In search of a franchise which would provide her with family time as well as a booming business, Linda Crowson turned to Anytime Fitness. Here, she shares her story...
WHEN the demands of a busy job in central London clashed with the desire to spend more time with her son, Linda Crowson decided it was time for a lifestyle health check.
With her youngster about to start school, Linda and husband James chose to explore the wealth of franchise opportunities in an attempt to secure a more beneficial work\life balance.
The couple wanted to find a business as good for their local community as it was for them and found the array of available fast-food franchises were not a good fit.
But when a general interest in opening a gym led them to discover the Anytime Fitness brand, it was clear that this was a partnership with powerful potential.
“We had looked at Subway, McDonalds and various other things, but at the end of the day we felt that we should do something that was going to help us be fit and help other people be fit as well,” explained Linda.
“We then looked at starting our own gym, but we didn’t have all of the expertise we would need. When we saw Anytime Fitness, it was a no-brainer.
“There’s a feel-good factor about running an Anytime fitness club because you’re doing something positive in people’s lives, whereas with a food outlet you’re not helping them in the same way.
“It sounds grandiose, but it’s actually really rewarding to think you are providing something that is helping people get healthier.”
COMPELLING BUSINESS CASE
After paying a visit to Anytime Fitness to find out more about what being a franchisee entailed, the Crowsons were even more enthused.
In addition to providing a truly community-focused opportunity, it was Anytime Fitness’s profitable potential that convinced Linda and James to sign on the dotted line.
The franchise was in its early stages of operating in the UK, but its strong showings in the United States and Australia demonstrated that it had the strength to muscle in and secure a place in the nation’s fitness market.
“When we looked at the numbers, the business case was compelling and it seemed like something which could give profit fairly quickly,” said Linda.
“We felt we were given all of the information we needed in order to make a sensible decision and were comfortable that this would allow us to achieve something we wanted to do while being supported in areas where we didn’t necessarily have the expertise.”
As new franchisees, the Crowsons set about finding a suitable property for their club. Negotiating the lease – along with cutting through the red tape in securing planning permission – proved to be the couple’s biggest hurdles, but Linda was full of praise for the support provided by Anytime Fitness throughout.
From dedicated help during discussions about the lease to the wealth of information provided through the franchise’s dedicated intranet site and Phase Programme, assistance was available at every stage.
“We found that the Phase Programme tells you almost everything you need to know,” explained Linda. “Having said that, you do need somebody to give you advice on certain parts and that is also available.
“It wasn’t hand-holding, but there was always somebody there to make sure we were doing everything at the right time and that we had answers to any questions.
“The guys are really experienced and know what they’re doing in the operations of a club. There was nothing we didn’t get an answer for and we had guidance throughout.”
Once the lease was in place, Anytime Fitness Twickenham began to pull in members through a pre-sale process managed both on-site and online via social media.
Membership has continued to grow since the club opened in June 2013 and the Crowsons have stayed true to their dream of becoming an intrinsic part of their community.
From personal interactions with club users to the sponsorship of local school sports teams, Linda and her team of two full-time staff, two-part time workers and two personal trainers pride themselves on being a positive asset to the west London borough.
“Our goal is to truly be a part of the community rather than a faceless gym that only gets involved on a superficial level,” she said. “Through things like a trial class timetable where we invite feedback, we are trying to get people to be more involved in how we develop and to make them feel this is their club.
“Obviously there’s the business side to what we do, but I believe that if members feel involved they will enjoy coming, recommend us and ultimately that aids retention.”
FIT FOR PURPOSE
With the Twickenham club having just celebrated two successful years of operation, Linda’s faith in Anytime Fitness is best demonstrated by the decision to open a second club in Gosport, Hampshire.
And while her initial mission was to find a business which would afford her more family time, the additional financial, social and community benefits mean that being an Anytime Fitness franchisee has been liberating on a number of levels.
“The biggest benefit for me is the lifestyle, but it’s just as important that this is a business that works,” she said. “If you follow the model, you end up having something that is profitable within a short period of time.
“I remember being told when we were first signing up that this was a downturn-proof business and I think that’s true.
“Aside from that, we feel we are part of a community with the other franchisees where everyone is friendly and willing to share and add to a pool of knowledge. It’s all positive.
“Anytime Fitness is about trying to get people fit in a convenient, friendly community environment in a club that fits around them.
“I am proud to be a part of that and to have a business which is doing good.”