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With more than 20 years experience in the franchise industry, first as an employee of Pizza Hut who worked his way up to director of operations for 16 locations, followed by being a multiple-unit owner/operator for Anytime Fitness, Andy Gundlach doesn’t hesitate to answer when asked what his single-most important piece of advice would be for new or potential franchisees: follow the plan.
The greatest advantage to becoming a franchise partner with a company is that investors are provided with a reliable roadmap for success that covers everything from operations to marketing so there’s no need to “reinvent the wheel,” Gundlach said in an interview with Franchise Chatter.
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“A lot of people get into a franchise and think they can do anything they want,” he said, but those who stick to the established plan are much more likely to have a successful business.
“You just follow that recipe and master the fundamentals. I’m not the most creative person, but I can operate a system very, very well.”
The Anytime Fitness business model offers franchisees flexibility with an “exclusive systems integration” that allows franchisees to run a 24-hour operation without additional staff. The convenience for the franchisee is provided by sophisticated technology that, among other things, integrates access and security systems with billing and payment processing; integrates member check-in and data management tools with marketing features; integrates tanning access systems with point of sale functionality; and even offers cashless vending solutions that allow members to charge purchases to their member account, creating revenue without the need for staff.
Another keystone of the Anytime Fitness plan is called Anywhere Club Access, a membership reciprocity program that allows members to use any of the company’s more than 2,300 clubs worldwide.
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Yet, even when a company offers all that technology for ease of operation, Gundlach said, one of the most important considerations for investors when choosing a franchise is the people at the corporate level. Meeting Anytime Fitness co-founders Chuck Runyon and Dave Mortensen is what sold him on the franchise, he said.
“I really believed these guys understood what it took to operate the business,” he said. “That was the No. 1 thing I was looking for. They understood people and they were in it for the right reasons for the long run.”
He said it’s important from the very start to evaluate the company’s responses to your inquiries and whether their answers are provided in a timely manner.
Gundlach added that he didn’t get the same good impression when he explored other fitness franchises, such as Snap Fitness and Fitness Together, as he did with Anytime Fitness.
“I wasn’t impressed with the communication and leadership of the others,” he said. “It was basically just a salesperson that contacted me. It was basically one guy trying to sell me — very impersonal.”