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Exercise entrepreneur pumps up all over again

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  • | 6:17 a.m. June 22, 2012
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Count Geoff Dyer as another Gulf Coast executive-entrepreneur who couldn't stay away from the business life for long.

Dyer founded Lifestyle Family Fitness, a St. Petersburg-based chain of gyms he helped grow to 55 stores and more than $100 million in annual revenues. (Irvine, Calif.-based L.A. Fitness bought all 32 Lifestyle Family Fitness locations in Florida in a deal announced June 18. Financial terms weren't disclosed.)

Dyer, the Business Review's Entrepreneur of the Year for the Tampa region in 2007, retired from day-to-day CEO activities at Lifestyle Family Fitness in October that year. Then 56, he wanted to tackle the cliche-laden list nearly every new retiree strives for: Slow down, enjoy life, and, specifically for Dyer, spend more time with his two teenage sons.

“I thought retiring was the right thing to do,” says Dyer, who remains on the Lifestyle Family Fitness board. “But I quickly realized there was a big void in my life when I wasn't making decisions and I wasn't running a company.”

Adds Dyer: “The fitness business is a labor of love. I was ready to get back.”

So in late 2011 Dyer, now 61, bought two clubs from Lifestyle Family Fitness in Columbus, Ohio. Terms of the acquisitions weren't released, though Dyer says it was a good opportunity to return to the industry.

An Australian native, Dyer has since rebranded the clubs under a new health club company he launched, AussieFit. The marketing strategy is partially to follow the success of Outback Steakhouse, another company born on the Gulf Coast that capitalized on the image of a rugged Australian.

Dyer, who is also chairman of the CEO Council of Tampa Bay, even plans to return to his homeland to study and relearn the “down under” lingo and culture. He plans to use that knowledge when he eventually expands AussieFit.

One element Dyer knows he won't take on is a price war with the proliferation of $10-a-month gyms. Dyer says the no-frills business model is too difficult to maintain long-term, so he tells Coffee Talk he will build AussieFit on quality of services. “My plan,” says Dyer, “is to have a high value offering with a mid-value price point.”


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