How a broken neck & an MBA changed one executive's life.
by Heather Lielmanis
January 6, 2015
Ron Bettin, co-founder and CEO of Fitneff, shares his story of how the company was started. After recovering from a serious accident, Ron gained a new perspective on what was truly important, and found the confidence to follow a new path in life. Here is his inspiring tale.
Fitneff is now two years old. Can you tell us what inspired you and the other co-founders to start a company?
Laurel Walzak and I decided to start Fitneff while we were working on our Executive MBAs together at Queen’s School of Business (now the Queen’s Smith School of Business). I had invented a “treadmill desk” to allow me to get some exercise despite the long hours required for both work and studying. Laurel encouraged me to take it to market. After we did the market research, we realized that this was a unique solution to the growing problem of sitting disease and sedentary lifestyle. With another classmate, Devon Bolton, and advice from our Professor Elspeth Murray, we launched Fitneff before we even graduated from our MBA program!
Why did you invent a treadmill desk?
During the MBA, we sat all day at work, and then went home to sit again all evening while studying. This was unhealthy and aggravating to my spine due to a previous injury. Like many people, I had a treadmill that was rarely used, so I looked into buying a desk that could attach to my treadmill to allow me to walk while I worked. After looking extensively, I could not find a product to purchase, so I decided to fabricate what turned out to be the first WalkTop prototype. It turns out that my problem was not unique, and there are thousands of people in the world who could get more use from their treadmill if it could be converted into a treadmill desk!
Tell us about your accident; how did this change your perspective on fitness and well-being?
In March of 2011, my son & I were on a “guys road trip” when we decided to stop at the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Centre to rent ATV’s for an hour. Tragically, I had an accident that resulted in a broken neck and arms. The fortunate part was that my son, the rescue team, EMS, and medical staff did all the right things. After complicated spinal surgery and having had five vertebrae fused, I started on the road to recovery. My wife, Sheila, was amazing, and I could not have gone through the recovery without her. I am so fortunate and blessed to be alive and healthy to tell my story now!
How did your accident change your outlook on life?
This accident changed my life. The obvious change is that I have less mobility in my spine, but the better change is that I am now healthier with a different perspective on life. Physically, I have recovered very well and take care of myself better than I ever have. This includes being active, eating well, walking lots and sitting less! To me, it is not about how athletic I look, but how healthy I feel.
When I was recovering from my accident, I realized that the trajectory of my life could have been so different: I could have been paralyzed or even dead. This second chance gave me the confidence to tackle things on my “bucket list” that I previously wasn’t sure that I could ever accomplish. This is why I applied to Grad School and completed my MBA. It is also the reason that I was not afraid to take the risk of starting the new company, which became Fitneff. Like every new venture, there are challenges, and a lot of hard work, but no matter how bad any day is, I know that for me it could have been much worse.
How do you maintain wellness with such a busy work schedule?
Working hard with long hours is something I have always done, but now my approach is very different. As an entrepreneur, I live and breath my projects 24/7, however now I am trying to do this in a more balanced manner. Instead of sitting all the time, I now spend more than half of my day either using my standing desk or walking at my treadmill desk. I choose stairs instead of the elevator, and walk or cycle when I have the choice instead of driving. My eating habits have dramatically changed as I now avoid sugars and carbs, and I eat more vegetables than ever.
What are your favorite products that help you stay active during the workday?
I use an Elevate DT3-Dual Monitor Sit-Stand desk , which we carry at Fitneff, in my office. I love it! It is so easy to lift the entire keyboard and screens from sitting to standing that you can continue working seamlessly when changing positions… so efficient! Of course, I also use our WalkTop Treadmill Desk several times during the day, but always after lunch to keep me moving while I check email. Sometimes, at the end of each day, I crank the incline up to 10 and continue walking and working for about 20 minutes to get a bit of an extra calorie burn going before finishing up at the office. A very helpful accessory that allows me more movement and productivity while talking on the phone is my Plantronics Blue Tooth Headset; I would highly recommend a Bluetooth headset for improved mobility and ergonomics when talking on the phone.
How would you like Fitneff to make a difference in people's lives?
Fitneff has become a way-of-life for me because everything I do now is from the perspective of integrating healthy choices into my daily life. If we could do anything at Fitneff, it would be to help other people make sustainable progress towards better health, while maintaining their productivity and achieving priorities that are important to them.
About Heather Liemanis:
Heather Lielmanis is the VP of Business Development at Fitneff Inc. Fitneff is dedicated to providing innovative products and solutions that help busy people make their productive time more active. Fitneff offers a full suite of walking desks, sit-stand desks and active accessories that allow you to incorporate movement into your work day.