Spring 2020
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The Final Word / Conversations with Business and Technology Leaders

Russ Preite is CEO of PLNTF Holdings, Inc., one of the largest national franchisees of Planet Fitness, Inc. As an athlete and a seasoned executive, joining the company after a long career with Verizon was a perfect match. We caught up with Russ in between sets to ask him about his record-breaking growth, how he competes in a crowded market, and what leadership means to him.
Russ Preite
CEO of PLNTF Holdings, Inc.

What was your background before joining Planet Fitness?

My entire career was with Verizon leading up to where I am today. I ran various geographical territories across the country and had my first real executive role as regional president in upstate New York, which at the time was the smallest region for the company. I was then asked to run the California region, which was one of the largest, so it was quite a challenge. Eventually they moved to six markets from the 21-region, four-area model. After leading the North Central market, I became the market CEO of the largest market, the Southeast.

What made you want to join Planet Fitness?

I had moved around a lot with Verizon and was ready to settle down. I took some time off to figure out what I wanted to do, and my wife and I had a routine of going to the gym together in the mornings. She asked me what I thought I wanted to do, and I said, “This.” I was an athlete in school, loved athletics and health, and thought it would be something I’d enjoy. And then out of the blue, the next day I got a call about joining Planet Fitness. It’s crazy how things work out.

What makes Planet Fitness different than other gyms?

We are a no-intimidation, judgment-free-zone environment that offers a low-cost, high-value gym model. About 20 percent of the population is what we’d call workout enthusiasts, who have gym memberships or work out at home multiple times a week. Planet Fitness caters to the other 80 percent who want to work out and be healthy but don’t want the intimidation of traditional gym environments. And I think our record growth this year has validated that approach.

It seems like you’ve stuck to your purpose.

Absolutely. There is a lot of consolidation among many of our larger competitors because they’re all competing for the same customer, that 20 percent. We’re expanding by sticking to our model and offering a value-priced membership with a premium-quality experience. Our members keep coming back because of how they feel when they’re there. The no-judgement zone is a real thing. People appreciate our approach, and it shows by their devotion to the brand.

How do you communicate with employees across all your gym properties to ensure a consistent brand experience is happening?

We have a great structure at the gym level that is fairly flat, so we have a real “voice of the leader” feel. One of the great qualities of our teams at the local level is the way they get to know gym members and get involved in the community. Additionally, my senior team and I go into our markets and do town hall meetings where we share how we’re doing as a company, share where we’re headed, and address any questions they have. We talk about our mission and vision and try to be as transparent as possible. We’ve also made a concerted effort to increase our communication to everyone in the organization through a monthly newsletter, news alerts, and an increased social presence on LinkedIn and Instagram.

What’s the best advice you’ve received?

When you’re a leader, it’s no longer about you. It’s about being willing to talk less and listen more. Put the team first, and the results take care of themselves.

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