Around the world, start-ups are redefining the way we do business, opening up a myriad of opportunities for innovation, disruption and forward-thinking.
Intrigued by the ins-and-outs of start-up culture and growth, we caught up with GymForLess CEO Oriol Vinzia and Cooltra CMO Jordi Tomas. Representing two of the most notable start-ups in Spain, both Oriol and Jordi are considered as experts in their domain and are recognised professionals in the European start-up ecosystem.
Please note that the podcast is in Spanish – but for the non-hispanohablantes (Spanish speakers), we’ve added an English summary for you below!
About Our Guests
GymForLess – Founded in 2014, GymForLess (also known as G4L), gives members access to over 1,000 gym and fitness centres in Spain.
Cooltra – A cheeky abbreviation for ‘Cool Transport’, the leading scooter rental company was founded in 2006 and is now present all across Europe, with shops in Spain, Italy, France, and Portugal.
Both native to Barcelona, these start-ups are success stories of businesses that have now expanded across Spain and beyond.
Take a Peek
Today we are very proud to welcome two incredible businesses making waves in the start-up world: GymForLess and Cooltra. Here representing their businesses are Oriol Vinzia, the CEO of GymForLess; and Jordi Tomas, CMO of Cooltra.
We are thrilled to welcome you to our podcast series to discuss your global vision and company culture, as both of your businesses are highly people-oriented. As a human-centric business ourselves, we are always excited to exchange with businesses who share those same values.
Our goal today is to better understand how both of your businesses are making an impact, both for your customers and employees. But before we delve more into that, let me introduce both of your mission statements to our audience.
GymForLess is making fitness and a healthy lifestyle more attainable, while Cooltra promotes eco-mobility, using the sharing economy to provide bikes to the community. Now that everyone knows a little more about you, let’s delve into our questions…
First of all, how would you define your start-up’s work culture?
Oriol: Our values are dynamism, flexibility, and transparency. These values are present throughout our service offerings, as well as throughout our core values. For instance, our Flexible Fitness service offers the added value of being able to train and exercise wherever and whenever you choose.
Internally, we live and breathe our values. Our employees are very dynamic, motivated to work and learn, and most importantly, are adaptable and embrace change. As a start-up, our growth is inevitable and we, therefore, rely on staff who share our values. All in all, our culture is a result of our status as a start-up as well as our mission to keep the fitness industry on its toes.
Jordi: At Cooltra, our first value is passion. To work at Cooltra, you have to be passionate and give it your all. We look for commitment and incredible customer service skills. We are very customer-oriented because we work closely with our customers. As such, our employees must be committed to offering service that goes above and beyond.
Our second value is innovation. Our business wouldn’t exist or continue to grow without it. We have grown a great deal since our inception, yet it is incredibly important for us to keep our start-up spirit. At Cooltra, everyone is hands-on, from our mechanics all the way to our CEO, everyone is invested. Speaking of our CEO, not only does he personally welcome all new employees, regardless of the department, he also gives them the office tour, takes the time to dig deep into why Cooltra exists, as well as sitting down for breakfast with them. This approachable nature is something we are proud of and want to keep alive.
Both of your businesses are at the forefront of your industries, which makes you very attractive to potential talent. What is the key to success within your businesses?
Oriol: I truly believe that your career and its success is completely dependent on you. In interviews, I sometimes get asked if there are growth opportunities within GymForLess and my answer is always the same: it depends on you. It depends on how much dedication you put in and how badly you want it.
I have been incredibly lucky in my personal career, having worked for businesses that gave me room to grow. But this was all a result of my own dedication, my own time, and hard work. If you work hard and perform well, there is a very high chance that you will grow within the business and they will want to invest more in you.
I was once told in a previous job to always hire people who are better than you, because if you hire somebody who is better than you, the company will grow faster, and you will learn a lot. In the end, I could say that the key to success would be a commitment to the company as well as a positive and hard-working attitude.
I don’t mind if you are smarter, faster, etc; what really counts is the attitude in the workplace because with a positive outlook you will go further. Without this, it will be very difficult to develop yourself and have fun. My ideal talent profile is someone that hasn’t had much experience because it is easier to impress our values upon them. They also tend to be more flexible as they are still learning. Someone who is too experienced and stuck in their way isn’t going to help us grow.
I also look for chameleon employees: talents who have transferable skills. For example, someone who starts working in our Customer Service department and then grows into a Sales role, or someone who starts in Marketing and ends up in Project Management.
Jordi: I completely agree with you, Oriol. Unfortunately, I do not have much HR experience and I’m not usually the one who interviews our candidates, so when I am looking to hire, I look for a positive can-do attitude. In my case in Marketing, I prefer somebody that tells me that he/she doesn’t have in-depth knowledge, but is willing to learn, has a positive and proactive outlook than somebody who is an expert but is unapproachable and not eager to learn.
One thing that I have realised while working in start-ups, where you work with smaller teams, is that if you don’t have the attitude and are willing to collaborate, you will not go far. Other important values that I seek in an employee is fearlessness. Someone who fears failure will not grow, will not improve, and will not be up for the challenge.
Both of your businesses are looking to make an impact on people’s lives. How is this reflected in your employees? Are they brand ambassadors?
Oriol: At GymForLess, we make fitness more accessible to the public. We believe in healthy lifestyles and love to share this with our customers. So when we are looking to hire, we are looking for people who love sports and/or who believe in leading a healthy lifestyle. We are looking for people who genuinely live and breathe our values.
Someone who isn’t fond of exercise won’t fit in at GymForLess, because their personal values don’t match ours. That is one of the first things I focus on when searching for new employees.
As a start-up, our biggest challenge when hiring is that, unlike bigger businesses, we don’t usually have large funding dedicated to recruitment. Because we are in an exploration phase, we expect our staff to work hard for less remuneration than they would receive at a larger company.
Our selling point is that as the start-up grows, you have the opportunity to grow alongside it where compensation becomes much more interesting. I have 10 years of experience in start-ups, and I have found it immensely satisfying to start at the bottom and grow alongside the business. Your investment is felt throughout and you can actually see how your work is affecting the business.
Working at a start-up is a very interesting opportunity for those who want to develop their professional careers, those who are looking to continually learn, and those looking to escape the typical 9-5 routine.
Jordi: At Cooltra, we look for employees that believe in sustainable mobility and who are able to communicate their passion to our customers. We look for people who truly believe in our service and see it as a good solution for our cities. When I started at Cooltra five years ago, we were just 8 people; and now we are around sixty to seventy people. Witnessing and participating in this growth has been exhilarating and incredibly humbling. We don’t ask our employees anything that we wouldn’t do. We expect hands-on commitment because we believe in it.
The commitment and attitude of your employees are important, but do they make an impact on the financial results?
I read a study recently, which shows that companies with a clear mission hone more commitment from their employees which positively impacts the bottom line. Is this also your case?
Oriol: At GymForLess, we are only 20 people which makes it slightly more difficult to assess. However, what we have witnessed is that within the business, because we encourage our staff to use our service to sustain a healthy lifestyle, our employees rarely need to take sick leave as a result of being healthy and happy.
Our work environment is inviting and our employees enjoy working here. We even have a few cases when employees come to work earlier to be able to chat and have coffee with their colleagues because they really enjoy being here.
Even though GymForLess isn’t yet able to be competitive with salaries, our employees are happy to work with us because they enjoy the work and sell a product that they like and believe in. Thanks to this, we also have a very low turnover rate.
All in all, I truly believe that if you treat your employees well and with respect, if you give them room to grow and hire based on attitude, it will always pay off in the end as your employees will be your biggest brand ambassadors.
Jordi: I totally agree with Oriol. The economic impact of having a motivated workforce is a fact. It seems logical, but, without an engaged workforce, a business cannot thrive. They are our most important asset.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges your businesses face or have faced?
Oriol: GymForLess’s journey has not been an easy ride. At the very beginning, we grew quite rapidly but didn’t have the funds to support this growth, which meant we had to close some of our offices and rethink some of our markets. This was a difficult time for us.
However, since we were acquired by Sodexo seven months ago, we are starting to grow again as they are market leaders in employee benefits. This means that we now have the tools to grow and expand. A bonus is that our service will also be offered as an employee benefit within the business at large, which makes for great revenue.
So if I think of the biggest challenges we have faced, I would definitely say that the early onset of our growth was too difficult to handle which slowed us down in the long run. However, we have now overcome this hurdle and are now free to continue growing sustainably.
Jordi: Cooltra is currently in a state of high growth with the opening of our latest market is Austria. So our biggest challenge to come will be growing the business there and tailoring our service to the country. It is always challenging when expanding to a new country, but it comes with huge opportunities that we welcome!
Both of your businesses are growing rapidly. With that in mind, how do you keep your company culture alive?
Jordi: Maintaining a company culture and keeping your values alive when growing locally is a challenge in itself. So when you add physical distance and variety in roles within the business to the mix, this makes for an interesting obstacle.
We are in six different countries and in 30 different cities and we aim to maintain our culture by investing in our internal communication system, creating monthly newsletters, remaining as transparent as possible. In the end, it’s all about communication, if you can communicate wisely and efficiently with your employees, you can establish a common ground where everyone feels engaged.
How do you create a healthy work-life balance while working in a fast-paced environment?
Oriol: I have had moments in my life where I had to work very hard and dedicate a lot of my personal time towards professional projects. At that time, I did not have a family and loved what I was doing, which made it much easier for me. When you do start to change your personal circumstances, work-life balance becomes more difficult to manage.
So, in my mind, the key to successfully reaching a work-life balance is to use your time wisely and organise yourself efficiently. I personally love to run. As such, I make time for it during my lunch breaks and work hard until 6-7 p.m. before returning home to spend some quality time with my family. If I still have work left afterward, I do it after having had quality time with my family.
There are many who spend a lot of time at their workplaces, but they are not more efficient. So I try and use my time wisely by taking care of myself and dedicating my time towards things that will add value to my business and my life.
Jordi: I have three kids and commute for one hour, so I have to be very cautious with both my personal and professional time. I am very thankful that we have company flexibility, which gives me the opportunity to be more efficient. However, for those who aren’t so lucky, my advice would be to use your time wisely. Do activities that are of high-value rather than looking at the nitty-gritty. I also recommend separating work from life as much as you can. Not looking at your work phone when at home, for instance.
Speaking about balancing work and life, do you find it difficult to delegate tasks?
Oriol: I definitely find it difficult, but I am learning to do it. I definitely believe it is necessary so as to be more efficient, as well as foster a better work-life balance.
Jordi: I think delegating can be difficult if there is no trust. The most important thing when delegating is trusting your staff and your peers. Once there is trust, there is certainty and comfort to hand over tasks.