With more than 20 years of experience managing, owning and franchising health clubs, Chuck Runyon has distinguished himself as a leading authority in the field of fitness. Runyon revolutionized the fitness industry when he and Dave Mortensen co-founded Anytime Fitness – an alternative to big-box gyms which typically feature expensive “frills” that few members actually use or need. In contrast, Runyon and Mortensen designed smaller, neighborhood clubs featuring the things members want most: convenience, affordability, quality equipment and surprisingly personable service in friendly, non-intimidating facilities.
How did you get into the fitness industry?
My entire life, I’ve always enjoyed sports and a culture that fosters competition. Working in the health club industry offers the best of both worlds. My first job in the fitness industry was part-time while I was in college.
Tell us about Anytime Fitness. What inspired the idea and what is your vision for the company?
The inspiration came from operating larger health clubs with pools, saunas, whirlpools, childcare, racquetball, basketball courts and juice bars – in addition to standard cardiovascular machines and resistance training equipment.
After observing that the majority of our members utilized almost exclusively the cardio and resistance training equipment, with infrequent use of the other amenities, we developed the idea for Anytime Fitness: The most convenient and essential fitness offerings for busy consumers.
What strategic partnerships/marketing strategies have you implemented that have attributed to Anytime's success?
A well-resourced franchise system requires strong partnerships with a large network of vendors and numerous outside agencies to fuel success. Too many to mention.
What industry trends are you noticing and how do you capitalize on them?
Consumers have more fitness choices than ever before. Some of these are in the form of traditional bricks and mortar facilities while others are completely digital. Overall, this is helping to grow a larger pool of fitness-minded consumers who understand the importance and benefits of wellness. For club operators, the abundance of consumer choices forces fitness brands to improve their value proposition to consumers via an improved mix of convenience, price, personalized fitness offerings and education. The new fitness landscape also requires club operators to provide a culture of motivation, accountability and customer service.
ROEI (Return on Emotional Investment) is more important than ROI. At Anytime Fitness, we try to enrich our employees’ lives -- every day -- by focusing on purpose, people, profits and play.
Get to a Healthier Place® (#G2HP) for all of our stakeholders. We believe in helping people find the best version of themselves – physically, mentally and emotionally.
Your greatest success as founder/CEO of Anytime Fitness? Most difficult moment-how did you overcome and what did you learn?
Creating a high performance culture that continues to thrive on employee engagement, collaboration, autonomy, purpose and the unrelenting pursuit to improve.
Most difficult moment was navigating the buyout of a founding partner. This relationship took a sour turn and it challenged my leadership to keep focused on the business while trying to detangle the partnership and minimize the toxic elements that could pollute a workplace culture and derail performance.
Your advice to an aspiring entrepreneur/athlete?
ABLEC. Always Be Learning & Eradicate Complacency (in your business and life pursuits).
How do you motivate your employees?
By making investments in them, and in our the workplace, designed to inspire personal and professional growth and improvement.
One food and drink left on earth, what would you choose?
A taco filled with steak, sushi and jalapenos – a blend of all of my favorite foods. Last drink would be a homemade chocolate malt.
Daily workout regime?
A mix of resistance training and cardio. I also try to blend in Non Exercise Activity Tracking (N.E.A.T.) and monitoring with a wearable tech device. Regular physical activity –even something as simple as walking – stimulates mental acuity, alleviates stress and fuels creativity.
What literature is on your bed stand?
My daily reading habits include 3-4 newspapers, business-centric magazines, various blogs or articles found randomly on twitter and occasional business books.
Role model - business and personal?
A better version of myself. That’s not meant to sound narcissistic, but I’m hard-wired to do things my own way and, while I admire aspects of many people, you have to work and improve the cards you’ve been dealt.
Work, family, learning new things and competing with friends.
Favorite travel destination?
Our family lake home in Northern Minnesota provides our most enjoyable memories. Outside of that, Barcelona, Sydney and Carmel, CA are favorite destinations.
What's next for Anytime Fitness?
To do whatever it takes – inside and outside our clubs - to help people and communities “Get to a healthier place.”
For his unprecedented and unique contributions to the fitness industry, in 2009, Runyon was honored as the “John McCarthy Industry Visionary of the Year” by the International Health, Racquet, and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA).
More recently, Runyon was honored by Chief Executive magazine with its inaugural “Leadership” award for his commitment to investing in people and relationships. Specifically noted were Runyon’s efforts to help his employees become not merely more productive workers, but better people. Central to his leadership philosophy is the concept of “ROEI” – the return on emotional investment – which is characterized by an emphasis on people, profits, purpose and play.
In January 2012, Runyon challenged the national discourse on obesity with a bold new message conveyed in the title of his first book “Working Out Sucks!” His “get real” approach to getting healthy struck a nerve with his industry peers and the public at large. Recognized as an expert on eliminating the barriers to healthy lifestyles, Runyon is frequently asked to speak or comment on issues related to why people claim that their health is a top priority, while typically spending less than 1% of their time exercising.
Under Runyon’s leadership, Anytime Fitness has earned numerous industry accolades, including the #1 Franchise in the world, according to Entrepreneur magazine, “One of America’s Most Promising Companies,” according to Forbes, and the “Fastest-Growing Fitness Club in the world,” according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Assocition (IHRSA). Additionally, Anytime Fitness has been honored as a “Top Franchise for Minorities” and “The Best Place to Work in Minnesota” three years in a row.