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COVID-19 Virtual Roundtable 2 Recap: Top Takeaways


On April 3, 2020, Club Solutions Magazine hosted the second installment of a virtual roundtable series surrounding the COVID-19 crisis, with the aim of helping club operators navigate through the unprecedented situation that’s led to the forced closure of countless health clubs across the U.S.

Panelists included Scott Gillespie, the owner of Saco Sport & Fitness; Bill McBride, the president and CEO of Active Wellness; Blair McHaney, the CEO of MXM and the owner of WORX health clubs; and Brent Darden, the founder of Brent Darden Consulting.

Following is a summary of top takeaways from the roundtable, including what’s changed in the last week, what cleaning and sanitizing practices should look like moving forward, the importance of strong leadership during this time, and much more.

Food for Thought

  • The rules behind PPP, SBA loans and financial assistance are changing daily. Make sure you’re getting the latest and up-to-date information.
  • Those clubs with the most trust and credibility will win coming out of this.
  • “What is the economic climate going to be when we re-open, and how are we going to serve a timid consumer base and an economically challenged community?” asked Gillespie.

Virtual Best Practices

  • If using Zoom or other video technologies, make sure you have a contingency should they be hacked in the middle of a member communication. There are auto-dialers and hackers to be wary of.
  • Put a disclaimer at the front of videos. The waiver a member signed for in-club use typically doesn’t apply to virtual workouts you’re offering.
  • If possible, shoot videos in front of a backdrop that has your club logo for branding purposes.
  • How will you marry the virtual and in-person side, as not everyone is going to want to come back to the club right away?
  • According to Darden, The Alaska Club is hosting “Kids PE” virtual workouts, as so many kids are home and attending school via virtual means. Consider how you can serve children.

Cleaning Best Practices

  • During this time, it’s vital to iron out the cleaning and sanitizing processes you’ll utilize once your clubs are back up and running. Order cleaning supplies now and consider ordering double what you normally would use.
  • “We have a month to make it perfect,” said Gillespie. “And we only have one opportunity to gain credibility. If the club is not perfect when they walk through the doors, members will think, what were they doing for a month? There can’t be a speck out of place when we reopen.”
  • Importance of conspicuous cleaning — members need to see staff cleaning and an effort being made.
  • Consider using this time to resurface or remove surfaces that are difficult to clean.
  • Create new rules for members in terms of what they’ll be responsible for cleaning. What are the new policies/rules? How will you operationalize these?

How to Use Downtime

  • “This is a time to completely reset,” said McBride. “It’s time to reset your business. Optimize it.”
  • Look at your organizational chart, brand framework, pricing structure, position descriptions, group exercise schedules, etc. “If there were faltering classes or programs you could discontinue, do so,” said Darden.  
  • “Because we’re going to have to continue to enforce social distancing, that’s going to impact group exercise,” said Gillespie. “We’re going to reset with group exercise by having a mandatory registration process. This sets things up to look at rate structures/tiered memberships.”
  • Think through the way you’re going to re-open and make sure it’s intentional.

Leadership Best Practices

  • Write and speak directly to members as the leader or your organization. “People want to hear from the top of the food chain,” said McHaney. “It sends a strong message.”
  • People want honesty, transparency and hope.
  • In a crisis, the difference between the great and the mediocre will be starkly evident.
  • “The greater contact we have with our teams during this process, the greater chances we have of bringing them back,” said Gillespie.
  • Consider doing weekly Zoom calls with all departments to stay in touch.

To access the on-demand version of this webinar, click here.

UPCOMING ROUNDTABLE: In partnership with REX Roundtables and Club Solutions Magazine, don’t miss “Successful Strategies for Shaping Your Future: Financial,” on April 8 at 2:00 p.m. EST. Register here. Limited seats are available.

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko is the editor-in-chief of Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at rachel@peakemedia.com.

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