At 21-years-old, Nerio Alessandri wanted to work for Armani, but Armani wouldn't hire him. The young Alessandri desperately wanted to be a fashion designer. This was 1982.
Over 20 years later, Alessandri is the architect of Technogym, a commercial and home fitness equipment company that was listed on the Milan Stock Exchange in May 2016 with an equity value of 650 million euro.
Alessandri's inability to acquire a job at Armani worked out well for the Italian. He is happy to share the secret of much of his success, which revolves around maintaining a happy workplace focused providing manageable hours, healthy food choices and a culture where working out in the middle of the day is commonplace and appreciated.
Why focus so much on the workplace environment?
"If you like to spread the wellness culture around the world, you need it inside. You need consistency," explained Alessandri. "It's very difficult to inspire people without confidence, attitude, expertise."
Technogym does not exist in a traditional infrastructure. It contains wellness offices where chairs are replaced by extra large medicine balls that promote strong posture. It has a restaurant with a variety of options for employees to choose from during their extra long 2 hour lunch breaks. There is a massive park full of lush grass, a full sized basketball court and even a university for everyone to learn about the company as well as tactics to live a healthy lifestyle.
Lunch costs employees 1 euro per day and workout equipment is spread out across the massive layout of the Technogym Village.
What measurable results has Alessandri noticed from his attention to workplace environment?
Alessandri says it is difficult to measure the success of his company based on the workplace environment, because the benefits are intangible.
"Healthy people, healthy planet, balance sheet, bottom line. I believe that there is a connection between the happiness of employee and creativity," said Alessandri. "Health is wealth. Retention is better. There is some relation in terms of return on investment. I've seen research that says if you invest $1 in wellness, you'll get a 30-times return."
What inspired Alessandri to provide these types of workplace benefits?
"When I designed the [Technogym] campus in 2001, nothing like this existed in the world. It's part of my DNA," said Alessandri. "If you went to my house, you would see the same approach. In 1993, I created first wellness book. It is the Italian lifestyle. The DNA is the typical Italian quality of type."
I noticed that Alessandri's business cards do not say "President" or "CEO." Instead, they refer to the Technogym founder as "Wellness Designer." The description could not be more accurate. Alessandri's passion for wellness bleeds through the walls of Technogym and inspires each one of his employees. His practices and the company's policies are perfect for what he is trying to achieve. Even Armani may want to pick up a strategy or two from Alessandri.