Director, Risk Management, Life Time Fitness
Joshua Reding could have never predicted the twists and turns his career would take when he started his career 25 years ago, nor could he have appreciated the value of the work he was about to encounter. Reding, a 1994 graduate of St. Cloud State University, was exposed to Risk Management by then St. Cloud State University (SCSU) professor, and now St. Thomas University (STU) Dean, Peter Young. Peter lead him to internships with then City of St. Paul Risk Manager (RM) Ron Guilfoile and Securian’s RM John Regal who helped turn him toward a risk management career. His lengthy career includes stints as an adjuster at Federated Insurance’s Edina office; risk management work at U.S. Bank; the Courage Center in Golden Valley; and the Red Wing Shoe Company, among others.
Although his base of experience has been in the traditional risk management arena, that has not stunted his ability to perpetuate enterprise risk management. Reding states that “Enterprise Risk Managers come from various backgrounds and the experience is all valuable. What matters is the ability to collaborate, be a holistic thinker, have an inquisitive mind, and develop valuable relationships”. It’s the last point where Reding has found his success most valuable. “You need to be interested in people, or interesting to people,” he said. Being interested in people and their ideas and expertise will allow you to perpetuate effective enterprise risk management strategy. Reding would be remiss if he didn’t acknowledge that he learned the importance of both professional and personal relationships from his father. “I never met a person who didn’t like or respect my father,” he fondly said (or something similar, like it). It was that mentorship that cemented the idea for Reding that no matter what challenges you encounter in your career or life, focusing on building healthy relationships will positively impact the work you perform. “If he was here today, he would still push me to re-evaluate even my most challenged relationships. I work to remember that every day.”
Every step of his career, the companies and roles provided experience that prepared him for his success in his current role today. His career life as an Enterprise Risk Manager is a world of cliques, but they all apply. Statements such as “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” “No day in risk management is ever the same, EVER!” and “Never burn a bridge” have applied in every one of his roles. In addition, Reding is insistent that you must always be networking and building relationships, mentoring new talent coming into the field, and willing to be the mentee, no matter your age or experience! These cornerstones have allowed Reding to find success in his current role today with Life Time, the “most dynamic risk adventure of his career,” he admits.
Sticking with the theme “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” Reding admits, when that ounce isn’t enough to provide the cure the risk financing structure plays a critical role to the success of achieving our goal of protecting the organizations assets. It all starts with an effective ERM (Enterprise Risk Management) program. “The ERM aspect of the job at Life Time was a strong interest for me,” Reding explained, “We start by identifying and addressing exposures at a leadership level, including non-insurables. Leading that effort directly impacts the creativity and opportunity of the risk financing program and alternative risk opportunities. It all starts there,” says Reding, “Fortunately for me, my boss, Executive Vice President, Eric Buss, is a strong advocate of the ERM approach, and is a direct influencer and mentor to my success within the organization. Having a boss who is willing to challenge and equally support my initiatives is very rewarding for me. For that I am professionally grateful.”
Now Director of Risk Management at Life Time, Joshua is challenged every day managing the risk for the leading Healthy Way of Life Company. Life Time is a 25-year-old company committed to helping communities, organizations, and individuals achieve their total health objectives, fitness goals and athletic aspirations by providing the best places, best performers and best programs that positively change lives every day. “Beginning with our first club in 1992, we have grown to more than 120 destinations in 35 major markets across 26 states and in Canada, serving more than 1.8 million members,” said Reding. Life Time’s comprehensive, multi-purpose, resort-like destinations provide entertaining, educational, friendly and inviting, functional and innovative experiences that meet the health and fitness needs of the entire family. Over the last 25 years, the company has transformed the health and fitness space, while creating an entirely new industry – the Healthy Way of Life. Today, Life Time is poised to further extend its brand and growth with the creation of dozens of new, iconic Life Time destinations, complete with comprehensive Healthy Living, Healthy Aging and Healthy Entertainment programs, services and products. The company also owns and produces more than 100 high-profile events across the nation every year—from the iconic Leadville Race Series to the New York and Chicago triathlons to running events from 5k fun runs to marathons.
But with success comes risk and, therefore, Life Time invests considerably in risk management. “Protecting our assets, most importantly our team members and members, are key management priorities. Risk is inherent in virtually any business environment. People come to our clubs to get healthy, or enjoy physical recreation, and that can present the potential for risk,” says Reding. While the prevention prescription is simple, Reding notes, the execution can be difficult. “Both our members and the team members are here working hard toward goals,” he explains, “So we understand why that ounce of prevention is not always foremost in their thoughts. The financial connection between our risk management program and the customer experience is a tough one to ascribe a quantifiable value to. The potential to save millions in losses by running an effective enterprise risk management program certainly isn’t.”
That challenge, however, has not stopped Reding from working hard to insert the need for risk management into the forefront of everyone’s thinking. “Ashley Fitzner, our Risk & Safety Manager, and I continuously work closely with our executive team and business leaders to drive thoughtful risk management implementation at every level. With an organization like ours, it’s imperative that there is effective communication from the executive team, all the way down to the front line, and even cascaded out to our almost 1.8 million Life Time members.”
As an example, driven from an enterprise risk management discussion, Life Time looked at a more traditional risk management need-- safety. “Using a behavioral safety approach, it was Ashley Fitzner who brought to our organization a significant culture change in how safety is viewed and appreciated,” said Reding, “She has a unique talent to make safety important to everyone, at all levels, and it was because other enterprise risk management culture in the company that she was supported to drive that success. She has been a perfect addition to execute Risk & Safety strategies through our enterprise risk management platform.”
Life Time has also used ERM to continuously evaluate the idea of a risk financing strategy-- a captive. Retaining Fitzner was the final piece to the plan for captive preparation. “She has brought the needed consistency to our risk reduction programs across all our destinations in preparation of the captive launch,” explained Reding. While many firms establish captives mainly to gain leverage in the commercial market, Life Time has more ambitious plans. “What’s important to us is providing our members with unparalleled experiences and value so they choose to remain at Life Time for the long term,” Reding explained, “Unlike traditional fitness facilities that merely offer roomfuls of equipment without programming and, essentially, are non-use models, we have always embraced the concept of Member Point of View (MPV) by building and operating destinations our members want to be versus places they feel they have to be. We have considered many enhancements beyond our current offerings, and continue looking at the captive as a potential tool to provide additional benefits to members someday.” Long term, utilizing their holistic approach will allow Life Time to impact the business through their ERM-based risk management strategy. “We are very excited about the opportunity this will present to the company’s bottom line,” said Reding.
Not unlike other corporations, Reding says its common practice at Life Time for executives to regularly evaluate investments in risk management. “We have ongoing discussions about the benefits and return on the investments we make,” he says, “and our risk management team and tools are no exception. At its core, our club operators are dedicated to creating positive member experiences and risk management plays a key role in that effort.” It’s clear Reding has created a risk management program that delivers results to the top and bottom line. “The days of just providing traditional risk management services in our roles are obsolete,” said Reding, “Driving business value in addition to our traditional responsibilities is just as important. If we don’t the role will become extinct.”