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features

Life lessons: Chris RondeauCEO, Planet Fitness

At times I’ve felt like the underdog

Published in Health Club Management 2023 issue 5
Chris Rondeau / photo: Bill Truslow
Chris Rondeau / photo: Bill Truslow
For the first decade we worked every day, lived pay cheque to pay cheque while we tried to figure out the business

My overarching life lesson has been learning the value of hard work. I dropped out of college at 20 and took the school of hard knocks route. I didn’t go to an Ivy League school or graduate with a big degree and I didn’t read my first book until I was 42-years-old.

I started at the front desk of the gym and worked my way up through the ranks. It has felt like a 30-year college degree and I’m still learning now.

At times I’ve felt like the underdog and I’ve had to play catch up. My business partners and I were not the most sophisticated bunch, but we had great passion and we believed in the model. When we got to 500 locations we were like “this is a big company, we can’t just run it like three gym guys anymore.” So in November 2012 we brought in private equity. That was a big step forward and I learned a lot from them.

Then one of the partners retired and I was elevated from COO to CEO and all of a sudden we were doing budgets and I’d never done those before. Three years later we went public, which was another learning curve.

Around 2016, a year or two after the IPO this started to change. I was meeting with well educated, super smart people – all the investors and analysts who ask good (and tough) questions and I realised there wasn’t a question I couldn’t answer off the tip of my tongue. No matter how smart and well educated they were, no one knew the business better than I did. That’s when my confidence level rose and any doubts stopped.

Building strengths
It’s a strength that I’ve worked in all parts of the club. I’ve worked the front desk, been a trainer, a manager, a regional manager, COO and CEO. I understand the trials and tribulations of staff and how to engage members, as well as how to do all the day-to-day stuff, such as checking members in and billing. I love working in the gyms.

Pre-COVID I used to work the front desk once a quarter because I’d learn things about making the jobs easier for our staff, or the experience better for members.

If I could go back and change things, I don’t think I would. It’s been very tough, but we now have more than 2,400 locations in six countries and 17 million members and are still driving membership growth. The drive and underdog mentality made me work that much harder. If I’d taken another route I might not be where I am now: we could have been a few years later in developing our model and someone else might have got the opportunity before us.

Although I wasn’t much for education when I was growing up, if I could give my younger self some advice, I’d say pay attention at school – especially in business class – and read more books. The learning curve throughout my career has definitely been a struggle at times. For the first decade we worked every day, lived pay cheque to pay cheque and had credit card debt while we tried to figure out the business. Luckily, with passion and hard work it all worked out!

Planet Fitness has grown to 2,400 clubs and 17 millon members / photo: Planet Fitness
Planet Fitness has grown to 2,400 clubs and 17 millon members / photo: Planet Fitness
/ photo: Planet Fitness
Once Rondeau reached 500 locations, a decision was made to bring in private equity / photo: Planet Fitness
Once Rondeau reached 500 locations, a decision was made to bring in private equity / photo: Planet Fitness
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/2023/269681_478478.jpg
The CEO of Planet Fitness tells how he overcame feelings of being an underdog to reach the top of the industry
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features

Life lessons: Chris RondeauCEO, Planet Fitness

At times I’ve felt like the underdog

Published in Health Club Management 2023 issue 5
Chris Rondeau / photo: Bill Truslow
Chris Rondeau / photo: Bill Truslow
For the first decade we worked every day, lived pay cheque to pay cheque while we tried to figure out the business

My overarching life lesson has been learning the value of hard work. I dropped out of college at 20 and took the school of hard knocks route. I didn’t go to an Ivy League school or graduate with a big degree and I didn’t read my first book until I was 42-years-old.

I started at the front desk of the gym and worked my way up through the ranks. It has felt like a 30-year college degree and I’m still learning now.

At times I’ve felt like the underdog and I’ve had to play catch up. My business partners and I were not the most sophisticated bunch, but we had great passion and we believed in the model. When we got to 500 locations we were like “this is a big company, we can’t just run it like three gym guys anymore.” So in November 2012 we brought in private equity. That was a big step forward and I learned a lot from them.

Then one of the partners retired and I was elevated from COO to CEO and all of a sudden we were doing budgets and I’d never done those before. Three years later we went public, which was another learning curve.

Around 2016, a year or two after the IPO this started to change. I was meeting with well educated, super smart people – all the investors and analysts who ask good (and tough) questions and I realised there wasn’t a question I couldn’t answer off the tip of my tongue. No matter how smart and well educated they were, no one knew the business better than I did. That’s when my confidence level rose and any doubts stopped.

Building strengths
It’s a strength that I’ve worked in all parts of the club. I’ve worked the front desk, been a trainer, a manager, a regional manager, COO and CEO. I understand the trials and tribulations of staff and how to engage members, as well as how to do all the day-to-day stuff, such as checking members in and billing. I love working in the gyms.

Pre-COVID I used to work the front desk once a quarter because I’d learn things about making the jobs easier for our staff, or the experience better for members.

If I could go back and change things, I don’t think I would. It’s been very tough, but we now have more than 2,400 locations in six countries and 17 million members and are still driving membership growth. The drive and underdog mentality made me work that much harder. If I’d taken another route I might not be where I am now: we could have been a few years later in developing our model and someone else might have got the opportunity before us.

Although I wasn’t much for education when I was growing up, if I could give my younger self some advice, I’d say pay attention at school – especially in business class – and read more books. The learning curve throughout my career has definitely been a struggle at times. For the first decade we worked every day, lived pay cheque to pay cheque and had credit card debt while we tried to figure out the business. Luckily, with passion and hard work it all worked out!

Planet Fitness has grown to 2,400 clubs and 17 millon members / photo: Planet Fitness
Planet Fitness has grown to 2,400 clubs and 17 millon members / photo: Planet Fitness
/ photo: Planet Fitness
Once Rondeau reached 500 locations, a decision was made to bring in private equity / photo: Planet Fitness
Once Rondeau reached 500 locations, a decision was made to bring in private equity / photo: Planet Fitness
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/2023/269681_478478.jpg
The CEO of Planet Fitness tells how he overcame feelings of being an underdog to reach the top of the industry
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Xponential Fitness has appointed sales and franchise expert, Mark King, as CEO, to take the ...
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Featured supplier news: CoverMe Fitness launches in Australian market
CoverMe Fitness, the studio management app for the fitness industry, has launched in Australia, with industry veteran Tony Zonato as managing director for the region.
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Company profile: Gymkit UK
Working with many of the UK’s leading health club chains, hotels, and sports clubs Gymkit ...
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Company profile: TANITA
TANITA is the founder of Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA) being the first to bring a ...
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Supplier showcase - Safe Space: Delivering the vision
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
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Taylor Made Designs Ltd press release: Taylor Made designs celebrates another successful elevate!
The team from Taylor Made Designs (TMD) enjoyed two days at the UK’s premium trade show this month, catching up with customers and showcasing samples from their new Leisure Essentials range.
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Zoom Media press release: Zoom Media UK partners with Your Personal Training to expand rewards platform to PT clients
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Art of Cryo: Cryotherapy
Flooring
Total Vibration Solutions / TVS Sports Surfaces: Flooring
Spa software
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Cleveland Lakes, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire
Cotswold Lakes Trust
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Loughton, IG10
Knight Frank
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Locations worldwide,
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Diary dates
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Diary dates
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