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May 5, 2020 22 min
“We do not want to go back to being the way we were,” says Chuck Runyon, co-founder and CEO of Self Esteem Brands, the parent company to Anytime Fitness, Bar Method, Basecamp, and Waxing in the City. Anytime, the largest of the brands, has nearly 5,000 franchise locations on seven continents—all of which had to shut down over the course of about five weeks due to Covid-19. For a company based in Minnesota, Anytime Fitness was early to realize the potentially catastrophic threat of the coronavirus because of its clubs in China. But even as those locations shut down, Runyon says, “We thought it would be contained. After Anytime’s 20 clubs in Italy closed, “it escalated quickly.” In the U.S., Missouri clubs were the first to close and then every day, every week, came another. “Like dominoes.” “In all the years we’ve sat around in meetings of what if…never did any of us anticipate shutting down nearly 5,000 clubs around in the world in five weeks.” But since they have, Runyon says he wants to make the most of the unprecedented experience. “Let’s learn, let’s adapt, and let’s be better because of it.” Anytime, Bar and Basecamp have been releasing digital content including coaching, workouts and even recipes and nutrition tips. Some of the content is free to the public and has drawn a new audience. Going forward, Runyon says, “We want to make sure we offer an omni channel experience.” Changes will also come to Self Esteem Brands’ home office in Woodbury, Minn. where around 350 employees work. “We’ll be more nimble, faster, and adopt some work from home policies. We’ll analyze travel…I think we can be leaner, and every bit as productive.” One thing Runyon doesn’t think will change: enthusiasm for the gym. “Eighty percent of health club members say they are looking forward to getting back,” Runyon says. “I think it’s going to be a mini-January…. with a nice surge of people wanting to get back to normal.” Anytime is prepared to step up its cleaning protocol, modify traffic, and whatever else is required. “There’s no playbook for this,” he says. “I’ve been unbelievably proud of how the team has adapted so quickly, It’s been an incredible experience in so many ways.” After our conversation with Runyon, who previously appeared on By All Means with his co-founder and president of Self Esteem Brands Dave Mortensen, we go back to the classroom with University of St. Thomas marketing professor Gino Giovanelli. “The thing I loved about my classroom was the community. It’s the same for a health club. What they’re selling is camaraderie.”
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