It was because of racquetball and one fateful phone call that led to Peter running and soon owning his first health club. Before moving to Orlando Florida to compete in the Sunbelt Tour, he called the owners of the local club where he practiced in Willmar, Minnesota and invited them to breakfast. Even in his early twenties, Peter had a good head on his shoulders and knew the club was losing money. He pointed out to the owners that the manager they had in place was not engaged with the members or the community and didn’t understand the importance of delivering an exceptional customer service experience to its members. He told the owners if they ever wanted to turn things around to give him a call, and a year and a half later, they did.
Peter was promised only $16,000 a year in salary but a chance to buy out the owners if the business turned around. Within five years, through bartering for interior upgrades, and training the staff to peak performance, membership sales skyrocketed… growing the club profits from losing $200,000 a year to gaining $250,000 in profit. He secured ownership and with the debt paid down, over the next 15 years he repeated that cycle building 6 more health clubs to what became the brand America’s Fitness Centers.
Through the Peter Taunton Warrior Foundation, Peter focuses on three main causes that he has passion for -- when it comes to charity, just sprinkling a little help here and there does not accomplish much in his mind, but in these three areas he puts in the fight to meet the need.
Military Families: His first focus is to support the families of fallen or critically injured soldiers by contributing funding towards the education of their children. Recognizing that PTSD is a real issue, Peter also assists in providing service dogs to help those who return from serving the country and are suffering.
Anti-Poaching: While a love of animals has always been strong in his heart, Peter’s trips to the Serengeti have reinforced his appreciation for wildlife and he works to do what he can to stop or slow the poaching of these often endangered animals.
Support the Homeless: Lastly, Peter fights for the underdog… he mentors, feeds and financially helps the homeless for those who have lost hope and have yet been able to recover.
Peter grew up, one of seven children, in a small midwestern town in Willmar, Minnesota. He grew up from humble beginnings attending a two-room schoolhouse. After finishing high school Peter paid his own way through the first three years of college at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. But by junior year he recalls sitting in a business statistics class, feeling frustrated by the subject matter, burdened by accumulating tuition debt and tired of living paycheck to paycheck. At breakfast one morning with his twin brother Paul, Peter had had enough and promptly closed his textbook announcing that he was quitting college. His brother would go on to quit that same day. Keeping the decision secret from their parents, the brothers would finish out the semester living in their dorm room and honing in their racquetball skills.
Peter had first picked up a racquet at age thirteen and still remembers how natural he adapted to the sport. With a tremendous amount of practice, his level increased dramatically eventually becoming a sponsored player for Ektelon and turning pro. The discipline and dedication learned while playing at such a high level would later fuel his success in business. His discipline, consistency and competitive nature found he and his brother ranked as the No. 2 doubles team in the country.