Corey Benish, EVP, ABC Financial former CIO of Planet Fitness

Motionsoft Technology Summit board member and former Planet Fitness CIO Corey Benish has joined ABC Financial as Executive Vice President effective January 1st. Congratulations Corey!!

Corey Benish


On June 15, 2015, I had the pleasure of moderating a Motionsoft Technology Summit webinar with Corey titled Fitness Technology Trends: What you need to know now!  The session included:

  • Corey Benish, CIO, Planet Fitness
  • Bruce Gardner, IT Director, David Lloyd Leisure
  • Adam Zeitsiff, CIO, Gold’s Gym

I’ve provided an overview of the exchange below.

Well Bruce and Adam thank you so much for your presentation. Attendees, this is your chance to pose your questions to Bruce and Adam now. If you could, please use the question interface inside of the control panel and we’ll get to your questions here momentarily. It’s now my privilege to introduce Corey Benish, CIO of Planet Fitness. Corey will be discussing his methodology for evaluating new technology from a build versus buy perspective. Corey, welcome to the Motionsoft Technology Summit webinar series.
Thanks so much, Todd. I appreciate the opportunity to be here this afternoon. Good afternoon to everyone on the line. Just by way of background, as Todd said, I’m Corey Benish, I am chief information officer of Planet Fitness. We are now over eleven-hundred locations and about eight million members. We are a large organization and faced with this buy versus build question often. I think Bruce and Adam hit on some very critical points and really where I want to start with is some, perhaps not truths, but some acknowledgement on where the industry is evolving and how we see the introduction of technology in the space. I think that the clear headline here is technology is accelerating and particularly in the health and fitness space.
We’re seeing it enter this space at a pace that has never been seen before and I think we’re seeing it enter in two very specific ways. We’re seeing the industry become more sophisticated in its use of technology and adopting technology in areas where it has not in the past. We’re seeing providers becoming increasingly specialized and so whereas historically a provider may offer two or three technological solutions and be more of a generalist, we’re seeing much deeper specialization with respect to whether that be customer relationship management, prospecting activities, analytics and reporting activities, all of those spaces are becoming much more tightly specialized as we look at different solutions.
This rapid pace of technology adoption and specialization is really driving, I think, organizations of all sizes and shapes to have to make this buy versus build decision that’s out there. As we think about the buy versus build decision making and we certainly, I think, have a lot of great experience with it, as Adam alluded to, we had built our own proprietary club management system and had gone down a build our own path at one point and time. We have since switched gears and moved much more toward buy option in that space. There were a lot of strategic choices we had to make as we assessed that landscape.
The first of which was really to determine what your core competencies are and what you want your focus area s to be. I think it’s critically important as you look at technology choices out there that you don’t lose your identity as an organization. I have the distinct luxury of being an industry outsider and coming in from several different consulting and prior roles and so one of the things that I think a lot of our organizations want to hold dear are those things that we consider competitive advantages. Really that second point is identify what your competitive advantages versus those things that are considered commodities.
In many cases we might think something is a competitive advantage when in reality it is a commodity and so I challenge each and every person on the phone to really be thoughtful in that process and really discern what is truly a commodity versus what are those things you hold dear. For those things that you do in fact consider competitive protect them fiercely, right? Those are your competitive advantages and those are what make you win in the marketplace. For those things that are commodity, and to Bruce’s point, more transactional in nature, it’s really about how do you minimize your cost? How do you minimize the investment and level of time and dollars in terms of getting that service pulled into your organization and working.
I think really the third point that fits into that buy versus build decision is don’t sacrifice good for perfect, right? In many cases as we’re looking at new technologies and solutions, they’re imperfect. Innovation is a messy process and so we carefully consider the implications of any technology that we’re looking at and while there may be a longer term view of what we ideally like that solution to be, there’s some really great technology solutions out in the marketplace today. We’re constantly looking at how we evolve and innovate as an organization and are mindful of the fact that while it may not be perfect today it doesn’t make it a bad solution and so we’re often looking at that buy versus build decision in that context.
Last, and certainly not least, and this alludes to both points that Bruce and Adam had made earlier, is think forward and really consider truly the costs of your buy versus build decision. There are often cases when your requirements are so specialized that building your own solution is the only option, but that comes with tradeoffs, that comes with additional maintenance and supports, that comes with an ongoing obligation to continue to iterate and create new functionality and support what’s there. Really think about the costs on a full, full view.
Think about speed to market. In many cases that can go either way. In some cases there are really great solutions out there that can be purchased off the shelf and allow you to get to market early. Again, if you think about speed to market in the context of good versus perfect, sometimes being out there first is better than being exactly right. We really focus a lot on how do we get new product to market quickly? The other elements are things like how do you react to market changes? We all live in this rapidly evolving industry, a rapidly evolving regulatory environment and so there are often times you need to change very, very quickly.
If it’s not your core competency to develop often times it is somebody else’s and so that buy versus build decision can often skew based on that. Last, but not least, something that we feel very, very pointedly as a large organization, but every organization should be thinking about, is that ability to scale, right? We all are doing this level of investment and innovation for the sake of growing our businesses and so it’s critically important that you think about what is the ongoing investment going to be in order to scale any solution that you’re looking at; Whether you’re building it or whether you’re buying it? I think, Todd, that brings us through some key framework elements on buy versus build.