Survival of the Fittest

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-By Andrew Kade

The human race; these three words are used in conjunction so frequently that they have earned honorary hyphenation status. It is now our official title. I believe a deeper and perhaps forgotten nuance of the phrase holds an insight worth exploring. I am referring to the word race and the implications of its many meanings.

Race, when used in the biological sense, differentiates groups of living creatures from one another, but I suspect that the term has lost some of its true relevance in the undulating wash of linguistic latitude. A group of creatures defined by race has been parsed and categorised by science using shared commonalities at a genetic level as the main measure, but it has also been deemed by Darwinism to be in a competition with itself and others for the grand prize, and that prize is survival.

Humanity’s great race has always been a constantly evolving and turbulent affair but the advent of modern medicine, industrialisation of food manufacture and advanced nutritional science has changed the landscape so dramatically that within the space of three generations the game has changed from a sprint or middle distance event to a feat of endurance.

The greatly increased life span currently being experienced by citizens lucky enough to live in developed countries has caused a major overhaul of the way in which people are looking at and living their lives. To last the distance and achieve our goals, a more holistic approach is now required, with all facets of our physical, mental and spiritual self requiring equal portions of attention on a consistent basis. One integral component of the holistic health matrix is regular exercise. This fundamental privilege has, for many busy adults, been beyond reach due to cost and convenience. But that is no longer a valid excuse due to the arrival and meteoric proliferation of the power franchise, Anytime Fitness.

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Co-Director Justin McDonnell about the rise and reach of Anytime Fitness is Australia. “Our biggest selling point is convenience and affordability. We believe that people know that they should exercise, but it can be too much of a hassle. We take the clubs closer to their homes because we are trying to make it easy. Also our memberships are around $56 a month, which is much cheaper than our larger competitors.”

It is the drive and vision to truly bring fitness to the masses that lies at the core of the Anytime Fitness franchise philosophy. This, according to Justin, comes from the master franchise based in the United States and filters right down through all the franchisees worldwide – all of whom receive plenty of support from the home office. “There is quite a lot [of interaction]. We have not changed the product really – a few minor tweaks to suit our market, making things more Australian specific. We are in contact with the United States [head office] via email on a daily basis.”

The “Anytime” moniker is not merely an idle marketing slogan, it is a reality for members with all of the company’s gyms open 24/7, 365 days a year. Justin commented, “A lot of people’s objection to joining a fitness club or exercising is that they don’t have time. We are open all the time so that is no longer an excuse. Affordability is another objection, but we are trying to price so that most people can afford it for about the same price as a cup of coffee a day.”

In addition to the “Anytime” element is the Anywhere entitlement of the membership package. “When a member joins a club they are given a key card which gives them access to 1800 clubs around the world.” Much to the chagrin of the reluctant exerciser, this removes another possible excuse for skipping a workout.

Justin and his sister Jacinta are clearly devoted to development of the ‘fitness for everyone’ ideal and it is their shared exposure to the fitness industry during their youth that fostered this passion and vision. “Dad played first grade football when he was younger and always had a fitness background, and he was quite entrepreneurial. Dad had about five or six gyms when were little which he would build up, sell and move on. Back in those days there were no treadmills or bikes; it was mainly just weights and cardio. It was quite a different business model. It was all cash driven through casual business,” said Justin of his roots.

With the seed planted by their father’s pursuits, Justin and Jacinta sought out an opportunity that fit their vision. “We have been part of the franchise for three and a half years now. We noticed Anytime Fitness was growing quite fast in the US so we made contact with them. It progressed from there.”

The rest is history, as they say, and the Anytime Fitness brand could not have found a more passionate and capable pair of ground breakers to introduce the franchise to Australia than Justin and Jacinta. “When we first brought the franchise across, our target was 300 clubs which we thought was quite ambitious, but we have sold 310 territories and 150 of those clubs have opened already. The product is right for the market.”

Justin practices what he preaches by making time in his busy schedule for frequent exercise. “Outside of work I like to do a lot of skiing so I do some weights work in the gym to maintain myself for that and also do it as a stress release. I try work out three to four times a week to stay fit, healthy and maintain a clear head.”

The holistic health and work life balance of the franchisees working together with Justin and Jacinta is something that is incorporated into the blueprints of the franchise model. “Our clubs are quite easy to run. They have between ten to fifteen cameras in them and they are staffed about forty to fifty hours a week. The franchisee will set the club up and generally employ a manager who will stay from 10am to 7pm. The manager will be there when most of the members will be in and also be on hand to sell memberships.”

The Anytime brand currently has a niche in the market and a great product, but the company is definitely not getting complacent and resting on its laurels when it comes to innovating and offering more to its members. Justin outlined an exciting new product that is about to roll out to all members of Anytime Fitness. “We are launching a new product called Anytime Health which is coming up in July and will be free to all our members. It’s an online nutrition and exercise program which is designed to be a portal to our members to get advice from a virtual personal trainer. They can post questions on there and get answers. They can program in their current weight and also what they are hoping to achieve. Based on their activity at the gym and outside it, it will provide a recommended calorie count with recipes and food components. There will also be videos of people working out at an Anytime club, so if, for instance, they are wanting to develop a new program to increase their leg strength, there is an example available.”

This new facility would obviously be a boon to anyone looking to improve and maintain their health and fitness and it would slide perfectly into the electro-centric lifestyles that so many of us are leading. The new system also mimics the ‘anytime, anywhere’ mandate of the membership and would enable a level of guidance and support that would be out of the reach of most of us who are unable to fork out for expensive personal trainers and nutritionists.

The next big initiative that the Anytime Fitness product clearly lends itself to is the service it can provide to corporations looking to take proactive measures to ensure the consistent good health and productivity of their employees. “We are looking at offering the Anytime Health system to companies so that they can improve the health of their employees and also offer reduced [price] memberships as well.”

The Anytime Fitness business model clearly works because it is relevant. Through a heightened awareness of the importance of regular exercise on both our short and long term health and the relentless ministrations of our constant companions, competitiveness and vanity, as motivators, the general populace is more eager than ever to integrate fitness into our lives. Our concept of “survival” may have changed since our gradual move into the urban jungle, but life is still definitely a race and it’s still survival of the fittest.

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

July 19, 2018, 7:39 PM AEST