Club Industry's First Coronavirus Town Hall Elicits Billing, Staffing and Risk Management Advice

Coronavirus town hall
This live event, now available for on-demand viewing, was the first in a series of coronavirus-related town halls Club Industry will host in the coming weeks. Registration is now open for March 19's event, to be held at 2 p.m. Eastern.(Photo by rclassenlayouts / Getty Images.)

The panelists for Club Industry's March 18 virtual town hall event were unanimous with their advice in how to face any challenge you may encounter during the coronavirus pandemic.

Be decisive, be transparent and be mindful of how your actions today will affect your fitness business in the future.

"Club Industry’s Town Hall on the Effects of the Coronavirus on Your Fitness Business - Part 1" featured Paul Bedford, founder of Retention Guru; Nir Kossovsky, CEO and Director of Steel City Re; and Al Noshirvani, founder and chairman of Motionsoft. It is now available for on-demand viewing.

This live event was the first in a series of coronavirus-related town halls Club Industry will host in the coming weeks. (Register here for March 19's event, to be held at 2 p.m. Eastern.)

Dozens of questions were asked of the panelists, and the most popular topics related to how to handle staffing, billing and retention of members and employees during a mandated closure.

Decisions regarding staffing and billing are personal in nature and will vary from club to club, Noshirvani said. Generally, he recommended that club operators not furlough their staff while continuing to bill members. He also encouraged club operators to consider the long-term future of their businesses. Think about how today’s decisions will affect your business weeks, months and even years from now.

The panelists concurred that the United States' current quasi-shutdown in response to the coronavirus pandemic will likely last a minimum of eight weeks as opposed to two to four weeks, based on the latest information available.

"The advice I'm giving to my clients is around communication,” Bedford said. “At this time, I wouldn't ask for people's opinions. ‘Would you prefer this, or would you prefer that?’ You're better to just make a decision and stick with it. If you ask a group would they rather freeze their membership or keep their membership going, you'll get a 50-50 response. You’re going to upset half of them. We're asking our leaders and politicians to be decisive. I think we need to be as well."

Club operators who are unable to pay their staff during a shutdown should allow them to file for unemployment as soon as possible, Bedford said. That way, neither party is delaying the inevitable. Additionally, you could go out of business if you financially mismanage your club during this time—meaning that your displaced employees will not have a job waiting for them when the pandemic abates.

Kossovsky warned that your members and employees are likely already experiencing stress, meaning they will not be receptive to any further stressors, no matter how trivial. This could take the form of an unexpected bank account charge or a sudden layoff notice.

"These are very difficult decisions," Kossovsky said. “At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself, ‘When it all settles down, whom do I want to have still aligned with me? Who will still forgive me and accept what has happened? And whom am I prepared to accept their enduring animosity because I couldn't do anything about it, couldn't manage their expectations and had to let them go?’"

For more insights like these, view the hourlong on-demand presentation here.

For more coronavirus-related resources for fitness professionals, view this page.

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