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Dr. Avi on Getting Raw: Bridging the Gap between the Wellness and Medical Industry

In this interview with Richard Marc Toutounji, Dr. Avi speaks about bridging the gap between the wellness industry and medical industry. Dr.  Avi also speaks about being a business owner, having a passion for your business and how to build your brand within the market place.

Below is a breakdown of what is in this video:
0.33 Richard introduces Dr Avi Ratnanesan.
1.08 Dr Avi shares his experience with biotech companies.
3.02 Bridging the gap between wellness industry and medical industry.
5.05 Researching the market place with your wellness business.
5.45 Passion vs Skill.
7.07 Valuing your time and strategy in business.
9.50 Building your brand in the market place.
11.30 Finding a niche.
14.12 Personal Training and Health Care.
18.55 Mastermind Program for fitness professionals.
20.23 Strategy importance.
22.21 Problems and solutions.
25.40 Mindset and behavioural change.

Richard:           Welcome to Getting Raw, it’s Richard Marc Toutounji, and it’s been awhile since our last episode that I had, but today I think we would kickstart the series again. I got a really special guest here today. I’ve got Dr Avi. Welcome doctor.

Dr. Avi:            Nice to see you Richard.

Richard:           I usually call you Avi, so it’s Dr Avi, the official name and title. Dr Avi, you’re a medical doctor, is that correct?

Dr. Avi:            That’s right, I was trained as a medical doctor and I trained in the UK, in England, and then came to Australia probably about 14/15 years ago, and worked in the medical system in Australia as well.

Richard:           This is the first time we’ve had a medical doctor on the show, and you are probably wondering, “Why we got a medical doctor on a Getting Raw series, when we are talking about business and strategy, and fitness, and everything to do with wellness.” Dr Avi, you are responsible for pretty much working with billion dollar companies as their strategist, is that correct?

Dr. Avi:            Correct, that’s right. After my stint in medicine, I did an MBA in Master’s in Business Administration. I got into the biotech scene initially. I worked with biotech companies, and then subsequently worked at Pfizer, which was the largest pharmaceutical company in the industry. Initially my role was more looking after the development of new medicine. It was actually Viagra.

Richard:           Viagra?

Dr. Avi:            Yes, that’s right.

Richard:           You brought Viagra to Australia?

Dr. Avi:            No, Viagra was already in Australia, and doing well. My role at the time was really to look at the science behind Viagra and see what else we can do with Viagra, and get through different populations. It was actually my role to also approve any marketing and advertising for Viagra in Australia, so I needed to get my signature before we add some…

Richard:           That’s also doing tricky advertising as well to get that as well.

Dr. Avi:            That’s right. It’s certainly was edgy. Some people say it was a hard job. Some people don’t get that joke. I learnt a lot because obviously managing Viagra, things were in the newspaper all the time. You always get the statement that the company spokesperson denied this or include that, and I was the company’s spokesperson.

Richard:           You were the company’s spokesperson?

Dr. Avi:            Yeah, back in the time. Then I transitioned more into the business world. As I grew my way through the company, I ended up advising the CEO on strategies and innovations. How do we plan the business side?

Richard:           That’s what I really want to get you on the show today because you are strategizing, not just small businesses, not million dollar, billion dollar companies here… I really wanted to understand the lessons and the techniques that you gave to those companies that are multinationals, and how it’s actually working within smaller startups. Particularly now I know you are getting in the space of wellness, so bridging the gap between wellness and medical.

Dr. Avi:            Yes.

Richard:           I am really interested in that because we all know that the best referrals come from your doctors and so forth. People will say, “Hey, you need to get fit and you need to exercise. I am really interested in that to see how we can actually work with you. I never actually come across someone of your caliber that could be talking about such a topic. Before we’ve had a lot of fitness entrepreneurs on the show, a lot of fitness people in the industry. It’s like, how do we bridge that gap? How do we really do that gap?

Dr. Avi:            It’s really important, wellness, entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship in the health and wellness space. What is that? A bit about my background. After I did the role at Pfizer and did pretty well at it, actually then went to start my own companies from absolute scratch.

Initially there were even areas outside of healthcare, but then after a couple of years I realized I wanted to get back into healthcare, but looked at it from not just a modern medicine perspective, but look at it from the wellness perspective, because currently I think in Australia, we’ve got this division between sick care and well care. We tend to think of our doctors and our hospitals as sick care, and we tend to think of our personal therapists, our alternative health Allied health or our fitness project as wellness and wellness care. Never the two shall meet.

Richard:           Sick and well.

Dr. Avi:            Yeah, sick and well. Whereas that really isn’t how it should be. It really is about a combined approach that’s the best to treat the person as a whole. From an individual perspective, if Richard you want to look after your healthcare, wouldn’t you love it if you have your personal trainer talking to, your doctor talking to you, alternative health therapist, and it was all in one system, right?

Richard:           Yeah.

Dr. Avi:            That would be the best solution for you, but as an industry, as providers of healthcare, we are still quite separated. We don’t really talk together.

Richard:           Most definitely. You go to a doctor when you are sick, and you go to the gym when you are well, then if you are sick you are not hitting the wellness part of it.

Dr. Avi:            Yeah, absolutely. Now here is the thing, if you are a wellness professional or if you are a personal trainer, a fitness coach, even if you are a gym owner, you are starting to think of yourself, “How do I reach more people? How do I get into working with the healthcare side of things?” That’s where you need to be a good business. We know from some of the statics and we look at some of the stats within the industry, some stats say that up to 75 percent of startup wellness businesses failed within the first 18 months.

Richard:           I can believe that.

peaker 2:         It’s a really high failure rate. The reason for that is multiple. Sometimes people don’t realize or don’t fully appreciate why they got into the industry in the first place. A lot of people get into the industry because of heart, the passion for health, and really want to help people with their help.

Richard:           Yeah, the experience something and they want to do it again to somebody else.

Dr. Avi:            Absolutely, and that’s such a great story. It’s a very genuine motivation. Passion will only get you so far. After awhile you need skills and you need business skills in order to help you grow your client base and see more people, because you do need to generate revenue.

Richard:           I like that, business skills. That’s all it’s all about. You are going to have the skills, but you need the actual business skills to go to the next step after that.

Dr. Avi:            Absolutely. To keep yourself sustainable. Some of the mistakes that often people in startup say, “Okay, I’ll do this for free or I’ll train you for free or I’ll undercharge.” Because you are trying to get your way into the market. In some cases that can work, but sometime that’s a win lose situation, where the client wins because they are not paying much, but you lose as a business owner.

Richard:           Because you are not getting paid.

Dr. Avi:            You’ve got to find that balance, and that really comes from valuing yourself first and foremost. It comes from having that sense of, “I value myself and my services and what I can deliver…”

Richard:           I think that’s a big problem within the industry. We are not valuing ourselves or time, because we are selling our time, and it’s also as I said, a doctor or a practitioner, they are selling their time, we need to sell our time as trainers, as gym owners, or as practitioners. It’s the same concept, right?

Dr. Avi:            Absolutely. Valuing your time is fundamental because that’s really were your revenue comes from as a personal trainer. The second thing is then having the right strategy around how you approach the market. You got to think about, “Who are the kind of people that I actually want to help?” A lot of people scatter themselves across many different segments. You might decide, “I want to train men, I want to train women, I want to train kids,” and really scatter yourself a bit too much. Such that when people think of you, you are not clearly positioned in the market.

Richard:           You can pretty much say everything we ask…for male and females between 18 and 65. It’s too broad, right?

Dr. Avi:            Yes, absolutely. Really, whether you are a massive gym owner and owns a chain of gyms, or whether you are an initial startup, business strategy is really important because that determines your long term future. If you are an individual personal trainer, you need to think about who it is you want to serve in the world, who is it you really really want to help. When you find that type of person, then focus on helping those kinds of people, because that’s when you get the joy from your work, that’s when your value builds up, as you learn about specific segments of the market.

As you learn about, say you prefer working with kids for example, you will learn the details of differences of working with children, compared to working with adults.

Richard:           You be the specialist in that area, so like surgeon become a specialist in a certain body part, you turn that the same to the concept.

Dr. Avi:            Absolutely right. It’s lot of fun being a generalist and working in different areas, but if you find that you really want to build greater value all the time, going that specialized route, maybe for 80 percent of your client, is a very good way to go, because then that builds value and you then build them in yourself, your expertise and you are able to charge more, then you can become a more successful-

Richard:           I like that concept. I’ve heard that before, but you explain it in a very different way, with if it’s something coming out alive when you really want to help that particular market, that’s when you become that specialist in your field. What you are also doing is saying okay, when you are a specialist in that field, teaming up with other specialists in different healthcare sector, is that correct?

Dr. Avi:            Yeah. Right now the industry is saturated. We know that. We have more personal trainers now and gyms that we ever had.

Richard:           Yeah. We have more gyms and trainers, exactly.

Dr. Avi:            Which is a good thing, in a lot of ways because we are helping the greater population. On the flip side, if you are a business owner, then you’ve got to say, “Well, how do I actually penetrate this saturated market?” That’s why this specialize comes into place. Now, hand in hand with building your expertise, is building your brand.

Richard:           I understand.

Dr. Avi:            As you build your expertise, you then know need to figure out, “How do I now build my brand within the marketplace? I do I get it out there? How do I communicate my brand?” That’s why things like good marketing principles like having a decent website the represents who you are, who you target, the way you communicate and close the sales call, because it is a sales call at the end of the day. Having that conversation is so important. How do you stuck to the conversation with somebody in your marketing world. Do you go, “Okay, I do this, this, and this, but I can also do this and I can also do that.” How does that seem to the customer when you say you can do all these things?

Richard:           I like that. It’s very interesting you say that. You are coming from non-fitness industry as well, which I may had, which is really I think probably the value asset idea, because you are coming from a medical background. That is what you do as specialist, and each person is calling for a specialist task. It’s almost like, can we duplicate that, what’s been successful done over the years, into a fitness wellness market.

Dr. Avi:            I think that’s certainly, from my point of view, I think that’s certainly a way to go right now, because the market is saturated. Because there are more and more personal trainers out there. It really just depend on where you are. If you are in a location where there is absolutely no personal trainers at all, then sure, be generalized, but if you are in a market where things are saturated, there’s lots of personal trainers, there’s lots of group training etc, etc, really try and find a niche that you can go into, where it’s with people you love working with.

Richard:           I think that’s the key. People you love working with is probably a very big key that we are talking about.

Dr. Avi:            Yeah, absolutely. Business is tough and helping people in healthcare is tough, because you are really dealing with their problems. You’ve got problems and they’ve got problems, so you are around problems all the time. What keeps you going? A few things keep you going, your personal inner motivation, satisfaction, your happiness and fulfillment. Ultimately that’s what keeps you going.

If you do something that you love doing, you will keep going because you are motivated and you feel fulfilled every day of your life.

Richard:           That brings up my next question. You’ve come from a medical background and now at the moment, you are actually helping wellness specialists, personal trainers, gym owners, in that wellness sector, actually work on their business. Why did you make the switch for? What’s the story of you making that switch? Why are you still in the hospital, prescribing medication?

Dr. Avi:            It’s a very good question. The reason was, I really got out of full-time about 15 years ago. I found that after practicing for about two years as a doctor full-time, and then I went part time for another two more years, I found that one-on-one care for me, there was something bigger, there was something missing. I did it for a couple of years. I didn’t really know what it was at the time. I left, actually I took some time off. I took about nine months, where I didn’t do anything.

Richard:           You did a gap?

Dr. Avi:            I did the gap yeah, which is an unusual thing to do, but I really took time to think what is it that I love doing. What I found, I started reading the financial review and business news and things like that, and said, “This is really interesting. I actually really enjoy this stuff, and I want to learn more.” I did that the only way I know how to do that, which is go back to university, because I already spent five years in university.

Richard:           Go back there again.

Dr. Avi:            I’ll just go back there again. I was a sucker for punishment when I went and do that. I did a master’s in business administration. It was a two year course, and I did it 16 months. Fast tracking. I got on the dean’s honor roll, so I was with distinction as well, a distinction student, and I was working part time as a doctor as well, to pay for … I felt, yep, this is absolutely what I love doing, but I didn’t want to just go purely into business. I was still passionate about healthcare, I was still passionate about helping people and helping them have better lives, saving them from illness, and preventing illness, so that’s where personal training comes in.

I said, how can I bring the too together? How can I bring the business side and the healthcare side together? We know that in the wellness space, you have to get paid. There is no Medicare here. You’ve got to go out and get clients and get paid. You’ve got to earn a living.

Richard:           Wouldn’t we just like to swap the medicare kind of thing to a personal trainer? (laughs)

Dr. Avi:            That’s the thing, but we still have to get that credit card. We still have to have those skills. We want to help people yes, but we also still need to get paid. On the flip side, on the hospital care on the GP side, you’ve got patients coming through the doors sometimes. In fact, sometimes you wish you had less patients, but the problem there is bringing the cost down, because the cost of healthcare is too much at the moment. We need to look at ways of bringing cost down.

Depending on the side aspect … That’s an economic issue. It’s a major economic issue, and so again, having that business mindset, helps that side of things as well.

Richard:           You hit it on the head, the cost of healthcare is huge. How are you getting the attention of governments and politicians out there to really say, “Hey, this needs more attention”? Is it happening? Will it happen? Do you think it’s big enough to happen right now?

Dr. Avi:            I think the situation is, everyone is acutely aware. Everybody, the government is acutely aware, the treasurer is acutely aware. He’s scratching his head now, smashing all his subordinates, saying, “We’ve go to find a way to bring healthcare cost down,” so everybody is acutely aware of the problem, and trying different solutions out there.

One of the things I am working on at the moment, is speaking to the top 20 senior leaders in government, business of healthcare, helping to understand what’s the integrative approach to solving this problem. How can we stop working in silos and working as a pharmaceutical industry, as a health insurance industry, as a wellness industry, fitness industry, and how can we start working together. In order to prevent chronic disease, a lot of the issues around the cost of healthcare, comes from our aging population. A lot of us will see or coach people that are 40 plus, who are starting to get those chronic diseases and multiple illness, and multiple injuries.

We are starting to see all those things come through. That is a big burden of the cost. If we can prevent that, if we can keep people fitter, healthier, for longer periods of time, not only will they be more productive to society, they will actually avoid a lot of these chronic diseases that are costing the healthcare system a lot of money at the moment.

Here is where the big opportunity is for the fitness and wellness professional industry, to work towards helping prevent these sorts of diseases.

Richard:           This is just one sector of the many of the wellness stuff that you are working with at the moment?

Dr. Avi:            Absolutely.

Richard:           You’ve got a bit of a big job on your hands I think.

Dr. Avi:            Yeah, I love a big challenge. Don’t we love a challenge? We all love a challenge. I think even for fitness professionals and trainers, don’t you just love those clients that are challenging you all the time, in a way, to not just improve how you train them, but forcing you to be creative, while this person is not responding for this exercise regime or “I’m going to bring some toys in next time.” I’ve got my personal trainer and she’ll try different things. Say, “Okay, this time let’s just focus on some of the stretching this time, it’s boxing this time, let’s try a bit of some yoga techniques. When you get that challenge, that’s what forces you to think of new ways of doing things.

Richard:           I think it’s big need. It definitely make sense as well in the marketplace. I know right now, I guess to start getting that focus into changing the mindsets of the fitness industry, the personal trainer, the gym owners and so forth. I know you are doing a lot of coaching, a lot of programs for that industry specifically to try align them into wellness industry, which I think is actually great. I don’t think anybody is doing that in this industry.

They are pretty much saying, hey if you are a business owner and you want to grow your business, you are an entrepreneur or you want to take your business to past the million dollar mark or million to 10 million dollars, you’ve got the skillset because you’ve obviously gone from the billion dollar companies, and you are working all the way through. What does those sort of programs involve? I know you are working with a few people in the industry, but you are working with the people that are thinking differently as well, not just, hey, I want to get 10 sessions or 20 sessions. You are really trying to think that business skyrocket as fast. Tell me quickly about that.

Dr. Avi:            Generally I work in a number of different ways. I’ve got a mastermind group program, which is a regular weekly coaching call. That’s in a group setting. What that does is, I help, let’s say you are a fitness professional, wellness professional, I help you grow your business by giving you advise on a weekly basis, making sure you hit those weekly goals that you set for yourself, but also helping you think different to everybody else that’s in the market.

Richard:           I like that. I think that’s the key, is thinking differently.

Dr. Avi:            Absolutely. As you said, if you are just trying to get more clients, there’s only so far you can go.

Richard:           Time is money.

Dr. Avi:            Time is money and there is so many hours in a day, and you can burn yourself out, because even if you work with six clients a day, can you really work with six clients a day for five days a week? I don’t think you can. You might be able to in the short term, but not a long term. You need to think of different ways of earning revenue. Can you create products? Can you create services? Can you tap into partnerships with other businesses? So you have more passive streams of income.

Look at Michele Bridges for example, she’s your classic case of someone who’s built her profile over a period of time. She still works with clients, but she’s got products, she’s on a TV show. She’s got other services that she endorses. She’s partnered with schools. These are the ways that you can leverage some of your expertise within the marketplace, to create other streams of income. That’s the real thing that a lot of people don’t think about. This is where having good strategy at an early stage, comes in.

Richard:           Having a good strategy and having a good team will able to give you that strategy, that’s thinking differently and that’s come from a different … Somewhere totally different, which is, … I know we had a couple conversations and it’s taking a while to understand your concepts as well because you are coming from a different concept. It’s still even so valuable because it is a different model of hey, not fitness. You are coming from a different sector, which is I think is very powerful.

Dr. Avi:            Thanks for saying that. I think the other opportunity, particularly if you look at gym owners who are owning businesses that are say, 1 million to 10 million or want to go from 10 million to a 100 million, then they hear the opportunities to look at how do we get into other sectors? How do we partner with the sick care side of things? How do we work with hospitals? How do we work in other areas of the health industry, even health insurance companies for example, to form this greater partnership and reach a broader number of people.

That’s where we need to think outside of the box, just like Steven Johnson when he created … Everybody’s got an iPhone right now, and when the iPhone first came out, people said, “What is this thing? This is not really a phone anymore. This a complete different innovation. This is completely different, but look at how popular it’s become. The same with you. If you are delivering health and wellness at the moment, what are you doing that’s different? What are you doing that’s outside of the box?

Richard:           Yeah. How are you being different every other turner out there, every other 24 hour club out there. How is that different? I think that’s very interested topic of conversation. Before you leave, I want to get you giving us three problems that you see from an outsider in the fitness industry, for issues that we are doing wrong within the fitness industry. Do you have three?

Dr. Avi:            I could point three out, but if I am going to give the problem, I am also going to give solutions. Let’s talk about different areas of the market. Let’s look at individual personal trainers. I think the problems that individual personal trainers have is that you are limited in your time, in what your time limit is. You can get burnt out very quickly. One of the things to to think about as an individual personal trainer, and owning a business is, what can I do different?

The problem is I am limited in my time. The solution to that is, you’ve got to think about business strategies. Think of yourself as a business, firstly. Having that mindset, and the solution is, “How do I build my skills on the business side of things?” Because I need those skills, and secondly, what can I do that’s different to other personal trainers? What are the products and services can I offer that are going to help me generate long term revenue, that’s not going to rely on my time.

Richard:           Great, I like that.

Dr. Avi:            Does that make sense?

Richard:           Makes perfect sense.

Dr. Avi:            If you are a larger gym owner, let’s say you are own an individual gym, again it really depends on the area that you are in. If you are in a saturated area, again, I would say niche in your market. What is that niche that are currently catered for? How can I understand the problems of that niche market in the health and fitness and describe it better than they can? Once you get to that layer, you are no longer a gym. You provide all the different aspects of health and fitness for that market more than as a gym. You become part of their lives.

One big opportunity there, is going online. Having that engagement, not just inside the gym, but how do I serve people-

Richard:           Everybody can see what you do, instead of having to come inside the gym.

Dr. Avi:            That’s right, and how can you offer them information outside of the gym. Let’s say you come to the gym three times a week, but you are still interested in health information. Why can’t you be the provider of that information. Why can’t you get some personal trainers to-

Richard:           I think that’s a very good element.., and that obviously comes down to your blogging, your video content, things like that… Providing your content.

Dr. Avi:            Absolutely. Providing content, going digital..

Richard:           Be the authority in your space.

Dr. Avi:            Be the authority in your space. That’s another key thing. Then we talk about the big problem for the bigger end of town. We’ve got the larger gyms and franchises. What are some of the challenges there? Again, in some of those areas, you’ve been in the market for many, many years. You’ve got these replicable scalable models, how else can you grow. You can go international and do all those things.

I feel there still big opportunities to look at partnering with the sick care side of town. The doctors, the hospitals, health insurance companies, and look at partnerships in those areas, because those are ways in which you can add joint value. The problems that you are solving, somebody else in the healthcare industry is also trying to solve them.

Richard:           Doctors are always full and there’s always waiting rooms. There’s a waiting room lined of people. It’s crazy, a market is there, isn’t it?

Dr. Avi:            Yeah.

Richard:           Just bridging that gap.

Dr. Avi:            Absolutely. I think the other thing is just also not looking … This is for the entire spectrum of healthcare professionals, is no just thinking of yourself as treating the body, because to treat the body and treat the physical, first you’ve got to treat the mind, you’ve got to change behaviors, so really get good a learning how to change people’s behaviors, because you are not just treating your physicality, firstly you are treating behavior patterns. Only when people change their behavior patterns that they change their physicality.

Richard:           I like it. That’s a good point to leave off of. I think it’s an exciting time for the fitness industry. It’s a very exciting time because there is so much room for growth and there’s so much room for those [up raiser 00:26: 04] maybe are getting a little stale and I need to take that next level. I think you are the person to have a chat with when you are at that position and you are not too sure where to go.

Before you leave, just tell us where we can find more information. I will put some links on the website, but where could everybody find some information about you?

Dr. Avi:            Very easy way to go is go to my website, I am open to have a conversation with people. I offer free initial mentoring conversation. I am very happy to do that with people if they reach out with me. Always willing to help people in this industry.

Richard:           Thank you so much for your time. I think there’s a lot of passion in this conversation, and there’s a lot of growth that can happen. It’s about just aligning yourself up with the right people. Thank you so much. Until next time. I’ll see you later on Getting Raw. Thanks guys.

Dr. Avi:            Thank you.

About the Author: Dr Avnesh Ratnanesan

Dr Avi is a medical doctor with broad healthcare sector experience including hospitals, biotech, pharmaceuticals and the wellness industry. He is a leading expert who coaches and consults to senior executives, entrepreneurs, practitioners, organisations and governments.