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Alder Partners Tackles Team-Building Led by Former Navy SEAL

When Alder Partners franchisee Stan DeMartinis Jr. tasked his newly hired human resources director with help assessing the state of the company, the results were surprising.

“We realized our turnover was far higher than ever imagined, and quickly identified the financial and operational impact this has on our business. Through this reporting, I learned that at any given time over half of our club staff have been there for three months or less,” DeMartinis said. “The good news is this also allowed us to see that, once we hit a management level, our turnover slows down significantly, indicating we are on the right path in supporting development from that level.”

The desire to build up his team and focus on leadership development was capped by the message coming through at the PF Franchise Conference concerning culture and team-building, so DeMartinis turned to Stonewall Solutions. Led by former Division I athlete and Navy SEAL Jason Kuhn, Stonewall Solutions visited Alder Partners’ Riverdale, Georgia, training facility in April for a full day of curriculum with the franchise group’s corporate staff, club managers and assistant managers.

“When I heard Jason’s story, being a Division I athlete and how he was inspired by 9/11 to become a Navy SEAL, I started thinking about myself a little bit, and the principles he was talking about. I felt like I was able to relate because of my background,” said DeMartinis. “I was a two-sport college athlete, and Mike Rymsha, who runs all of my Atlanta clubs, was the quarterback of our college football team. We were not only teammates but also roommates, so when Mike came on board with Alder, we were able to build our company on a foundation of trust and teamwork that goes back 25 years. It’s that mentality that we are constantly trying to flood through our system. I believe that is the most important part of our job as leadership because, when our team operates with that mentality, I am confident our business will continue to elevate indefinitely.” 

For the training with Alder Partners, Kuhn brought The Fundamentals of Winning curriculum to the classroom and followed it up with an outdoor team-building session based on his experience as a Navy SEAL. “Hopefully, we change the lives of a few people. Primarily with the team drills, what we want to do is build trust in each other and understand the common cause to serve and the value in that. We really want them to understand the value in selfless service and trust and how to build it,” Kuhn said. “We are going to go through leadership development at that grassroots level. How do I lead my family? How do I lead in my everyday life? Communication. Mental toughness. Team culture.”

The morning kicked off with breakfast and time in the classroom. After lunch, Alder Partners moved to a local park where the group participated in warm-up drills and activities that focused on supporting and encouraging team members before breaking into groups for a bit of friendly competition, including moving large tires and 200-pound logs as a team.

“We brought a fair amount of intensity to today’s session, and it was responded to really well. It was fun to see,” said Kuhn. “There will be sore bodies tomorrow, but it will be that good kind of sore, that sense of accomplishment.”

Operations Specialist Derrick Jones, a team member with Alder Partners since 2014, said the program with Stonewall Solutions prepared him to increase his role as a team player and leader. “Because I am already a team player, this experience has taught me how to advance as a team player and how to pat my people on the back and tell them they are doing a good job more than I do sometimes,” he said. “It’s about giving the maximum encouragement; sometimes the minimum isn’t enough.”

Working with Kuhn also led DeMartinis to self-reflection. “This experience caused me to reflect on my own leadership and how I can provide stronger influence to bring out the full potential of this team. I need to do a better job praising you, being appreciative of your unwavering support of me and my vision for this company,” he said in an address to his team. “This has been somewhat life-changing to listen to. I can put my own daily experiences into this outline and know I can do better. I encourage each of you to do the same. I know you all are facing similar challenges, day in and day out, on our gym floors. We are going to get better as a team from this day.”

Jost ADK Location Recognized for Supporting Community

Earlier this year, Jost ADK’s Lakewood, Colorado, location received the 2017 West Colfax MOMENTUM award. This was the West Colfax Lately Luncheon’s third year for the award ceremony but the first year Planet Fitness® has been recognized.

Sponsored by the West Colfax Community Association (WCCA), the award goes to two area businesses that have contributed to the ongoing renaissance of the historic West Colfax corridor.

“West Colfax is kind of under redevelopment. It’s been an undervalued area that now has some focus to it. The shopping center we are in and the surrounding area has undergone a huge redevelopment, and we really bought into the vision of the landlord for that center,” said Jonny Jost, franchisee with Jost ADK. “We bought in and took a chance on that shopping center, and it’s starting to really pay dividends. We got a part of that momentum early on, and that’s kind of what we were recognized for with this award.”

In addition of PF®, WestFax Brewing Co. also received a MOMENTUM award, and Maddie Nichols and Kathi Hasfjord received the LEGEND award.

“We are very honored to receive this distinctive award and to represent the West Colfax community,” said the PF Colfax team. “We are excited to continue growing with this revitalizing community.”

The entire Colfax leadership team attended the awards ceremony, which was held at the Lakewood Country Club. The event featured live music from Jonny “Colfax” Barber and even a West Colfax-themed game show.

“We attribute our success to the people that work in the club and the teamwork that they have, along with the members that really embrace the club,” said Jost. “When we come into an area, especially an area like this, we want Planet Fitness to be an asset to the community and create happier, healthier lives. In this community, the members really embraced us, and they look at that club like it’s a beloved park in their community. They protect it, and they protect our team.”

Planet Fitness Donates to BGCA During Open House

The Planet Fitness® in Pompano Beach, Florida, gave those looking for a total-body workout a great new option – the 360. Held in Planet Fitness Plaza, the location hosted an open house to showcase the addition of the equipment to the Broward County market.

The PF® club celebrated the open house alongside the Boys & Girls Clubs of Broward County, donating $500 to the Pompano Beach center. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Broward County serves over 12,500 youth between the ages of 6-18 each year through 11 clubs and one teen center in Deerfield Beach, Pompano Beach, North Lauderdale, Lauderhill, Ft. Lauderdale, Davie, Hollywood and West Park.

“We always enjoy incorporating the BGC whenever we can,” said Danielle Monroy, marketing director for Planet Fitness Growth Partners in Florida. “We are currently in discussions to use our renovation in North Miami Beach to facilitate a mini Judgement Free Zone® in the South Broward Boys & Girls Club.”

News of the open house was spread throughout local publications, and more than 250 current and prospective members enjoyed food, fun, raffles and games during the open house celebration.

In the challenging Florida market, Planet Fitness Growth Partners deploys community and grassroots marketing efforts to differentiate PF products and services. “Aside from open houses, we utilize street teams, are active members in the chambers and engage as many community events as possible,” Monroy said. “While driving revenue is a high priority, brand building continues to stay top of mind, and in our experience, moving the small dirt (community marketing), in the long run, will pay dividends for the brand.”

Ken and Sharree Ryder Step Into the Franchisee Spotlight

Name(s): Ken and Sharree Ryder

Company Name: PF Hampton Roads

Number of clubs: 10

States your clubs operate in: Virginia and North Carolina

How did you become a PF® franchisee?

Ken: We owned a World Gym, and we sold it in 2004 and swore we would never own another gym as long as we lived. We were really just glad to get out from under it. As part of that sales agreement, we had a noncompete that we couldn’t do another gym within 25 miles of our area.

In September 2006, we were visiting some friends in Florida, and my friend took me into the Planet Fitness® in Ormond Beach, Florida, and wanted me to see this new gym that had opened up and get my opinion because we were thinking at $10 a month you can’t make any money. We walked in, and in just five minutes of conversation with the owner, I realized how brilliant the business model was. I told Sharree that I wanted to go back in the gym business. She wanted to have me drug tested. We knew Joe Pepe from the old World Gym days and someone told me that Joe had converted his World Gyms to Planet Fitness. I immediately called Joe and said, “OK, Joe, tell me about this thing.” A couple of days later, we flew up to Connecticut and Joe took us around to all his clubs. Immediately, Sharree was sold on how great the model was.

At that point, we took all our life’s savings, cashed out our retirement plans, took the equity out of our house, and because we couldn’t do northern Virginia, we looked at other areas and decided on Virginia Beach. We packed up in January 2007 and moved into our camper in Virginia Beach in the middle of winter. For the first year, we put all our groceries and everything on credit cards because we were completely out of cash. Then finally by January 2008, the club finally started making money. We were sweating bullets for a while though.

If you have business partners, how did you meet?

Ken: We have small minority partners in just a couple of our clubs. For the most part, it’s just our family. The first gym, like I said, it took everything Sharree and I had to get that one open. When the opportunity came along to open the second and third gyms, we had an old family friend who basically bought a 20 percent share of the next two gyms.

Tell us a little about yourself and the company’s background.

Ken: Sharree and I both had sales backgrounds – she had been in sales for some time, and I had my gym in Manassas for 12 years. I opened the first one in 1992. I had been a competitive lifter and wanted to have my own gym. After 12 years, I realized I never wanted to do that again.

When we first opened the gym, she and I went out and did all the guerilla marketing. We took fliers out to the malls, whatever it took to drive some traffic into the gym. When we went to talk to Joe in Connecticut, everybody up there knew about Planet Fitness. They would do a grand opening and have lines out the door. That was not the case in Virginia. Nobody knew about Planet Fitness. They thought it was a gimmick or some kind of scam – “Yeah, right, $10 a month.” It was really difficult to get people to sign up in the early days.

In your opinion, what stands out about the Planet Fitness brand?

Ken: I think the simplicity. They do keep it simple; it’s the old KISS principle. The thing that I think a lot of people miss is the importance of the Judgement Free Zone®, the fact that we do cater to the 85 percent of the people who normally wouldn’t go to a gym; they aren’t hardcore people. Those are the people we focus on, and that, I think, is really the secret sauce in Planet Fitness. It’s creating that environment that is comfortable to the average, everyday person who is going to come in and feel like, “Hey, this is the place for me,” because most gyms are really intimidating places.

Going forward, what are the top three business goals for the company?

Ken: At this point, I know we are trying to do some more real estate purchases. We feel like we have a unique situation being able to anchor with a 25,000-square-foot gym; we have been able to leverage that position to do some real estate purchases. That is one of the near-term goals that we are looking at.

What is the best piece of business advice you have received?

Sharree: I can tell you right now that, for him, it’s passive income.
Ken: Finding or creating strands of passive income. Making a business or your money work for you instead of you having to work all the time. We only have 24 hours in a day, so how can you leverage that time? Trying to figure out ways to create passive income was something that really resonated with me.

What do you feel is the biggest challenge currently facing franchisees?

Ken: I think themselves. If you’re a franchisee, you have decided to buy into this franchise system. I think a lot of people, they want to take advantage of a lot of great things franchising has to offer, but yet they don’t want to follow the system, they want to do their own thing. It’s like, “Look, you chose not to be the Lone Ranger for a reason.” I think it’s important to follow the system that got you here. That’s a frustration for me. When you see a system that is this amazing – it’s an incredible business opportunity, I don’t understand people wanting to come in and make wholesale changes to a system that’s been so successful.
Sharree: I do think it’s our decisions sometimes, but I think branding is a big challenge. Some people just don’t brand their clubs and I think you are making a big mistake. You are opening yourself up to competition.

What advice would you share with other franchisees?

Ken: I would like to plead with franchisees to follow the system, follow the model. It has a proven track record. I think if people would follow the model they would be amazed at the success.
Sharree: For me, the most important thing about the model is the Judgement Free Zone, making sure your environment really is conducive to that and inviting and clean and friendly. I’m telling you right now – it sounds goofy – but every time somebody walks in they should be greeted with hello and goodbye by every single staff member. I think that is critical to ward off competition.

What is the biggest industry change since you started?

Ken: This sounds really cliché, but I think Planet Fitness has been a game changer for the fitness industry. Right now, it’s “What is the hot thing right now? Is it CrossFit? Or is it Zumba?” It’s basically just more of the same. For years, we were always chasing the next program. We can joke around; old gym owners will talk about one year the slide was the thing. Then the following year our storage rooms were just full of slides and nobody wanted to do that anymore. We had these storage rooms full of stuff because we would chase the next gimmick. I feel like the fitness industry, in a lot of ways, is still chasing the next trend, and Planet Fitness has been a game changer.

Tell us about your family.

Ken: Sharree and I have two children, Mike and Amanda, and they are in the business. In fact, they pretty much run the day-to-day operations for us. Mike has been with us since the beginning. He has been with us 10 years, and Amanda has been with us eight years.

Tell us about your personal interests.

Ken: For me, my main passion is music. I have a band. I am trying to learn to play golf, but I don’t have much of a gift for that though.

If I weren’t a franchisee, I would be …

Ken: I would probably be in the health and fitness business somewhere, somehow. Sharree and I, once we sold our gym, we had some weight loss centers and we had some ladies-only clubs. We have been kind of dabbling in the health and fitness arena for a long time, so I am sure we would be doing something in that space. But I am very, very glad we found Planet Fitness.

Michigan Franchisees Come Together for EcoMedia Project Benefiting Boys & Girls Clubs

Planet Fitness franchisees in Michigan have come together to collaborate on an EcoMedia project that is helping provide nutritious food for children attending area Boys & Girls Clubs. EcoMedia, a CBS program, takes a portion of every dollar an advertiser invests through the program and funds a community project in an underserved area.

Franchise groups PF Michigan Group, Bain Capital Double Impact and JACS Development, LLC were all involved in the project, which was able to offer food for 50 children per week for the remainder of the 2016-2017 school year.

“Our local advertising agency had been working with our local stations here in Detroit over the last couple of years on Planet Fitness®’ behalf .This year was the first year we had accrued enough funds to participate in an event,” said Chris Klebba, franchisee with Bain Capital Double Impact. “The way they collect for this program is they take 10 percent of incremental client spend and put in into an account. Our Planet Fitness Detroit account used $18,000, along with CBS62 and CW50, to execute an EcoMedia campaign benefiting a program with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan.”

The project provided children who were deemed at risk for hunger with a backpack filled with foods such as nuts, fruits and oatmeal to ensure the kids were still getting fed and had nutritious snacks on weekends when they don’t have the benefit of school-provided meals.

“We are so honored to be giving something back and supporting the communities that support us year in and year out,” said Klebba. “Donating the time, along with the funds, really connects the head to the heart quickly. Seeing these young people and handing them a backpack full of food that may be all they have to eat is incredibly moving.”