Health clubs and gyms- Are you ready for the new normal?

In the past few weeks there have been numerous webinars and blogs about how to survive the financial losses, run on-line classes, and use various social media tactics to stay engaged with members, staff, and the community during this pandemic. As we talk with club owners and operators it seems many feel that, once the all clear sounds, they will simply reopen, doing business as before. Few have had ongoing discussions with their staff and members to plan for that reopening. There will be winners and losers. Failure to recognize what the new normal will be for our businesses could be catastrophic. Here are some points to consider so that you have a plan:

1. Communication…

is more important than ever. It is surprising to see the number of facility websites that just have a “closed until further notice” type of announcement. The pro-active clubs are promoting how members can stay connected through social media, posting daily updates about the facility and community events from the owner/manager. Have you done a survey to gauge member sentiment? Questions like, “how happy are you with our current communication” and a box to respond to “what can we do better?” Next, “how likely is it that you will return to (your club)?” We have other questions we can recommend that are “must ask” depending on your type of facility. See our contact information at the end of this blog. These questions will help your reopening strategy and this should be communicated well beforehand. Many facilities are negotiating print and radio rates because they are desperate for income. Once you have a strategy you may want to advertise more.

2. Sanitation

The cleaning of your facility should have always been one of your main objectives as an owner/manager. But if it hasn’t been, it absolutely has to be now. “Exceptionally clean” must be a mantra. Providing for the SAFETY of your members and guests is paramount. Review your cleaning schedule. Have more presence of your staff sanitizing equipment handles, touch screens, door handles, and weights. Have lots of hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes conveniently available between every 2 pieces of equipment. Consider offering a free membership to people who will volunteer 2-4 hours a week to be present to wipe down equipment at your peak usage times. Seeing this activity will convince members that you are serious about their health.

3. PPE

What type of PPE will be recommended or required for members, guests, staff, and delivery people? How do you plan to answer members who say that you should force everyone to wear a mask in your facility? Will you encourage people to bring their masks? Will you mandate it for a period of time? If masks become more available will you offer them free or sell them to members/guests who don’t have one? Have a plan and communicate it to staff and members before you reopen.

4. Hygiene

Contact an infectious disease doctor at your local hospital and see if he/she will review your policies, recommend changes, etc. If you can obtain that “blessing” communicate that to your members. Even consider having thermometers at your entrance desk and check everyone who comes in. Sound crazy? Maybe. But it could be another tactic to show your community that you are serious about their health.

5. Equipment Spacing

It’s very possible that social distancing will need to continue. Some facilities we work with are removing 1/3 to ½ of their cycling bikes to provide that spacing. Cardio equipment is being caution-taped off. Of course this will mean that less people can attend classes and use equipment. Plan for this. There are a lot of strategies to handle this. Some facilities are even considering limiting the number of members at their facilities and INCREASING DUES. Their USP is that they “We are the safest facility in the market. Isn’t your health worth it?”

6. Community

This Pandemic is causing many people to look into a mirror to see who they really are as humans. The balance between work and personal time is questioned. Community members being of service to help those in need has been widely posted on social media. How do we, as businesspeople, plan to answer this? Certainly there are numerous opportunities for us to look at offering different mind/body programs. Clubs should also foster the “community” of their members with FB, Instagram, or other groups that have special interests like cooking, sharing recipes, favorite workouts, hiking, biking, knitting, and more. Many of these have already started organically. Encourage their growth. Having staff and members volunteer to help cook meals or clean at local shelters, do coat drives, or support “Toys for Tots” can be part of giving back. I also suggest that you do a short on-line survey to your members ASAP to get their feedback and concerns about coming back. It will provide insight about what to expect.

7. Social Distancing

We’ve brought forth some ideas in the cleaning section. But what if this continues for some time? Plus if this becomes a seasonal issue, how will you prepare for next Fall? What does that mean for your group exercise and small group personal training? Swim team practices? Summer camps? Many members may still feel uncomfortable being in a small closed room with 25 other sweaty, heavily breathing people. So with the arrival of spring, the “club without walls” concept should be explored. I recently saw a group of about 25 people on our village green. They were in 2 concentric circles, with an instructor in the center, leading what looked like a combination of Tai Chi and a high school calisthenics class. Everyone was about 6 feet apart. How can you provide classes and spaces for those members so that they don’t cancel? If you have been providing social media workouts and classes, will this continue? For clubs in the north what will next Fall/Winter look like?

How we can help

For answers to these questions Active Entities Consulting will be offering monthly Group ZOOM chats to lead small groups of Industry Owners and Operators as well as industry professionals into the “NEW NORMAL”. Sign up for your complimentary session with our team today at bobby@activeentitiesconsulting.com or rich@activeentitiesconsulting.com. Sessions begin on April 15th.

About the author

Rich Synnott is a 40-year veteran in the gym trenches and Vice President of Active Entities. If you’d like more information on any of the items in this blog, contact him at rich@activeentitiesconsulting.com.

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