Building more than brawn, Planet Fitness Founder, Manny Rivera has built his Billion Rand health and fitness business from seeing an opportunity he couldn’t resist. Here he shares his seven business lessons he’s learnt over the last 20 years.
1You need different offerings to suit different market categories
Growth happens when you can enter new markets while simultaneously making your existing markets bigger.
We have one platinum club which is in the heart of Sandton at the Radisson Blu Hotel. It’s high-end, aspirational and blue-chip. It’s a nice-to-have with a huge capex, but President Obama worked out there, which gives us huge bragging rights. The positioning value has been incredible for our brand, but we’re also aware that the market in South Africa is too small for more clubs in this range.
Our mother brand is the traditional offering, and caters to a market that existed before we launched. It’s the high LSM medical aid market. We’ve remained bullish about this category.
We’ve then added two offerings to not only grow our market share, but increase the market as a whole. We realised that our swimming pools and running tracks require much larger real estate and higher membership premiums. Our ‘blue’ clubs are the same as our traditional clubs, but without these two offerings. Members save on their premiums, and we don’t need enormous square meterage to set them up.
JustGym is our most exciting development though. It’s doing amazingly well because it caters to areas that have never had these service offerings before. Thousands of back office workers who can’t afford traditional clubs have embraced JustGym. We’ve cut out all the expenses that make gyms expensive, from swimming pools to mosaic tiles. Most importantly though, we’ve created a new formula around our human assets. Staff need to multi-task. Each employee must be able to host a class, fill in at reception and perform a sales function. It takes more upfront training, but they can then earn more and do more.
It’s improved careers and earning potential, and improved our bottom line.
2If something works, roll it out across the organisation
We developed a new job spec for our JustGym employees out of necessity, but it’s worked so well that we’re rolling it out as a hybrid model across all of our gyms. When something works, don’t be afraid to adjust your current operating model. Businesses that can adapt survive and thrive.
3Don’t be scared of competition. Embrace it
We’ve always felt that the more people who are focused on health and fitness, the better it is for all of us. There are a lot of new concepts launching in South Africa, and we believe this just grows the overall fitness market. Plus, people start there and then want more — and that more is us, with our multi-service offerings and training.
4People are the core of your business
A brand is never more important than people. You’re only ever as good as the people in your business, and this includes partners, friends, colleagues, staff and clients.
5Access to capital is important
Build a business — and credit record — that financiers will back. We needed to reach a tipping point before the banks would support us, and this is often the case with new business owners. To reach that point though, make sure you never, ever ruin your credit rating or reputation.
Debt in business is good debt, but never go into debt except for the business — don’t ever overspend in your personal capacity.
Forget the fancy cars, you’ll just end up a slave to debt. If you’re going to take debt, use it to make cash by building your business.
6Always approach things with the end in mind
Take on the big player. Believe in yourself. Know you’ll build a big business that’s profitable. If you have the passion and you’re able to reverse engineer your success with a step-by-step growth plan, you’ll reach your dream.
7Good businesses are built on great relationships
The right relationships are priceless. We wouldn’t be where we are today if it wasn’t for Discovery, our banking partners and our property partners. Nurture these relationships and always act with integrity, but also understand that they don’t happen overnight. You need to have patience if you want to build an empire.