One to watch: Anytime Fitness, one of the UK's fastest-growing gym chains

Executive chairman Andy Thompson on increasing turnover threefold in 2015

Two reasons you should be watching Anytime Fitness…

1. With more than 2,700 franchised locations in 20 countries, Anytime Fitness is the fastest growing fitness franchise globally and in the UK

2. Open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, Anytime Fitness offers customers affordable convenient fitness.  Furthermore, each access key ensures entry to any club in the company’s global network

 

VITAL STATISTICS

·        Company: Anytime Fitness UK

·        What it does, in a sentence: Franchise business providing convenient, affordable, health and fitness clubs that are open 24 hours.

·        Founded: April 2010

·        Founder/s: [UK] Andy Thompson, Justin McDonnell

·        Size of team: 24          

·        Your name and role: Andy Thompson, Executive Chairman

What problem are you trying to solve?

Andy Thompson: Our aim as a business is twofold; first of all we want to provide a health and fitness service to local communities that is affordable and convenient. Secondly, we want to offer exciting franchise investment opportunities to entrepreneurs who want the freedom of running their own business.

 

How big is the market – and how much of it do you think you can own?

The franchise sector has been operating in the UK for the past 60 years and currently generates almost £14bn in revenue to our economy. It is extremely difficult to put an accurate number on how much Anytime Fitness contributes, but as a company we are dedicated to helping grow the sector and championing franchise businesses in the UK.

As for the gym sector in the UK, there are currently 6,000 clubs with a total of 7 million members. We expect that by mid-late 2016 we will have 300 Anytime Fitness sites in the UK, which would see us overtake the likes of Virgin Active and Pure Gym to become the largest gym chain by number of sites.

 

How do you make money?

Anytime Fitness makes money by supporting every franchisee in the opening and running of a successful business. Simply put, if each new club manages to reaches its targets in terms of members then the company continues to succeed financially. An important part of this process is ensuring each franchisee has the access to the quality training, support services and also mentoring that is available from within the Anytime Fitness franchise network.

 

Who’s on your team that makes you think you can do this?

There is a huge amount of expertise and knowledge held by people throughout the organisation.

From Dave Mortensen and Chuck Runyon (who founded the Anytime Fitness company in the USA in 2002) to the team we have based in Watford, there is a wealth of talented people each possessing a particular skill set that I believe will be vital to us reaching our goals as business.

 

Who’s bankrolling you?

Anytime Fitness is a privately funded business. However, when it comes to our franchisees, many of them rely on accessing finance from banks and other lending providers.

 

What advice would you give other entrepreneurs trying to secure that kind of finance?

All of our franchisees are entrepreneurs who want to run their own business. Anytime Fitness provides the support framework that enables our franchisees to gain access to a range of funding sources, such as bank loans and lease finance. 

The advantage of starting a franchise over a traditional business is that entrepreneurs are given greater access to a range of lending providers. For example, banks know that Anytime Fitness provides a certain level of security and they feel assured that the structure in place will guarantee success. Lenders are comfortable lending to our franchisees as it presents a lower risk profile than other businesses. The fact that 97% of all Anytime Fitness franchises have been successful speaks for itself.

Therefore my advice to entrepreneurs would be to take an open minded approach to business and consider whether they are other avenues to running a successful company that may be more financially viable.

 

What do you believe the key to growing this business is?

The growth of Anytime Fitness relies upon us attracting new franchisees and opening more clubs. To do that we must find franchisees who are passionate about our brand, who have a positive work ethic and are driven to succeed. It is only with these types of people on board that we can continue to grow Anytime Fitness in the UK.

 

What metrics do you look at every day?

We strive daily to ensure our clubs are performing well. To do this we look at lots of different metrics through our club management dashboard. For example, the number of new prospects a club has, the number of appointments made, the number of memberships sold, average membership price and total club income.

We do spend some time looking at costs but as these are mainly fixed our primary focus is on sales performance. We then also closely monitor member retention rates to ensure members are getting the best possible experience in their club.

 

What’s been the most unexpectedly valuable lesson you’ve learnt so far?

This is not necessarily unexpected, but the most valuable lesson I have learned is to invest in your people. If they feel truly valued they will surprise you in many ways.

 

What’s been your biggest mistake so far?

Personally – not starting my own business sooner. I found the experience to be easier than I thought and much more rewarding than being employed.

 

What do you think is on the horizon for your industry in the year ahead?

The franchising sector in the UK is experiencing a period of huge growth and I expect this to continue. Part of the reason for this is that the business community in UK is still relatively underdeveloped from a franchise point of view, despite us having an entrepreneurial society, and so there is a pool of potential investors that remains untapped.

As for the gym sector, the rise in the use of wearable technology and the legacy of the London Olympics means health and fitness remains a priority for brands, the Government, local communities and individuals.

What we eat and how we exercise is of huge importance to our health and wellbeing. With this in mind the demand for services and support which can help people achieve their health and

 

Which London startup/s are you watching, and why?

With my entrepreneur, small business hat on I have been attracted to a company called signkick. In essence, it provides anyone with the opportunity to book outdoor advertising on billboards, bus shelters and phone boxes without the need for a traditional advertising agency. In cutting out the middle man they have managed to open up new marketing channels for small and medium-sized businesses, and dismantle the monopoly held by big brands.

 

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