Introduction and interview by Deirdre Maloney

As a cofounder of both fashion agency BPMW and apparel tradeshow Capsule, not to mention a serious workout enthusiast (and Equinox member), I was excited to sit down with Sarah Robb O’Hagan, a fellow lady boss whose career I have followed over the years.

Currently president of Equinox, O’Hagan has held big-brass positions at a range of fascinating mega companies like Nike and Gatorade, and has lots of professional and personal wisdom to share. From sports and the virtues of teamwork, to mainstream exclusivity and having it all, to really believing in your work, O’Hagan and I got to compare our very different, yet parallel worlds.

How are you settling into a relatively new position?
I’m loving it. I’ve been onboard about five months now, so it’s been a very intense onboarding period, because I’ve spent a lot of my time actually out in our clubs getting to know the team and the front line and how the business works. I’ve had a lot of fun. I’ve done things like maintenance shifts. I’ve done front-desk shifts, just to learn the business. I’ve come away unbelievably inspired, because we’re in a pretty incredible business: helping people to achieve their own goals, and seeing the passionate energy from our front-line team to go after that is pretty inspiring.

So after five months rolling up your sleeves and getting in the trenches, are there certain opportunities that you’re really excited to tackle?
I think there’s a lot of opportunities. That’s probably one of the biggest challenges for my role, because every day I’m out there realizing there’s so many opportunities we can go after. We’re spending a lot of time at the moment thinking about how to focus, because we can do so many things.

But for sure, I’m very excited about how we move and migrate ourselves more into the digital lifestyle of our members. So you’ll see some of the benefits of that yourself, somewhat soon, I hope.

Well, I’m a fan of Q.
Yes, exactly. Q blog has been up and going just over a year, and it’s been a tremendous success for us because we realize that people wanted more knowledge than what they can get out of their time in the club during the day. We’ve had a really great reaction to it.

I’ve been fascinated by Equinox’s recent acquisitions of SoulCycle and Blink. I was wondering how involved you are with those businesses, and what the thinking behind acquiring those alternative fitness brands was.
Soul was more of an acquisition whereas Blink is something we’re actually incubating internally. So SoulCycle—if you’ve participated, you’ll know—is an amazing experience. We look at it as more as a partnership, really.

It was a great opportunity for us to partner with Julie [Rice] and Elizabeth [Cutler], who founded it, on something that’s growing exponentially and has a lot of potential. We felt there were great synergies between Equinox and SoulCycle. Actually a lot of our members—you sound like one—participate in both.

Yeah.
So there’s definitely a lot that we can learn from each other. It’s more of a back-of-house involvement, so it’s really important, we feel, for SoulCycle to continue to connect with its own individual riders in its own way.

On the other side, Blink was more born out of an opportunity that we saw in the marketplace that there is a segment of consumers out there who haven’t necessarily gotten into fitness as a daily part of their routine, but seriously would want to if they could. So we really saw this value segment in the marketplace as a place that Equinox could bring a proposition.

So Blink, as I said, is one that we’re incubating right now. We’ve had tremendous success so far, because bringing the knowledge that we have as Equinox and our standards of service, but at obviously a lower price point, has really been hitting well. And each of the Blink locations is very central to its own community, and that’s been another part of its success.