Bright Spot: Team at Avenu Fitness Bands Together for Pivot During COVID-19 Crisis

Avenu Fitness co-owner Cassie Gallagher films an online workout. The company, which has two locations, has been able to keep its 15 staff members employed during the COVID-19 pandemic by moving to online training. (Photo courtesy Avenu Fitness.)

I’m co-owner of two Avenu Fitness & Lifestyle locations in Houston with my wife Cassie. We made the decision to close our locations on March 18, a few days before the mandatory shutdown in our city.

For 14 years, Avenu has offered a small group, in-person, 30-minute training model. The day before we shut down, we had a couple hundred in-person sessions between our two facilities. When we shut down on March 18, we spent the entire day brain storming with the team to devise a few plans:

  1. Continue serving our clients throughout this season via virtual workouts, being respectful that our clients have trusted us enough to invite us into their homes for virtual workouts.
  2. Establish a financial plan and payroll budget to ensure all teammates are confident in knowing what will be happening over the next few months. Since we’re debt free, we have an emergency fund that will help us run Avenu as is for a while.
  3. Establish what a work day consists of: 5:30 a.m. start, 1:30 p.m. finish. One communication platform. Daily team huddles on Zoom.
  4. Let clients know they can borrow Avenu’s equipment (like checking out a book from the library). We have nothing but a few machines left in our facility after our members took us up on our offer.
  5. Lay out a vision for what could be if we all rally together, pivot in less than 48 hours and redefine Avenu’s future.

When we launched our virtual workouts on March 19, we trained 41 individuals. On March 20, it jumped to 62.

On April 7 (the day before I am writing this article), we served 193 individuals (all paid normal rates) in our small group, 30-minute, virtual workouts.

Offering this kind of workout was a completely new idea for us. For a few years, we’ve been building the Avenu YouTube Channel with simple 30-minute workouts for our clients to follow along with while traveling. Little did we know, it’s been a huge resource to pass along to not only our own community but also to others seeking out quick workouts during this season.

So far, we have generated $70,000, but it has required a lot of sweat equity. During the first few days of virtual workouts, my team talked about how nervous they felt. They said it was like the first day of training all over again. There was a new-found excitement in the air as well, since most of my team has been together for more than six years.

As far as actual dollars spent, it only required a few dollars for some Zoom accounts and camera stands. Since Zoom limits you to 40-minute sessions on their free tier and first paid tier plan, our 30-minute sessions fit magically into the allotted time. We haven’t had to adjust our training philosophy, which has allowed clients to literally feel right at home with their virtual workouts.

We’re also toying around with better lighting products and audio. Since this is something we’re going to be doing for a while, we’re trying to make this the best training experience possible on our end and for our clients.

One of the best parts of this is that we’ve been able to keep our entire team of 15 people together. We said we are all going to get through this, and everyone is working not only for themselves and their clients but for their teammates and Avenu.

This hasn’t happened without challenges. Every day we are learning something new. We talked it through with the team about the need to show a lot of grace throughout this season. We know tension is going to be high, tempers will flare and internet connections will be lost.

As a team, we’re talking daily about highs and lows of the day, what they are learning and how we can better serve our clients. We’re studying how to communicate better through a camera vs in-person. We’re talking through how to curate the conversation within the small groups we serve. We’re walking through what to do when things go wrong in a session with the audio or connection.

The most important thing is that we’re letting the team know this is a work in progress, and each day we’re simply working to get better.

The response to our offering has been huge. I’m humbled by how quickly our community has trusted us enough to invite us into their home for a virtual workout. I feel it’s been the leadership my team has displayed for the last 14 years that has allowed the pivot to happen so quickly. Our goal is to average 200 sessions a day. We are almost there.

If you want to find out more about what we are doing, email me at [email protected]

 

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