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Physical Fitness for Filipinos Foremost with Franchisee

01 Dec 2017 - STANDING at 1.95 meters (6 feet, 5 inches), Anytime Fitness (AF) Philippines master franchisee Maurice Levine has an unmistakable, towering presence.

At the same time, the New York City native has a giant-sized mission in the country: Enlist a critical mass of the Philippine population to get them inside a gym.

“Ninety-eight percent of the population has no gym membership. Why shouldn’t we serve other areas like Mindanao with end-to-end facilities? Let’s get out there to reach more people,” Levine said in an interview with the BusinessMirror.

Levine is determined to build the AF brand in the Philippines to enable Filipinos to develop a healthier lifestyle in this age of fast food and digital gadgets. He added that AF guarantees it can deliver the best physical-fitness regimen based on the individual’s capability.

Moreover, AF boasts of a world-class organization. In the first quarter of 2017, it was ranked as the top franchise in Asia for three years in a row, beating other multinational companies, which include a round-the-clock retail and quick-service restaurant giants.

AF also emerged as No. 1 by Entrepreneur magazine’s annual Top Global Franchise list, being the world’s largest and growing coed fitness-club chain for two years in a row.

Averaging more than 300 new gyms annually for each of the past nine years, AF recently expanded to China, Belgium, Sweden and Italy. New gyms will also open soon in Colombia, Panama, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

To select the most recent top global franchises ranking, Entrepreneur evaluated each company’s 2016 Franchise 500 score based on system size, growth rate, financial strength and stability, then adjusted to give extra weight to international size and growth rate.

Quoting CEO and cofounder Chuck Runyon in a news statement: “This designation as No. 1 is a credit to our international franchise development team and our fabulous group of international master franchisees.”

“Whether it’s Spain, Japan or the United Kingdom, our franchisees are providing our members with personal service that gets real results. [Our] personal touch and high level of engagement differentiate AF from many other gyms. They have strengthened and grown our brand worldwide,” the AF executive claimed.

Currently, there are nearly 3,300 AF gyms open worldwide. Beside the United States, where more than 2,000 AF gyms are located, the countries with the most AF outlets are Australia (431), Canada (135) and Japan (134).

Levine said AF is a cut above the rest compared to other health clubs. It has typically a big space (5,000 square feet) to provide top-notch equipment and programming, while small enough (average of 825 members per gym) to provide members with personalized coaching and support.

“AF has beautifully appointed gyms with well-trained people,” pointed out Levine, a former gold trader at CMC Markets.

“Our instructors also attend to the Anytime Fitness University when they need to upgrade their skills,” he added.

Aside from applying the best practices in management, Levine disclosed that AF also uses cutting-edge technology to run the 24/7 operations of the gyms around the world.

“Over 100 people in the IT [information-technology] department based in Minnesota, plus an extension in the Philippines, ensure the continuous operation of the gyms without the need of personnel to man it during the late-evening and early operations,” Levine disclosed.

“We’re bringing [in] the best technology money can buy, with brand-new imported equipment for the clients,” he added.

For security, AF uses a proprietary system to safeguard their operations. To ensure fair competition among the franchise holders, Levine revealed the management ensures a half-kilometer radius separation for the franchisees. It uses mapping software to ensure there is accuracy.

The AF brand is getting stronger this year. As of September, 50 gyms were scheduled to open, and expects another 100 to be opened in 2018.

Nevertheless, Levine thinks they could have done more if not for the challenges in the local market.

“It is still frustrating because we cannot get adequate financing in the local market. When you trail-blaze, it is really hard especially for franchisees. Even if you have zero deficit rate and no liquidity issues, it is still very hard to get financing assistance from the local banks, unlike in the US,” Levine pointed out.

“In this situation, we were left with few financing options, unlike in the US where there are lots of financing institutions to help them. Why shouldn’t we have one here in the Philippines? This is my frustration,” the American lamented.

As the main man in franchising, Levine is constantly traveling with his family. Recently, he traveled to seven countries in nine days.

Nevertheless, he is happy that AF is getting popular among Filipinos. Levine said they want to push the healthy lifestyle agenda to the majority of Filipinos to counter the rising incidents of obesity and diabetes.

“I am not trying to be boastful. We have a commitment to the Filipinos,” Levine declared.

He chose this advocacy because it gives him happiness. Although he has an option to stay in gold trading, Levine said his calling is to help Filipinos get healthy.

“Science says eating and exercise go together,” he said.


BusinessMirror

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