Going for gold: Ian Dunhill CA, CFO of Gold's Gym

Ian Dunhill CA
Andrea Murad By Andrea Murad, CA Today

20 February 2018

Andrea Murad spoke with Ian Dunhill CA, the CFO of Gold’s Gym about fitness, uniting passion and work, and what it means to be industry agnostic.

Ian has previously held the positions of Vice President of Finance at Moneygram International, Divisional CFO at Almirall, and more recently, CFO at Assa Abloy Hospitality – he continues his successful multi-national career with well-known fitness brand, Gold’s Gym, sporting 3.5 million members across 720 global locations.

What drew you to Gold's Gym?

Fitness is something I’m personally very passionate about – I’ve run marathons and played sports my entire life. Gold’s was launched in Venice Beach, California in 1965. It really invented the fitness industry. Joining a company with such a long legacy and strong brand is exciting for me.

Fitness has a low market penetration and a huge space to grow.

While we’re known for weightlifting, Arnold Schwarzenegger and ‘Pumping Iron’, we’ve evolved in the past 18 months into something more diverse. There are small boutique studios everywhere, as are the big box gyms – we’re positioned to be somewhere in the middle. Fitness has a low market penetration and a huge space to grow.

The industry is crossing boundaries, and fitness and technology are working closer together. GOLD’s AMP takes your fitness experience outside of Gold’s, and our trainers train you through exercises to curated music playlists – this technology helps anyone experience the quality of our training and expertise wherever they are. This is one example of where we’re using technology to create seamless processes and re-energize our brand.

Speaking of new technologies, has it changed your role as a CFO?

There’s the technology that a company brings with new products and the technology society expects. How we market to members today has changed from just two years ago – it’s a shift from radio, print and TV to social, which is a completely different way to interact with customers.

Technology is about what companies bring to a marketplace and society. The challenge for companies and CFOs is making sure we’re keeping up with technology, so people don’t feel like they’re stepping back in time when they come to work or engage with your brand.

Gold's Gym

Where has your CA qualification taken you?

I saw accounting as a great way to get into business to see what drives performance. I started out working at PwC for a few years where I was exposed to, and learned about, many types of businesses. My journey took me to a number of different locations and jobs, which I think is one of the strengths of accounting – your skills are transferable. I’m industry agnostic and can take my skills to different industries and geographies and add value.

I had the opportunity to transfer to Italy, where I lived for 15 years. While in Italy, I worked for a technology start-up, a pharmaceutical company, and then joined MoneyGram International – they transferred me to Dallas. I moved to a manufacturing company, Assa Abloy Hospitality, and travelled all over the world. I gained exposure to manufacturing in China and other parts of Europe, the Far East and South America. I was there until March 2017, when I got the offer from Gold’s Gym.

My CA training gave me a strong foundation to work anywhere in the world. One thing I liked about it was the focus on accounting and business processes. These are good building blocks for a career in any industry.

How did you adjust to working in so many different business cultures?

I’ve learned that there is no right way to do something. My exposure to different work cultures and nationalities has taught me flexibility, understanding and patience, which helped me become a better leader.

In other countries, like China, they believe excess profit should be shared amongst employees.

Different cultures think about business differently. Coming from Scotland, we understand that the company’s money is the company’s money – it’s what the shareholders keep. In other countries, like China, they believe excess profit should be shared amongst employees. These different ideologies can create misunderstandings, but once you work through them, you’ll be a better business person.

You’ve had various CFO roles - how did you differentiate yourself?

At a start-up, the people building that company are driven by their passion for that company – they want co-workers and peers to have that same passion as well. In Italy, I worked closely with the people driving the performance and I needed to share their enthusiasm and passion, because you really can’t phone it in.

Whatever you’re doing, read about that industry so you can ask valuable questions outside of your global expertise.

Most people in a new environment tend to retreat to their comfort zone. When you’re outside of practice, you need a much broader skillset beyond technical accounting, like leadership, coaching, and general business knowledge and insight.

I’ve worked in different industries and tried to become an expert in what that company does. Whatever you’re doing, read about that industry so you can ask valuable questions outside of your global expertise. Whenever I start a new role, my priority is to learn the business and travel around to meet the associates to learn what it is that we do – without that, everything else is irrelevant.

About the author

Andrea Murad is a New York–based writer. Having worked on both Wall Street and Main Street, she now pursues her passion for words. She covers business and finance, and her work can be found on BBC Capital, Consumers Digest, Entrepreneur.comFOXBusiness.com, Global Finance and InstitutionalInvestor.com.


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