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Plans to Reopen Your Club

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Many gyms and health clubs have embraced the opportunity in the global COVID-19 pandemic by investing in improvements in their businesses. Every aspect of physical plant and daily operations have been questioned and improved. As each state loosens stay at home orders and incrementally reopen their local economies, health clubs must also prepare.

A guiding source with rules and regulations for the fitness industry to follow does not exist as clubs prepare their facilities and staff to once again serve their members. In spite of this challenge, a practical approach rooted in common sense and attention to detail will serve club operators well.

Chunking the business into manageable pieces and assigning to various teams to brainstorm solutions is good time management, and will produce a living document of preparations for the first phase of opening for business.

Being flexible and adaptable is required. Information is coming out hourly that influences decision-making at the club level — therefore, this preparatory document should be dynamic, as it will be continually edited and updated for the foreseeable future.

People and practices. Revised staff and member policies that reflect improved experiences for key populations should be documented, and shared digitally and in print — repeatedly and well in advance of reopening. Members must know what to expect so they’re comfortable returning to the club. Staff need training to deliver new member experiences from Day 1.

Facilities. Physical distancing and sanitization protocols for COVID-19 don’t currently exist and so the common sense thing to do is to recognize that 100% of all indoor and outdoor spaces must be vetted for safety and modified to accommodate current needs. Cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing are the new normal, and social distancing is here to stay.

The ardent documentation of a reopening strategy is critical for three reasons. The first is to produce a checklist as part of daily club operations. Second is to showcase to staff and members what’s being done. Their perception of the cleaning activity at their health club is going to fill them with either confidence or fear. 

In addition to sharing documents both digitally and in printed form, videos are an ideal means of showing what’s being done. A third reason for this documentation is in preparation for if (or more likely when) state and local authorities become involved with inspections and certifications.

Memberships. Membership billing is a priority. Create policies that are easy and err on the members’ side. New membership options should be developed to address digital and streaming options that are here to stay. Guest pass policies and online scheduling are also high on the list.

Marketing. Making a first impression has never been more critical. Invest in preparing data and content — even if only to sit on it until it’s time to execute. The primary focus should be on the hard work being done to create safe spaces for members to maintain their fitness and wellness. Avoid using humor and price-based offers, as neither of these are appropriate in these early stages.

Deneen Laprade, VP of business development with Instinctive Insights, can be reached at dlaprade@instinctiveinsights.com or by visiting instinctiveinsights.com.

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