By Brian Bazely
There comes a point in a person’s life where he or she has to decide what’s truly important to them. When my wife Lisa and I came to that point, we realized that my corporate career, while very successful, would not give us the lifestyle and freedom we truly wanted for ourselves and our family. Thankfully, we found exactly what we were looking for with Anytime Fitness, a 24-hour gym franchise that not only provides us with a rewarding career, but also gives us the time to enjoy our success with the people we love.
A natural work ethic
I grew up in Sault Ste Marie, one of 12 children—definitely not your typical family situation. Throughout my childhood, I was interested in the business world and always pictured myself there. For as long as I can remember, business has been my first love (outside of family and hobbies, of course) and entrepreneurship was my ultimate goal. There wasn’t a particular field I was drawn to. It was more about the multiple disciplines required to make a company run smoothly—human resources, marketing, operations, all of the intricacies that make commerce possible.
I worked from a very young age, getting my first job at a lawyer’s office at the age of 12. That was followed by a number of more typical ‘teenage’ jobs. I worked at a pizza place at age 14 and a department store at age 15. No matter what job I was doing at the time, I was always trying to learn more about the business as I went along. Of course, with 11 other kids at home, it was also nice to have some pocket money. If any of us wanted a ‘luxury,’ like a new pair of jeans or running shoes, we had to buy them ourselves. As a result, working became a very natural thing for me.
When it comes to family size, Lisa’s was pretty much the exact opposite of mine—she’s an only child. However, we do share a drive to work hard, even from an early age. Lisa describes herself as something of a workaholic in high school, pulling down 30 hours a week just because she liked to have money in the bank.
Lisa also had some entrepreneurial role models right at home. Her parents owned a gasoline haulage business, where she worked doing accounting, customer service and truck dispatching after school. We met 25 years ago when I was attending the University of Western Ontario (UWO) in London, Ont. Lisa lived just north of the city and worked at a coffee shop in the local mall, where I was working my way through school with a job at Radio Shack at the time. After several visits to the coffee shop, we eventually started dating and have now been married for 20 years.
Life in the corporate world
After university, my first main career was as director of operations for Toys R Us Canada, where I was involved in operations, sales, finance and helping out with the brand’s global growth. I worked there from 1993 to 2000.
From there, I joined The Beer Store Network, Ontario’s privately owned chain of beer retailers as an executive vice-president, running sales and operations for 770 stores, with a special focus on change management, something I’d also concentrated on in my last few years with Toys R Us.
You might be wondering what exactly change management is. In short, it’s the ability to re-work how a company operates and get a large group of individuals behind that movement. It involves developing a large-scale strategy, determining where the company should go moving forward (and why) and motivating a large group (in The Beer Store case, roughly 7,000 unionized employees) to embrace and support the changes you are making. I spent five years at The Beer Store, from 2000 through 2005.
After leaving there, I spent some time with Laura Secord of Canada, again running the sales, operations and logistics side of the business and dealing with a lot of change management. The company had just emerged from bankruptcy and been purchased by a new owner, so the management team, me included, was left to re-invent the company, which we did. I left Laura Secord in 2007 to pursue other opportunities, including some international work and consulting.