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government might actually have to start forcing people to join a gym or take exercise. Either that or we just have to accept that people must pay more – that healthcare won’t be free and that, if your lifestyle is such that you’re becoming a drain on the NHS, you should then pay more for it. If you want to sit and eat hamburgers all day long, fi ne. But if at the age of 35 you need a heart bypass, you’ll have to pay more towards it. Don’t expect it to be free. Realistically, though, which government is going to turn round and say that to people?”

staff focus Staff motivation is a key focus for Cope.

“I split my time broadly across three main areas. One third of my time is spent looking at ways of making the business more efficient, to ensure its continued success and sustainability. Another third is spent looking at maintaining the quality of what we’re putting out there for our members. And the final third is dedicated to thinking of ways to incentivise our staff and improve their lot. “I want everyone who works here to

really, really enjoy it, to feel a big sense of loyalty. I don’t believe in running a company by fear. I believe in bringing people along with you, making sure they’re enjoying themselves along the way. “We also have share incentive schemes,

pensions and career progression routes. And we pay a minimum of about £30 an hour by the time you include loyalty bonuses, training bonuses and so on – the more classes instructors run, and the more training courses they do, the better paid they are. There are often back-to-back classes at popular locations too – 6pm, 7pm, 8pm – so they can earn around £100 in an evening. We give them as much work as we can. “To me it’s critical that we put as much effort as we can into training,

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monitoring, motivating and incentivising our 600 instructors, having an infrastructure in place to ensure that every time they go out, it’s as good as it possibly can be. We employ an external company to mystery shop our sessions, we do a huge amount of staff training, and we’re constantly devising new programmes. Instructors aren’t given a choreographed class though – they have to use their own initiative, as well as the training and the tools we give them.” So, aside from all being ex-army,

what are the characteristics of a BMF instructor? “The typical BMF instructor has to look fi t and be fi t, he has to be charismatic, he has to be able to communicate. He has to build up a relationship very quickly with a group of people, being attentive to their needs but also with leadership skills to stamp his authority on that group. But most importantly he has to make you laugh. I say ‘he’ – probably about 90–95 per cent of our instructors are men, which is a similar ratio to the army. “People like the professionalism and

reliability of our instructors: even in the winter, they get to every session. There were examples last winter of instructors who backpacked to the meeting point because they couldn’t get there by road, so they were there for the three people who turned up for the class. And maybe they built a snowman and threw snowballs, but they were there. Every single class. I think that says a lot about our guys. “We move instructors around

though, so it’s not the same person every time. We never want it to be about them. It’s utterly about the people who are doing the class.”

community links There’s also a strong altruistic element to BMF, which is perhaps one of the organisation’s lesser-known qualities.

“We do a lot of community projects

wherever we can: classes for drug addicts, overweight kids, disadvantaged kids, homeless people,” explains Cope.

“I’m a recovering alcoholic – I haven’t had a drink for 16 years – and it’s great to help other people change their lives. “We’ve had a drug programme running

in Hyde Park for two years, for example, and have seen numerous people not only off drugs but in houses and jobs, just by taking a few one-hour fi tness classes. And our instructors love doing it. We can’t expect them to do it for free though, so we’ve put aside a six-fi gure sum this year to fund these projects. “And then there are the parks, which

we feel privileged to be able to use. We pay fees to do so of course, but we also re-invest in them – we put £1m back into them every year, through tree-planting schemes and so on. We’d also like to start building outdoor fi tness trails in the future. “We want our members to know it’s

a good thing they’re part of too. We get them involved in our projects – in Clapham Common recently, we asked members to bring along sports kit they didn’t use any more for a homeless charity, and people can also add to our own investment in tree planting by donating online. We’re also thinking of starting a charity scheme for beginners to encourage attendance: for your fi rst 10 sessions we’ll donate £10 to a charity of your choice. Or perhaps it could be a tree-planting initiative, where we plant trees in the park on their behalf. “Ultimately BMF is a profi t-making

company – turnover this year will be around £10m – but we could make more of a profi t than we do. Much more. But we like the way we work.” kate cracknell

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