Click the arrow below to listen as Geoff Dyer talks the Lifestyle Family Fitness origin story with Catalyst Publisher Joe Hamilton.
At the age of 18, Australian born Geoff Dyer weighed in at 250 pounds. Dyer joined a gym and lost the extra weight in three months, an experience that he says changed his life. He went on to found Lifestyle Family Fitness, one of the most ubiquitous fitness clubs in Tampa Bay prior to its sale in the early 2010s.
But how does a teen living in Australia bootstrap his way to owning more than a dozen fitness clubs? Luck, grit and a willingness to put it all on the line.
At age 22, Dyer was studying to be an accountant at a local university in Australia when his father invited him to travel the world. Dyer eventually made his way through Europe and the U.S. to Oklahoma City, where he was offered a job at the front desk of a fitness center. That was his first taste of the intoxicating fitness industry.
Soon, Dyer moved to Florida, where he worked for an independent fitness club based in St. Petersburg. One day, he was approached by a member by the name of Jack Hall with a business opportunity – to open a club in Lakeland, Florida. That club became the start of Lifestyle Family Fitness.
With a 49 percent holding to Hall’s 51 percent, Dyer got to work. That first year in 1982 was a huge success, until Dyer returned to Lakeland from visiting family in Australia to find that Hall had voted him out of management. Long story short, soon Hall had run the business into the ground and given Dyer an opportunity to buy it back from him – no money down. In a time when banks didn’t lend to health clubs, bowling alleys or churches, Dyer was able to buy back the business using 50 percent of revenue in 2.5 years. By 1985, he was the sole owner of Lifestyle Family Fitness, and the land on which the business was built.
That same year, Lifestyle opened a location in Winter Haven financed personally by Dyer using a home equity loan and credit card debt. In 1991, Lifestyle opened its 3rd location, a signature club in Brandon, that Dyer bought for $10.
Dyer was off to the races. From a small town like Lakeland, to Brandon to a bigger market like the Tyrone area of St. Pete, Lifestyle Fitness took off. Soon it opened a club in Seminole, then Carollwood. Lifestyle fundamentally changed the financial model of fitness clubs, from a 2-3 year contract model to month-to-month.
The shift was a game changer, and business blew up with more clients through the door than ever before. Soon, with the help of a $2.5 million investment, Lifestyle was honing in on its brand and expanding to different markets.
At its peak, Lifestyle boasted 250,000 members, $150 million in revenue, 33 clubs in the Tampa-Orlando market, and additional clubs in Indianapolis, Columbus, Raleigh and Charlotte. It also employed David Long, who went on to become founder and CEO of OrangeTheory.
In this long form origin story interview, Dyer describes the origin and growth of Lifestyle, the evolution of the fitness industry, and lessons learned from successes and failures. Dyer goes on to talk about his latest endeavors with Crunch Fitness, which has opened 18 clubs on the west coast of Florida and Atlanta since 2014, and plans to open another seven or eight in 2019.
Click the arrow above to listen.