Reopening Gyms and Fitness Centers In The Post-Covid 19 World.
There’s a buzz in the air. Can you feel it? Spring has sprung and with the warm weather comes an excitement to get out; to take the next step towards returning to some sense of ‘normalcy’ after the Coronavirus pandemic. Don’t get me wrong; the extreme measures and care taken to prevent the spread of Covid19 have been necessary, however as the curve flattens, people just about everywhere are ready to dig into the next chapter.
I don’t know about you, but the FIRST place I’ll be when it’s deemed to be safe is my gym. Public safety is of course paramount to anything non-essential reopening, but I’d be lying to you if I said my daily routine hasn’t been turned on its head through this whole ordeal. I didn’t realize until now that the habits I refined while working out bled into ‘real life’ and helped to shape my day to day existence. I get the feeling if you’re still reading this that you might just feel the same way. Or, perhaps you’re the owner or operator of a gym (or a chain of them). If that’s the case, then I know you’re DEFINITELY itching to get back to work. Of course, as a nation we need to get ourselves to a place that’s unquestionably safe for our healthcare workers and the public at large, but when that DOES happen (and it will), how do we in the health and fitness industry ensure that we hit the ground running in a way that’s safe and effective?
We asked ourselves that very question. Who could we talk to that might offer some prescient insight into the steps that need to be taken in order to reopen gyms safely? The answer was actually a pretty easy one. Why not ask the person who was SO proactive and safety-conscious that he never had to close his gyms at all?
As the CEO of World Gym Taiwan, Michael Sanciprian oversees 103 fitness clubs, so in early 2020 when the dire situation presented by Covid 19 began to rear its ugly head, he knew it was time for action. Through his own steadfast initiative, Michael managed to keep all of his clubs open—a feat which might’ve been thought to be impossible by a lot of fitness executives around the world.
Abs Company CEO Sean Gagnon and Director of Sales Mike Ritter sat down for a conversation with Sanciprian and we’ve compiled four of his main factors for an effective and safe reopening.
SPREAD THE POSITIVE MINDSET
For some people, in situations like the one we’ve faced these last few months, it’s easy to get down in the dumps and to stay there. But in order to hit the ground running when it’s time to reopen, it’s essential that the whole team is locked into the positive mindset. With a team of over 13,000 members, Sanciprian knew that spreading and cultivating the right mindset was essential to maintaining the success of World Gym Taiwan. “As you guys all know, I believe in purpose. You know, our purpose equals our ‘why’ and our ‘why’ equals our goals. So the team has to understand that we’re going to continuously keep doing stuff. We continuously push the safety protocols and we keep building on that. We keep educating across different formats. So I’ve got to keep marketing and selling it to my team to keep them on the forefront of positivity.”
GET OUT AHEAD OF IT
The speed and ease with which you’ll be able to reopen all depends on your actions now. “The first thing I did was I locked myself in a room with the team. I said, what do we need to do to make sure that we're safe? Not just for our members, but for our team and of course for the country.” No ideas are silly or too small. Brainstorm every single possible scenario—every customer complaint or request and be prepared to deliver when the time comes. It’s this preparation that’ll ensure a positive customer experience and, of course the safety of everyone involved.
Communication is absolutely essential. “I started holding press conferences in every city,” Sanciprian said. “So we would set up press conferences to introduce our system, our list of protocols”. Okay, so you probably don’t have the means to hold press conferences all across the country. There are other ways you can communicate the plan with gym members, staff, and the public at large. “Go into your local newspaper or go into the city council, go onto your mayors, go in to your legislators. Go into your social media and make sure everyone knows the plan for what you’re going to do. I can guarantee you this, the local media, newspapers, even local television station, so on and so forth. They have a very close eye on what is opening and how people are going to do it. But I think a lot of operators may think, well, I'm too small to get that out there, and I think what you're pointing out is, no, everybody needs to be singing that from the rooftops to make people feel comfortable. You should be posting on Instagram, Facebook, Linkedin. You should already have your plan together when we get the green light. Here's what our plan is. Here's what we're going to do. Show them short, quick little videos of what our process is showing me a quick little videos of XYZ.”
Let’s get down to brass tacks; perhaps the most essential factor in reopening is SHOWING your members that your #1 commitment is keeping them safe. One of Sanciprian’s first actions was designating certain staff members at each and every club as sanitation station team members. “I hired more people to function in that system and that's what they do from six AM to midnight.” The sanitation teams wear special yellow vests in order to make them stand out to visitors and members. Another essential step that Sanciprian took was to install thermal devices to read the temperature of every single member who walked into the gym. The system ensures that every guest is monitored thoroughly without any of the invasive actions of a traditional thermometer.
At the end of the day and above all else, Mr. Sanciprian is all about keeping everyone safe. “It's about staying alive,” he said. “I want to make sure I'm healthy. I want you to make sure your beautiful kids, your team, your families—that everybody's healthy.” It’s this goal, paired with his ambition to continue providing the exemplary service that World Gym Taiwan is known for that’ve allowed him to run such a successful campaign in staying OPEN and staying SAFE. With some of the same tactics and determination, I have a feeling we won’t be far behind him.