Check out this 2009 video on John Spence, who was named Club Operator of the Year in 2008. He owned 5 clubs back then, and now he owns a dozen, with 3 more in development.
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When John Spence got into the fitness industry, it was to be a personal trainer, not a baby sitter. Working as a manager at a big box fitness club outfitted with a day care center, Spence said he oversaw necessities like having his staff wipe down toys with antibacterial solutions and worrying about contagions like chicken pox spreading through the club.
He was about to get out of the business when his former bosses came to him with a new business model that eliminated all the things he didn’t like about his job and focused on helping people. They had been consultants in the fitness industry when Spence worked with them but were now franchising their own concept called Anytime Fitness. Spence, 39, was one of the first investors to sign up as a franchise partner.
“I like fitness,” Spence said in an interview with Franchise Chatter. “I like helping people. I like showing people how to work out. I don’t like disinfecting toys in a playland.”
The Anytime Fitness concept was perfect for him. Co-founders Chuck Runyon and Dave Mortensen started Anytime Fitness in 2002 by shrinking the footprint of the typical fitness club and focusing on those facilities that people availed themselves of the most: primarily cardio and strength training machines. But the real revolution was 24-hour access with a key card. Members are able to use the facilities at their home gym, but also have keyless access to any other Anytime Fitness gym around the globe.
That was another real plus for Spence who, aside from tending to the daycare, also disliked having to go to the gym he managed at 5:30 a.m. in order to open the doors when one of his employees overslept — a common occurrence.
Spence had worked for Runyon and Mortensen beginning in 1997 before moving on to manage a Fitworks in Ohio. He signed a franchise agreement with Anytime Fitness in 2003 and today owns 12 clubs throughout Ohio and Indiana with three more in development.
“I had a personal relationship with Chuck (Runyon) so I never really ever looked at any other franchises,” he said. “It gives me an opportunity to help people and it allows me to work in fitness; but I don’t have to deal with all of the ancillary issues.”
Staff Reduction is an Advantage
One of those issues would be the staffing required to run a big box gym, he said. As the manager at Fitworks, he found it annoying that he had to pay a staff person to do little more than stand at a counter and scan members’ cards when they came in for a workout. The keyless, 24-hour access to Anytime eliminates the need for such a position and cuts down on payroll expenses, he said.
Plus, such a staff member is often preoccupied by talking with co-workers or listening to their iPod, he said, which can be a detriment to the customer, he said.
“Instead of providing a higher level of customer service, you get someone who just ignores your customers.”
He estimates the labor savings to be about 40 percent at an Anytime club compared to a large gym with unnecessary amenities that don’t get used that much. At his clubs, he hires one manager, one sales person, and three trainers.