My sister Jacinta McDonell & I, with our business partner Richard Peil, launched the highly successful U.S. franchise Anytime Fitness into Australia in 2008. IBIS World report recently ranked Anytime Fitness as the largest health club chain in Australia with over 410 locations currently open and still growing.

Since Anytime Fitness’s launch into Australia, it has become the quickest growing segment of the world’s fastest growing fitness chain. Globally there are over 2500 locations and 2.5 million members.

Not a bad result for a business that opened its first franchise in the New South Wales country town of Gunnedah in 2008, population 7888.

We chose Gunnedah as a test location for the network because the site fit the global business model – it was located next to a supermarket. The rent was also low, allowing a relatively risk-free first foray into the market. Just two months later, we opened a second gym in Wodonga on the New South Wales/Victorian border.

Jacinta and I grew up in the fitness industry, with our parents running clubs when we were young. We opened our first club straight after school and have been in the industry since 1992, so this experience is what really cemented the path to our success with Anytime Fitness Australia. When Jacinta and I were considering taking the Master Franchise opportunity for Australia, we looked at two different gym franchises that were already successful in the United States and also considered going it alone. After a lot of research and consideration, the benefits of being able to access the Anytime Fitness infrastructure, marketing and I.T. support, as well as the name, convinced us to go ahead with the agreement.

Since launching Anytime Fitness into Australia we’ve seen the brand go from strength to strength. Proof of this is demonstrated by Anytime Fitness ranking No. 1 on Entrepreneur magazine’s annual Top Global Franchise list this year. Averaging more than 300 new gyms a year for each of the past eight years, Anytime Fitness will soon open its 3,000th franchised unit – in less years (13) than it took other franchising companies like McDonald’s, Subway, 7-Eleven and Pizza Hut to reach that same milestone.

Both the 24/7 gym concept and business model was unique to the industry and the Australian market at the time of us signing the Master Franchise agreement. Typically the industry was dominated by larger chains that had everything from juice bars, group exercise classes and crèches. Anytime Fitness gyms provide members access at any hour, with 24 hour entry, state-of-the-art equipment and top notch facilities 24/7. Local franchisees also offer communities an exceptional product at an exceptional price with the added benefit of convenience; clubs are located near to home to make exercise easier for members. Trained staff or franchisees are available during normal trading hours to provide assistance in using the equipment and working with members to identify and achieve their goals. After hours, members can access the gym safely and securely by using their key card. The franchisee can then monitor the gym from anywhere – the Anytime Fitness franchise model was built around the concept of freedom. Anytime Fitness franchisees can run multiple clubs remotely and require low labour, providing them with more free time and a balanced lifestyle. Anytime Fitness’ monthly franchise fees are also low and fixed which allows franchisees to benefit from their own business’ growth.

We give franchisees support acquiring property or signing a lease and they also have access to an in-house architect and the business’s support team of 45 people, as well as ongoing coaching.

This business model allows flexibility and autonomy to the clients who use the gym, as well as to the franchisees who own the gym.

Keys to success

Our business has provided a solution to health conscious Australians. We set big goals to grow our network quickly and dominate the market in which we operate. We knew we needed to run fast to do this, so we reached for the stars. As to how the business has managed to sustain such stellar growth since it launched, many franchisees own multiple franchises – the top franchisee has ten gyms – which has helped drive expansion. Growth has come from our internal networks and through referrals from existing franchisees. When selecting potential franchisees, we look for a passion for health and fitness, good business acumen or previous sales and marketing experience.

If you attend our new franchisee training sessions, you’ll find accountants and personal trainers as well as people who have been involved with other franchises that are attracted to the low-staffing model. We are driven by technology, understanding our members and our consumers and ensuring we keep evolving and keeping our products and service offerings fresh because we’re very conscious that the product needs to keep evolving and be around long term.

Anytime Fitness Australia will continue to offer an exceptional product in convenient locations, allowing easier access for members to achieve their health and fitness goals. We plan to continue to expand our already extensive club network, with more new club openings scheduled in all states throughout the rest of the year. Open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, Anytime Fitness prides itself on providing members with convenient and affordable fitness options in friendly facilities which feature top-quality exercise equipment.

Justin and Jacinta McDonell grew up in the fitness industry, with their parents running clubs when they were young and opened their first club straight from school. This experience cemented the path to such success with the Anytime Fitness franchise.