7 Growth Lessons From Manny Rivera, Planet Fitness Founder

You need different offerings to suit different market categories. Growth happens when you can enter new markets while simultaneously making your existing markets bigger.

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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.

Mike Turner Photography

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. 


If 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.


Don’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 multiservice offerings 
and training.


People 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. 


Access to capital is important, so 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.


Always 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.


Good 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.