Let’s face it; we’re all in this together. Most business owners and entrepreneurs are finding themselves without the proper resources and planning as we move through this unprecedented time. So what should businesses be doing as they move forward?
I’ve always been told there are three types of people in this world: people who make it happen, people who watch it happen, and people who don't know what's happening at all.
What should you do to make it happen? Here is the answer. Be the best you can, open to new ideas, and ready to communicate, communicate, and communicate.
Ask yourself a few questions while reading this article and decide if you’ve been letting the negative information hitting the airways and print media influence your decisions as you gear back up. If you’re overreacting to the information you read in the press or on the six o’clock news, you’re possibly watching too much television or on the Internet more than you need to be. There’s plenty of help out there. Contact your local bank or the Small Business Administration as soon as possible.
What I can tell you is that history indicates that the fitness industry has remained stable during prior economic downturns. In the past sixty years or so, the fitness industry has weathered several recessions and difficult times. Some say the fitness industry is a recession-proof business, and they might be right. Only time will tell with regard to this unprecedented event.
As you move forward, your communication skills have never been more important. If you’re not a good communicator, you’d better learn soon. It’s our recommendation that the following items be addressed so you’ll have the best possible chance to get back to some type of normalcy. Whatever you do, don’t make promises you can’t keep.
Employees – Communicate with your employees regularly and in various ways. Email may be the best source. Let you workers know you are doing everything you can to protect both them and visitors and to minimize the risk of disruption. Reassure your workforce that your organization is mindful of the situation. Explain current precautions and plans being made. Point staff toward clear and unbiased official guidance, for example, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, and the State Labor Board, for answers to their questions.
Members – Communicate with your members in various ways. Our experience with emailing members has led to unwanted cancellations. The more emails you send, the more cancellations you receive. If you communicate with your members via email, do it sparingly. Try using other types of social media, and have a link on your webpage that provides your members with answers to their questions and other types of information. Posting signage on the front door “Yes, We’re Open, Welcome Back!” along with other notices around the facility work well. Remember, your members and customers will want to know what you are doing to keep the facility safe and clean, so tell them what measures you have implemented. Don’t make promises you can’t keep, and keep members and customers updated on a regular basis.
Landlords – Many landlords across the country are also feeling the pinch and may be open to a discussion about lowering your rent, offering you a rent concession, or possibly renegotiating your lease. All communications with your landlord should be in writing. Many landlords are offering deferred rent up to ninety days and are open to adding the balance to the end of the lease. The old adage applies: If you don’t ask, you’ll never know. There are many payment deferral programs available. Check with your state and local officials for more information.
Creditors – Communicate with all creditors as soon as possible. Any agreements should be put in writing to avoid future misunderstandings. I would suggest reaching out to your creditors and vendors rather than waiting for them to reach out to you.
Maintenance and Repair – Now’s your time to make a splash. How about some fresh paint in the locker rooms or lobby? Or completing a few projects you’ve put off for a rainy day? Now’s the time to get a list together and start working on those projects. The little things you do will make a big difference to your members and customers in the days to come.
Marketing and Advertising – You should continue to spend a percentage of your gross income to further grow your business, and the monies should be spent equally internally and externally. What do I mean by internally and externally? Internally means that you promote from within, you do things for your members. Promoting externally would be radio, television, newspapers, flyers, social media, etc. With both internal and external programs, you should be measuring the results and the return on investment. However, with both programs, some of the benefits can’t be immediately measured because the exposure alone will brand and further promote your business. Whatever you do, get your business name out there and let the world know you’re open for business.
Brighter days are sure to return, but until then, be proactive and keep your communication going.