Tip #5: You Are Closed. Fight Back And Protect Your Business

covid reopen May 16, 2020

Originally published March 27, 2020

Most of the gyms in the world are shut down. You can work through it, solve some problems, and reopen stronger and ready to rage, or you can sit, stare, and moan about it. Your choice, but I think we should fight back and do everything we can to protect our gyms.

As a consultant, I have built a career trying to do the right thing for my clients and their businesses. If you lead, you have to believe you are right, because if you are wrong, you hurt someone who trusted you and one that you often care about beyond the business relationship.

I am going to give gym owners advice here... and for the first time in my career, I hope I am not just wrong, but horribly, not a clue, I cannot believe he wrote that, wrong.

I do not believe we will get gyms open across this country until at least June 1, but I am going to tell you to prepare to stay shut until July 1. This is where I hope I am wrong and you get open in a few weeks, and we get back to business.

But me telling you everything is going to be fine doesn’t help you at all if this continues. Think of me as your wingman who tells you the truth no one will ever tell you. Your spouse will tell you he or she loves you, you are a wonderful specimen of the human race and you are perfect.

I am the friend that tells you that you are fat, you need new clothes, and your spouse is sleeping with the pool cleaner. Hard job, but someone has to tell you about your own reality.

In this case, the Plummer Rule of Disaster is in play: you hope for the best, but me and you plan for the absolute worst day of your life, and that day is where we are shut down for two or more months.

Here are some things you should be doing now:

  • Go to your landlord and ask for relief. I have a client/friend named Donnie Jarreau in Louisiana, who is an expert in real estate investing. He buys and sells commercial real estate and currently has a portfolio of rental property. His advice in all of this: go to your landlord and ask for help, the landlords will not come to you unless you ask.


  • Approach your landlord and ask for three months without rent now with the total not paid amortized over the remainder of your lease. For example, if your rent is $2,000, you would ask for no rent now then take the $6,000 (three months) divided over the remainder of your lease and added to your monthly payment.


  • Read and understand all the possible loans you will qualify for as disaster relief. Paul Bosely is an expert in managing and packaging SBA loans for the fitness business. Here is his site: https://businessfinancedepot.com. Start here, but talk to your bank as well. There will be funding for businesses who are hurt, but you have to go proactive and chase the money early. To me, the perfect loan for most of you would be $150,000 over ten years, but that is a perfect world scenario and use this as a starting point.


  • Talk to all other creditors and ask for three months with no payments. Remember, ask for what you want and always ask for twice what you really want in negotiations. You are asking for no payments now with the loan being extended for three months at the end. This is not unusual or too aggressive. Ask and give yourself a chance.


  • You must provide leadership. Chris Warnes, the owner of CW Fitness in Connecticut, has done a superb job of managing his closed gym. Look up his site, go back on all social media for three weeks, and look at his daily contact with his members.

Members need to hear the story. Their biggest fear is losing time and easing this fear has to be the first thing you do. I suggest, and please do not try and out think me here, to give all clients twice the time they miss if they keep paying you.

For example, if a member on a 12-month agreement misses two months, add four to the end of his membership when you reopen. Remember that all members have different lengths of time left so you are staggering this free time over an entire year or longer. You owners on month-to-month can still give double time if the client keeps paying now.

If we open in two weeks, no harm, you just give a month. If it is two months, your give four but protect your membership. You do not want to reopen with half your members gone. Your goal is to reopen with 90 percent of your members if you are a training gym and 80 percent if you are a bigger membership gym.

Script sample (remember to always blame the members): Hi, this is Thom from the gym. Many of you have asked about time missed and can it be made up later. Yes, and thank you for continuing to pay. We are overwhelmed with the support we are getting from the clients and it is appreciated more than you realize. If you miss time, I will double whatever is missed when we reopen by moving back your expiration date. You will never lose a day you paid for in this gym, and we will double it as a way of saying thank you for your continued support.


  • You can make money closed. Here are the things you can sell while closed:
    • Sell nutritional sessions for about $25 dollars per 30 minutes

    • Sell and drop off supplements to their door if you can

    • Do one-on-on online training for shorter sessions and make sure you let the client and family join in

    • Order and deliver home equipment. Perform Better can still get you stuff overnight in many cases but in a few days at worst case.

    • Six-week online stay at home memberships for about $59-99. Talk to them once on Facetime then add them to the daily workouts you should be posting so your clients can follow along
o Upgrade clients for a short duration (while closed) to a semi-private or private online workout.


  • Designate essential staff and pay them for at least a month, then go again if you can for another thirty days. When you reopen, you want 90 percent of your clients and all key staff in place. The loans available with help you with this. For those of you in the U.K., your government is paying 80 percent of their wages, but if there are employees I want back when I open, then make up the difference.

If I pay them, they will work, doing client calls, online coaching, retention work, helping with equipment rentals and cleaning the gym. This is also a good time to eliminate staff that is not effective and start again a few weeks before you reopen. I would also do as much staff training as I can do while closed.

If this lasts for two or more months, approximately 30 percent of all the gyms in the country will never reopen. If you are ready, you have an opportunity to go hard and rebuild your business quickly.

This is a self-induced financial correction, meaning the governments initiated the shutdowns. We should come back hard and September on should be a growth period as the consumer gains faith and wants to spend again. You need to be ready to attack and this means I need to keep my clients and key staff so I can go hard instead of wasting months rebuilding.

This will pass. I hope I am wrong and overkilling this, and if I am we can laugh over a glass of wine, but if I am right, all of this is important for you to survive. Plan for the best but always prepare for the worst of what can happen here.




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