Meet the Man Taking Anytime Fitness Global By building a brand that consumers (and franchisees) adore, Anytime Fitness CEO Chuck Runyon has found fans across the globe.

By Nina Zipkin

Courtesy of Anytime Fitness

Most people hate the gym. (Go ahead, admit it.) But Anytime Fitness, which recently opened its 4,000th location worldwide, seems to attract a particular kind of devotee: Thousands of members have tattooed the company logo onto their bodies. Co-founder and CEO Chuck Runyon isn't surprised by that; he knows a 24-hour gym like his can transform lives. That's the foundation of his entire business; he started it 16 years ago, after his brother died from heart disease. Runyon had been working at a local fitness club and saw a greater opportunity to help people get healthy.

Related: What Really Drives Sales Growth and Repeat Business?

Today, Anytime Fitness has more than $1 billion in revenue, close to four million members worldwide and a bold international expansion strategy. This year, Runyon will open 400 new locations, the majority of which will be in international cities.

You've got ambitious growth plans. How do you approach expansion?

It doesn't matter if you're in China or Australia or Europe -- people want to look and feel their best, and they aspire to entrepreneurship. We can empower entrepreneurs around the world. We use a master franchisee strategy, so instead of selling and supporting individual units globally, a group will come in and buy a country. Australia was the first international master franchisee deal we reached, back in 2008. They understand the local market conditions and have some experience in either the fitness or franchise sector. They sell and support the franchisee network; we support them to be the franchisor.

Related: 7 Business Growth Secrets From Successful Entrepreneurs

Why did you opt for that model?

It provides an opportunity to scale because you're harnessing someone else's expertise and capital to grow a specific market. We are not experts at the Japanese franchising market or fitness industry, but we can partner with someone who is.

How do you work to stay ahead of your competition, both in the U.S. and internationally?

We have two types of stakeholders we are always obsessed with. One of them is our members -- we're close to four million globally, and they have 24/7 access to any one of our clubs in the world. We're more convenient than any other gym chain out there. And the other stakeholder is our franchisees. Our model is simpler to operate than competitors', and we're focused on franchisees' profitability. If the franchisees are happy, they buy more units and our system grows.

Do you tweak the business to better serve international customers?

If you visit an Anytime Fitness anywhere in the world, 80 percent of it will always be the same. Our general rule is: standardized whenever possible, localized when necessary. You might see more group activity, some virtual fitness, maybe different machinery or design based on the local market. But from a consumer perspective, they first and foremost love the convenience and atmosphere of our club. You get all the big-club programming in a smaller environment, so it's less intimidating. That resonates around the world.

Related: 6 Ways to Develop a Growth Mindset

How do you explain the Anytime Fitness tattoos that your members have gotten? That's some serious passion.

The stories from those people always center around some incredible life change: "I've run a marathon" or "I've lost 100 pounds" or "I'm a better parent, or spouse, because of this new healthy version of myself." It's saying, "I love who I am, and I want to show the world." No one gets a tattoo because they've made a certain amount of money; it's about a life transformation.

Wavy Line
Nina Zipkin

Entrepreneur Staff

Staff Writer. Covers leadership, media, technology and culture.

Nina Zipkin is a staff writer at She frequently covers leadership, media, tech, startups, culture and workplace trends.

Editor's Pick

She's Been Coding Since Age 7 and Presented Her Life-Saving App to Tim Cook Last Year. Now 17, She's on Track to Solve Even Bigger Problems.
I Helped Grow 4 Unicorns Over 10 Years That Generated $18 Billion in Online Revenues. Here's What I've Learned.
Want to Break Bad Habits and Supercharge Your Business? Use This Technique.
Don't Have Any Clients But Need Customer Testimonials? Follow These 3 Tricks To Boost Your Rep.
Why Are Some Wines More Expensive Than Others? A Top Winemaker Gives a Full-Bodied Explanation.

Related Topics

Business News

California Woman Arrested For $60 Million Postal Service Scam

Lijuan "Angela" Chen faces two charges that each carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

Real Estate

Few Industries Are Better for First-Time Investors Than Real Estate. Here Are 4 Proven Ways to Make a Profit.

It's hard to overlook real estate's obvious advantages when it comes to investing. If you're venturing into this investment for the first time, here are some strategies to be the smartest investor that you can be.

Science & Technology

Is AI Killing Our Work Ethic and Purpose? A Balanced Perspective on Harnessing the Full Potential of Generative AI

Despite its popularity, human expertise and judgment remain essential in leveraging the complete potential of generative AI.

Business News

A Wegmans Employee Allegedly Stole Over $500,000 from the Company

Alicia Torres pleaded guilty to crimes carried out over nine years while working at Wegmans in Webster, New York.

Starting a Business

Ask Marc | Free Business Advice Session with the Co-Founder of Netflix

Get free business advice during our next Ask Marc, live Q&A, on 6/21/23 at 3 p.m. EDT. You don't want to miss it—send in your questions now.