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Not Even a Pandemic Could Stop This Fitness Franchise Owner
Andy Gundlach shows how being transparent and establishing trust is often a recipe for success.
Andy Gundlach was confident when he decided to open a Basecamp Fitness studio. You see, Gundlach owns 31 Anytime Fitness franchises throughout southern Wisconsin, his first having opened in Madison in 2006. His track record in the fitness industry was good and his chances for success were solid.
As it turns out, though, Gundlach's Basecamp Fitness opened March 10, 2020. Seven days later, that studio, along with his Anytime Fitness locations, had to close due to the Covid-19 health crisis. Gundlach and his team quickly transitioned to crisis mode.
"We had to begin planning for the immediate future and how to survive," he says. "How long would we be closed? What would that mean as each month went by and how would we have to adapt?"
These were big questions that needed answers – especially for a fresh, new brand that barely had a chance to get going before everything closed.
Before the shutdowns, Gundlach was thrilled to have 300 members already signed up for Basecamp Fitness. With a focus on high-energy interval training, Basecamp Fitness is part of the Self Esteem Brands family of franchises, same as Anytime Fitness.
Once he had to close the doors, his priority was establishing trust and credibility with these hundreds of new customers. "Our mindset was 100 percent to protect our new brand's reputation and to keep our members safe," Gundlach explains. "Being the first franchised Basecamp Fitness, we did not have any room for error, as it did not have years of trust built up to lean on."
Gundlach and his team immediately reached out to every member to let them know how they planned to approach the shutdown. "I committed to keeping staff on to do outreach to our members and to be transparent with them regarding how we would handle the shutdown," he says. "The fact that I am a local owner that has 31 Anytime Fitness' and live here in the market gives us that credibility."
Once restrictions rolled back and he was allowed to re-open, Gundlach continued reaching out to his members, informing them about occupancy rates and mask mandates. He also allowed those who weren't ready to join in-person to keep their accounts frozen.
During the shutdown, Gundlach was so committed to the brand that he broke ground on two more Basecamp Fitness locations and pre-sold memberships. "We have a lot of five-star reviews and there is some great buzz around Madison," he says. "Basecamp Fitness is the talk of the town."
Line-by-line expense analysis.
Just like every business that had to shut down during the Covid-19 restrictions, finding a way to survive financially was a top priority. Gundlach started crunching numbers to find ways to save some money.
"We examined every single expense, analyzed ROI, and either eliminated unnecessary expenses or attempted to renegotiate any necessary expenses that we could," he says. As a result, his companies were able to temporarily reduce expenses during the shutdown and height of the pandemic by more than 50 percent.
Today, they're still realizing an ongoing expenses reduction of about 20 percent, he says.
A commitment to communication.
One of the most important things Gundlach says he did was to set up a customer care team to be a resource for members at Basecamp Fitness and across his 30+ Anytime Fitness studios.
This hand-picked communications team would be available 24/7 to respond to emails, phone calls, social media messages, etc., to help ensure that members had a direct contact that they could speak to and get answers to their questions. Simply having people respond to member questions went a long way in easing concerns and strengthening customer relations.
"They saved us an unmeasurable number of members from leaving, protected our reputation, and enabled us to re-open smoothly," Gundlach says. "One of the best things we are seeing is the positivity and comradery among members returning. Looking back, I would do it the same – make decisions based on our members, communicate to them transparently, and offer them flexibility to fit their comfort level."
To learn more about Basecamp Fitness, click here.
To learn more about becoming an Anytime Fitness franchise owner, fill out the form here.