Anytime Fitness

Cofounder Chuck Runyon is pumped about his health club franchising model expanding outside the U.S.
Anytime Fitness

The first Anytime Fitness health club opened in Cambridge, Minnesota, in 2002. Today, it’s the number-one coed fitness chain in the world (Texas-headquartered Curves, whose clientele is female, is number one overall) with 1,200 clubs now open, another 1,400 franchise territories sold, and more than 800,000 members. Most members live or work within three miles of a club.

“If you join one Anytime Fitness club, then you can use any other Anytime Fitness club at no additional charge,” says Mark Daly, the company’s national media director. “Anytime Fitness is also Anywhere Fitness.”

Cofounders Jeff Klinger and Chuck Runyon’s vision was simple and straightforward. Anytime Fitness’s “neighborhood clubs” are a smaller, more convenient alternative to oversized and overpriced health clubs. Although clubs are typically staffed 40 hours a week, members can work out around the clock thanks to computerized key fobs “synced” into the company’s automated billing system that digitally documents who enters the facility and when.

At the core of Anytime Fitness’s success is member security and safety. If more than one person enters an unstaffed club at the same time, door frame tailgate detectors sound an alarm and offsite managers, who can view the club through real-time digital video surveillance, are alerted.

In addition to Anytime Fitness’s integrated surveillance and usage tracking system, members have access to wall-mounted panic buttons and personal necklace-like security devices that allow them, at the touch of a button, to bring security officers running.

“A great portion of our members have never before belonged to a fitness club,” Daly says. “But when they look in the big windows of our small, community-oriented fitness clubs, they see people who look like them and they think to themselves, ‘You know what? This is a place where I would feel comfortable.’”

For the past two years, Anytime Fitness franchisees are adding a new club every day of the year for 50,000 new members a month. (The company says that more than half of the franchisees own multiple clubs or franchise territories.) Sales topped $160 million in 2008, and the company projects sales to reach $184 million in 2009.

“A good number of our new members have left more expensive clubs,” Daly says. “People are looking for value and a place that they can think of as ‘my club.’ So we’re thriving despite the economy.”

Klinger and Runyon were presented with the 2009 “Industry Visionary of the Year” award by the International Health, Racquet, and Sportsclub Association. The award is presented to
 those who’ve made an unprecedented or unique contribution to the advancement of the club industry.

“That award is extremely important,” Daly says. “It was recognition that Anytime Fitness had significantly altered the landscape of the fitness industry.”

Anytime Fitness’s Hastings headquarters is also home to three affiliated companies. “We want to be a full-service franchiser,” Daly says. “We know that many people have a dream of owning their own fitness club but don’t have the first idea of how to go about doing it.” The company’s divisions include Franchise Financial for financing, Franchise Real Estate for finding locations, and Enterprise Insurance Advisors, an insurance company catering specifically to Anytime Fitness owners.

In September, the company announced that it would soon be expanding into Mexico. “At a staff meeting recently, Chuck Runyon made it perfectly clear that the longtime goal for Anytime Fitness was 10,000 clubs,” Daly says. “We’re hoping to achieve in the area of 2,000 clubs by the end of 2011. We think at that point we will hit a critical mass, and our international sales will skyrocket at the same sort of rate that our domestic sales have risen in the past few years. We’ve got plenty of room for domestic growth, but international growth—in places like Europe, Asia, and the Middle East—is where we see our greatest potential.”