Ask Levi boss Chip Bergh how he’s finding his first trip to the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, and his immediate response is to say how frustrated he is by the lack of time to exercise.
he sports obsessed chief executive – who competes in triathlons and is a vegan – normally exercises daily from 5.30am to 7am doing a mixture of swimming, running and weights. Yet, in the Testosterone Fuelled world of alpha males (and it is normally males) who make up the top ranks of the corporate world, exercise is often pretty high on the agenda.
Mr Bergh, who was headhunted to lead the 163 year old jeans firm after almost three decades at consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble, credits his exercise regime with helping him succeed in the new role. When he took the helm, Levi was losing out to cheaper and more fashionable rivals, with sales half of their annual $7bn peak.
He changed all but one of the 11-strong executive team, and two thirds of its next tier of management alongside making significant cuts, including outsourcing its IT, finance and customer services. “I really do firmly believe it plays a part in performance. For me personally when I’m healthy and exercising, eating right and getting enough rest, I’m much more productive at work,” he says.
His conviction of the benefits of exercise meant that when he joined he set up a “Live wellth” programme at the firm, including a cheap gym membership deal for staff and a nutritional onsite cafe at its San Francisco headquarters. For any company, encouraging staff to take care of their health makes sense, he says, due to the
risk of high healthcare costs if they don’t.
e’re talking – whilst sitting on big bouncy balls – in the firm’s pop-up store in Davos, while impossibly honed and fit-looking company representatives run and cycle furiously on stationary machines beside us. Mr Alessandri himself works out every morning for an hour at 6.30am, and cycles and runs at the weekend, but crucially, he says, whilst wobbling frenetically on the ball, he never stops moving.
“Exercise is one of the rules of the champion chief executive. If you’re not healthy, you don’t have a healthy mind, you don’t have creativity, you don’t have energy and productivity goes down,” he says.
At Technogym’s head office in Cesena in northern Italy, taking the lift is banned unless someone has a physical issue. There are no chairs, just balls for seats and all meetings take place at high tables to force them to stand up.
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