WORKOUT ANYTIME has seen exponential growth over the past decade, growing from just one location in 1999 to 140 locations nationwide today. The company has big plans for expansion over the next year, particularly in the western half of the country.
Club Solutions spoke with two executives at WORKOUT ANYTIME: Randy Trotter, the senior vice president of development, and Mark de Gorter, the chief operations officer.
Each provided his own insight into the strengths of WORKOUT ANYTIME, details of the company’s growth plan, and what to expect from the company in the next few months.
CS: What’s the secret to WORKOUT ANYTIME’s growth?
RT: We started back in 1999 with one club in Douglasville, Georgia. And it took us nine years to get to 50, and then two more years to get to 100. And it will probably take about 18 months to get to 200. So we’re kind of like a snowball rolling — we’ve had really good growth. We’re anticipating a very large fourth quarter.
The two biggest deterrents of joining a gym are the cost and commitment — we’ve just wiped that out so that you’re pretty compelled to join. Even if you can’t commit to working out all the time, you’ve got access to this really well-equipped club. We also have locker room showers, so people can workout before they go to work. We’re just excited, we’re growing fast.
MG: I guess the biggest secret is, first and foremost, we have great franchise partners. They are in many cases local business people in the community that are really involved in the community. They take tremendous pride in putting together a first-class health club that really takes care of our members’ needs, gets some of the results they’re looking for, and provides what we call a Cheers-type atmosphere inside the club, so our members feel really welcomed and like they’re getting the results they need.
CS: As the gym has grown, what are some learning lessons you’ve gleaned?
RT: We have an awesome concept and we have a really sustainable business. But it really comes back to real estate, and it really depends on where we go, based on our demographics we look at. Obviously, population and income levels are huge. We can’t go into too affluent markets — we’re pretty much a middle-class club. We like to be convenient. I feel like the No. 1 reason people join gyms other than price is convenience.
MG: At the end of the day, we’re still there to support the members. We don’t really focus on selling in the true sense, because we think we provide a terrific price value at $15 and $25. But I think along the way, we’ve learned that the secret is providing a great experience for your members. We just introduced, this year, a small group, high-intensity interval training program that’s doing pretty well and priced at the value level like we priced our memberships. We’ve found the members like the additional programs and I think those are probably the biggest areas we’ve really come to understand as we’ve built this thing out.
CS: What can other gyms learn from looking WORKOUT ANYTIME’s success?
RT: It sounds cliché, but we really care about our franchise owners. So we’re not going to let them sign a lease in an area that doesn’t make sense, or pay too much, or not get the right staff. When we got started, when we didn’t have name recognition or relationships with the big developers, reaching the real estate folks was tough. It took us a while for them to get to know us, understand our model, and know what made sense for them to give us. But the more we did, and with the success of our owners, now they come to us.
MG: At the end of the day, it’s about treating your members as family. When we’re doing that really well across the country, we don’t really see the competitive influences impacting our business. We don’t see people that want to drive up the street to save another five or 10 dollars. I think that’s clearly the biggest secret — and again, it’s no great insight, frankly. We’re in the service business, and if you’re servicing your members well and you’re creating an environment and atmosphere that makes them comfortable, they’re going to keep coming back.
CS: What’s your growth plan moving forward?
RT: We’re trying to open 50 locations this year, and it’s a challenge. But we feel like we’ll open 50 and we should open maybe 75 to 100 next year. Right now, we’re getting a pipeline going, so we’ll have that type of growth, and we’re looking forward to getting into some more spaces. We’re an East Coast company, so it’s nice to get into Texas and to move out West. It’s great to see the model works anywhere. We do our homework with the demographics and lifestyles, and what makes sense. But the model works so well.
MG: It’s interesting, we really don’t have a specific goal. We’ve been growing 40 percent year-over-year the past three years, we’re certainly planning to that trajectory, and at some point it’ll start to level off. Clearly the market is big enough to support us and everybody else that’s in it. We’ve done a number of studies that demonstrate the upside is as many as a thousand clubs or more throughout the country and in the markets that we currently operate in. The good news is we’re not investor-owned. We’re privately held, we’re profitable, we have no debt. So we’re not under any institutional investment pressure to grow at any certain level, we can grow at the pace that we believe is right for our company and right for our franchise partners, and right for our members.
CS: What’s your vision for WORKOUT ANYTIME over the next five years?
RT: In my mind, five years would have us in another 15 to 20 states. As we get in more and more territories, we’ll expand out. So I don’t know the number in five years, but if we keep going like we’re going, it’s going to be several hundred gyms or more.
MG: What we like to tell people is we’re not here to be the biggest. There are a lot of well-established brands that are certainly much bigger than ours, but we’re not chasing that number. When you do, I think you start to lose sight [of your] mission. And our mission is really to provide our franchise partners with a business opportunity that helps meet their financial needs, their passion and business objectives through that growth and passion. So we don’t focus on that — we focus on, rather, being the most admired gym company in the industry. So I would say our focus, our vision really is to become the most admired brand in the industry through hard work and attention to detail, and attention to our members.