Sector Spotlight: The CEOs Whipping the Sports, Fitness, and Gym Industry Into Tip-Top Shape

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CEOs fitness

Fancy joining the fitness sector? Here are the CEOs leading by example. We’ll find out how they’ve adapted their franchise to changing consumer demand and found ways to make sure it stays ahead of the game.


In the UK, there are 3,419 fitness facilities making an annual turnover of around £2 billion. 189,000 people work in the sector and over 11 million are members of a fitness centre. These are big numbers – and they’re set to rise even further.

As the trend for healthy living becomes increasingly widespread in the UK, more and more people are choosing to improve their fitness levels and/or lose weight. This is great news not only for us as individuals, but also for all the businesses operating in the fitness sector at the moment.

But, like any industry, it’s constantly changing. As consumer priorities evolve and new fads come and go, businesses must keep up by recognising demand and catering to it. So, let’s look at some of the fitness sector’s top CEOs and how they’re staying ahead of the curve.



Premier Sport Chief Executive – David Batch

As the Chief Executive of Premier Sport, David Batch has cemented its position as a leading children’s sport franchise by forming partnerships with some of the UK’s leading fitness organisations.

Since the business was first launched in 1999, Premier has forged alliances with British Gymnastics, England Hockey and England Lacrosse. More recently, it’s teamed up with BaseballSoftballUK, which has provided experts to deliver training sessions to each and every one of Premier’s 1,300 coaches. The franchise has also got together with Table Tennis England to launch TT Kidz, a fun, eight-week programme designed to teach children table tennis.

Having established these partnerships, Premier has formed valuable connections within the fitness sector, which have helped it expand its services and reach more customers. The alliances have also served to boost the franchise’s credibility in the eyes of customers and its stability for franchisees across its network.

It’s my job to get anything that will complement and enhance what we do and that fits our core values to a point where it’s ready to be dropped into the business. Then I’m on to the next thing. – David Batch

  • Becoming a Premier franchisee: With over 150 franchisees delivering more than 25,000 activity sessions to thousands of schools across the UK, Premier Sport is currently the largest children's sport and physical activity franchising company in the country. So, if you have excellent communication skills, a passion for sports and getting children involved, great leadership skills and sufficient capital, this could be one of the best franchise opportunities for you.
  • How much you need to invest: With Premier Sport, you can choose from four packages, which range from £15,000 to £30,000.
  • What you get for your investment: Whichever package you choose to buy, you’ll get access to a mentor, core-training seminars and regular updates on the brand.

Anytime Fitness CEO – Chuck Runyon

This gym franchise has made sure it maintains a great position in the fitness sector by promoting a people-focussed approach. Chuck Runyon and Anytime Fitness co-founder Dave Mortensen decided to create a people-oriented culture early on. Runyon explains:

Like a lot of other businesses, we cared mostly about winning new customers today. We didn't yet understand that we were actually in a talent war to build the best team for tomorrow. – Chuck Runyon

This forward-thinking attitude allowed the franchise to develop a team of employees who collaborated well and truly cared about the business. Runyon has also revealed that making sure employees feel valued has also been key to Anytime Fitness’ success:

Getting people to feel their personal significance is a leader's great responsibility, and people perform better when they understand how they can contribute. Insignificance breeds apathy and erodes respect. Significance creates a positive cycle. – Chuck Runyon

This focus on people clearly works, as the franchise has been able to open an annual average of 300 new gyms for the past eight years.

  • Becoming an Anytime Fitness franchisee: The franchise’s rapid expansion is one of the best elements of the business model. What’s more, it welcomes a new member every three minutes. If you want to be a part of a thriving gym franchise, this could be the investment opportunity for you.
  • How much you need to invest: The total investment required is around £350,000, with the franchise fee set at £39,000.
  • What you get for your investment: Franchisees benefit from a healthy work-life balance, choosing how much time they spend on site or running day-to-day operations. Training and support are provided on an ongoing basis, and intuitive digital systems ensure franchisees can work remotely if they want.

Bootcamp Pilates Founder & Managing Director – Dominique Day

This Pilates franchise has moved with the times by incorporating the latest technology into its model. As part of this strategy, it’s introduced a mobile app that can be used to view class schedules, book workouts and find each studio’s location and contact details.

This should make life much easier for Bootcamp Pilates participants, who no longer have to log onto the franchise’s website or drop into their local studio in person.

  • Becoming a Bootcamp Pilates franchisee: If you want to join this unique franchise business and benefit from the growing number of people looking to improve their fitness, you can start up your own Bootcamp Pilates unit.
  • How much you need to invest: The Bootcamp Pilates investment requirement falls between £35,000 and £70,000.
  • What you get for your investment: The franchise team will make sure you have access to management training and support with business planning, finance, site selection, operations set-up, launch and marketing.

9Round CEO – Shannon Hudson

Hudson knows the key to success is giving customers what they want. That’s why he has made sure his gym members can take part in nine out of 10 of the top fitness trends today. For example, 9Round visitors can use wearable tech, do high intensity interval training (HIIT) and work out as a group, the top three global trends.

This focus on customer demand, along with a few other factors, has helped Hudson build the world’s largest kickboxing chain. He says:

9Round thinks differently about exercise. We believe that people do not need to spend more time in a gym, they just need more intensity. Add in a coach who provides quality instruction at no extra charge and you've got a winning combination. – Shannon Hudson

  • Becoming a 9Round franchisee: If you want to take advantage of 9Round’s low-cost investment opportunity and set up three sites for the amount it would take to set up one traditional gym, you can.
  • How much you need to invest: 9Round has two investment options. Being an owner-manager of one gym will cost at least £65,000, while setting up three gyms as an owner-investor requires at least £250,000.
  • What you get for your investment: 9Round’s franchise team is based in South-west London and supports franchisees every step of the way. You’ll get help with site selection, staff training and marketing.

Be inspired

Taking the time to look into the top-performing CEOs and business leaders can be extremely valuable when you’re starting a business. Try to work out how they’ve built such successful organisations and how you can apply their insight to your own venture.

It’s a good idea to get as much information as you can before you launch your business. So, as well as taking inspiration from CEOs, do market research, meet industry professionals and read reports from those who have already been through the franchise process.

If you’d like to start a business in the fitness sector, browse our list of current investment opportunities here. You can also check out our 'Top 10 Sports, Fitness, and Gym Franchises in the UK' article here.

>> Read more articles on the Fitness sector

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