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Brick And Mortar Got Exposed

brick and mortar

If you are a brick and mortar gym owner much like me, you got exposed. I got exposed — I was shown how unprepared I was to handle this pandemic. My biggest strength was my biggest weakness: the brick and mortar we rent.

In many ways, we were all unprepared, and I get that. But isn’t it the spirit of an entrepreneur to prepare, practice and plan? In his book, “Extreme Ownership,” Jocko Willink talks about outworking, outsmarting, out-planning and out-preparing your enemy. He says something very special I’ve been thinking about since this pandemic first hit: “The enemy is coming! The enemy is coming!” Well, the enemy came, and for the most part, we were all unprepared.

The pandemic is here. We all started planning our defense, applying for government assistance, and dealing with our members and clients. Now that the dust has somewhat settled, what are the next challenges (enemies who might come) we need to prepare for and think through as we open up our facilities?

Yes, we need to make sure our facilities are spotless, we are following the guidelines provided by the government, and we are doing our due diligence. But I’m referring to something else. Here are some questions to think through:

  1. If you have any capacity limitations, members and clients who want to come back may not be able to come back. Of course, you need to start billing right away if your business is to survive. What will you offer a member or client who might be limited in their usage of your facility for you to feel good about billing right away?
  2. You will have members and clients who don’t feel comfortable coming back but it would be nice to bill them. You can’t bill if you don’t offer something in return. What might you offer that’s not just a Facebook or Zoom LIVE session?
  3. Prospects who will be checking into your facility might not want to join just yet because they will be limited in their usage due to possible restrictions. How will you put that prospect at ease, talk through the objection, and enroll them into your facility anyway?
  4. This is maybe our worst nightmare: What if this pandemic re-emerges? How is your facility better prepared to handle something like this in the future?

If your thought process is to just slap together some Facebook or Zoom LIVE workouts, and get members and clients on a fancy app, I believe you might be underestimating and taking the easy way out. How is that any different than your competitor down the street or anyone else, for that matter? It needs to be more robust than that.

My suggestion moving forward is to reframe people’s minds on what it means to be a member of your gym. In the past, prior to COVID-19, when prospects bought a membership, what they were paying for was access. These members might buy personal training and or other services, and for the most part, they needed a facility to host most of these transactions.

What I’m suggesting is reframing prospects’ minds from buying access to getting access for free — meaning what they are really buying is something else. That something else is a two-part plan that can be executed at the gym and at home. In other words, the gym is like a line item underneath this two-part plan.

Part of the two-part plan is an at-home program. In order for this to stick, in my opinion, this at-home program must be organized and legitimate. At-home plans would follow this format:

  • Daily: Nutritional lessons to improve eating habits, healthy tips, motivational content and educational content using at home equipment members have because you are helping them create an at-home gym and providing workouts using that equipment.
    • The above is communicated with via app, email, private Facebook page, etc.
  • Weekly: How-to workout videos, live sessions, 15-minute check-ins, linking with other professionals (registered dietitians, nurses, doctors and other wellness professionals) for tips.
  • Monthly: In-club or virtual live webinars with other professionals to constantly put out useful and relevant information. The goal is to get and keep people engaged. We all know this already — so does everyone else. Do it better and differently.

Both at-home and at-club plans must have a system of checks and balances via face-to-face or virtual to check for motivation and progress. Make sure all the content is recorded via YouTube and posted on your YouTube channel. Get people to subscribe to your channel. Don’t forget about the cultural aspect of this by having challenges — bi-monthly, in-person or Zoom get-togethers — and training for an event together.

Tony Robbins has a famous quote, “Complexity is the enemy of execution.” Begin with a simple daily, weekly and monthly plan, then lay out the skeleton and build from there on.

When you present this plan to your existing members, clients or prospects, the goal is to help your members, clients and prospects feel good about paying for your services because they are getting more than just access to the gym. In fact, they don’t even need the gym in order to be a member of your facility. When trainers program workouts, they must incorporate at-home workouts just as much as they incorporate in-club workouts.

With this type of setup or structure, you can add more layers to add more value to your members and clients, which will give them more of a reason to stay. The goal would be to help your members and clients create an at-home gym guided by your weekly virtual workouts from your trainers.

The only reason equipment at home collects dust is because there is no accountability, and most people don’t understand how to maximize what they purchased. By having at-home workouts to utilize home equipment you are asking your clients to purchase, you are accomplishing two things:

  1. Providing education for your clients on how to use their own equipment. As a result of them sticking with it more, you can then continue to further progress workouts and continue to empower your members and clients through education.
  2. This will create a non-dues revenue stream for the club because clients will be using the link you send them to buy equipment. Leveraging the know, like and trust factor will ensure, for the most part, members and clients are buying equipment from you.

In terms of daily and monthly guided nutritional education, much like equipment, as long as you provide the education and accountability via check-ins, you can move some serious supplements. Supplementing sales, helping clients outfit a home gym, and outstanding personal and virtual training are your way to better proof yourself against your brick and mortar being shut down.

In conclusion, although our facility has been closed for two months now, a new business and better way to create raving fans has opened up. As we all experienced this, it is truly amazing what pressure can create.

Mike Gelfgot

Mike Gelfgot is the co-owner of Anytime Fitness in Piqua, Ohio.

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1 Comment

  1. Billy Burke May 20, 2020

    Well said Mike! There is a silver, profitable, lining in our current fitness industry state of affairs and you have invited owners to seize the opportunity with this idea.


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