Ten business learnings over ten years

By Justin McDonell – Co-founder & Chairman, Collective Wellness Group

This time, 10 years ago, I was in an extremely different place to where I am today.  

Having just brought the Anytime Fitness franchise to Australia and opening the doors to Australia’s very first club in Gunnedah, regional NSW, I was filled with excitement, sure. But while a massive amount of research went behind mine and my co-founders’ decision to bring Anytime Fitness to Australia, there was still some degree of uncertainty behind that first club. I was convinced it could work, but could my intuition be wrong?  

Fast forward the clock by 10 years and here we are today, fast approaching 500 clubs nationally and over 500,000 members. With this month being our 10 year anniversary in Australia, I’ve found myself thinking back to club number 1 and our approach back then. Did it work?  

Yes. Could we have done things better?  

In some areas, definitely. And I’m the first to admit that there’s been so many learnings over the Anytime Fitness journey.  

Here’s 10 of the biggest business leanings I’ve gained over the last 10 years.  

  1. Success doesn’t come overnight

    Any business owner will tell you that those first few months and sometimes even years of starting a new business aren’t easy. If you’re passionate about your business than it’s easier to keep your eye on the bigger picture, but there are times when you’ll feel like you’re dragging your feet. In Anytime Fitness’ case, it took 3-4 years before we really started to pick up momentum with club expansion. My advice for other business owners is to stick with it. The start-up phase is the hardest but the effort and persistence you put in now will pay you massive dividends in the long term. You’ll experience challenges, but every set back is a lesson learned, and it will only help you perform better in the long term. 

  2. You need to know when to get out of the way

    As someone who’s worked in the fitness industry since I was 16 years old, I was mistaken in thinking I knew all there was to know about running a successful fitness franchise. One of the greatest realisations I’ve made is that as a business owner, you don’t have to excel in every area. In fact, you’ll often benefit your business a whole lot more by stepping aside and letting others take over when they have the specific skill set and knowledge needed to do a better job. 

  3. You must surround yourself with great people

    You must hire the right people to get the job done. To do this, it’s important that you identify where your weaknesses lie and the type of skills you need to fill these gaps. Surrounding yourself with the right people is so important for achieving success – not just people you like, but people’s whose strengths complement your team. 

  4. Franchising is about balancing relationships

    The traditional hierarchical system doesn’t apply in the franchising business. Instead, the ongoing nurturing and harmonising of relationships is key for driving the best outcomes for all parties. In the case of Anytime Fitness Australia, this involves the balancing of relationships with franchisees, suppliers and support office. I think other sectors could benefit from a similar approach, focusing more on the relationships rather than the business transactions.  

  5. Remaining focused on the big picture will keep you going when things get tough

    The journey to success isn’t linear. You’ll experience road bumps along the way and that’s fine. They’re often only minor hiccup in the larger scale of things. For me, I’ve learned to remain focused on the bigger goal at play to get me through the hard moments – ‘getting more Australians reaping the benefits of exercise’ - in my case. Your bigger goals shouldn’t be something like ‘making money’. Instead, delve into your underlying motivation, for example, building a life for your family or a future for your kids. It’s amazing just how motivating this underlying goal can be.  

  6. Growth is exciting, but building a business is about consistently doing the little things

    No one needs reminding to celebrate the big wins, but it’s the small consistencies that make the big things happen. I learned pretty quickly that you can’t get too wrapped up in aiming for the big wins. Focus on the foundations – what does it take, every day, to make this business successful? 
    Get that right, and the bigger wins will follow.

  7. It’s important to enjoy the journey

    You can’t appreciate the destination if you’re too worn out from the journey. It’s hard to take a step back when things are running a million miles an hour but it can’t be all work and no play. If you’re travelling for business, take some time out to enjoy the surroundings and don’t be hesitant to take a break when you need to in order to recharge and refocus. 

  8. Making time for your personal health and fitness is essential

    Your business can only perform as well as yourself and your team do. Make time for yourself! And encourage your team to do so as well. 

  9. Embracing change is essential to growth

    There is no benefit in latching on to old ways of working or resisting change. Even if you’re successful now, if you want to continue your success in the future, you need to keep moving forward and constantly evolve. This is something I’ve been continually mindful of over Anytime Fitness’ journey. We spearheaded the 24-hour convenience model but competitors were always going to come. It’s for this reason we adopted a 5-year refresh process and are continually introducing new fitness products into our gyms to maintain our competitive edge. 

  10. Decisions need to happen - don’t hold on them

    When you’re building a business from the ground up, there’s going to be unknowns come your way. From my experience, making the best decision with the information you have at the time is better than making no decision at all. The mere decision to bring Anytime Fitness to Australia was a gamble, but it’s one that has definitely paid off, and it’s an opportunity we would have lost to someone else if we hadn’t taken the leap when we did. Go with your gut, trust your instincts and don’t be afraid to take risks.

Jenna Green