Life Fitness President Chris Clawson Named Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year 2013 Finalist

by Lauren Kraft

May 06, 2013 // Category: Our People

We’re proud to announce that Chris Clawson, our company president, was named a finalist in the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2013 program in the Midwest. The award recognizes outstanding entrepreneurs who demonstrate excellence and extraordinary success in such areas as innovation, financial performance and personal commitment to their businesses and communities.

“This recognition is a reflection of our company’s resurgence in not only executive leadership, but also industry leadership,” Chris said of his award.  “By pioneering game-changing new products like Synrgy360 and new advancements in technology like LFopen and our Discover Tablet Consoles, Life Fitness has signaled a new fitness era of personalization and connectivity.” 

Now in its 27th year, the Entrepreneur Of The Year Program has expanded to recognize business leaders in more than 140 cities in more than 50 countries throughout the world. Clawson was selected from a strong pool of nominations by a panel of independent judges.  Awards will be presented at a special gala on June 27, 2013, at the Hilton Hotel in Chicago, Illinois.

A Life Fitness veteran, Clawson has served the company in a number of different positions; including senior director of product management for cardio products, vice president of consumer sales and marketing, and general manager of U.S. fitness retailer Omni Fitness, owned by Life Fitness at the time. He serves on the Board of Directors for the Sports & Fitness Industry Association and is a National Vice President for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Three years after Chris Clawson joined Life Fitness in 1994, he was identified as a “high-potential” employee. Augie Nieto, a fitness industry titan and company co-founder, asked him what he wanted to do with his career. Clawson, then a 30-year-old senior marketing project manager, didn’t hesitate.

“I want to be sitting where you are,” he told Nieto.

“That’s the right answer,” Nieto said.

Nieto told Clawson what he would have to do, step by step, to eventually take over Life Fitness. The path was clear, but daunting:

  • Go back to school and earn a master’s of business administration degree
  • Move from marketing to sales to prove he could hit a number
  • Prove his business mettle by owning a P&L

Clawson followed suit.

He earned a MBA from Northwestern University and moved from marketing to sales within Life Fitness, where he doubled sales of cardio equipment exercise products to more than $300 million.

Then, he left Life Fitness to own a P&L. From 2004 to 2010, he led budding companies and implemented new sales, marketing and product strategies, proving his leadership capabilities. He also led more established companies in the fitness space, increasing sales by up to double through restructured company focus on better research and development.

In 2010, his chance to lead Life Fitness finally came to fruition, just as he and Nieto had planned, and now he is being honored for his drive and determination on the path to leadership.

Regional award winners are eligible for consideration for the Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur Of The Year Program. Award winners in several national categories, as well as the Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur Of The Year Overall Award winner, will be announced at the annual awards gala in Palm Springs, California, on November 16, 2013. The awards are the culminating event of the Ernst & Young Strategic Growth Forum, the nation’s most prestigious gathering of high-growth, market-leading companies.

 
Lauren Kraft
 

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