When the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) chose Rick Caro as the first recipient of its Lifetime Achievement Award, few people in the industry likely were surprised. Caro is the whole reason IHRSA exists. Thirty-two years ago, Caro suggested that the National Tennis Association and the National Court Clubs Association join forces to become the International Racquet and Sportsclub Association. ('Health' was added to the name later.)
Caro, president of Management Vision, New York, is a former health club owner who has served as a consultant to 2,000 clubs in the past 30 years.
"He's the industry's advisor and sometime therapist," Joe Moore, IHRSA president and CEO, said when giving Caro the award at the IHRSA conference and trade show in Las Vegas last month.
Moore's description of Caro is apt. I can attest that Caro has advised not only owners and operators of clubs, but also many of the members of the media that cover the industry.
My first experience with Caro occurred after one of my first stories for Club Industry was published more than 11 years ago. He called my boss at that time to note that this particular story showed a lack of knowledge of the industry. He pointed out information that the story should have included but did not. When my boss relayed these points to me, I was uncertain what to think of this man whom I had never met or heard of. (And that alone showed my lack of industry knowledge at the time.) However, upon my boss's suggestion, I called Caro to "soak up his knowledge." And I have yet to regret it.
Caro is a true teacher and selfless with his time and knowledge. I quickly discovered that his intention in calling my boss about that story was not to berate me but to make me more knowledgeable so that the stories I wrote would be more thorough, so that Club Industry could better serve the industry. I will be forever grateful for that phone call and all the phone calls that have followed during the past 11 years.
More important than how Caro affected me personally, he has played a major role in shaping the fitness industry. He authored the book "Financial Management," which many people consider to be the pre-eminent industry textbook. He was part of a committee that developed a chart of accounts so the industry would have a uniform method for reporting financials. He researched valuation formulas from other industries and how they could be applied to the club industry.
His consulting company provides management and financial expertise, including feasibility studies, business plans, loan proposals, club valuations, buying and selling assistance, operational analyses and financial acumen to club operators, real estate developers, hospitals, hotels, resorts, appraisers. He also serves as an expert witness in court cases.
Caro believes in giving back, serving as a trustee of the Urban Business Assistance Corp., a non-profit organization that provides technical assistance to minority businesses in New York City. He also served on the board of the New York City Sports Commission and Sports Development Authority. He has served as the secretary-treasurer of the American Council on Exercise and of Operation FitKids.
Club Industry recognized Caro with our very own Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006 in recognition of all he had done for the industry. It is fitting that the organization he founded has now also done the same, even though the organization had already honored him as Person of the Year and given him the Distinguished Service Award.
In accepting the honor at the conference, Caro reminded the audience how much the industry has changed in the past 40 years (no EFT, no entertainment on cardio equipment, no multisport clubs and only 5 percent of the population belonged to health clubs in those days). But he spent most of his time at the podium thanking and recognizing others in the industry who have also served and helped shape health clubs. All I could think was, "There he goes again, sharing. The man just can't help himself."