By Kelli Kennedy, Associated Press
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — For years, business networking has meant after-work drinks or a shared meal. Now, for some, it’s all about grabbing a pair of running shoes and bonding over a fitness class, thanks to sweatworking.
Gyms and fitness studios say they’re seeing an uptick in the number of business clients booking classes with investors or employees, finding that workouts offer a chance to connect over a shared challenge in a less buttoned-up environment, potentially making it easier to strike a deal.
Sarah Wragge, 34, a partner at a New York production company that makes TV commercials, takes clients to a dance cardio class where they don’t talk even talk about business.
“It’s literally just time to develop a relationship and achieve a common goal … I find that sweatworking is a much more empowering and collaborative experience,” Wragge said.
Indie Fresh CEO Shom Chowdhury, 42, said he landed his biggest investor after bringing him to a workout at Barry’s Bootcamp in New York. Chowdhury, who founded the healthy meal service, says a workout is a good setup for his products. After class, he gives potential clients or investors one of his protein shakes or sends them home with a meal plan.
“Just from one experience, I noticed that people really got it without me having to talk too much about it,” Chowdhury said.
Some employees say they, too, have used sweatworking to their professional advantage: Andre Lattibeaudiere was working as a financial officer for a South Florida hotel earlier this year when his boss, who is an avid runner, came to town and wanted to find a local running group. Lattibeaudiere, 43, who is also a runner, realized it was a prime opportunity to connect with his boss outside the office and offered to join him at the Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort’s weekly run club.
Lattibeaudiere became a regular at the runs. Of the 60 to 70 people that typically participate, Lattibeaudiere said he often found himself running with the Westin’s general manager. The two bounced ideas off each other while also pushing each other to run faster. Lattibeaudiere wasn’t looking to change jobs, but was asked to apply for and ultimately hired as the Westin’s finance director. The runs were like informal interviews, he said.
“It made it very easy for me to apply for the position … I met someone that I could potentially be reporting to and I developed this relationship and I realized we shared a lot of common core values,” said Lattibeaudiere, who was hired in June.
Both mega gym chains and boutique studios said they’ve seen increases in sweatworking. Some are drawn to the competition and extreme workout classes with timed events or partner exercises like relay races. Others prefer yoga or relaxation classes.
“It’s like … me-time (for) whoever you bring with you, a potential client, and then afterward they’re much more ready to talk to you because you’ve done something special for them, for their body, for their psyche … whatever’s coming next they’re usually within the moment, they’re much more receptive,” said Donna Cyrus, a senior vice president at Crunch.
Wragge said sweatworking helped her land clients in the beauty world — a segment that had previously eluded her.
“These are fashionable women, they don’t have a lot of time, they tend to be a little bit more regimented about their diet and exercise. After trying and trying to connect with them over lunch, I suggested a SoulCycle class and sure enough one client turns into five clients turns into 15 clients.”
Chowdhury, who also pays for employees to work out with him every Friday, said he was so impressed by an employee that worked out with him that he ultimately promoted her.
“It makes the leaders and the team members have an equal platform … rather than just my boss tells me to do xyz and it becomes a very hierarchal relationship,” he said. “The classes allow you to sweat together, train together, mess up together.”