and experience and empower me to make a difference every day. I also gave high merit to my need to join a business that had good ethical practices and values close to my own.”
Tim, who began his career at the former British Home Stores (BHS), said Peloton is all about building a strong and immersive brand where the members are front and centre.
“We refer to our subscribers as members, not customers—this is an important distinction,” he said. “Working for BHS was a new learning ground for me, as it was my first introduction to the importance of an association to a brand.”
Tim explained, “I was later in a position to join Swarovski, initially joining them when they operated without loss prevention. Little did I know that my heading the UK loss prevention role for Swarovski would materialise into a global function.”
Through intermediate roles at Homebase and The Carphone Warehouse before Swarovski, Tim, a seasoned professional, has learned to play the long game where strategy is key to performance on an international stage.
“The global or international remit is challenging. It creates a need to be strategic, a motivator, a clear communicator, and someone with a determination to achieve. I needed to be mentally tough, as your challenges are multiplied and often because you are always at odds with moving parts.
“Just imagine having thirty-one countries, or thirty-one moving parts. Sometimes you will not see the outcome of your leadership for a year, so you need to remain positive and visionary, and that’s what I really enjoy.”
With a career spanning twenty-six years across multiple high-end brands and a global experience across thirty-one countries, Tim is now utilising all of that knowledge at the twenty-first-century success story that is Peloton.
“As I look back over the years I am not sure there is one defining moment, but I remember once learning how to be better. If it was not for me attending Ashridge Business School and listening to a CEO presentation at a particular time, I would have missed the opportunity to have been a better decision maker.
“I would imagine, like many other people in the same roles, we are hardwired to be solution providers with a trusted team of people who will do everything they can to prop things up when it’s going wrong. That day was a turning point for me when the CEO stood up, and as part of his presentation on his leadership style, he said, ‘In business if something is breaking, I let it break and break fast,’” recalled Tim.
“He then went on to explain that the effort by you and others to keep propping up broken situations demotivates people, never creates change, and you will never achieve high potential. That, if anything, was a defining moment for me and one that I truly embrace now in my leadership style.”
Devon-born Tim has always had his eyes on the prize as he has moved through his career in risk, security, and loss prevention and worked alongside powerful practitioners in the profession.
“Success has been more of an accumulation of factors that have positively played their part up to where I find myself today. I am so grateful for all the amazing people from all over the world that I have met during my career.
“I have learnt about different global cultures, variations of law, different aspects of leadership, and it has challenged me to be continually better. Being a better leader, a better coach, a better team player is within all of us, but you have got to want it with a passion and purpose,” said Tim, a father of two grown sons, who now lives in Buckinghamshire.
So, what does the risk landscape for emerging and growing brands such as Peloton look like? Well, going back to Tim’s moving parts analogy, the risk profile is extensive and ever-changing.
“The risks we face are quite complex. Peloton is not only a fitness company, we are also a tech company, a hardware company, a software company, a content company, a retail company, an apparel company, a design company, a music company, an online company, a manufacturer, and logistics company, with studios and corporate offices globally,” explained Tim. “As you can imagine, each area has its own set of risks, but we focus on mitigating risk to our people and our members.
He added, “In my role I evaluate the risks end-to-end so that I can implement a three hundred and sixty-degree solution and ensure we don’t move the impact into other parts of the business. As part of the international strategy, I define clear ownership and establish who is responsible to deliver the strategic actions at the agreed timeframes. Alongside this, I provide the clarity, as this achieves the focus, supported with key measurables to empower others to track their own progression.”
Tim said solving a problem can also lead to its displacement. “Often a singular solution can move the impact upstream or downstream into other functional areas, so it’s critical that we fully engage with all functions to maintain alignment, which at times creates a lot of moving parts and stakeholders, but the outcome can be far reaching and highly successful.”
He added, “As a team that is biased for action, we are quick to react in the same way as others in the industry are, as we also feel the impact of outside crime, such as online fraud which, with high-value items like Peloton, often leads us to interact with the serious crime squad (and) state and local authorities.
“Also, as a logistics company transporting high-value items, we are forever assessing and implementing the next solution to mitigate risk to our stock assets. To ensure our members get their purchase on time, we play a significant role in ensuring that our stock arrives at its destination. This is not just about the loss at Peloton but the potential impact on our members.”
Prioritising threats in order to mitigate them can also present challenges. “Working in a global organisation results in three key threats—geographical, digital, and physical,” Tim said.
“We proactively focus on the known risks to handle the risk mitigation with a strategic approach, but the unknown risks are more rapid, and we are continually needing to be dynamic to ever-changing threats of risk, to evaluate the impact.
“The digital fraud world is a platform that operates twenty-four hours a day in the fast lane, so the fraudster is continually trying to find the key to unlock the commercial space of vulnerability, and their tactics are always evolving and becoming more sophisticated,” he said.
“At the same time, we need to be realistic. We can mitigate risk but not eradicate it and the quicker this is accepted, the quicker you will focus on unacceptable risk versus accepted risk,” Tim explained.
“Placing our focus on unacceptable risk achieves high rewards and a commercial advantage, which is all geared up to ensure we maintain the principles of the business aimed at putting our members first and making Peloton the best place to work for all our teams. My best advice to others is to be very clear about what your commercial unacceptable risks are, and pursue them with all the passion and drive you have.”
Apart from the malicious risks, the business is as susceptible to other, non-malicious threats such as the vagaries of the supply chain that, coupled with COVID-19, have created a perfect storm.
“In business we will always be faced with various threats from ocean freight, to severe weather impacts in North America, to fuel crises in the UK. We can even now add a global pandemic, which I never expected in my lifetime to witness and experience. So, all businesses will have seen threats and experienced unknown vulnerabilities, but the most important aspect comes from having a well-defined business continuity strategy,” said Tim.
“The UK fuel crisis is a prime example of a situation outside of our control when you have Government and industry influences. Your experience just takes over and you know to look at what is inside your direct control, and in that instance we activated our business continuity plan in a crucial time of uncertainty. It was done quickly and early enough to bring back the control of our own business. We deployed the plan instantly the moment there was a likelihood of an impact, and through clear, defined leadership we navigated ourselves out of the situation with no impact on the business.”
Peloton is buying into Tim’s vision and proving world class support for his role. “I joined a great Global Security Operations team with awesome knowledge of the US and Canada, and one of the quick successes for me was the overwhelming acceptance by the team to understand and engage with me on the nuances for the international countries,” he said.
“The people at Peloton play such a big part in the overall approach, and after three months with the business I presented my three-year strategy having completed a gap analysis and operational end-to-end review. The stakeholders gave me their pledge and commitment, and today we remain on track to achieve our goals and ambitious aspirations,” he explained.
Technology can also play its part in the future, but there is no room for knee-jerk reactions to invest in so-called silver bullet solutions. “In this modern, agile world of risk, we partner with various global solution providers, as you would imagine, with the scale and complexity of our business. We are always looking for that next solution with an appetite to stay ahead, but that said, we still have to manage the day-to-day functions (of) combating fraud and crime prevention, people safety, and brand protection.”
Tim added, “I regularly hold a tech solution day. It’s the time I set aside to focus purely on new innovation and next-generation concepts. During the years I have discovered some amazing solutions, admittedly not all were a fit for each business that I have been part of at that time, but that said I would encourage future solutions to be more blended to cross-platform integration instead of standalone solutions.
“When you look at the marketplace and you mention the words security and loss prevention, this is too often mistaken for CCTV, tagging, and safes which is surprising, because the development of loss prevention functions have far-reaching responsibilities which need that rock star solution company to step forward and give us the wow factor. I appreciate that we have today’s security solutions, but that does not really excite me; instead, I focus my efforts on the next one to three years.
“Several years ago, I dealt with a high-level fraud case and finally caught the person, and I always remember this person saying to me, ‘So what? Today you caught me, but tomorrow you won’t because I will find a way around it, because I know how you caught me today,’” Tim recalled.
“At the time I thought the person was being arrogant, but it was not arrogance. It was in fact that the person would work smarter tomorrow because they continually evolve, and that’s why we sometimes need to make a jump to the next solution and miss out two to three stages. The slower the progress of technology, the bigger the gap between risk mitigation and fraud avoidance.”
Although Peloton provides home-based fitness technology, there is nothing static about the business and its ever-moving parts as, like its virtual spin classes, it goes for the burn and through the pain barrier to emerge fitter and leaner. Tim’s role is rather like that world-class instructor who is using their own mental agility and experience to push the boundaries and hit those ever elusive and uphill targets.