Meet Benjamin Randall, a veteran making a difference for other veterans in the civilian workplace.

As a teenager, Benjamin Randall knew that he wanted to serve, and he had a plan. After graduating from high school, the St. Louis, Mo. native enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, and then he intended to pursue a career in law enforcement.

As a new recruit, Randall was stationed at Camp Pendleton in San Diego. He was sent to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in 1997, and not long after, his unit was deployed to the Middle East for Operation Desert Fox in ’98.

When Randall returned to California and began his transition out of the military, the shift to law enforcement required further time and training. His wife, meanwhile, took a job as a BODYPUMP instructor at 24 Hour Fitness, and Randall began working out there. He was recruited several times by gym staff to become a personal trainer before he finally agreed to try it—not knowing this would launch his lifelong career with the company.

Randall started working part-time at the Encinitas location and soon, he was promoted to Fitness Manager. The first person Randall hired in his new management position happened to be a veteran: Bob Wolf, who called the club and told Randall he was a vet and considering becoming a personal trainer. (Wolf still works as a personal trainer at 24 Hour Fitness Super Sport in Carlsbad, Calif.) Randall knew he wanted to make a difference and help other veterans with his position at 24 Hour Fitness, and he continued to seek opportunities to do so as he was promoted to broader leadership roles in fitness and management. He continued to leverage his network, including military and support associations, and went to bases to recruit potential team members.

But it was in August 2015 at a goal-setting workshop for company leaders that Randall launched a companywide movement. A consultant was helping workshop participants come up with “moon-shot” goals, asking, “What are you going to do to change the world?” Randall thought, “I want to help vets and hire vets.” The consultant asked him how many, and Randall responded 240. The consultant challenged him: “Think bigger!” So Randall said 2,400. “I had no clue how I’d get there, but that was my moon shot,” he explains.

Randall says the consultant told him, “Think about that number the same way Kennedy had to figure out how to get to the moon. One of NASA’s top astrophysicists said, ‘Act like you’re already there and then plan how you got there.’” It was ideal timing to plan—and Randall knew his colleague Alisa Bugaj was already doing some work to hire veterans. So two months later, at a companywide General Manager Summit in November 2015, Randall announced the Boots 24 initiative to hire 2,400 vets and spouses in two years.

Today, Randall is a regional vice president, and thanks to his leadership and the enthusiastic response of team members throughout the company, more than 2,400 veterans and spouses have been hired by 24 Hour Fitness (making up more than 10 percent of the company’s workforce). Randall credits the truly grassroots efforts of team members working at every level of the organization. He says he still gets emails and people stop him when he’s visiting clubs, to let him know they’ve just hired a vet or a veteran’s spouse.

But Randall isn’t content to stop at 2,400. With people transitioning out of the military at a rapid rate, he notes that companies would be wise to tap the resources and talents veterans have to offer. Based on his observations, Randall cites some of the attributes that make veterans a natural fit for service-oriented businesses, including the fitness industry:

  • A service mentality: The catalyst for most people who go into military is to serve their country—to put others before themselves. This translates directly to being a team player.
  • Leadership skills: Vets come into the civilian workplace with a high sense of integrity, judgement, tact and discipline, and they are trained always to be improving their leadership skills. The military also has a culture of feedback and mentorship—both important tools for the corporate environment, as well.
  • Quick on their feet: Recruits are trained that when they are issued an order, they must respond. It requires quick decision- and problem-solving skills that are valuable in the workplace.
  • Globally minded: The military is incredibly diverse, giving members great exposure to other cultures and people. Living and working together, unit members are forced to understand and accept people from different walks of life.

Kevin O’Brien of Veteran Recruiting, a partner of the Boots 24 program that helps create job fairs and opportunities for veterans, agrees with Randall. “Ninety-two percent of jobs in the military have a direct counterpart role within the civilian world. Veterans have been trained on the latest equipment and technology, and clearly know how to perform under stressful circumstances. With less than one percent of the nation having served in the military, employers would be well-served in tapping into such a talented, capable and most deserving community.”

For veterans interested in working for 24 Hour Fitness, visit the company’s website.

Photo credit: Jovo Jovanovic, Stocksy