A Passion for Fitness! Andy Gundlach rides the growth track
Name: Andy Gundlach
Company: Argent Companies
No. of units: 33 Anytime Fitness, 3 Basecamp Fitness
Family: Wife Nichole, children Aiden, 4, and Addy, 2
Years in franchising: 17
Years in current position: 17
Andy Gundlach didn’t have entrepreneurial roots. But, he says, “I came from a good home with good supportive parents and they let me be me.” That turned out to be someone with a tremendous love of people and a passion for business growth and development, one that’s now focused on fitness franchises. Gundlach, who had wanted to be a personal trainer, is diversifying his franchise holdings with two fitness brands and says he couldn’t be happier.
He has learned, however, that as much as he would like to be a hands-on operator who is everywhere doing everything, he simply can’t. As his unit count has grown, so has his understanding that to grow more he had to delegate.
“I had to learn to trust my people more—to let them surprise me,” he says. “I was forced to do it. I just couldn’t operate the way I did, having my hands in everything. Things won’t always be perfect, but I have empowered a whole group of people, and I sleep better at night.”
Beyond that, Gundlach knows that the opportunities in fitness are abundant and he wants to take advantage of that. “There is really so much opportunity to expand, to capture more of the market,” he says. His two franchise brands complement each other, so for the moment, he’ll be sticking with the fitness sector.
First job: Pizza Hut.
Formative influences/events: Becoming director of operations of Pizza Hut of Southern Wisconsin (PHSW), and Jim Williams, COO of PHSW.
Key accomplishments: At age 20, youngest person in PHSW to win Restaurant of the Year. Three-time Anytime Fitness Franchisee of the Year. Madison, Wisconsin Small Business Executive of the Year 2020.
Biggest current challenge: Finding great people!
Next big goal: Expand the company through strategic acquisitions. Grow by 50% over the next 5 years.
First turning point in your career: Becoming an area manager at PHSW when I was 21.
Best business decision: Opening my first Anytime Fitness club in 2016.
Hardest lesson learned: Hire great people and don’t get in their way too much.
Work week: Typical business owner—I’m all over the place!
Exercise/workout: Six days a week. It’s my passion!
Best advice you ever got: Always remember that we are in the people business.
What’s your passion in business? Growing opportunities for my team.
How do you balance life and work? Surround myself with great people.
Guilty pleasure: Pizza!
Favorite book: The Ride of a Lifetime by Bob Iger.
Favorite movie: “Star Wars.”
What do most people not know about you? I am a huge “Star Wars” fan!
Pet peeve: Multi-tasking.
What did you want to be when you grew up? Personal trainer.
Last vacation: Cruise to Bahamas, St. Maarten, and St. Thomas.
Person I’d most like to have lunch with: Jeff Bezos.
Business philosophy: We are in the people business. Obsess about our customers and employees.
Greatest challenge: Continuing to find great people.
How do others describe you? Intense and very detailed.
How close are you to operations? I spend time in the customers’ shoes every day in my gyms. I meet weekly with my key operators.
What are the two most important things you rely on from your franchisor? Future thinking and enhancing the brand.
What I need from vendors: Great service and fair pricing.
How is social media affecting your business? It has become our number-one marketing avenue and lead source, by far. We spend 90% of our ad budget on social media.
How do you hire and fire? Hire slow and fire fast.
How do you train and retain? Train the systems and develop the person. Give autonomy for people to put their own stamp on how they do their job inside of our systems.
How do you deal with problem employees? Quickly and directly! Problem employees can be infectious.
Fastest way into my doghouse: Not taking ownership or accountability.
How did Covid-19 affect your business? It was one of the toughest things I have ever gone through, but now we are a much stronger organization. It exposed our weaknesses and forced us to look at every aspect of our business, every line on our P&L, and how we operate.
How have you responded? We made many strategic decisions that not only made our bottom line better, but also made our company a better place to work.
What changes do you think will be permanent? We cut out a lot of fat and red tape from our financials. We will also keep the changes we made to the staffing model.
Annual revenue: $20 million.
2023 goals: Add 5 new units.
Growth meter: How do you measure your growth? The main way we look at it is year-over-year.
Vision meter: Where do you want to be in 5 years? Increase revenue and units by 50%.
Do you have brands in different segments? Why/why not? We have two brands, both in fitness. Fitness is my passion!
How is the economy in your region affecting you, your employees, your customers? We are fortunate to have a very strong economy in southern Wisconsin, so the labor market is tight.
Are you experiencing economic growth in your market? Yes!
How do changes in the economy affect the way you do business? Our economy is strong, but because of so many cost increases, we did make a price increase on new membership sales.
How do you forecast for your business? We look at 12-month history, current trends, and current local competitive landscape.
What are the best sources for capital expansion? We set aside 10% of income for cap ex, and also have great local bank partnerships.
Experience with private equity, local banks, national banks, other institutions? Why/why not? We have great local bank relationships. We have looked into private equity, and that may be an opportunity to accelerate growth in the future.
What are you doing to take care of your employees? Engage with them, provide opportunities, and allow them to really make their mark on the business. Ensure opportunities for career and financial growth.
How are you handling rising employee costs (payroll, minimum wage, healthcare, etc.)? We have had to make a small price increase on new memberships.
What laws and regulations are affecting your business and how are you dealing with it? Not really any obstacles for us.
How do you reward/recognize top-performing employees? We do an annual awards celebration for our 200 employees and give out many awards for performance. We also continue to add leadership positions as we expand.
What kind of exit strategy do you have in place? I plan to continue to operate my business for a minimum of 10 more years. I’m having too much fun and also have such a great team.
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Multi-Unit Franchisee Magazine: Issue 2, 2023