Company Of
The Month

Anytime Fitness

Co-founded in 2002 by fitness industry veterans Dave Mortensen and Chuck Runyon, Anytime Fitness has built on the concept of a simplified gym experience that gives members 24/7 access to the equipment they want to create the fastest growing fitness franchise in the world. Now with over 2300 locations in 16 countries, Anytime Fitness has received honors as diverse as their workforce:

  • #14 " Forbes “America's Most Promising Companies“2013 list
  • #6 " Entrepreneur Magazine's 2013 “Franchise 500“list
    (#1 in the Fitness Business Category)
  • #1 Co-Ed Fitness Club in the World " Club Business International
  • #1 " Minnesota Business 2013 “Best Companies to Work for in Minnesota“
  • “Top 50 Franchises for Minorities“4 years running by National Minority Franchise Initiative
  • “Top Military Friendly Franchise“5 years running by GI Jobs

Recently, the Center had a chance to speak with the National Media Director for Anytime Fitness, Mark Daly (below), about Anytime Fitness' success, challenges, and where the company is looking to go moving forward.

Q: How did Anytime Fitness get started? How did Chuck and Dave decide they could stand out from all the other gym offerings on the market?

Before founding Anytime Fitness in 2002, Chuck and Dave worked together as consultants for “big box“clubs that were underperforming in terms of memberships. They would do extensive informal surveying of each club's core membership. They would seek out members who had been with the club for more than 3 years or so and ask those people what they really wanted from their fitness club. The feedback they received was the same time and time again: convenience to their home, convenient hours, reasonable membership costs, and a non-intimidating atmosphere. Most importantly, they found that 90% of club members used only 10% of the club offerings they had access to.

So Chuck and Dave came up with the idea for creating a network of 4000 sq. ft clubs that were staffed 8-10 hours per day, but accessible to members 24 hours a day via electronic key cards provided. By investing first in the safety and security systems required to make this type of club a possibility, the founders were able to create a more efficient business model that reduced operating costs for club owners while providing members with only the perks they wanted to pay for. Anytime Fitness does not strive to be the lowest-priced club in any market, but instead strives to give their members the best value and the best personal fitness results.

Q: What core attributes define AF's business model and what are your key performance indicators?

Anytime Fitness has two very specific stakeholders of equal importance: our franchisees and our members. We invest a lot in our franchise consultants who provide the most comprehensive support system in the fitness industry to our franchisees. This includes providing them support at each phase of their growth (launching a club, 1st year operations, multi-club operations, marketing, etc.).

For our members, we have created what we feel is the most comprehensive online support system available in the fitness industry called AnytimeHealth.com. We need to be more than just a place for people to work out. We need our members to depend on us to deliver things like activity trackers that log their workouts, diet trackers, menus, and exercise videos on demand. It also provides a platform for our members to communicate with each other about their workouts, successes, and failures while also providing 24/7 access to AF personal trainers to answer any questions a member might have.

In terms of key performance indicators, there are three or four primary numbers that we look at:

  • Number of members per club
  • Non-membership fee revenue (ex. personal training, small-group classes)
  • Member feedback and satisfaction
  • Community Outreach Programs

We want our franchisees to become the fitness authority in their own community. Are they involved in community health fairs? Do they partner with their local public health department on weight loss or smoking cessation? Are they sponsoring 5K races or hosting other fundraisers? Again, our franchises need to be more than a place for people to simply come and exercise.

Q: What is the biggest challenge Anytime Fitness has had to overcome during its growth across the last 11 years?

It's the same challenge that many other businesses had to overcome between 2007 and 2011, and that was the poor economy. It was difficult for franchisees to secure financing and it made the American population question whether they could afford fitness memberships or if that was a discretionary cost they needed to forego. To overcome this, we focused even more on our clubs performance metrics and made sure that struggling franchisees got all the support we could give them in order for them to get where they needed to be in terms of the number of memberships. During that period, while other fitness clubs were closing and members were leaving high cost clubs, our memberships per club grew every single year. We're constantly evolving our business model through things like AnytimeHealth.com and “Fitness on Demand“(video classes available 24/7) to meet challenges as they arise.

Q: What are AF's biggest growth opportunities going forward?

We are excited about our growth in a number of areas. Obviously we are looking to continue our expansion both domestically here in the US and overseas, but because there is a limit to the number of AF clubs that can open in the US, we have recently begun diversifying. While not widely reported, we recently changed the name of AF's parent company to Self Esteem Brands. Since Chuck and Dave not only take sincere joy in helping to improve people's lives, but are also experts on franchising, they are on the lookout for businesses that could fit under the umbrella of Self Esteem Brands.

Waxing the City is the very first example. Chuck and Dave purchased the franchise rights from four women who were operating locations in Denver and Dallas and are now expanding it to other parts of the nation. So in terms of the growth of Self Esteem Brands, we know that it can't solely depend on the growth of AF and we are actively looking for other businesses to franchise.

Note: The following questions were all answered directly by Anytime Fitness CEO and Co-Founder, Chuck Runyon (Pictured below: Dave Mortensen - Left, Chuck Runyon - Right).

Q: AF has been consistently recognized as a top place to work for veterans and minorities. How and why have you focused so strongly on bringing them into the Anytime Fitness family?

Veterans: Most importantly, we want to show appreciation for the sacrifice veterans make so that the rest of us can enjoy our freedoms. Providing a discount on franchise fees is a small way for us to say “thank you.“Military veterans have the experience of working within a rigid system while collaborating with a team. They also understand the value of discipline, hard work and focus. These traits transfer perfectly into the business sector. Some of our most successful franchisees are military veterans. They're people-oriented and they recognize that they don't need to re-invent the wheel to operate profitable clubs. What's important is sticking to a game plan and focusing on results.

Minorities: Part of our mission is to help franchisees " of all ethnicities " realize the dream of being their own boss and owning their own business. Our members come in all shapes and sizes, from all sorts of backgrounds, with all sorts of special skills and limitations. Worldwide, Anytime Fitness has nearly 2,000,000 members and it's an extremely diverse collection of individuals. A significant number of our franchisees first learn about Anytime Fitness as members. Thus, it's no surprise that a proportional number of our franchisees are minorities. We think it's wonderful that our franchisees often reflect the ethnic make-up of their respective communities.

Q. What type of traits does your organization look for in its employees?

Ironically, it's something that's not often taught in schools: People skills. We value EQ (Emotional Quotient) as much as IQ (Intelligence Quotient). In today's collaborative work environment, you need strong communication skills, empathy, the ability to read body language and a decent sense of self awareness. Superstars sometimes make lousy teammates. And the ability to get along with others should never be underestimated. At Anytime Fitness, we also look for the traits of creativity, optimism, competitiveness and a sense of humor. None of those traits can be learned from a textbook.

Q: What type of advice would you give to students?

First off, identify something that you are curious or passionate about. Or something that will challenge you and offer an opportunity for personal or professional growth. Then, investigate the culture of that company. What is their purpose beyond selling a product or service? Do your values align with the values of the company? Would you be proud to share the work you do with friends or family? Then, ask questions about future growth and opportunities for the company and remember, when they are interviewing you, you should also be interviewing them. Satisfaction and pride in what you do are more important than the size of the company.

Q. What advice would you give to executives who are trying to grow their own companies?

In the NFL, defense may win championships, but in business the CEO needs to be an offensive coordinator. You have to obsess over opportunities to move the chains, gain additional yardage and add talent to your team. In football and in business, it's a game of inches and every day, you need to move forward at least an inch. If you embrace that mentality, you'll grow your business. Conversely, if you rest on your laurels, worry too much about the competition and avoid all risks, then you'll doom your company to mediocrity and, ultimately, the company will cease to exist. Success in business is dependent upon evolution, creativity and the anticipation of market demands. You need to constantly be asking yourself, “What else could we be doing to improve?“