Bobby Verdun

They say nothing we do can change the past… but everything we do can create the future. I had the pleasure to speak with industry guru Rick Caro last week as we discussed how the industry has battled through all the challenges it has faced over the last year. We’ve learned a lot about ourselves but also have to face the reality of nearly 20% of registered health clubs in the United States are now permanently closed with indications that number can grow as high as 30% before the masks are lifted. That’s like sitting in a college Kinesiology class and the professor asking you to look to the right and then to the left stating that one of you will not survive the class. Ominous for sure.

However, what that professor is really saying is the best of the best will survive. Simple formula. Do the right things, don’t shortcut, put forth a consistent effort every day, and you will have a chance to advance. The best of the best will survive. And that’s where we begin.

Clubs that are able to endure and survive will have raised the bar with regards to service, programming, and creativity. Who would have thought that a parking lot or tennis court would turn into valuable space for Group Exercise. Clubs who have done a pretty good job of connecting with members became exceptional at it. Cleanliness that was OK was raised to hospital-like levels. Clubs who took for granted members walking thru the door now appreciated every member and guest who trusted them enough to give it a try. Was it easy? No. Was it expensive? Very.

So where do we go from here? There will be less clubs initially to service members and future members. A colleague in Australia is reporting that, in areas where masks are lifted, occupancy is surpassing numbers from two years ago- the result of less clubs to service users. With the loss of clubs comes the unfortunate reality that over a million active living professionals are unemployed. The other side of this is the opportunity to upgrade your staff. The strong should be able to thrive.

And as for programming? We speak of a connection to the medical world but the reality is we’ve just flirted with it. Now is the time for industry leadership to forge definitive best practices with healthcareproviders and open up fluid relationships to transition patients directly to clubs. Phase 3 and 4 cardiac rehabilitation, cancer recovery, diabetes, memory loss- active living has proven to be a catalyst in preventative protocols. For our industry to expand we must develop enough credibility to be part of these protocols as a norm, not just an occasional or desperate exception to the rule.

As for this “new normal” of working from your home office? All the more reason to create active living opportunities. People may work remotely, but human beings need people and interaction. Connecting people thru movement is an opportunity our industry must continue to embrace.

They say life can only be understood backwards but it must be lived forwards. What we do going forward will decide the future of our industry. Oh and by the way, of those 70% that made it through that Kinesiology class? All 15 of us found our way to something exciting in our industry.

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