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interview


HANS PETER FRANKLIN


THE FOUNDER AND CEO OF FITLANE TALKS TO KATE CRACKNELL ABOUT THE OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES OF OPERATING IN THE SOUTH OF FRANCE


t says much about the fragmentation of the French fitness market that FITLane – with its five clubs in the south of France, and a sixth under construction – is not only the market leader in its catchment area of the Côte d’Azur but, according to founder and CEO Hans Peter Franklin, also one of the largest operations in France after the likes of Club Med Gym. It also says much about the relative immaturity of the market that things we take for granted in UK- and US-based clubs – monthly direct debit contracts, for example – were brand new to the Côte d’Azur when Franklin launched FITLane just eight years ago.


I


International horizons Franklin – himself half Danish, half English, and fluent in French – arrived in the south of France in 2000 after a long stint in Asia. “My mother always told me to first choose where you wanted to live,


and then work out how to make a living there,” he says. “I’d always loved the south of France, ever since I spent university summer holidays selling snacks on the beach in St Tropez.” University term-time, meanwhile, was spent studying for a degree in physical education. Says Franklin: “I was captain of rugby, football, tennis. I actually wanted to be a professional tennis player, but sadly I wasn’t good enough. But after university I knew I had to be in sport somehow, and I also wanted to travel the world, so I went to the French Alps to ski and started a language school down there. One of our clients was Nestlé, and they offered me a job in Japan.” After a couple of years in Japan, Franklin moved to Hong Kong, joining up with ex-college friend Gary Knill, who was already in Hong Kong running a small coaching business. The two men joined forces and founded coaching company Sportathlon. “Both Gary and I were


Franklin moved from the Far East to the south of France in 2000 and set up FITLane in 2004


FITLane now has 25,000 members – equal to two per cent of the Côte d’Azur population


32 Read Health Club Management online at healthclubmanagement.co.uk/digital october 2012 © cybertrek 2012


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