Most of us probably feel the pinch of a crisis nearly every day at work and at home. Comments like, “I’ve got a meeting in an hour and my car won’t start,” “The pool temp has dropped 8 degrees in the last hour,” or “Our front desk associate is late for work” all send blood pressures skyrocketing.
A crisis can come in all shapes and sizes, and no one’s personal pain should ever be diminished; but we all know what a real emergency looks and feels like – especially in the gym and business world. It can take the form of a fire, a catastrophic weather event, or perhaps a world-wide pandemic.
As I’ve worked in the insurance and risk management space serving gyms and fitness clubs for the past ten years, I’m impressed with the industry’s raised level of awareness and preparedness for emergencies. Protocols to handle emergencies, staff training and mock drills have become more commonplace, which is a very, very good thing. These measures should and need to continue to receive the attention they deserve because they often involve the preservation of life and safety and well-being for all.
While being prepared for the potential emergency itself is always vital, it has become imperative that gyms and clubs pivot to the next level and be prepared with a crisis response.
Crisis response, to define it for our purposes, is how a business responds, once the emergency has happened, to ensure business continuity. After the fire is extinguished or the tornado has passed, how well prepared is your business to maintain some level of operational continuity and serve your members and guests?
Here are some key areas to help get you started on planning:
- Vendor Relationships: As I attend the International Health, Racquet, and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) Convention and Trade Show and other industry events each year, I am often reminded of the true connections that gyms have with their vendor partners; moving past just the transactional level to one of true concern and discernment. Having those relationships and contacts can be incredibly valuable to acquire equipment and supplies at the ready when the immediate need arises.
- Space for Lease: Keep an eye on local spaces that are available for lease and develop a relationship with a local commercial realtor. This could aid in the ability to quickly find transitional space to host some group exercise classes or set up some equipment to keep members active and engaged while your facility is in re-construction.
- Member Communication: Have a plan to communicate with members (phone, text, email, etc.), which should include who is coordinating the communication and what your messaging should say. This can go a long way in reducing uncertainty as to the club’s future while also keeping members informed as to what is available. It’s important to provide regular updates.
- Staff Communication: Just like your members, communicating effectively with staff is critical. Not only do you need them to stay informed, but you may also need their assistance cleaning and organizing certain aspects of the gym. They can be a great advocate for you with your members.
- Program Options: think about the many clubs that pivoted to some form of on-line platform for group exercise and personal training during the height of the pandemic. These options can provide new outlets for service to your members.
- Contractor Relationships: Much like your vendor relationships, having contractors that are flexible during a crisis is crucial to a business continuity. Things from remediation to re-construction services can take quite a while, and having trusted contractor relationships can shave time off getting your club back to whole.
- Local Government Relationships: You may need permits or zoning support. Once again, a key relationship with a local official can help save valuable time and red tape.
- Public Relations Firm: It may be a good idea to have a PR firm that could aid with communications strategy and messaging to your members, as well as to the community at large, especially if there are media inquiries.
There is never a good time for an emergency or crisis. These disasters can put a major strain on your team and your ability to maintain members, staff and revenue. Having a plan in place to be as ready as you can to handle not only the immediacy of the actual emergency, but also the aftermath, can go a long way to assuring your business continuity and allowing you to serve your members, both in the short term and long term.