What if my Staff Isn’t Ready to Come Back? | 5 Steps to Leading Your Grand (Re-)Opening

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

The local government announcements have been made, and the dates have been set. You’re ready to get back to business! You reach out to your employees to let them know and…silence from some, lackluster responses from others, and some don’t want to come back to work at all. So as a leader, what are you going to do? Blame the government for making unemployment too appealing? Blame your staff for being “lazy”? Convince yourself that there’s nothing you can do because it’s a pandemic? Well, you could do any of those things, but none of them are going to pay your bills.

The fitness industry is set to see more staff moving and changing jobs than ever before, since most companies had to lay off most if not all staff over the past six weeks. What’s going to make your business different? Here are five crucial steps to navigate the reopening of your business when it comes to re-engaging your staff:

  1. Vision Casting – Just like finding out the why behind a customer’s buying motives, reestablishing your “why” to your staff will be just as important. Put yourself in their shoes for a minute. If you went from waking up at 4:45 every morning to hustle to the gym to now waking up at 8am and training your clients from home in your pj’s, you might have gotten a little comfortable too. Your best option is to get everyone together again (In person if possible or at least on Zoom so you can look everyone in the eyes when you’re relaying your message). Your clients need you to be solid through this, and getting everyone back together will be where it starts. This also takes away any hesitancy of staff members who may be on the fence about coming back to work. Seeing the whole group together talking about the big picture will create momentum for all to jump on board. Sidenote: DO NOT ask if everyone is comfortable coming back to work in this setting. It could create a snowball effect of negativity but also, these concerns need to be addressed one on one.
  2. Make It Personal – Humans are built to want to be part of something. Each staff member needs to know what part they are playing in the grand scheme of things. If your business is small enough, make the calls and point out how important that specific person is in the success of your relaunch. This will also give you a chance to overcome any concerns that the staff member might have, allowing you to be empathetic yet direct about what needs to get done. This will also help you ensure that people don’t slip through the cracks. At all cost, avoiding disorganization due to low staffing will be a major factor of your customer experience once you reopen. Be sincere, be openly grateful that they are helping you reopen, and be clear that you will make it worth their while for sticking through the hard times.
  3. Keep Virtual Programming but Make It Exclusive – I have to HEAVILY applaud all of the fitness professionals who shifted to online programming so quickly. The resilience shown by you has been phenomenal and makes me proud to be a part of this industry. Now looking back on what we had to do to make at home programming work, there are so many more unknowns: what equipment does the client have? How much space do they have? Will there be kids around? Do I need to take extra precautions when designing their program? It is hard to see mobility restrictions and movement patterns without kinesthetic assessment at times. The bottom line is: A fitness professional has to work twice as much off the clock to design a program for a virtual client. Your pricing should match to make it worth your while as well as your trainers.
  4. Quit talking about safety – Oh, I bet that got your attention didn’t it? One thing I learned long ago in sales is that when you are signing someone up for a membership, you mention the cancellation policy in passing. You don’t dwell on it or make it a focus of the conversation. Why? Because you’re just getting started! We wouldn’t talk about breaking up with someone we just started dating and really like, would we?Keep the conversation with your new client about their goals. In the same vein: Yes, you can mention your cleaning procedures in passing if your customer seems to be asking more questions about it, but if they weren’t comfortable coming to work out, they likely wouldn’t be there to begin with.
  5. Get Your Team Ready to Market – When people get into the habit of working out, the gym or studio becomes “place #3” for them after work and home It becomes a social event for them, a place of stress relief, a place to stick to their goals, better themselves, and do something productive. Many gyms will be hesitant to open, many will not be marketing because they believe there will be a low return on investment, and others will be scared to sell because they fear what people will think if they “push too hard.” Here’s the truth: more people have become physically active during the Covid crisis due to the day-to-day busy-ness of life going away. People want to get out of the house. People want to be social again, and yes, as always, they want to feel better, look better, and have a better quality of life. So don’t leave it up to chance: roleplay objections from returning or prospective clients, practice tours of your studio, practice phone calls, and ensure that every staff member is confident and prepared to sell. If your team is poised and confident, your prospects will buy in.

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