Close this search box.
Close this search box.

NuStep Leans Into Broader Goals For Its Rehab Equipment

© AdobeStock
CEO Sklar seeks to leverage manufacturer’s legacy success while holding on to foundational markets.

NuStep is stepping into the therapeutic and recovery needs of the boomer generation with new products that build on the proven capability of the Michigan-based manufacturer to provide rehabilitation equipment that addresses the acute and specific requirements of people recovering from heart surgery and other major health events.

The mid-market company employs about 100 people, including 70 production workers, at its headquarters near Ann Arbor, where CEO Eric Sklar has been reorienting NuStep from a one-hit dominator – known as a “recumbent cross trainer” — to a broader outlook on rehab equipment that requires significant product enhancements and opens doors to new customers and new markets.

“We are taking a look at what we think the company is good at,” NuStep’s chief since 2018 told Chief Executive. “Prior management thought of us as a recumbent-stepper company, and I’ve looked at NuStep as an inclusive company – meaning we can address many different modalities, or many physical challenges in many markets. Our strength is how we can make one machine that can accept everyone. It’s like the difference between an escalator and an elevator.”

In taking this approach, Sklar is employing a strategy that can be crucial for CEOs newly coming to a company with the owners’ directive to take things to the next level. He’s first seeking to optimize the company’s core capabilities, affirming and stretching the brand at the same time, and redefining its offerings for new markets while making sure he holds on to its foundational market.

NuStep is the progeny of a brilliant biomedical engineer, Dick Sarns, who designed the renowned Sarns heart-lung machine for cardiac-bypass surgery in 1960. Years later, as research emerged that supported the importance of exercise for cardiac patients, Sarns shifted his focus to rehab equipment and founded NuStep in 1987. Sarns and his wife, Norma Sarns, launched the first recumbent cross-training bike for individuals with limited movement in 1993.

These trainers require sitting and executing “cross-lateral movement,” Sklar explained, “not just working your arms and legs but also involving your torso. Think of the Beatles walking on Abbey Road. Being in the recumbent position, if you happen to get lightheaded or have had a stroke or an ambulatory challenge, you can begin your movement in a seated position.”

NuStep’s unique product got the company sales of more than 90,000 units across 20 countries by 2016, in fitness centers, rehab facilities, senior-living operations and others. By 2018, Sarns was ready to retire, and recruited Sklar from his long history as an executive in the medical-equipment industry.

Sklar quickly saw opportunity to add features such as real-time biofeedback and an ergometer to NuStep’s equipment. Those enhancements can help individuals with the symmetry of physical effort that can be crucial to rehabilitation. “You can tell you’re not using the right arm the same as you’re using the left,” he said.

At the same time, Sarns “had a strong focus on markets as well as on a specific product solution,” Sklar said. “But I thought that his engineering designs could be broadcast over a variety of different products and markets. We had the platform to address a variety of different physical challenges for people.”

So, for instance, NuStep is expanding more proactively in the orthopedics market. “If you have a damaged knee or hip or foot, you’re in a safe position on a recumbent versus a bike,” Sklar explained. “And you don’t have to make the commitment to go a full revolution like on a bike, to go 360 degrees. Not everyone can do that, especially at the beginning of rehab.”


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events


    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)


    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.