WHY I BOUGHT
Why Aaron Davis Diversified His Franchise Portfolio from QSR to Fitness with Workout Anytime
Aaron Davis often brings his son along to the two Workout Anytime clubs he owns in Spartanburg County, South Carolina. Davis wants his nine-year-old to learn how Dad carries himself and watch how he interacts with employees and gym members. Plus, if Davis’ son happens to get professionally involved at Workout Anytime in a few years, the gyms could become a family business—just like Davis’ Little Caesars franchises.
Over a decade ago, Davis took over the 13 Little Caesar locations in upstate South Carolina owned by his wife Kara’s family. They had operated restaurants since 1983, and the business was struggling. Davis rolled up his sleeves and turned the ship around. He rebuilt, relocated and restaffed. He now operates 16 successful Little Caesars restaurants. Several years ago, after deciding the pizza market was saturated, he began to investigate the next big opportunity he could dig into.
Davis was set on staying near his hometown of Greenville, South Carolina. His entire family lived there, and as a resident for over 30 years, he had many meaningful connections with local businesses. He also didn’t want to give up the ability to drive to any one of his franchise locations within 45 minutes. “People told me to look at opportunities in other states, but I love knowing the area well,” said Davis. “That type of market knowledge is much more meaningful to me than picking a potential site in an unknown area based on demographics.”
When looking for a brand, Davis said that staying within the franchising industry was “non-negotiable.” He loved the proven models and the resources available to franchisees. “When you're opening a new business, regardless of your background, the more support you get, the better,” he said. “I couldn’t imagine opening a new business and not having the support system like the franchise model provides to help guide through the process.”
Knowledge of this support system boosted Davis’s confidence in diversifying his portfolio away from the quick-service sector. He looked to his own passions for inspiration. “I’ve always loved fitness. It’s always been the part of my day that I look forward to,” he said.
Davis did his due diligence for many months. Workout Anytime’s thoughtful business model stood out, and eventually, he traveled to Georgia to meet with the corporate team. Davis was struck by his first impression and how each team member sat and talked with him one by one. “It wasn’t a scripted sales pitch,” he said. “It was a laid-back, casual atmosphere and I loved it. You combine a great relationship with the corporate team and this business model with the structure they have in place, and I walked out knowing this was something truly special. It was the push I needed, and it was a no-brainer.”
That push has evolved into some impressive results. Davis opened his first gym in Boiling Springs, South Carolina in January 2017, followed by a gym in the nearby town of Duncan in January of 2018. In just his first year, Davis won awards for both New Club Franchise of the Year and Best Social Media across the franchise system. He also has some of the highest Workout Anytime membership counts in the country. Because of the success he’s had at both of his current clubs, he’s currently working on opening a third location.
“Aaron is an outstanding member of the Workout Anytime family, and his contributions to the system continue to impress us,” said Mark de Gorter, COO of Workout Anytime. “He hit the ground running—sprinting, actually—building on and expanding his impressive franchising experience. His dedication to his community is exemplary, and we can’t wait to see what he does next.”
Davis primarily measures success by the satisfaction of his customers and staff: “If my members and staff are happy, I can continuously reinvest in the business, and keep the excitement and energy level the same as it was the day we opened,” he said.
One of Davis’s favorite parts of Little Caesars is providing consumers with a quality product for a value price. Similarly, he loved the idea of offering memberships to a state-of-the-art gym for half the cost of a typical gym membership. “When I walked in, I couldn’t believe it. For less than $20 a month, I can get this?” he remembered thinking.
For franchisees looking to diversify their portfolios, Davis recommends finding an opportunity that complements existing businesses so owners can allocate their time smartly. He emphasized the importance of running a controlled number of very good businesses instead of several average ones. “I wanted to make sure what I did was as or more successful than my Little Caesars,” he said. “It’s important I split my time and focus equally between both businesses.”
One major benefit to the fitness industry is reduced labor requirements. Davis said that for each Little Caesar’s opening, he needed 20 to 30 employees—but he only needed fewer than 10 per each Workout Anytime club. “The restaurant business is very hands-on,” he explained. “You have more employees, and you see a lot of customers.” In addition to the increased labor costs, Davis’s Workout Anytime clubs manage very limited amounts of cash, have little to no inventory to manage, no food spoilage and a seamless payment process for membership revenue.
“Aaron is a new breed of franchise-partner for us, as he brings a multi-unit background to our franchise system that we’re really focusing on pursuing,” stated de Gorter. “We’ve found multi-unit franchise partners—particularly those from the QSR space—fit in tremendously. They understand franchising, are strong and savvy businesspeople and recognize the investments necessary from a branding standpoint to be successful. Aaron checks all those boxes. In fact, we’ve adopted a plan to pre-select real estate in certain situations so multi-unit operators from other concepts can come into our franchise on a turnkey basis quickly, and get up and running fast.”
Davis has formed a different type of bond with his Workout Anytime members than he’s ever experienced before. “Whether it's losing weight, sleeping better, feeling better about themselves, having more energy, whatever—watching people’s progress and exceeding their personal goals has been the biggest benefit of doing this,” he said. “It just puts you in a good mood to be around your members. It really does something to your day, and it does something to your mindset.” It’s no wonder he wants to share that with his son