Name: Mike Gelfgot; Country of Origin: Uzbekistan; Immigrated to US: 1993; Franchise Name: Anytime Fitness; Launched: 2010; Franchises Owned: 23; Estimated Annual Revenue: $9.8 million: Jobs Created: 200
As a child in Soviet Uzbekistan, Mike Gelfgot had to steal food to help his family survive, and he’s used those painful memories to drive him to succeed as a partner in 23 fitness clubs
Years of Deprivation
Even after the USSR officially dissolved, basic human necessities remained scarce in Uzbekistan, and while his mother worked three jobs to support the family, six-year-old Mike Gelfgot had to stand in line for hours for government allotments of sugar and other staples, frequently to find that when his turn came, corrupt officials had sold his family’s allotment on the black market. “In theory, communism works,” says Gelfot. “But in reality, it is a total disaster. Now, we’re in the land of the free and I’m truly grateful to the USA, “ he adds.
A New Life in the US
It took five years to get an exit visa from Moscow, but in 2003, the family finally immigrated to the United States, but things still weren’t easy. Because of language issues, his mother was forced to accept menial jobs, but Mike was able to finish school before going out to work as a trainer at a gym. Since he knew what it was like to go without, he worked hard to develop the personal training business and caught the eye of the club manager, John Spence who suggested they combine their talents and purchase a franchise.
In theory, communism works, but in reality, it is a total disaster. Now we’re in the land of the free and I’m truly grateful to the USA — Mike Gelfgot
The story could have stopped there. People go into business every day, but their stories are rarely remarkable. However Gelfgot and Spence were ambitious and saw an opportunity in the fitness industry with Anytime Fitness. American life had changed. Gone were the 40 hour work week and the 8 hour day, replaced by being reachable around the clock. In this new environment, you had to meet customers where they were, and that prompted them to build fitness studios tucked into strip malls or destination malls where people shopped, which members truly appreciate.
Highly Focused Marketing
At first, Gelfgot and Spence followed the same approach they had learned in other fitness clubs, using their skills working with clients to grow the business. “Originally it was, ‘come and work out,’ and we would market to everybody, which was a poor marketing strategy,” says Gelfgot. “But now, we’re moving out of the convenience model, to convenience with coaching. We’ve learned a lot from simply listening to our members and we’ve realized that we’re more than just a gym for people who want to lose weight.”
We’ve learned a lot from simply listening to our members and we’ve realized that we’re more than just a gym for people who want to lose weight.
With this realization, the partners have fine-tuned their marketing to focus on the self-esteem of their clients. Improving your overall health and fitness requires more than a gym membership, it requires a team of people staying in touch with the client, helping them meet goals, and encouraging them at every step along the journey. With this approach, Gelfgot, Spence and Chris Slater, who joined the team later, have seen their business grow from one Anytime Fitness in Auroa Indiana, to 23 gyms in the midwestern states of Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.
Gelfgot was just 21 years old when he and his partners launched their first Anytime Fitness and he didn’t have the assets to buy a franchise on his own. However, his partner recognized the value of his passion and his way with clients. So he was allowed to earn a piece of the business through “sweat equity,” and to buy more of the business as time went on.
We service the heck out of our clients every single time. You do that in any business, it will go right
Anytime Fitness has been called the #1 Top Global Franchise, and the World’s Fastest Growing Gym, but the investment costs are very reasonable for a fitness club. Depending on the size of the location, the franchise fee runs between $19,000 and $37,000, and the initial investment is between $80,020 and $490,100. Anytime Fitness doesn’t require a royalty fee based on revenues, but a straightforward $500 a month charge. There is also a requirement of $300,000 net worth and cash on hand of $100,000.
Keys to Success
- We service the heck out of our clients every single time. You do that in any business, it will go right.
- We did what very few people want to do: go to work and hustle and grind it out.
- Most companies focus on strategy, but I believe you should focus on culture rather than strategy. That’s what makes our clubs unique.
- You’ve got to treat people with respect. People need to like you, trust you, and know that you’ll do what you say you’re going to do. Pay attention to these basic principles, and you’ll do just fine.