Countdown to the CEO Summit: Meet Our Industry Panel

2018 CEO Summit

Each year, we begin the Club Industry CEO Summit with a panel of innovators and leaders from key industry segments. This year’s panel is no exception. 

Here is more information on each panelist and links to their club websites if you would like to understand their operations and fashion your questions prior to the CEO Summit.

Rich NelsenRich Nelsen, CEO, VASA Fitness

Rich Nelsen brings more than three decades of leadership experience to VASA, inspiring high-performance teams and delivering rapid business growth. Prior to joining VASA, Rich was chief executive officer at In-Shape Health Clubs, where he led a successful culture change and record-breaking membership growth. Prior to his time at In-Shape, Nelsen was a senior executive at Starbucks Coffee Co. where he held several domestic and international roles and was known for his vision in building great teams, elevating service and delivering results in all the regions he led throughout his 13 years. Prior to Starbucks, Nelsen held executive roles with Clark Retail Enterprises and Taco Bell.  
In the past 12 months Nelsen has spearheaded VASA’s profit growth by 40 percent, recruited talent for VASA’s leadership team to make it one of the most diverse in the industry and has evolved a brand that is centered around human connection and community.

About VASA Fitness
VASA Fitness is a high-value, low-price (HVLP) operator of fitness clubs and is among one of the top 20 largest health club operators in the country. It has locations in Colorado, Utah, Oklahoma, Arizona and Kansas, and is soon to be in Indiana. It has rapid expansion plans for 2020 and beyond. VASA’s mission is to uplift everyone through fun and happy fitness, offering its more than 325,000 members in 36 operating locations an incredible value proposition with large, full-service clubs for as low as $9.99 per month. VASA offers top-of-the-line equipment, exercise machines, free-weights and a wide variety of group fitness classes and amenities to help members customize their personal fitness plans. VASA has headquarters in Denver, Colorado, and Orem, Utah. 

Adam ZeitsiffAdam Zeitsiff, President & CEO, Gold’s Gym International

Adam Zeitsiff is responsible for leading Gold’s Gym International’s continued focus on innovation, franchising and growth. With more than 20 years of professional experience, he specializes in managing and accelerating global operations, expansion and brand innovation of multi-unit retail and franchise companies in competitive landscapes.

Prior to joining Gold’s Gym in early 2019 as the company’s CEO, Zeitsiff served as the fitness brand’s CIO from 2016 to 2018. During that original tenure at Gold’s Gym, Zeitsiff led the launch of GOLD’S AMP, the first and only digital coaching app of its kind to be offered by a brick-and-mortar gym.

In addition to his current position with Gold’s Gym, Zeitsiff also serves on the board of NinjaCat, a cloud-based digital marketing SaaS management platform. Immediately after his time as Gold’s Gym CIO, he worked as CIO for Smoothie King. Prior to his original tenure at Gold’s Gym, Zeitsiff was president and business unit manager for the Fitness & Leisure Division of Jonas Software for nearly six years. 

(Listen to Club Industry's podcast with Zeitsiff where he shares what it was like to return to Gold's Gym and where he plans to lead the brand in the future.)

About Gold’s Gym International

Gold's Gym has been the world's trusted fitness authority since 1965. From its beginning as a small gym in Venice, California, Gold's Gym has grown into a global icon with more than 700 locations serving 3 million people across six continents each day. Featuring personalized transformation plans, state-of-the-art equipment, certified personal trainers, a diverse group exercise program and a supportive, motivating environment, Gold's Gym delivers the most dynamic fitness experience in the industry. The Gold's Gym experience recently expanded to include BOOTCAMP group training as well as GOLD'S STUDIO, which gives members access to boutique-style classes such as GOLD'S FIT, GOLD'S BURN and GOLD'S CYCLE, all under the same roof. It also offers GOLD'S AMP, the first digital personal training app from a brick-and-mortar gym. More than a gym, Gold's Gym combines coaching, community and more than 50 years of fitness expertise to help people around the world achieve their potential through fitness.

Julia SuttonJulia Sutton, CEO, Exhale Spa

In addition to being CEO of Exhale Spa, Julia Sutton is co-founder of the company, which is a leading lifestyle brand in the spa and well-being industry that operates 21 properties in 10 markets.  As a member of the founding team, Sutton developed and scaled the company's operating infrastructure that today successfully delivers dozens of award-winning well-being, spa and retail programs, and supports an employee base of 2,000. Sutton is a recognized spa industry leader with a successful track record for developing and launching spa, fitness and retail in a number of markets. Prior to joining the Exhale team, she served as national spa operations director for Wellbridge, where she directed 10 spas across the country from Honolulu to New York. Sutton has a bachelor’s degree in marketing and international business from Manhattan College. She also completed the OPM program at Harvard Business School. She belongs to several groups (COO network, American College of Sports Medicine, HBSCNY) and enjoys coaching basketball, playing tennis, hiking and surfing.

About Exhale

Exhale manages 10 properties and owns 10 properties. The company has 3,000 spa members and 5,000 fitness members. So far in 2019, Exhale has had a 20 percent growth in spa members and a 125 percent growth in fitness members. in its owned locations, the company has about $5 million in revenues from fitness memberships. Exhale has a unique model that creates a community feel around well-being with both spa and fitness. The company is expanding the brand outside the four walls with its on-demand platform.

Rodney StevenRodney Steven, Owner, Genesis Health Clubs

Rodney Steven is the president and owner of Genesis Health Clubs, Wichita, Kansas. After graduating from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois, on a tennis scholarship, Steven continued following his vision of pursuing a healthy lifestyle and helping others in his hometown of Wichita do the same.  He soon recognized the need for a fitness center that was focused on top-quality customer service and personal attention. It was from this early vision that the service-oriented, results-based training model was born, and Genesis Health Club anchored its rightful place in the fitness industry. 

Rodney and his brother, Brandon Steven, co-own the Wichita Thunder and Tulsa Oiler Hockey Teams under Steven Brothers Sports Management. They also co-own multiple car lot dealerships and recently opened 6S Steakhouse, a first in fine dining for West Wichita. 

Steven’s passion for fitness extends beyond just the health club industry and into philanthropy. In 2006, the brothers founded the Genesis Foundation for Fitness and Tennis (GFFT). This 501c3 foundation operates with the purpose of allowing all citizens, regardless of background and means, the opportunity to participate in recreational and/or competitive fitness activities. GFFT provides funding and scholarships for individuals interested in tennis, both for recreation and competition, as well as at-risk, disadvantaged and otherwise under-funded youth.  It is Steven’s mission to make sure that all children have the opportunity to experience the joy of fitness, and GFFT helps bring that goal closer to reality every day. 

About Genesis Health Clubs

Genesis Health Club has five facilities in Wichita and has expanded its reach opening clubs in every city in Kansas with a population of more than 30,000, as well as locations in Missouri, Nebraska, Colorado and Oklahoma, giving customers the most well-rounded and professional fitness experience in the Midwest. Within each location, members will find top-of-the-line, state-of-the-art equipment and the latest in fitness trends from around the country. Each club also provides specialized amenities and services including child care, tanning beds, basketball courts, steam rooms, indoor and outdoor tennis courts, Pilates training studios and more.

With 100,000 patrons coming through the doors daily, Genesis has maintained the best facilities, hired the best staff and provided thousands of members from youth to senior citizens the ultimate fitness and exercise experience. Genesis owns most of its properties and operates each one of them. Currently, Genesis has 45 clubs with two new facilities under construction.

Jim WorthingtonJim Worthington, Owner, Newtown Athletic Club

Jim Worthington, an industry veteran since 1974, has driven the growth of the Newtown Athletic Club (NAC), Newtown, Pennsylvania, from a 15,000-square-foot racquet club to a 275,000-square-foot health, wellness and recreation lifestyle.

Worthington has been identified as a visionary in the industry. He has served on the IHRSA board for four years, the past year as chairman and now as ex-officio.  He also has been appointed to serve on the President’s Council for Sports, Fitness and Nutrition.

During his tenure on the IHRSA board, Worthington has worked closely with the IHRSA public policy team to legislate for passage of the PHIT bill in Washington, DC.  In 2018 the bill passed in the House of Representatives, the furthest progress made in the history of the bill.

(Listen to Club Industry's podcast featuring Worthington that delves into what he has learned during his years in the business, his time as IHRSA chair and his move into the political arena.)

About Newtown Athletic Club

The Newtown Athletic Club is a 275,000-square-foot lifestyle campus located on 26 acres just north of Philadelphia.  Worthington is the sole owner of the facility, which services more than 12,000 members with membership fees ranging from $151 to $314 per month.  Annual revenue is just under $19 million.  The NAC is undergoing a $12 million to $15 million major expansion

The NAC, considered one of the leading clubs in the nation, is undergoing another expansion that will add a series of boutique-style fitness studios, a Six Zone Studio, a 6,000-square-foot wellness center, complete renovation and expansion of the men’s and women’s locker rooms, a pre-school and more, cementing its distinction as an elite, all-inclusive club experience.

Schedule for the CEO Summit

Here is a summary of the two days:

Wednesday, Oct. 9

  • Guided Club Tours starting at 12:30 p.m. (Fitness Formula, Midtown Athletic Club and East Bank Club)
  • Networking Happy Hour at 6:00 p.m. (meet and greet with colleagues)
  • CEO Dinner at 7:00 p.m. (more networking)

Thursday, Oct. 10


  • Private Breakfast and Networking
  • Industry Panel – Perspectives on the Present and Future from Industry Leaders
  • Harvard Business School Business Development Workshop – Growing Your Market in a Mature Industry
  • NEW This Year! Lunch and Guest Keynote Speaker – Three-Time Navy SEAL Commander on Building Unstoppable Teams (Don’t miss this!)


  • Hot Topic Panel Discussion – A Reality Check on Technology Investments
  • Breakthroughs and CEO Survey Highlights – Best Practices from Your Peers
  • Networking Happy Hour and/or Visit Trade Show – Debrief with Your New Acquaintances


Tim Rhode is a fitness industry veteran with more than 30 years of experience, managing, developing, owning, growing and consulting in the health club industry. As an owner and manager beginning in 1986, he has operated health, wellness and racquet sports clubs from 8,000 to 120,000 square feet with teams of 20 to more than 300 people and more than 100 personal trainers. As an industry innovator and consultant, Rhode helps small, large and multi-club operators to visibly improve their businesses with strategy, systems, training and motivation. Email [email protected], or call or text him at 443-324-0580.

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