What We Can Learn From Planet Fitness

Friday, June 12, 2015

There are literally thousands of gyms out there, but I’ve never seen any quite like Planet Fitness. This gym franchise is growing exponentially throughout the US because they’ve paid attention to small details to enhance the overall experience. Planet Fitness opened their 1,000th gym franchise last week.

What many gyms overlook and discount as unimportant, Planet Fitness has excelled at. Gyms have been around for a long time, but PF is differentiating itself by focusing on the minutiae. The same can be done in the skydiving industry. We can improve our operations by looking at things through a different eye: the eye of the customer.

Below I draw comparisons of what I, and countless others, love about PF and how we could apply the same lessons to the skydiving industry.

Pain Points PF Has Addressed

No Lunk Policy

Have you seen the guy who wears spandex shorts, a muscle tee, black boots with mid-calf socks and grunts while posing in the mirror? Yeah, so have I – it can be a little intimidating and off-putting. (If that’s what you wear to the gym… no offense, please don’t hurt me!)

Planet Fitness identifies these hard core gym rats as lunks and lunk behavior is not encouraged at PF. You can’t tell people not to come to your gym, but you sure can make them feel uncomfortable if they do (they have a blue “lunk” alarm that sounds when there’s heavy grunting or unnecessary dropping of weights on the floor).

The terms ‘Gymtimidation’, ‘Judgement Free Zone’ and ‘No Critics’ are written everywhere… as in every wall, and every piece of equipment. These values set PF apart making them unique and also set the standard of behavior for members and staff alike.

How This Relates To Skydiving 

What if DZs published their values on the walls of the hangar, admin offices and in the plane? Published values set the tone and holds everyone in the organization to an expected standard. These values are the basis for hiring and firing and for determining what behaviors we will allow at the DZ.  What if some of the values were: “Skygod behavior not accepted” or “Foster an environment of safety and learning.” I recommend that every organization publish their values as a moral compass of how a business is to operate. These values provide a baseline for new hires, and also act as parameters that if not met, can lead to firing.



I’ve been to many gyms where the staff often sit around looking bored while the gym is filthy. Not this place. I see the staff continually cleaning the facility. There must be a requirement to mop and vac every hour because they seem to be perpetually cleaning. I’ve walked into many locker rooms where you’re hit with that distinct scent of BO and sweat, but the PF locker room is always clean and devoid of typical gym-nasty smells.

How This Relates To Skydiving

I have been in countless dirty hangars where many things are out of place, the packing mats haven’t been vacuumed and rubber bands are strewn everywhere. People will say skydivers don’t care about these things. They do care. Most people prefer a clean environment over a dirty environment in any circumstance. The presentation of gear, jumpsuits, hangar, presentation of instructors and aircraft all matter. Let’s not fool ourselves.

Sun Path Products Skyhook


Wiping Down Equipment

There are lots of paper towels and cleaning solution spray bottles everywhere at PF. They’re so prevalent that members don’t have to walk more than five steps in order to grab a paper towel and spray bottle. Everyone does and if they don’t, a staff member will get to it.

How This Relates To Skydiving

The biggest weakness I see at our facilities as it relates to customer experience is the cleanliness of bathrooms and the lack of cleaning they get throughout the day. I’d say close to 100% of customers use the restroom when visiting a DZ, so a greater emphasis needs to be placed on this.


  • There is a ton of equipment here. There are over 7,000 members at my gym and you never have to wait to get on a treadmill. Ever. 
  • The equipment is well-maintained and all of the machines work. I’ve yet to come across a machine that’s out of order.
  • The equipment is new. Nothing looking aged.

How This Relates To Skydiving

The parallels here are obvious. No one likes renting a piece of gear that looks super rough or having to wait for others to be finished with a rig in order to jump. Keep gear well-maintained and up to date and have enough of it.


Free Water

Although PF sell reasonably priced drinks, they also provide water fountains and a water dispenser to refill your water bottle. To me, this is an added plus; it shows the company is focused on the customer’s needs.

How This Relates To Skydiving

Small detail, but an important one. Give people options. Having a water fountain is important, but if it looks like a science experiment is taking place in it, it’s time for an upgrade.  Let’s take it a step further by having healthy food options for those that have snack bars instead of just hot dogs and hamburgers. The Millennial generation (our #1 target demographic) enjoy eating healthier. You’ll notice there has been an entire shift in the fast food industry because millennials aren’t buying what the previous generations couldn’t get enough of – cheap, unhealthy food.




No Contract

The bane of most gyms you join for an inexpensive price is the one or two year minimum contract that seems near impossible to cancel. At PF, there is no minimum contract – cancel anytime.

How This Relates To Skydiving

While we don’t offer contracts for skydivers, the bane of our existence in skydiving is waiting. Examining how long it takes for AFF students to get their jumps completed or how long it takes students and fun jumpers to get on loads are major pain points. Attention to this detail (and correcting it) will reduce major frustration and be appreciated by all.



Because Planet Fitness has solved so many of the pain points, the price point is very inexpensive because they have attracted huge volume based on the price point and their attention to detail. My monthly gym membership is $10. I was paying $50 at my local YMCA and the place was dirty. 

How This Relates To Skydiving

The pricing model for PF makes sense based on volume. This model doesn’t make sense for the skydiving industry, yet many U.S. DZ’s are trying to employ it by major cost cutting against their competitors to increase volume. The problem is lower margins without major volume will result in poor upkeep of facilities which creates customer pain points. Cost cutting to increase volume is lazy marketing. Customers respond, but it’s not to the long term benefit of the operation.

Structure & Flow

All of the weight machines are organized in different circuits. So if you wish to work arms or legs or shoulders or abs, they’re set up in specific areas and it’s easy to see what machines need to be used for desired outcomes. There is structure that’s easy to understand without needing the help of a trainer to figure it all out.

How This Relates To Skydiving

Skydivers know their way around a DZ just fine, but a newbie or first timer can feel very intimidated by the whole DZ experience. Having clear structure that has a natural flow for checking in, meeting instructors, gearing up is something overlooked because it appears obvious. Oftentimes, it’s not.


Through The Eyes of The Customer

When reinventing your DZ to be different, everything must be examined ‘through the eyes of the customer.’ Getting feedback from the customer on every customer point of interaction from the user experience on the web to the cleanliness of bathrooms, is invaluable information.

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