No gym owner could possibly prepare for the fact that their gym would be required to close, with no guarantee of when it could be re-opened, but such was the situation facing gym owners across the country during the pandemic. Fortunately, many World Gym franchise owners were able to survive—and thrive—by sticking close to their clientele and mission.
Craig Hermans, M.A, B.S., CPT, franchisee and co-owner of World Gym Burleson in Texas, spoke to us about how his gym has successfully reopened after successfully managing the pandemic. Craig co-owns World Gym Burleson with his wife Caroline Hermans and their partner Donna Burger.
What was your biggest challenge during COVID and how did you overcome it?
We were a relatively new gym, having just opened on July 4, 2019, which meant that while we had a solid client base and devoted staff, we didn’t have a long track record. That made our forced closure for 2 months a challenge.
One of our main goals was to retain our staff, as there are lots of local gyms where they could have gone. We pride ourselves on accommodating the athletic demographic more than our competition, so our clients are very tuned in to the fact that we have a top-notch staff. By continuing to pay our staff and assuring them they were critical to our success, we kept all our full-time staff during the shutdown, which was a huge coup.
How did you engage with members during the quarantine?
Social media was our lifesaver. My wife Caroline runs the channels and she did an amazing job keeping members informed of what we were doing. We want everyone to feel invested, as though it’s their gym.
We have a closed Facebook group, so we offered a lot of home workouts and fitness tips to keep that engagement going.
We remained positive and kept our members in the loop and engaged. They were seeing and hearing us on a daily basis the entire time.
What have you done to invite them back?
We are very focused on safety. Our equipment is social distanced, and we are disinfecting with medical-grade disinfectant, the same type that hospitals are using. We have been very public about the fact that we are spending additional dollars to protect the health of our staff and members.
We have found that the more you can help people re-establish their routines, the better they will feel so we wanted to position ourselves as their partner. We waited until we could open fully, including the kid’s care and classes so we could go on as “normal,” while following safety guidelines of course.
What advice would you have for other owners?
Be open, be transparent and be safe. Follow the rules, but let your members know that in most cases you are not making the rules.
Also stay up on the little things. For example, we quickly realized our billing company was mis-billing clients, such as auto billing for personal training that couldn’t be serviced. We contacted them promptly and then changed billing companies. World Gym had our back which was very helpful.
Remember that your support goes a long way in helping clients get back to their routines.