We met Dave at Balanced Body, Pilates on Tour in London, April 2013
What is your role in Balanced Body?
I’ve been with Balanced Body since in 1998. When I started there was just a few of us so the roles were broad, I was involved with sales, product development, business relationships and bringing products to the market place. Initially, our international sales represented about 2% of the business and now it’s over 30%. Currently, my title is Director of International Sales and I report directly to Ken Endelman, who is the founder and president of the company. There’s about ten people on our management team who are responsible for sales, marketing, education, financial, purchasing and production.
Is there a philosophy at Balanced Body?
Balanced Body has always been a company that is known for listening and responding to our customers’s needs. From the beginning we have been designers and tool-makers. Our philosophy is to listen to the broad range of the Pilates market and produce quality products that exceed expectations. From the very beginning we made special custom equipment with wide range of adaptations and innovations. That’s what makes us different, we celebrate sharing, celebrate creativity, we’re open and inclusive. Our customers are really important to us. I think this is demonstrated by our customers’ respect for our support for the Pilates community, for our education and equipment, and for producing events like Pilates on Tour.
When did BB first begin making equipment?
Ken Endelman is from Los Angeles. He is a woodworker and in 1976 someone brought him a picture of a piece of Pilates equipment and asked Ken to build it. This was a part-time job for a few years and then it became Ken’s life. At that time you could count the number of Pilates studios on your fingers, just a few in New York, Los Angeles and London and now… so many.
Who is Dave Littman?
I am from Cleveland, Ohio, United States. I am married and have 3 kids and 4 grandchildren. I live in the mountains and I been a ski teacher for over forty years. I celebrate the winter snow and I love gravity.
Please tell us a bit about your ski teaching and how you became involved in teaching the disabled?
I had been a ski instructor when I should have been going to university. I was in a running club and there was a blind guy, I started running races with him, 10K’s and marathons and he asked to me to teach him how to ski. I didn’t know if there was such a thing as skiing for the visually impaired, so we went out and fumbled around a bit and I found out I was slightly dyslexic… I’d say, ‘Right, right…oh no, I meant the other right!’
I was the National team clinician for an organisation called Disabled Sports USA. I have traveled all over the United States and the world, teaching instructors how to teach adaptive skiing. I am a sit-down ski specialist, that’s my real passion and all the best things in my life have come from adaptive skiing. My wife and my family are directly connected, and skiing is the reason I’m involved in Pilates.
.. and then?
I worked with the big commercial fitness and rehabilitation company Cybex. I got into that because of my work with sports people and people with disabilities, that led me to meeting Ken. We got together about the time that Balanced Body was introducing the Allegro reformer. Ultimately, it became my responsibility to bring the Allegro into the market.
Do you practice Pilates yourself?
Yes, my wife is a Pilates and yoga teacher. She guides my Pilates on the reformer we have at home. Just about everyone at Balanced Body practices Pilates, we have a showroom studio where daily classes are taught by BB team members. About 10 years ago Ken had a cervical injury and he used Pilates for his rehabilitation. He practices three times a week and encourages everybody to do it.
So when you’re developing a new model or piece of equipment, do a group of teachers get together and come up with some ideas. How does it work?
As I said previously, the thing that makes us different is our willingness to listen and trying to create solutions. A good example is our Clinical Reformer. I met a pediatric physiotherapist who was working almost exclusively with little kids with cerebral palsy. Her reformer was too large for her patients, so we built her special shoulder rest extenders. These proved to be unstable so Ken looked at the idea of a footbar that can be positioned anywhere over the carriage. It was easier to manufacture this particular concept by cutting tracks down the full length of the wood frame. This allowed the footbar to be positioned anywhere along the reformer frame and that opened up all kinds of cool ways to use the reformer. That’s typical of the kind of development that we do. Nearly every success that we have and every development that we make is a direct result of identifying needs and implementing solutions.
Our clients know and respect that we can develop and deliver good products to the market. We are always open to new ideas and developments that may be send to us. CoreAlign is a good example of this process and success. We have just introduced a suspension training system and a Barre programme.
We sell our products direct in the UK, we don’t have a middle man or distributor. We stock our products at a warehouse in London and deliver all over the country. Speaking nearly the same language helps and this works really well for our customers
What about the future?
We will be back in London in April 2014 with Pilates on Tour, also we sponsor the Pilates Foundation and Body Control conferences. That’s another example that differentiates Balanced Body: consistent and generous support of the Pilates community (we have to agree). This is really important to us and we will continue to do so. The UK is our most important international marketplace, we have been working with our most loyal customers here for over 20 years, and we are totally committed to them. We wish we could spend even more time here…the weather is so fantastic (now we think he’s playing with us!). No seriously, we have many good friends here.
Once last very important question, what is your birth sign?
I’m a Scorpio
…Ah – passionate, clearly passionate about his work and it shows.
The interview concludes and we thank Dave for his time.
If you have any questions for Dave, new ideas, products you would like to see in the UK. Contact him directly Dave Littman <firstname.lastname@example.org