Self Esteem Brands President Dave Mortensen Says Now Is the Time to Invest in Your Business

Just as some brands are making headway past the challenges of the last two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation is rising and fears of a recession are worrying many people. Interest rates for loans to expand or renovate businesses are rising. Wages are increasing as competition for the best employees becomes more fierce. Now probably seems like a good time to lie low and cut expenses.

But not so fast, says Dave Mortensen, co-founder and president of Self Esteem Brands, which counts Anytime Fitness, Basecamp Fitness, The Bar Method, Stronger U Nutrition and Waxing the City as its brands.

“Any brands that are investing in the consumer journey and are doubling down on their consumer themselves and really understanding them as individuals and how to best reach them are going to be the brands that win,” he told Club Industry in a video interview in late June. (See the full interview in the video above.) “This is the time to invest in your business … This is really not the time to be holding on to your chips.”

Investing is what Self Esteem Brands is doing, he said. The mission of the brand is to improve the self-esteem of the world one person at a time, which is why the company expanded beyond Anytime Fitness to other brands that would complement Anytime Fitness in the personal care space.

“All of these brands we believe are making a difference in lives, and that was our center focus on how we wanted to expand our portfolio of brands,” he said.

Right now, the focus for the company isn’t in acquiring additional brands but in “fine-tuning” the current brands and expanding its studio brands internationally, he said.

For Anytime Fitness, the team is investing in artificial intelligence and other tools that will help it deliver digital offerings that help members reach their goals inside and outside of the club.

Coming out of COVID, consumers realize not only the importance of their health and wellness but also that they have a choice in how to engage with that, he said. The fitness brands that are making themselves visible to consumers are the ones that are going to win their attention.

Inflation and the possibility of a recession isn’t stopping Mortensen and Self Esteem Brands co-founder Chuck Runyon. The company is celebrating its 20th anniversary, meaning the brand has weathered several recessions.

“What I will tell you about a recession is people typically will invest in the things that they care most about, and usually health and fitness become front and center for people,” he said.

Past recessions have impacted the fitness industry to a lesser extent than other industries, he said, with the caveat that the studio market wasn’t as large during the 2008-2009 recession, so only time will tell how that segment fares in a recession.

But studio members are fitness enthusiasts, and those fitness enthusiasts are going to still work out because it’s too important in their lives, he said.

Anytime Fitness had some of its largest growth during the 2008-2009 recession, Mortensen said.

And Anytime is positioned well for any possible upcoming recession, he contended.

“We've been through it a few times, and we know our brand is at an affordable rate for people to be able to get their exercise in,” he said. “… I think the fitness industry all around will do just fine.”

Find out what Mortensen had to say about activism in the industry, hybrid models, growth by their franchisees and more when you watch the full video interview above.