Anytime Fitness Chief Chuck Runyon Discusses Covid-19 Impact & the Future

Chuck Runyon knows what it’s like for a small business trying to survive right now. In fact, he knows what it’s like for thousands of business owners scrambling to pay bills, do more with online service offerings and preparing to reopen.

Runyon is co-founder and CEO of Self Esteem Brands, a Woodbury, MN-based collection of franchises focused on health and wellness. By far his largest franchise is Anytime Fitness, which serves 4 million people in 40 countries through nearly 5,000 franchisees—all of whom are small business owners (with the exception of a few larger franchise groups).

One of the biggest challenges in the last few months has been helping franchisees work through financial obligations with their landlords.

“Number one is you have to be very honest. Let them know what measures you are taking to preserve the business and invest so that the business will be better on the other side. Let them know you are supporting your clients in a digital format. Let them know if you have applied for the PPP. Let them know the marketing you’re going to put in place once you re-open,” Runyon says. “The landlord wants to retain tenants; at the end of the day they don’t want to lose that business. So write them a letter, show them what you’re doing, give them data on the business, develop a plan and be proactive, such as paying a percentage of rent over time as the business scales back.”

Runyon made those comments while being interviewed on this week’s One Take CEO Interviews. In each 10-20 minute interview, former Twin Cities Business Editor in Chief Dale Kurschner (also the author of this blog) asks one CEO to provide his or her take on how best to deal with the most pressing business and economic issues of the day, Covid-19. Another reason for the name “One Take” is that each interview is a continuous, unscripted dialogue with no edits.

During his work-from-home Zoom interview, Runyon discusses what his team has done to help franchise owners deal with everything from negotiating rent deferrals and abatements to reopening safely. He talks about the value of culture and decentralized decision making. And the talks about the future for the world’s all-time fastest growing franchise company, as ranked by Inc. magazine.

The interview is available to watch here via YouTube or to listen to or download here.

One Take interviews are published on Wednesdays via YouTube, Spotify and this website. The next One Take interview is with Christine Lantinen, owner and CEO of Maud Borup, and will be available Wednesday, June 3. Following Lantinen’s interview is one with Jeff Kiesel, CEO of Restaurant Technologies Inc. Last week’s One Take (the first in this series) was with Faribault Woolen Mill Chairman and CEO Paul Grangaard.  You can view it here and listen to or download a podcast here.

One Take interviews are sponsored by The Platinum Group, Minnesota’s most experienced advisory group helping business owners and leaders with extreme challenges including financial setbacks, lender/landlord re-negotiations, turnarounds and bankruptcies

Complimenting this series are interviews with key members of The Platinum Group. This week’s is with  Partner Robert Lehmann, an attorney who’s worked just about every type and size real estate project possible during the last 35 years. He shares insights and tips for anyone dealing with property today–especially tenants and landlords (as does Runyon in his interview).

“If you’re a tenant or a landlord, talk to each other,” Lehman says. With tenants not paying rent, “A lot of times they don’t understand landlords have to pay bills just like they do…get them to at least cover those costs & defer remaining rent,” he says. And if needing to talk to lenders, “Take a look at the charges you can control. Take a look at the tenant base: are they going to be here after you can open? Is this something you can save? Then sit down and talk with your lenders. They don’t want the property any more than you do.”

You can see Lehmann’s interview via YouTube here or listen to it via Spotify here.

[One Take CEO Interviews are independently organized and produced by Dale Kurschner with no editorial influence or direction by those interviewed, a sponsoring organization or any other person or entity.]