"We weren't a franchisor, and we weren't in the fitness industry," Cammilleri says. "The only thing we had was great business expertise and branding expertise from another industry, and we had a personal passion for fitness. It took us the first two to three years to really learn how to operate as a franchisor, then as a brand developer. We essentially inherited a franchising business and had to learn how to be a good franchisor."

The pitch Cammilleri made to franchisees was simple, and, as he puts it, "pretty shameless."

Cammilleri told them: "Look, you don't know who I am. You don't know my family. You might hate us. You might hate what we want to do with the brand. But I'm not going to force you into a new five-year contact. How about you go month-to-month, same fees as you're paying right now. In 12 months from now, if you hate us then, leave. No harm, no foul."

Cammilleri did remind World Gym franchisees that if they left the system, it was going to cost them about $100,000 to rebrand.

"So it's either going to cost you 100 grand to leave because you're mad at Planet Fitness, who is no longer in the picture, or you can hang around paying the same fees you've been paying for years and just watch us," Cammilleri told them. "Let's talk again in a year, and if you're OK with where we're headed, then maybe we talk about getting you back onto a traditional franchise agreement and relationship."

World Gym is operated by four members of the Cammilleri family. Joyce Cammilleri, Guy's mother, owns World Gym and is chairman of the board. In addition to Guy, 41, who serves as managing director, twin brothers Marcus and Leo, 39, are directors.

For Joyce Cammilleri, purchasing World Gym provided an opportunity for the family to build a company together, says her eldest son.

"She knew it was probably one of the few things in the world that she could invest in where her three adult sons would also love being involved," Cammilleri says. "Once we sold the original company, one thing we decided as a family…we didn't want to invest in a company or an industry again unless we know it's something we really enjoy doing as a family."

A family connection to bodybuilding gave the Cammilleris an affinity for the World Gym brand. Marcus and Leo Cammilleri have competed as bodybuilders and got into the sport through their father, who also was a bodybuilder. Guy, on the other hand, is not.

"I'm the black sheep in my family because I only work out five days a week," he says.