Business Fitness Interviews

Eric Keller. Travelling all the time with Anytime Fitness.

Anytime Fitness was honoured at the “#1 Top Global Franchise” by Entrepreneur magazine in 2015 and 2016 and the company has become the epitome of a fun-loving, fast-growing, goal-smashing community of people dedicated to helping members “Get to a Healthier Place.” Eric Keller, the very first franchise owner of an Anytime Fitness gym, and now brand ambassador for the company, took time out of his frantic travelling to speak with The Lost Executive about fitness and health, along with business travel.

Currently, Anytime Fitness helps 2 million clients spread across nearly 4,000 gym locations; each of which is open 24/7, all year round. Thanks to Anytime Fitness’ use of integrated security and usage-tracking technology, members can go to the gym at whatever hour they like and benefit from secure access to the facilities. There is still a strong personalised feel to the gyms with the staff making up some of the most qualified professionals in the field. The franchise, which is now located in nearly 30 countries, has a string of awards including “Top Workplace,” “Fastest-growing franchise” (not just fitness) and the franchise with the “Best business model.”

Prior to joining the corporate staff of Anytime Fitness, Eric was an employee of the Southview Athletic Club (in St. Paul, Minnesota) and was interested in the business concept outlined by Chuck Runyon, a co-founder and now the CEO of Anytime Fitness. In what would become a trend, as a franchise, Eric was given full support in choosing a site, deciding on marketing strategies, equipment selection and how to grow membership sales. Eric chose Cambridge, Minnesota as the location for the very first Anytime Fitness gym.

 Donnie: Eric, how often do you travel and where do you go?

“A lot of my travel depends on demand. New markets, or covering for another director who is on holiday or leave. Last year, I was in Canada, Mexico, Colombia, Panama, Chile, India, Bahrain, Qatar, Netherlands, Japan, New Zealand, Philippines, Hong Kong and Singapore. This year, I travelled to mainland China (Shanghai) for the first time.” He adds, “Mostly these visits are either combined in several days’ time or at most twice per year.”

Donnie: You’re a very active man, how do you prefer to travel? Flying, driving, cruising? Motorcycle?

“Hard to get to most places via any other means other than air travel. But I do love the occasional road-trip, even if it’s only a few hours away. Driving the U.S. Southwest Route 66 is still on my bucket-list – Just to take 3 weeks and wander around to places most people fly over. That’s ideal for me!”

Donnie: How does your business travel differ from your leisure travel?

“I take advantage of most technology and apps when I travel, whether it’s Global Entry or ClearPass. It also helps to have a high status with airlines and just being smart about the bookings and timing. Some things are unavoidable, but most of the times people are just unrealistic about the time necessary to get places. Unfortunately, most of that is just waiting, standing in lines, transiting to another place to just wait. At least when I travel for leisure, I try to build in some cushion for time or an extra day home so I am just not that stressed if I have to take a different flight or kill some extra time.”

Donnie: Do you ever get tired of the travelling?

“Well, my name-card on my desk at the office says, ‘Somewhere between vagabond and homebody.’ I think that encapsulates me; there are times I have a desire to get out and see my friends and colleagues in the world, and then after that, I don’t want to drive five minutes to Target to pick up bread! This year, I got married in Maui in January and I also took my 16-year-old daughter to Tokyo and Osaka with me for her birthday. I was going there anyway, but I had promised myself and my kids that when they turned 16, they get to come with me to somewhere they ‘don’t speak English’ as a first language. I want them to see an incredible culture, people, and experiences I have had over the years.”

Donnie: You mentioned a ‘high status with airlines’, do you make use of airport lounges?

“I do definitely, mostly Delta or SkyTeam affiliates. Once in a while when they are not available I’ll buy a day pass or find an American Express Lounge. It’s more productive to have a quiet place with some amenities to help do work and settle while waiting for your flight.”

Donnie: Do you organize your own travel or rely on travel agencies?

“I’ve done it both ways, and to be honest – when my travel is complicated it helps to use an agent. That, and I just don’t have a full day to research fares, connections, etc. However, if it’s just a quick in and out, no transit cities, etc. I’ll handle it. I am a self-confessed control freak, ask anyone!”

Donnie: There are more ‘memberships’ and ‘points’ to be collected and earned than ever before, do you get involved in that side of things?

“Ha, the gamification of travel! I do collect some credit card points here and there, not a lot, but enough to buy a new set of grill tools for my birthday. The Delta SkyMiles program is very good to me. As I mentioned, I spent points this year to fly my wife and I to Maui, as well as book my daughter’s travel to Tokyo.”

Donnie: Now for the big questions, what kind of exercise do you do while travelling?

“Of course, I do try to work out at Anytime Fitness clubs when I travel! Sometimes, if I’m visiting an area that doesn’t have an Anytime Fitness nearby already, I can make do with just about anything. Worse case I’ll go for a run nearby or make something work in a nearby park. Tokyo’s Shinjuku Central Park is one of my favourites!

When I arrived in Pu Dong, Shanghai, China earlier for the first time, I didn’t know the area or country for that matter. But, as I checked into the Marriott, my welcome materials included a map of the area, along with an ad, in Mandarin Chinese, for the local Anytime Fitness merely 2 blocks away! I walked in and was greeted with a very American sounding and cheerful ‘Hello!’ from the trainer there. She was a Chinese ex-pat and had been working for the club in China after moving back from California the year prior. Talk about a small world!”

Donnie: Be honest, do you cheat-eat while travelling?

“Oh, it’s a struggle! First, I do my best to keep my meals as consistent and bland as possible when travelling (transit). But once I am on the ground I’m a bit at the mercy of either what the hotel offers, or what my host is taking me to. I’m not a big dessert eater, but I love beer. And let me tell you, there are some delicious beers all over the world! For me, I take it as honour and privilege to be hosted in someone else’s country, and in most cases the hospitality is unparalleled. So for me, it may be just limiting my intake of the food so I don’t get so full. But I can’t tell you one country that doesn’t try to keep feeding you until you surrender – Hence, such a great reason to get that workout in bright and early!”

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