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The balancing act: Anytime Fitness co-founder Jacinta McDonell-Jimenez on business, fitness and babies

Yolanda Redrup /

Juggling three children (including a newborn), running a business and still managing to attend yoga classes is more than most people could take on, but for Jacinta McDonell-Jimenez, it’s all in a day’s work.

McDonell-Jimenez and her brother, Justin, have always been involved in the fitness industry, with their parents running fitness clubs when they were young, and in 1992 they opened their first gym straight out of high school.

In 2008, the siblings felt it was time for something new and launched Anytime Fitness Australia. The pair became the master franchisors of the American fitness brand and brought the 24-hour gym to Australia.

Since then, the duo has been able to implement their own business strategies and techniques, creating innovative products and systems to grow the brand. They personally own 20 clubs and have grown the business to 292 clubs across Australia in just five years.

The club is on track to have opened 350 gyms by the end of the year, and in the 2012-13 financial year the Australian group turned over $170 million. McDonell-Jimenez spoke to SmartCompany about running a business while looking after a newborn, creating a balanced workplace and finding successful franchisors.

Name: Jacinta McDonell-Jimenez

Company: Anytime Fitness

Location: Lane Cove, New South Wales

Mornings

McDonell-Jimenez is supposed to be on maternity leave, but when you co-found a business it’s hard to take time off.

“At the moment I’m working as a board member and it’s more around the strategic direction of the brand moving forward,” she says. “This way, I’m not in the office.”

With three kids, McDonell-Jimenez’s mornings are understandably hectic.

“I get up around 6am. I’ve got to get my eldest daughter off to high school and then one going to day care, and then the six-week-old baby to take care of,” she says.

Daily life

McDonell-Jimenez says her life is a balancing act, where she has to prioritise where her time is best spent.

“Usually if I’m out of the office it will be for three hours in some kind of strategic meeting, whereas Justin is doing the longer hours at the moment. It’s all about balancing.

“Today I was at a Fitness Australia meeting and they were tackling the FBT (fringe benefits tax) changes.”

When asked if she’ll return to full-time work, McDonell-Jimenez says she’ll try to continue to spread her time between work and family commitments.

When starting out, the biggest challenge for Anytime Fitness was finding locations to keep up with the franchise demand to open new gyms. These days, communicating with franchisees and making sure they’re supported takes up more time.

“As we stand now we’re opening between 10-12 new clubs a month, so we’re growing rapidly. We think we’ll have over 350 by December this year. We have also gone from just Justin and me to 40 employees, so we’ve had a massive growth in support structure within the franchise.”

On a weekly basis, McDonell-Jimenez focuses on business strategy and has meetings with her brother, the operations manager and the support manager.

“We look at what’s going to drive the brand forward and how it’s going to look and fit in the brand,” she says.

“We work closely with the US on a number of projects, and anything they look at we look at too and see if it’s also relevant with our market. We’re the largest master franchise out of the US. For us, it’s really assessing when we launch a new product and where we launch.”

As well as adopting innovations from the US franchise, McDonell-Jimenez develops her own innovations to implement in Australia. So far, the siblings have put in place a new sales and management system and have started looking at introducing a personal training component to the clubs.

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