Ask an Expert: Chuck Runyon on Entrepreneurship

Anytime Fitness

You have questions, we have answers. This month we spoke with Chuck Runyon, CEO and co-founder of Anytime Fitness, about entrepreneurship.

What do you wish you had known when you first launched Anytime Fitness, that other budding entrepreneurs could learn from? CR: Rapid growth is fun and exciting, but it also comes with risks. If you sacrifice consistency in exchange for rapid growth, then you risk disappointing customers. Steady, as opposed to rapid, growth gives you better control over the products and services you deliver at multiple locations. Steady growth also helps you do a better job of building your core team of employees and supporting your teams and stakeholders in the field.

Why do you think it’s important for leaders to focus on Return on Emotional Investment (ROEI) versus Return on Investment (ROI)? CR: A company needs healthy ROI to grow, hire, reinvest and innovate. Money provides necessities and luxuries, but it can’t move people emotionally. That’s why our focus at Anytime Fitness has always been on ROEI. People invest emotional capital into every relationship they have, including with the brands they trust. For us, proof of our success capturing the ROEI is in the nearly 4,000 tattoos our members, corporate team, franchisees and their staff have of the Anytime Fitness logo on their bodies.

Can you share examples of ways Anytime Fitness focuses on ROEI? CR: Outsiders are always fascinated to learn about Anytime Fitness’ tattoo phenomenon, but really, it’s just another example of how the brand centers on ROEI. These tattoo stories are always deeply personal, and most describe a major physical and emotional transformation. We’ve heard our share of weight-loss stories, but it runs far deeper than that. We’ve heard members describe how they overcame eating disorders, depression and addiction. We’ve heard military veterans tell us that our people helped them cope with or overcome their post-traumatic stress. We’ve read how it felt when someone completed their first 5K or marathon, performed in their first fitness show, or finally became a role model for their kids. These examples showcase how our brand, our people, take members in and treat them with respect and dignity, listen to their goals and offer the kind of empathy, support and tough love they haven’t found elsewhere. Our focus on ROEI starts at the corporate office, but transcends to our owners, our personal trainers and our members all over the world.

Is there any other leadership advice you could share with other operators? CR: All good leaders in any service industry should act as if they are the hosts of an elaborate party and treat every customer like they are honored guests. Pay attention to every detail. Make sure your guests are happy, comfortable, entertained and engaged. Anticipate their needs and respond promptly to their requests. Don’t even think about serving yourself until after all of your guests are pleasantly satisfied. Listen to customers. Find out what they want, deliver it, and — then and only then — figure out how to monetize what you’re delivering. It’s not your job to tell your customers what they want or need. It’s your job to ask, discover and serve. 

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