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Ex-tennis coach serves ace with fitness venture

THE week after Andy Murray made his sixth Grand Slam final appearance – sadly losing to Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open – we hear from a man who developed his entrepreneurial instincts while working as a tennis coach.

Name: Jonny Curley.

Age: 39.

What is your business called? The main company is Anytime Leisure. Last year we added Cardinal Sports to the group.

Where is it based? Edinburgh, servicing the UK and Ireland.

What does it produce, what services does it offer? We believe Anytime Leisure is the largest independent supplier of commercial fitness equipment within the UK.

We also offer business consultation support, a training academy for staff and maintenance provision.

Cardinal Sports specialises in Sorts equipment.

Who does it sell to? Sports clubs, local authorities, leisure trusts, hotels, companies with in-house gyms, private leisure clubs, universities and colleges, schools and personal training studios.

What is its turnover? We expect we will finish our financial year in March 2013 on £6 million turnover, up from £4m last year.

How many employees? We have 30 staff and growing.

When was it formed? Four years ago.

Why did you take the plunge? I needed to work for myself. I got to a stage where the natural step was to be my own boss (together with Paul and Josh my business partners). This has been the best decision I have ever made.

What were you doing before you took the plunge? From leaving university with a degree in building management I had a career coaching tennis, which was an absolute pleasure but made no money and got extremely cold.

My average day was nine hours on a tennis court with under-fives classes, school classes of 30 kids, adult beginners, performance kids and team squads and then hours of organising and developing the club, Thorn Park Tennis Club in Bearsden. A great player is someone that loves playing, is willing to learn and work really hard and has dedicated parents.

Coaching tennis after playing at a high level as a kid was a dream job that I put absolutely everything into.

The job needs to be as much on court as off court. Developing the right environment for a club to flourish is as important as being able to improve the individual skills of a pupil.

What I learned from this was marketing, brand promotion and sales skills (as you are constantly selling the club, your products and your coaching, customer service skills).

You are running your own business so being able to understand the financial aspect of running a firm is another key skill that I learned.

I did get coach of the year from Tennis Scotland in 2003 before I moved into the construction of tennis courts where I became involved in the sales and business development side.

Then I became sales director with a fitness equipment supplier based in Scotland for five years which then in turn took me briefly back into sports surfacing. I then moved into a sales director role for a large company supplying UK-wide.

Three years this January I joined as the third member of the Anytime Leisure Team.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

Josh and Paul had started up two gyms as Time Fitness and this together with some excellent support from some of our suppliers allowed us to become established.

We have managed to completely self-fund the growth of the business without borrowings.

What was your biggest break?

Winning the Nuffield contract to refit the Royal Bank of Scotland gym at Gogarbrun in 2011.

This was worth £250,000 and led to supplying gyms for Google and Sony in London.

What was your worst moment? One of the gyms we supplied in Edinburgh went bust and on the first day back in January 2012 we had to go and clear out the gym for them.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

Seeing the team around me come together. We have a very diverse team with different skill sets and learning how to manage and let them evolve is exciting.

What do you least enjoy?

It is massively time consuming to control the stock in the warehouse.

What are your ambitions for the firm?

To be considered the industry leading provider of sport and fitness equipment in the UK.

What are your top priorities?

To continue to build a staff team that can deliver the vision of the company; to have the best service department in the UK; to source the very latest products from throughout the world; to design and manufacture our own ranges.

What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help?

Where do I start -

We have not had any support from anyone apart from some recent funding for staff training.

One of the main issues for me is that we compete with large foreign companies.

We just paid a massive tax bill and if we could have reinvested this money back into our business we would be employing more and moving forward faster.

There needs to be more support for UK-based companies wishing to expand, not just funding for companies that come into the UK.

What was the most valuable lesson you learned?

To trust my instinct and push forward with what I want to achieve.

We work well as a team and always weigh everything up prior to launching a new venture or plan.

How do you relax? Tennis is how I used to relax before the latest addition to the family came along.

I am planning on playing more tennis this year and trying a sport I have never tried before.

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