Interview with Peter Roberts, Founder and Deputy Chairman of Pure Gym

Interview with Peter Roberts, Founder and Deputy Chairman of Pure Gym
Peter Roberts

Peter Roberts founded Pure Gym in September 2008 after conducting extensive research into the low cost gym market. He set in place an experienced management team and raised initial investment through Private EIS Funds, to allow the first two gyms to open in Manchester and Leeds in November 2009.

With over 35 years property and leisure industry experience, Peter wanted to start a gym chain that broke down the barriers preventing people from exercising. Peter created Pure Gym – a gym that is revolutionising the gym industry, eliminating contracts and high membership fees, offering the flexibility.

 

What do you believe is the main motivation of an Entrepreneur and your main motivation?

PR: I think it’s, not necessarily in this order, obviously making money for yourself, running your own business, the excitement of achieving something off your own back without being involved in a business.  The motivation of that is pretty big; you need to want to be able to do something badly.

Was it the setting up of your own company and the money aspect that drove you?

PR: Yes, when I did it I got in some private money as well.  So the problem is anything that needs asset backing can be expensive in terms of raising funds and those things I’ve done as asset backing so I’ve always gone to private business angels or people I know to invest with my money and there’s.  It is important that you need to show commitment as an entrepreneur if you’re going to get backing alongside you.

What would have been your main characteristic?

PR: Driving hard, a lot of hard work, to give you the freedom to be able to do things in your own way.  For me that’s what gets things driving forwards.

Did you always want to be an entrepreneur or was there something else you wanted to be?

PR: No, I don’t think I really did.  I worked in a firm of chartered surveyors and I found it quite frustrating that all of the decisions were made by other people.  That’s what made me think that I wanted to become an entrepreneur and I was probably about 25.

How did you identify the opportunity for Pure Gym?  I take it that it was probably something to do with Golden Tulip or the venture capital funding companies.

PR: Yes, I’ve always had a strong feeling that you should never be a starter of new ideas.  You should look around at what other people do so that they take the high risk and then it’s not completely a new line of thought, bringing in a new product or new idea is pretty risky.  Now I’ve tended to keep my eye on the market in an area that I know which the leisure market is, see what other people have done.  Use the pioneer, find out where he’s gone wrong so then you can come in and that’s always worked quite well, but not is all that long behind.  The idea for Puregym was pretty new but other people had tried it in America and Germany, so you don’t want to be first in but a very close second is the answer.  You should identify and opportunity that suits your skills and interest.

You were second in and decided that you’re beating the rest of the competition for price and 24 hour.

PR: That’s right; we’re 24, no contract for Pure Gym.  The key is 24 hour, no contract and price.

Did you have much marketing to do with Pure Gym?

PR: Most of the marketing is done pre-opening so we have a cash-flow positive on day one and after that its then referrals.  Just how well you run your business, how well you look after you customers dictate your referrals. Of course referrals are a very cost effective way of marketing.

What were you major challenges for launching Pure Gym at the start?

PR: Funding and sorting out the IT. The IT behind it is quite innovative, the systems that allows us to keep everything online as opposed to what others do.

From your experience and looking forward, how would you influence Pure Gym? Do you plan to change anything or is expansion your next phase?

PR: I think that where we are, obviously we’ve been going for two and a half years and we’ve obviously tinkered with the product over that time.  What we did is set up four initially and we used those four as a trial to see what we got right and what we hadn’t got right and so we’ve now made all the adjustments.  Looking forward we think the product is pretty good although we are designing a product for the smaller market as well, a smaller population.

If you were to perform a completely new start up what would it be? Or do you have any intention of it?

PR: People often ask me ‘what are you going to do next?’  My answer is always the same, I haven’t a clue.  Because what you do …… you know what your good at, you know what you’re interested in, you study the market and be patient.  I’ve done this four or five time now.  If something comes up, I think I have to be patient but keep investigating the market in which you have some knowledge.

Pure Gym is currently UK based.  Do you intend to go Global?

PR: I’m certainly looking at that but not just at the moment because we’ve got so much expansion in the UK.  It’s definitely a business that can go global and again from my experiences you have to be careful.  We understand the market here; we understand the property side and the legal side. When you go to an area that you may not have much experience in, it’s really important, and you probably need to go along with a local partner in some form or other, whether it’s a shareholder or partnership. Lots of people I know have done very well in the UK but then failed when they’ve gone abroad. Because this has done so well in Europe and America doesn’t mean it should do well elsewhere.

From your experience what advice would you gave a student if they were starting up their own business?

PR: It’s really important to go for a business that fascinates and intrigues you, you’re motivated by.  It is a very dangerous game to go into something that you have no experience in.  I think it’s about really looking at it and researching it endlessly. That initial research is so important and then making sure getting into the business and working how much funding you’re going to need and assessing whether you’re going to be able to get it or not. And start small, obviously start small.  Start with one, test it, trial it and move on.  You reduce your risk that way.

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