Meet our founders: Husband-wife team Tom and Suzy Boerboom, both long-time healthcare executives with complementary experience in the fitness industry, and partner Paul Contris, successful long-term care industry executive.
Bonded by a vision of active, healthy aging for Americans over 50 – and the idea that each of us can take control of our health if given the proper support and guidance – these three pioneers are driven to introduce Welcyon, Fitness After 50, health clubs nationwide as a fresh alternative to traditional gyms.
Suzy serves as Welcyon’s chief executive officer, leveraging her substantial experience as a registered nurse and health club owner to oversee a new type of health club that she and her husband Tom defined, created, validated and now are expanding via franchising.
Having earned her nursing license at Lincoln (Nebraska) General Hospital School of Nursing, Suzy went on to spend a large part of her career working with older adults at Beverly Enterprises, which at the time was the largest long-term care provider in the U.S. While there, she achieved a series of promotions to nursing staff trainer, nursing director and nurse consultant, culminating with oversight for customer service and staff training at more than 100 long-term care centers in the company’s Midwest region.
It was also at Beverly that Suzy met her future husband, Tom, and together they began to focus on the preventative side of healthcare, branching out to become owners of six Curves® franchises. Suzy left her profession to oversee the clubs, eventually emerging as one of the international system’s strongest regional operators.
“Every day, Tom and I saw first-hand at our care facilities the needless pain of premature aging,” Suzy explained, “and we understood that exercise, particularly strength training, can reverse, or at least significantly slow, the decline.
“Moving into the health club business seemed like a logical way to practice healthcare from the other end of the spectrum – by keeping aging adults healthy and out of our care facilities,” Suzy said.
The Curves experience led to what Suzy calls a “eureka moment.” She and Tom concluded that the traditional gym format would never lure enough boomers to make preventative health a decisive factor in promoting active aging. So they set out to create the anti-gym – a place with supportive one-on-one coaching, easy-to-use equipment and a friendly, non-intimidating environment.
“That vision became our passion, and we committed ourselves to redefining aging in America,” Suzy said.
In a Franchising USA magazine profile, Suzy attributed her professional success to her practice of the servant-leader model of leadership, which is based on sharing power, putting the needs of others first and helping people develop and perform as highly as possible.
“Those are values I was raised on,” Suzy said. “Being kind matters. Making our club owners successful matters. Making a difference in the lives of our members matters. We succeed as leaders when we help others succeed.”
Her demanding CEO schedule notwithstanding, Suzy is a voracious reader and takes time to garden, decorate, bead and go for hikes and outings on the family boat. But for a good time, nothing beats four-wheeling with her grandkids.
One of four siblings, Suzy grew up in Akron, Iowa, and Hastings, Nebraska. She and Tom live in the Minneapolis area, near their three daughters and five grandchildren.
Tom pulls double duty, serving as Welcyon’s president and also president and chief operating officer of Welcov Healthcare, a $250 million sister company that ranks as one of the 40 largest nursing and assisted living systems in the U.S.
An accomplished executive, Tom has a reputation in the senior health care industry as a creative and strategic thinker who excels at building and empowering teams, instilling a customer-focused culture and turning around struggling operations.
He joined Welcov, then known as Mission Healthcare, in 2002. Along with CEO Paul Contris, also a partner in Welcyon, he grew and rebranded the company from a Minnesota operator of six small nursing facilities to a multi-state diversified system with more than 55 short-term care, long-term care, and assisted living facilities and home health agencies. Revenues have increased nearly 14-fold during his tenure.
Tom spent a majority of his career as vice president of operations with Beverly Enterprises, at the time the largest U.S. nursing home system. While there, he was recognized by the board of directors for improving care quality, financial performance, and resident and employee satisfaction, as well as managing the seamless integration of acquisitions and expanded services. And it was also there where he met his future wife, Suzy.
Tom grew up in Ghent, Minnesota, a farming town with a population under 500, one of four siblings. He earned his bachelor’s degree in marketing at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, Minnesota, and completed advance graduate studies in Long Term Care Administration at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.
Like Suzy, he is an avid reader, and also enjoys woodworking and tending to his orchard.
A business partner of Tom Boerboom’s for years, Paul enthusiastically signed on as a principal investor when the Welcyon concept was first proposed.
“I understand the demographics,” Paul said. “We’re all getting older, but that doesn’t mean we can’t continue to live with health and vitality. It’s around 50 when most of us start getting serious about wanting to preserve our health, and Welcyon fills a gap in the health club marketplace by offering a place with broad appeal for those of us at this stage in life.”
A successful executive for more than two decades in the long-term care industry, Paul is chief executive officer of Welcov Healthcare and founder of its predecessor company Mission Healthcare. It was Paul who recruited Tom Boerboom to serve as Mission’s president and chief operating officer and spearhead a growth spurt that led to a rebranding of the company and its position among the 40 largest U.S. long-term care and assisted living systems.
After graduating summa cum laude from the University of Puget Sound in Washington, Paul began his career as a certified public accountant. He later joined Hillhaven Corporation, where he was instrumental in expanding the company. He then became part of Samaritan Health Systems and later founded SunQuest Healthcare Corporation. Welcov Healthcare (Mission Healthcare) developed out of Paul’s strong desire to create a company that recognized the importance of maintaining local management and culture within each community.