An Australian Franchisor Interview
Franchisors name: Jacinta McDonell-Jimenez
Name of franchise: Anytime Fitness Australia
Tell us about how/when the business was started and the motivation behind establishing Anytime Fitness.
Justin and I brought the US franchise Anytime Fitness to Australia in 2008. Our parents ran fitness clubs when we were young so we’ve grown up around fitness and it was a natural progression for us to continue in the industry. We’ve been in the fitness industry since 1992, starting off with opening our first gym straight out of school.
When and why did you decide to go down the franchise route?
The franchise 24 hour gym model was sourced in the US. We had spotted a gap, recognising there was little in the home-grown market that sat in the middle ground of fitness venues, and were scouting for possible business opportunities. The American trend was for all-hours gyms, and we found the Anytime Fitness chain, with a membership that was well priced for a branded facility. The 24/7 franchise was developed as an alternative to over-sized and over-priced health clubs, providing a viable business model for independent franchisees and affordable fitness options for hundreds of thousands of members nationwide. Both the gym concept and business model were unique to the industry.
What have been Anytime Fitness’ biggest achievements/successes to date so far?
Our biggest achievements are our awesome staff in our office who live and breathe our brand and our 220 franchisees ability to deliver the Anytime Fitness experience to over 350,000 members.
We have been acknowledged formally with the fitness franchise winning recognition within industry awards such as TopFranchise, Smart Company, BRW Fast Starters and BRW Fast Franchise, all of which placed Anytime Fitness within the top ten for the last few years.
We also appointed celebrity personal trainer Shannan Ponton as the company’s Brand Advocate. Shannan’s values and beliefs mirror Anytime Fitness’s, he is genuine, down-to-earth and stands for respect plus integrity, physical and mental discipline, as well as strength in body and mind.
More recently, we have just celebrated our sixth birthday with the opening of our 350th club, which is very exciting!
I am undertaking fundraising work for non-profit organisation The Hunger Project where I have committed to raising $100,000, which can provide over 200 communities with the ability to purchase food-processing equipment or 2,000 people with microfinance loans that are often used by communities to buy seeds/fertiliser .
What challenges have you had to overcome?
One of the biggest challenges I’ve had to face is juggling three children, running a growing business and still managing to have my own life! It’s been a very busy few years, but it has all been worth it.
What marketing/promotional tools do you use to grow your franchise?
We have been really lucky and most of our franchisees have come to us from other franchisees.
I think this shows the strength and success of our franchisees within our brand.
What differentiates Anytime Fitness from the competition?
Anytime Fitness gyms provide members access at any hour, with 24 hour entry, state-of-the-art equipment and top notch facilities 24/7. Local franchisees also offer communities an exceptional product at an exceptional price with the added benefit of convenience; clubs are located near to home to make exercise easier for members. We want our members to see Anytime Fitness as more than just a gym and to ‘Feel Something Better’ – whether that’s weight loss, strength gain, a lift in self-esteem or something much more subjective, and Anytime Fitness believes they can provide this by being the gym that is refreshingly different.
For our franchisees, freedom is what sets us apart from our competitors. We offer franchisees the freedom to operate their business to suit their lifestyle, freedom to grow within the system and the freedom that comes with knowing they have the support and back-up of the world’s fastest growing fitness club franchise. Franchisees can run multiple clubs remotely and require low labour, providing them with more free time and a balanced lifestyle. Anytime Fitness’ monthly franchise fees are also low and fixed which allows franchisees to benefit from their own business’ growth.
In your opinion, what makes a successful Anytime Fitness franchisee?
Some key elements of being a successful Anytime Fitness franchisee includes having a good, trustworthy management team to run the business day to day, ensuring the equipment is all up to standards, the club is clean, staff are motivated and supporting members. The franchisees who utilise our head office support network are always successful, we offer an e-learning platform, an online operations manual which includes a step-by-step breakdown of what to do, as well as sales training.
What changes have you seen in your industry over recent years? And how have you adapted to them?
Traditional health clubs have for years offered the same services to consumers that some members simply don’t value. Without diversity in the industry consumers have been forced to choose from one health club or another offering the same services and facilities at a similar membership price. As an industry we need to acknowledge that consumers want different things, some consumers want 24/7 access, some want group exercise, some want a pool and some prefer a personal training studio. The success of 24/7 clubs shows the demand for our industry is there, we just need to simply offer them what they are looking for and not try to be everything to everyone.
The industry is evolving and the 24/7 clubs are part of this evolution. These clubs are not a fad – consumers expect many services to be available 24 hours a day, so why not exercise?
What does the future hold for Anytime Fitness?
We plan to open 400 clubs by the end of this year. Our member experience is our key focus and them having access to over 400 clubs is something we are proud to offer them.
What expansion plans have you got nationally and internationally?
Internationally our brand is growing quickly, other master franchisees are starting to really get some traction and we now have over 600 clubs outside of the USA
What advice would you give to someone considering franchising their business?
- To make sure the business model is robust.
- To make sure the consumer really wants this and that your brand is positioned for growth. Supporting franchisees is key and just because 1 business works doesn’t mean 200 will be successful.
- Know your strengths and invest in the early days in staff that are strong were you are not.
If you had to do it all again, what would you do differently?
Nothing, we have had an amazing journey so far with some amazing people!