3Qs: Peter Taunton

 

Peter Taunton learned how to work hard, know the value of a dollar, and be accountable from his father, a small town grocer in Willmar, Minn. Today, he’s the CEO of Snap Fitness, a Chanhassen-based fitness franchise with more than 1,300 locations in 7 coun-tries around the world, and more than 600,000 members. Taunton started Snap Fitness in April, 2004. Since then, the company has grown and moved into its current corporate headquarters near Lyman Boulevard and Galpin in Chanhassen.

Taunton doesn’t take his success for granted. Earlier this year, he and his team considered ways the company could make a dif-ference in people’s lives. They decided to sponsor a nation-wide contest entitled “Partner with Peter” offering the winner his or her very own SnapFitness franchise. Out of the 2,000 entries, Taunton’s team whittled it down to 25, and then selected Charlice Noble-Jones of Albany, Ga., as the winner.

Taunton, 49, played all the typical sports in high school, but when he was introduced to racquetball, he found his sport. Both he and his twin brother Paul excelled in racquetball, and were so good they were sponsored on the tournament circuit by Ektelon, an American racquetball equipment manufacturer.

“We played in professional tournaments all over the country,” Taunton said. “It was a great way to travel and compete. We loved being sponsored players but after eight years, we realized it was time to focus on making a living.”

Taunton, a St. Cloud State University graduate went into the fitness field.

“For 20 years I owned and operated a big box club called America’s Fitness Center,” Taunton said, “equipped with basketball courts, a swimming pool, classes, and the whole big club atmosphere. But I traveled all the time. When my kids were (ages) 5, 3, and 1. “I didn’t want to miss them growing up,” Taunton said. Though he sold the business, he thought of a new fitness business model.

“I started thinking of what people used the most when they belonged to my clubs,” Taunton said. “It wasn’t the swimming pool, the basketball, racquetball courts, the classes. Seventy-five percent of the population wants cardio and resistance training. They want to get in and get out.

“My concept was of a 3,000-4,000 square foot facility, open 24/7, with a small enough footprint where it could be located in neighborhood strip malls. It resonated, and today we have more than 1,300 locations in 7 countries around the world. We open 10-15 stores a month, and we have more than 600,000 members.”

Q: What did you look for in the winning contestant?

A: We looked for people with drive and spirit, someone who had overcome adversity. Charlice is a part-time teacher and the mother of a 7-year old boy. She lost her husband to cancer and is a single mom. Her kids in school absolutely love her and she’s been an asset to her school and community. She has persevered over adversity, and with her enthusiasm, she will represent the brand very well. Charlice’s franchise is in a suburb outside of Atlanta, and will be open in the next 45 days.

Q: What prompted you to give away a franchise, especially since it’s a $250,000 investment?

A: First and foremost, I feel so fortunate and blessed to be able to gift something like this. I’m thankful to be in a position to be able to do it. The more we thought about it, the more we thought it would be a wonderful way to follow a person and their progress as a person and a business owner. After looking at the applicants, I would have loved to give away 25 franchises. We’re a very chari-table organization but I don’t know if we’ll do this again to this extent. We may do micro loans to people. Wouldn’t it be great, to give away $50,000 for people to start their own businesses, not necessarily a SnapFitness but something they’ve dreamed of doing?

Q: Describe your fitness routine. It must be convenient having a SnapFitness right in your own corporate building!

A: I work out 5-6 days of the week. I do cardio for about 20-25 minutes. I do interval training where I sprint for a minute, then walk for a minute, for 25 minutes. And then I do resistance training and I’m in and out in less than an hour. That’s what people love. You can park 30 feet from the door, have state of the art equipment, all you need to get fit.

—Unsie Zuege

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