In 2011, Mike and Beth Vivio moved from Austin, Texas, to St. Petersburg where he was CEO of Valpak, the big direct marketer, until its sale in 2017. Faced with what to do next, the couple bought Corporate Fitness Works. The St. Petersburg-based company is now in about 30 states and provides fitness programs for employees of dozens of clients including Lowe’s, T-Mobile, Kaiser Permanente and mortgage giant Freddie Mac. Beth, previously executive director of a 13-county Texas Girl Scout Council, is majority owner of Corporate Fitness Works and Mike is CEO.
The Vivios have been active in the community, with Beth currently a board member of the St. Petersburg Free Clinic, Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and Shorecrest Preparatory School. Mike, who was publisher of the Austin American-Statesman before joining Valpak, is past chairperson of the St. Petersburg Economic Development Corp. and a former member of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce’s executive committee. The couple recently spoke with Bay; this interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Going from the Girl Scouts and direct marketing to owning a fitness company is quite a leap. Why did you make it?
Mike: We spent a year researching opportunities, and corporate fitness works with that perfect sweet spot of really good fundamentals, meaning the clients are looking to drive retention of their talent and lower health care costs. We really loved that. We loved the opportunity to invest in a business focused on helping people.
Has the company changed since you took over in 2018?
Mike: The history of the company and the core business is on-site fitness centers where it’s an employee perk, often at the main corporate building, and the companies will do that for the retention and health of their employees. But post COVID we’ve pivoted to offering virtual service to all employees. In the case of Navy Federal, there were only three campuses serving about 8,000 employees but we now serve all 22,000 employees, including those who work at branches. We provide a more equitable benefit with the combination of virtual and on-site service.
Beth: We developed a couple of apps that they can use to sign on to a computer, smart TV, iPhone, and pull up their app. We also do fitness center design. Some are upwards of 20,000 square feet and that’s a huge facility on those campuses.
How many employees do you have?
Beth: A little over 300. The majority are on site but now that we have virtual offerings some do all of the classes and coaching from home. Of course we have administrative folks in the states.
What are your own fitness routines?
Beth: We certainly don’t have fitness backgrounds but we both are very active. I have a personal trainer I work with a couple of times a week and I enjoy walking along Coffee Pot Bayou multiple times a week. Sometimes I’ll also take the classes that we offer on our app.
How about you, Mike, do you work out on treadmills or ellipticals or what?
Mike: I’ve been going to an Orange Theory every other day for almost a decade. I like the variety, so with Orange Theory it’s running and strength and stretching. One of the big things Corporate Fitness Works advocates, especially in dealing with the entire population of companies, is meeting people where they are. Fitness doesn’t need to be some scary set of contraptions to be intimidated by, it’s just being active.
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Beth: One of the things very popular with our program is leading stretch breaks at companies. We were in Chicago in October and one of our clients there is the Federal Reserve Bank. Every day before lunch, the whole cafeteria staff gets together to stand up and stretch and do a little bit of movement.
You came from Austin, one of the fastest growing, most dynamic cities in the country. Have you found any parallels between it and St. Petersburg?
Mike: That’s one of the reasons we settled in St. Pete. I really saw the nucleus of the Austin quality of life in St. Pete and also the commitment to the arts, the commitment to park space, the outdoor eating opportunities, the burgeoning tech scene.
Beth: We like the diversity of age, and diversity in all its forms seems well represented in St. Pete.