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One decade, 20 minutes

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  • | 10:00 a.m. April 10, 2015
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Longtime husband-and-wife franchise entrepreneurs Virginia Phillips and Al Roach took a big risk with a fitness business they opened a decade ago.

Their expertise, for one, wasn't in gyms. Al Roach had run a law firm that focused on franchise law, while Phillips oversaw a $60 million, 15-store franchise operation in Florida for a national heating and home services company. The franchise the couple bought into, 20 Minutes to Fitness, is also a counterintuitive approach to the personal exercise industry: It's the ultimate less-is-more philosophy in a market where bigger, faster and flashier tends to win.

But 20 Minutes to Fitness is now a testament to sticking with something different in a crowded industry. The couple has expanded to two locations, and now operates one 20 Minutes to Fitness facility in Lakewood Ranch and another in downtown Sarasota. They had their best year ever in sales growth in 2014, says Roach, and the couple might soon look to expand the Lakewood Ranch facility. “We want to be careful because we don't want to get too big,” Roach tells Coffee Talk, “but we want to accommodate growth.”

The original 20 Minutes to Fitness is in suburban St. Louis. Roach and Phillips discovered the concept in 2003, while in Missouri for a business trip on another franchise. The science behind 20 Minutes to Fitness lies in slow-cadence weight training, which brings a body's gravity and momentum down. That forces a body's muscles to work at a maximum level. The concept is lifted higher at 20 Minutes to Fitness, with its specialized equipment and personal coaches.

Phillips says one of the highlights of the first decade is how many people have both become 20 Minutes to Fitness regulars and now use the facility for their regular workout routine. Phillips says another key moment, from the business side, is early on the couple decided to offer a money back guarantee to unsatisfied clients. In the fitness industry, which constantly battles customer churn, that's a counterintuitive move.

“Al and I were told that was a bad decision,” says Virginia Philips. “But we're not here to hope people don't come. We're here to change lives.”


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