Jack Tomas got into the fitness industry 8 years ago. He is now founder and CEO of BASE and also helps fitness business owners in Asia through the Fitness Business Asia podcast, by speaking on the business side of the industry at the region’s biggest conferences and events.
What’s your story?
I’m a Bangkok-based Brit who arrived in Thailand 15 years ago naïve and fresh-faced with an intention to stay 6 months. One project led to another and after getting into the fitness industry 8 years ago I haven’t looked back. 3 years ago I founded and am now CEO of BASE – voted Asia’s ‘Gym of the Year’ at the region’s biggest awards. During my time here I’ve witnessed – and played my part in – Thailand’s fitness scene developing from zero into a thriving and busy scene that’s up there with Asia’s top cities.
What excites you most about your industry?
On the business side, I’m excited by the huge growth potential of the fitness and wellness industry in Asia. Thailand has a gym penetration rate of 1%, and Indonesia is 0.1%. As the craving for different, unique and fun experiences increases, there is massive potential to create something innovative and really thrive. On a more personal side, positively impacting more and more people every day through getting them to enjoy working out and offering a better way for them to train excites me as much today as my first day in the industry.
What’s your connection to Asia?
My connection to Asia started as a young backpacker and has developed into that of a fitness business owner with a network of 3 fitness studios, 45 staff and plans to expand further into the region. Asia has offered me so much, so I’m very happy to be giving back through creating jobs, getting people excited about fitness and raising Thailand’s profile as a top country in the region’s industry.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I am, of course, inclined to say Bangkok, as it’s been home for the last 15 years and has been so good to me in so many ways. As our business has grown I’ve become more involved and interested in Singapore, as this is probably the region’s top fitness city. Everything is so professional, progressive and efficient there compared to other South East Asian cities and this really appeals to me. There are also a lot of strong and inspiring fitness industry leaders in Singapore that I’ve become friends with, so I’m going to go for the city-state (sorry, Bangkok!).
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Something my friend said to me when I was in my late teens had profound impact. After going through a bit of a rough time and giving myself a pat on the back for coming out the other side of it, he told me ‘everyone’s got their stuff to deal with’ and told me about some of the hardships he’s had. It made me realize that there’s nothing special about me and what I make of my life is not related to events that have happened in it; it’s ultimately and completely down to me and me only.
Who inspires you?
My uncle inspires me. He’s very active in his 50s with ultrarunning and rock climbing, which inspires me to be fit and strong into older age. His business advice has always been spot on and he’s able to offer an objective, thoughtful and reasoned opinion on pretty much anything I run by him, which I find is something that’s quite hard to find.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Running a mile in under 4 minutes used to be considered impossible for the human body. But once one person had achieved it, many more repeated and even bettered the feat in the following years. Now 1,400 people have done what was once considered not possible. This for me is a powerful example of what you can achieve once you’ve been shown something is possible.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I wouldn’t do anything differently. Everything that’s happened in my life up to now has played its part in where I’m at now.
How do you unwind?
Unwinding is something I need to get better at, but recently I’ve been unwinding by listening to non-business related podcasts and books that allow me to focus on things outside of work. I also try to make sure I get out of the city at least once every month to more natural, cleaner surroundings.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Without a doubt – Koh Kood, a secluded Thai island near Cambodia. This island is truly a magical place and gives a glimpse into what Koh Samui and Phuket must have been like 30 years ago.
Everyone in business should read this book:
The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People. My uncle bought me this when I was about 20 and although it made sense, it didn’t fully resonate. I reread it a few years back and realized how true, powerful and timeless the principles are.
Shameless plug for your business:
BASE is changing the boutique fitness landscape with big developments in fitness tech to be launched next year. We’re excited to release more details so watch this space.
My Fitness Business Asia podcast aims to be this region’s most trusted and useful resource for business owners in health, wellness and fitness. We release an episode a week which is a mix of solo topics from me and interviews with fitness industry leaders around Asia. My mission is to raise the standards of the industry in Asia so if you think you could benefit, subscribe now!
This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews
Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.