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Case Study: Deborah and Chris Hayden, Anytime Fitness Ipswich
Entrepreneur finds faith in franchising
Experienced businesswoman Deborah Hayden explains how Anytime Fitness’s healthy model convinced her to add franchising to her professional portfolio...
Since leaving school with no qualifications, globetrotter Deborah Hayden has proved herself to be a natural entrepreneur. Starting with a goal of helping organisations grow by reducing costs and increasing sales, she formed her first company, the Resource Centre, in 1994 and soon counted industry heavyweights including Glaxo, BusinessLink and the Institute of Marketing among her clients.
More recent forays into property development and even the formation of a charity have followed as Deborah has continued to demonstrate her commercial cutting edge. But despite her exposure to all aspects of the world of business, Deborah and husband Chris had remained unsure about the potential of franchising – until they discovered Anytime Fitness. The alluring mix of flexibility, support and the chance to be involved in a vibrant industry convinced the couple that a 24-hour fitness club would be a sound addition to their portfolio.
“The freedom of entrepreneurship was very appealing,” she explained. “But I also knew that it could be risky and the road to profit was longer than Anytime Fitness offered. My husband and I talked about it a great deal and eventually chose the Anytime Fitness franchise."
“One of the great things about Anytime Fitness is the flexibility. You’re not rigidly tied in. The Anytime team and other franchisees really help you, and if you follow best practice and the business model you have invested in, it’s hard to fail – and as with any business, you need to put in 110 per cent to really succeed.”
Perfecting the pre-sale
Deborah and Chris have enjoyed travelling all over the world during their time together, including three years spent living in California’s Laguna Beach, but it was the Suffolk town of Ipswich which stood out as the perfect location for their Anytime Fitness club. They took advantage of pre-opening courses run by the franchise to fully understand how to make the most of the pre-sale process and ensure that they had as many members signed up as possible before the gym opened its doors.
In order to cultivate her club’s sense of community, Deborah travelled far and wide to other Anytime Fitness locations to pick up pointers on how to provide a friendly, approachable atmosphere. And although Deborah faced stiff competition from two nearby competitors offering budget memberships and could not count on the affluent city workers found in the likes of London, Birmingham and Manchester, Anytime Fitness Ipswich’s pre-opening sale was so effective that it received the “most successful club” award from head office.
The result has been impressive. Since welcoming its first members in March 2015, the club has attracted more than 800 members and Deborah has targeted reaching the full capacity of 1,200 within her first year of operation. “Community and convenience are the main pillars of the Anytime Fitness brand and they’ve been vital to our success,” added Deborah. “We’re open 24/7 – people can come in, work out and have classes at any time of the day or night, which isn’t something that a lot of health clubs offer."
“My team prides itself on being friendly and creating a close-knit community. We’re constantly thinking of ways to support and motivate our members. For example, it’s only natural that at some time between two and five months after joining, motivation will wane. We help by staying in touch, creating new training plans and giving members a bit of structure.”
In addition to being able to work out in a purpose-designed, modern club, Anytime Fitness Ipswich’s members can take advantage of staffed classes during the day and virtual, pre-recorded sessions at all other times. Led by world-leading instructors, the virtual workouts are beamed into the club’s studio via projector screen and allow members to take part in classes without supervision and at times to suit them.
Shift workers and busy mums are among the people to have made use of the service, which is of real value to anyone who struggles to fit in exercise during lunchtimes or evenings. Anytime Fitness Ipswich’s modern kit, strong sense of community and innovative extras have clearly won over the club’s growing community. At the time of writing, Deborah’s efforts have earned her 4.8 stars out of a possible 5 from a series of glowing reviews on her Facebook page. Members have been particularly impressed with the staff, the use of technology and the facility’s overall comfort and convenience. And although Deborah continues to focus on her current club, it is perhaps little surprise that the business-minded owner is so taken with the Anytime Fitness model that she is already considering expanding her relationship with the franchise.
“I’d love to open another Anytime Fitness health club – in the Suffolk area, of course,” she concluded. “Opening and running a gym is a lot like a fitness regime; you get out what you put in, but it’s a tremendously rewarding experience for all involved.”
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