We had an appointment with Randy Dobson at one of his California Centuryon clubs on an early humid summer day. He was there, ready for his photoshoot before we arrived. My first impression of him is his dynamic charisma and energy. His confidence and the interesting stories about being a pioneer and leader for the fitness and lifestyle industry made our interview pass by quickly.
Talking to Randy during his short break between the photo shoot, he explained to us the reason why he chose Vietnam as the place to open his business. “In 2005, after 13 years in the industry I had worked my way up to being the Vice President for the largest privately held fitness company in the world overseeing operations in Asia. I was at a point in my career where I was either going to stay in the corporate world or venture out and open my own company. I decided that opening my own company was where my passion lie, so I started looking for developing markets where the industry had not fully matured. I wanted to create something unique and different and knew the chances of being able to do that would be in a market that was still developing. I looked at many countries and markets but Vietnam had all the ingredients I was looking for.” Randy paused to remember the moment when he made one of the most important decisions of his life.

In just seven years from opening the first fitness center in Hung Vuong Plaza his company has experienced one success after another. He has successfully built one of the leading fitness and lifestyle brands in South East Asia with over 50 thousand members coming to his clubs to work out. I still wonder why Vietnam was selected among other countries. “Why not?! There are many ingredients for me to build and develop my company. Young literate population, fast growing economy, health conscious and people love to exercise. Vietnam had all the elements I was looking for.” Randy explained. “Besides, there were only small gyms, lacking international standard facilities and equipment. I wanted to build lifestyle and entertainment centers fully equipped and full of energy with dynamic Group X and Yoga classes to encourage people to join.”

The gentleman sitting in front of me now owns 8 lifestyle centers in HCMC, Hanoi and Danang. During the last 7 years, there have been many changes in the fitness industry with the opening of many big and proffesional fitness centers. However, there is no other company that has the success of California Fitness & Yoga. What has made the CFYC chain such a big success? He talked about that with pride: “I love competition because I think it makes everyone better and sharper but quite honestly up until now I don’t think anyone has come to the table with a product or service that competes in our space. There are many clubs trying to get where we are but in our company we are always working on providing new and innovative offerings so the best our competition can do is get where we were but they will never get ahead of where we are going. Our brand promise of Making Life Better is our commitment for our employees and members.”

Randy’s pride is based on the fact that CFYC has a large member base and many employees. His clubs serve more than 10,000 clients a day and over 3.5 million workouts a year. He has more than 1,100 employees nation wide. The management and training of his employees is not alway easy. He said “Our people are the key to our success. “I could not have built the CFYC brand without my people. I try to use a lot of resources on improving the lives of our staff. From psychology training to specific job training. If I were to sum it up I would say train your people so well that any company would want to hire them but make working for you so good that they never want to leave. Simply put, we want to be the best company in Vietnam to work for.”

If people are the key resource for a company to grow, a company culture is the essential factor to encourage everyone to contribute. With the vision of a business leader and years of experience, Randy understands deeply the needs of his people and he strives to meet their needs, to motivate them in working and contributing. In a short seven years, Randy sucessfully built a financially profitable company and a strong company culture with it. “Mizuho Asia Partners, which is a subsidiary of Mizuho Bank, Japan has invested in our company. Ultimately they invested in our company because they believe they will get a great return on their investment, a strong brand and a strong company culture with high standards and values. I feel very honored to be a partner of Mizuho and to be the first company in Vietnam they have ever invested in. “Randy talks about his company with excitement.

A side from building a strong foundation, training his people professionally and building a strong company culture, does he have any other secrets to keep CFYC in the leading position? After surprising me from one story to another about his business experience in the fitness industry and managing people; Randy continues to reveal his secret to being the leader in his field. “ It is quite simple! Technology. If it were not for technology we would still be living in caves and eating raw meat. Technology is what makes humans different from all other species on this planet. Each step along the way has allowed us to live a better quality of life than the generation before us. Cars, air travel, smart phones, computers have all improved our lives.”

Randy is a fan of technology, he gets excited when talking about this. Sharing how he makes use of technology: “We use some of the latest technologies to add more value to our clients, creating a good environment for people to exercise and creating a new place for people to come. At CFYC, technology is in every aspect of our company. We use technologies like Survey Monkey and Facebook to get feedback on how our service and training is doing. We use biometric scanning to manage our personal training sessions with clients. Our club environments, from the temperature to the scent are all regulated by some of the latest technologies available. A company that does not make use of all the technologies available today is not going to make it in todays marketplace.”

With 8 centers – 5 in HCMC and 3 in Hanoi, CFYC is the biggest player in Vietnam. In the next 3 years, his company will open 15 to 20 more centers. He shows his ambitious vision and plan: “With nearly 100 million people and one of the world’s fastest growing middles classes there is a huge demand for fitness and lifestyle services in Vietnam. There comes a time when you realize having 200 more clubs is not even going to be enough. I am thankful for being the pioneer and leader in this industry in Vietnam.” Randy pauses and continues his talk: “There are many things we still need to do. However, I believe I will be able to achieve them and continue to be the leader in this industry. As long as we deliver on adding more value than our competitors we will keep our number 1 position. Peter Drucker who was the father of modern business said that business comes down to two things. Innovation and marketing and those are two things we happen to be very good at.”

In order to be a great leader, Randy spends a lot of time personally attending many training course to update his knowledge to improve his company and its development plan. Randy talks about the impact of his training: “I attended many couses by Tony Robbins. I have also participated in business courses at Singularity University. I have learned many new strategies for business and ways to use technology in my business. These have all been useful when applying the use of technology at CYFC.” I am totally impressed with the knowledge Randy possesses. He continues to update his knowledge to stay ahead of the market and social trends.

Without him telling me, I already know he has big plans for his company’s growth in the future. Nevertheless I still ask if there are any other business plans to go along with the strong CFYC brand he has built? “I do not only focus on CYFC! CFYC is very stable and growing and we are expanding with a new luxury chain under the name California Centuryon, the club you and I are in today is one of them. If CFYC is targeting the middle class, Califoria Centuryon will target the wealthy clientele with a more luxury and high end atmosphere which includes many red carpet services. In addition we have also launched a new sportswear brand – California Republik. This will allow us to leverage off our current network of members while adding more value to their fitness experience.” Randy said.

When this month’s issue reaches you, there will be two California Centuryon clubs operating along with CFYC. In the next six months, the total number of clubs will reach 12 and the new sports apparel line California Republik also on the shelves. But that’s not all; Randy tells us he is currently launching a new mobile technology platform which he is developing with some of the best minds in Silicon Valley. This new platform will radically change the way people are able to connect with health and fitness professionals and achieve the quality of life they want.

“I also have a new company being launched here in Vietnam next month with an amazing group of leaders from the entertainment and modeling industry. Our new company will provide image consultancy, talent development and talent management for celebrities, models and business people who want to work internationally. I am really proud of the leadership team we have put together for this new business and I believe they are going to provide a level of professionalism and service in this sector that has never been offered here (Vietnam) before” says Randy about another project. He has met many talented artists and celebrities who could not find a really professional team to work with. This is the reason I have decided to open a talent management company to help young artists find the right representation so they can have opportunities to work overseas. “I have really been blessed in my life to be mentored by some amazing business leaders and now I want to pass that gift to other talented entrepreneurs. It gives me tremendous fulfillment to find passionate people and help them realize their dreams in life.”

Our short break ends, the image production team is ready to continue their photoshoot. Looking at Randy in front of camera doing his MMA poses, I truly admire him. Operating his company, managing new projects, travelling constantly between Vietnam and other countries for business courses, he is still full of energy and enthusiasm. I am hoping to catch up with him another time in Esquire to share his experiences and new lessons with our readers.

Centuryon Grand Opening

Từ ngày thành lập câu lạc bộ đầu tiên vào tháng 12 năm 2007, Trung tâm Thể Dục Thể Hình và Yoga California đã trở thành nhà cung cấp hàng đầu trong việc cung cấp một lối sống khỏe mạnh tại Việt Nam qua việc mang đến dịch vụ và các sản phẩm thể dục thể hình với chất lượng tốt và sáng tạo nhất. 

Với ba Câu lạc bộ (CLB) tại thành phố Hồ Chí Minh và một CLB tại Hà Nội, các trung tâm thể dục của chúng tôi nằm tại những khu vực cao cấp nhất của cả hai thành phố. Trong khi các câu lạc bộ ở thành phố Hồ Chí Minh lần lượt nằm ở trung tâm kinh doanh Quận 1, chỉ cách chợ Bến Thành vài bước hay như trên tầng 5 Hùng Vương Plaza tại quận 5, câu lạc bộ mới ở Hà Nội tọa lạc trên 3 tầng tại Tòa Nhà Sky City – 88 Láng Hạ, trung tâm kinh doanh mới của Hà Nội với nhiều văn phòng, đại sứ quán và các khu vực sinh hoạt cao cấp. Vào quý 4 năm 2011, California at the Waterfront – siêu câu lạc bộ mới nhất, chỉ cách Tòa nhà trung tâm tài chính mới của thành phố HCM 2 phút, sẽ được khai trương.

California Fitness & Yoga Centers (CFYC) là hệ thống trung tâm về thể dục và yoga rộng lớn tại Việt Nam, trải rộng trên 15.000m2 với bầu không khí sôi động. Trung tâm mang đến cho bạn trang thiết bị tập luyện hiện đại nhất trị giá hàng triệu USD cùng với các huấn luyện viên đạt tiêu chuẩn quốc tế đến từ các nước nước khác trên toàn thế giới. Các lớp học Yoga và Múa Ấn Độ do các thầy Yoga giỏi nhất đến từ Ấn độ đã giảng dạy hơn 100 lớp học hàng tuần hướng dẫn, bao gồm cả các lớp Hot Yoga nổi tiếng trong phòng tập nóng 37° C. Câu lạc bộ còn mang đến cho bạn phòng Internet, quầy giải khát dinh dưỡng, phòng xông hơi ướt và khô. Hơn 18 phòng tập Yoga và Group X lớn nhất tại Việt Nam với các lớp học sáng tạo như BodyPump, BodyCombat, Powerstep, Jazz Dance, BodyBalance, Yoga và hơn thế nữa. CYFC sẽ mang đến cho bạn một sức sống và thể hình hoàn hảo hơn.

Thành công ngoài mong đợi của California Fitness & Yoga luôn gắn liền với sự lãnh đạo và tầm nhìn của Người sáng lập – cũng là Giám đốc Điều hành California Fitness & Yoga – ông Randy G. Dobson. Randy mang niềm đam mê đối với thể thao và giải trí vào công việc, tạo ra những trải nghiệm độc đáo trong ngành thể dục thể hình và giải trí. Đây có thể xem là một cuộc cách mạng trong việc luyện tập thể dục thể hình.

Randy đã từng điều hành trên 35 trung tâm thể dục thể thao tại 7 quốc gia trong 15 năm. Ông luôn là nhân tố then chốt trong hàng ngũ các nhà lãnh đạo đã phát triển thành công những thương hiệu lớn như 24 Hour Fitness, California Fitness, California WOW, Jackie Chan Sport, California Yoga, và Myoga.

Randy được xem là một trong số những nhà lãnh đạo luôn có những sáng kiến đột phá trong lĩnh vực thể dục thể hình, và ông đã mang đến Việt nam một đội ngũ xuất sắc với hơn 50 năm kinh nghiệm quốc tế.

Dù là trong vai trò là nhà lãnh đạo kinh doanh, lúc quyết đấu trong môn thể thao ưa thích, hoặc khi làm việc với tư cách là một người mẫu thể hình cho một tạp chí thời thượng nhất, Randy luôn tràn đầy nhiệt huyết và thể hiện xuất sắc trong mỗi việc làm của mình.

Man of the Year 2012

As Mr. Inspiration this year, who, or what, are you inspired by?

There have been a lot of people in my life who have inspired me. Great athletes who push the limits of mental and physical strength as well as great thinkers, leaders and innovators who have changed the world and the way we live.  People like Roger Banister, who in 1954 was the first person to ever run a mile in less than 4 minutes, an accomplishment that all the experts said was an impossibility. Once he broke that record 7 other people also broke it within the next 18 months. Now, high school students regularly run a mile under 4 minutes. People like Steve Jobs, who didn’t just develop a smart phone but created a tool that has really become our second brain, that we hold in our hands allowing us instant access to all of the world’s information. How different will the world be when we don’t have to take up brain space remembering dates, facts and figures anymore but can now use that part of our brain to think about ways to improve our world using this new, limitless information we have access to. People who change how we think and live inspire me the most.

Do you think there is a difference in the male fitness image between Western and Asian culture?

There may be slight cultural differences on the outside in terms of how people dress or style themselves but the human brain has been hardwired on what is physically attractive and what is unattractive. It’s how we survived as a species over millions of years. There have been so many studies to prove conclusively that what is considered beautiful to the human eye is the same regardless of race or nationality. When people realize we are all more the same than we are different it allows us to start appreciating what is really beautiful about people.

What made you decide to come to Vietnam?

I chose Vietnam because of the incredible opportunity it represented, to create something totally new and fresh in my industry and a country. I have operated fitness clubs in countries all over North America and Asia and wanted to do something unique that no one else had done. Create something that did not have to fall into the traditional ideas about what a fitness center was. Vietnam has all the ingredients for creating new innovative businesses. A fast developing economy with a large, young population who are eager to learn how to improve the quality of their lives.  When I arrived in 2007 there were only small mom & pop or government operated gyms. No one had established the industry yet and that was exactly what I was looking for. To come into a market and make a difference in the quality of people’s lives by creating something new and unique; combining healthy modern living with entertainment.  Showing people how living better and healthier does not have to be about discipline and sacrifice but is about integrating the things you enjoy in a way that enhances the overall quality of life.

What are your most awkward experiences in Vietnam so far? How about the good ones?

One of my most memorable and awkward times I recall is having our first large event at a coffee bar to announce we would be opening a club in D5 soon. There was at least 500 people at the event and part of the announcement was to have a live singer and dancers. So as they started singing the first song and as the back up dancers were dancing my business associate bet me $500 I would not go on stage and dance with them for the entirety of the next song. I told him to give me the money and when the first song ended I ran up on stage just as the singer started her next song.  The problem was I did not realize it was a slow love song and the dancers had left the stage at the end of the first song; so there I was on stage alone with this girl who had no idea who I was; and I start grooving with her during this very slow love song. I look out into the audience of shocked faces and mothers covering the eyes of their children to see my partner laughing so hard he nearly fell out of his chair and the girl singing looks at me in horror wondering who the maniac is on stage trying to ruin her show. It ended up being the longest song I have ever heard but I stayed up the whole time trying to dance sexy and look like I was part of the show… Unconvincing as I was.

As for the good experiences, I have had too many to list. Every new club we have opened, every member’s life we have touched and every one of my team members lives we have changed has been a truly amazing experience that inspires me every day.

What are your tips for getting motivated to go to the gym as many business men often lead busy lives?

The most powerful system I have developed for accomplishing anything is a 3 step system I call “OWN.”  In English when you OWN something it is yours. You are its master, so I created a system for accomplishing any goal you have in life whether it’s getting the body you’ve always dreamed of or accomplishing a goal at work or with family. OWN stands for: Outcome, Why & New Action Plan.

The O in OWN stands for Outcome. You must have a crystal clear outcome of what it is you want to accomplish.  Have a vision of what you want to achieve that excites you and inspires you. It’s not good enough to just say, “I want to be healthy.”  You need to be able to clearly visualize in your mind what that looks and feels like.

The 2nd step is the W in OWN and that stands for Why. Make sure you have a big reason why you want this outcome. If you don’t have a compelling reason to do something then you won’t achieve it so I get people really clear on why they want that outcome before we move onto the third step.

The final step is the N in OWN. N stands for New Action Plan. I show people how through their old actions they have not achieved the life or physical goals they want and we work out a new plan that they feel empowered to achieve.  It’s an amazing system for helping people achieve their goals.

You see, every time I find someone who does not have the health or vitality they dream about I find they never have a clear image in their mind of what that really looks like and they lack a compelling reason for achieving it. They focus too much on all the work they need to do to achieve their goal, which completely overwhelms them, and they give up before even starting. They will say things like, “I know I should exercise but I just don’t have the time.” We know this is not true because all of us have the same 24 hours in a day. Some of the busiest and most successful people in the world live the healthiest and highest quality of life. So how can you not have the time? It’s because when you focus on all the tasks you must do to get in shape rather than the outcome you want and the reason why you want it, you will never be motivated to see it through and live the life you have dreamed of.

Are you happy with your current build? What do you feel you could improve? You inspire men to have a dream career and, at the same time, have a dream body, how do you do that?

I have found that a person can accomplish so much more when they are happy compared to when they are unhappy so I have learned to not attach my happiness to any one thing or goal. I choose to live in a pretty happy state most of the time by focusing on the outcomes I want in life rather than the things I don’t. That being said, one of the key philosophies I apply to my life is, “constant and never ending improvement.” I want to continue to grow and improve every day of my life until the end of my life. I don’t subscribe to peoples limiting beliefs on health, aging or career.

My method for inspiring people is to get them to ask some new questions. I have found that success always leaves clues and if I am not getting the answers I want or living the life I want then I need to get around people who are living the way I dream of and start asking myself some new questions. To have the career of your dreams, get around people who are successful and model what they do. To have a dream body, get around people who have the body you want and do what they do. Instead of asking yourself why you don’t have the career you want or the body you want, ask yourself what actions can you take today in order to have the career and body you have always dreamed of. You will find it was not a mystery, it was just asking yourself the wrong question.

Your business is becoming very successful. With new clubs opening in Vietnam, this means that you will have to devote more time to new projects, how do you find time for family?


Again, I focus on the outcomes I want in my life. I am currently building two new amazing clubs, one near Hoan Kiem lake in Hanoi and another at Pico Mall in Than Binh in HCMC, as well as 3 other businesses I am going to be launching in 2013. I want an unbelievably successful company as well as family life so I don’t get caught up in all the tasks I have to do. I simply ask myself how can I integrate the things I love most in my life (career, family, friends and personal growth) together to enhance the quality of my life? This allows me to come up with clear, compelling and empowering answers. One of those answers is that my life is about integration, not discipline. When I integrate the things I love most into my daily life, I enjoy my life more. The second answer I get is that I focus on enhancing my life, not sacrificing the things I love, to achieve a goal. I do this by doing things that bring high value and fulfillment to my life and eliminating the things that don’t bring value. The final answer I get when I ask that question is that my life is focused on achievement and not complexity. I focus on my outcomes and not the complexities of getting there. So just with a new, better question I can handle so much more responsibility while enjoying the process.

What do you do to find balance in your life at the moment?

I get a clear focus on all the outcomes I want in my life. Health, career, relationships, money etc. and use the OWN process. When I do this it allows me to create a more balanced life. I have 7 key areas of my life that I focus on and continue with my philosophy of constant and never ending improvement.

Have you always been into fitness? If you did not have this career, what else would you do?

That’s a funny question to me. It’s like asking if I have always been into breathing air. Living actively and exercising is what the human body was designed to do. It’s just like breathing air; it’s in our nature.  Imagine asking a fish if it has always been into swimming. Seems kind of funny but in our modern society we have created unnatural, inactive ways of living and it’s severely affecting the quality of our life. Just like a fish who decides not to swim any more is going to die, a human who believe fitness is some additional activity they need to do, and not their natural way of living, is also going to die prematurely.

As for the career question, I see myself as an entrepreneur who is passionate about enhancing the quality of people’s lives. What ever the industry looks like, I will probably have some involvement at some point in the future.

Being a successful businessman and attractive, I believe people are attracted to you a lot, how do you handle that?

I don’t try to be a celebrity. It’s not who I am and not my passion in life. Being chosen as a role model is a great honor and inspiring people to live better by doing things I am passionate about is very fulfilling but I don’t get approached by a lot of people like a celebrity would.

Do you miss your hometown? What do you miss the most?

My home town is wherever I choose to call home at the time.  I have never identified myself as being from a certain place, I truly view myself a global citizen. Someone who is a part of the human race rather than some ethnicity or cultural heritage. The heritage I care about the most is the one I am creating for future generations, not holding on to past traditions. I have a home in HCMC and one Hong Kong, as well as the US, but I identify HCMC and Hong Kong as my current homes and don’t think much about the place I was born.

There are places all over the globe that I love and I don’t spend any time thinking of the “good old days.” Today is the best day of my life and tomorrow will be even better.

Do you consider staying here permanently ?

Vietnam is, and will be, an amazing place to be over the next 50 years and I will spend a lot of time here for sure but, as you can tell by my prior answer, I see the world as my home and could never be bound by borders of countries. I would go to the moon or Mars to live for a while if I got the chance.

Some businessmen are not comfortable with the media, how do you feel being your company’s brand representative?

I feel honored to represent the company I love so dearly and to inspire people to live better. Without the media I could not achieve that outcome so I have to be comfortable with them. The media has an objective: to sell news. That is what they do so it’s up to me to give them interesting news they can sell. In my case, I try to always provide content that enhances people’s lives in some way. I think if you stay focused on that outcome then the rest will take care of itself.

Could you list the 3 most meaningful things in your life at the moment?

I have always believed that it is the not the money or titles you get in life that will be of value to you. It is the relationships you build and the experiences you share with the people you love that will mean the most to you. So, for me, the three most meaningful things in my life today and for the future are:

– My relationships with the people I love.
– My life experiences and who I share them with.
– The legacy I am creating and leaving for future generations.