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Industry veteran Theo Hendriks offers six concrete tips to help fitness businesses survive this crisis.

6 Survival Tips for the Fitness Industry from Theo Hendriks [VIDEO]

Industry veteran Theo Hendriks says to survive this crisis, don't be too proud to share your problem, and communicate, communicate, communicate.

  • April 09, 2020

If you're looking for practical tips and information on how to help your business survive amidst this coronavirus pandemic, you're not alone. Governments around the globe have forced health clubs to shut their doors, impacting not only the clubs but the businesses that supply them.

Theo Hendriks, CEO of Sports and Leisure Group in the Netherlands, founding member of the IHRSA European Council, and 2009 IHRSA European Club Leadership Award Recipient has six practical tips he'd like to share to help your business survive in the coming months.

  1. Don't freeze memberships, extend instead - 0:06
  2. Ask your employees to help with the solution - 1:20
  3. Stop paying the rent for your landlord - 2:58
  4. Start social communities and communicate - 3:59
  5. Don't reinvent the wheel - 5:40
  6. Cut your costs - 6:12

Watch the video above to hear from Theo himself or check out the video transcript below.

6 Concrete Survival Tips for the Fitness Industry from Theo Hendriks

1. Don't Freeze Memberships, Extend Them

If this lasts for one, two, three, four months, if you freeze the contributions, then you don't have any revenues. You don't have income.

Let's say one average club needs 80,000 euros—so let's say more or less $100,000 a month to survive. Lose that. Overall, you have to close the gym then.

So immediately, what I said to the people, okay, let's not freeze it, but let's communicate with our members. Can you help us? Can you please stay a member? And please, [make] all the payments, and then we ask, okay, if this crisis lasts two or three months, can we extend [the membership] to February, March, and April?

And we had—in this case—with 1,600 members, we had only 30 people who said, "No, we're not going to be a member anymore."

But that means that 1,570 people are still paying their contribution. Of course, at the end, I have to extend it, so I have to solve it. But I can solve it during a period of a year, or something like this, and I can keep paying my bills. I can pay my staff, and I can ... everything, cover my costs.

2. Ask Your Employees to Help with the Solution

The government says okay if you will keep the staff at work, we will pay you a maximum between 60 and 190% of your staff costs if you don't fire them. We said to our employees, okay, we have one, two, three weeks now. We can do extra maintenance, we can do extra cleaning, but after that, you have to wait six, seven, eight perhaps two or three months at home.

We will pay you 100%, but in our case, we will only get 80% of the costs—80% from the government. So if we have a good relationship with our employees, we ask them one by one in every club, we ask them, okay, we are paying you, for instance, 20 hours a week, you can stay at home for 20 hours a week. But we only get 16 hours of your pay.

I asked every employee, would you help us with the four hours, which we don't get subsidized from the government, would you do that for free—on a voluntary basis. Besides one person, all employees said, perfect, of course, we're going to do that, we help you.

The most important, of course, is their managers and the coordination. The manager from the fitness exercise and the manager of the sports on the location—they really have a very good relationship with their staff.

They can help us. Sometimes when they need some extra motivation about the business point of view. I can help them with that, but I've got great managers.

3. Negotiate with Your Landlord

Stop paying the rent for your landlords. Of course, do it the decent way, but you go to your landlords [and say], "I cannot use the facility as what I was going to rent for. I'm supposed to rent a fitness club, and I cannot use it for a fitness club. So help me."

Again, don't push it too hard. But at the end if you have to do it, this is most important, of course. Do it on a normal basis, try to have a relationship with your landlords.

At this moment, I have to find priorities. And the priority is paying the bills, paying my staff. Look, survive at this moment. If I say to a landlord I miss really 80,000 euros every month at this moment I have zero income.

Could you help me?

They will help you.

And perhaps you want, okay, if I have a contract for five years still at this moment? Okay, put three months or however extra at the end of the contracts, extended contract.

4. Start Social Communities and Communicate

We try to build up a relationship, because we know our clients. And when they don't arrive in, in a fortnight, in two weeks, we already called them "Hey, what's going on? When are you coming back?" And these kinds of things.

So that means we have very close contact, and you have, "Okay, what do we get from it? We don't pay."

Okay, first of all, you help us survive. We can reopen again, if you help us. It's not a problem to put that business PowerPoint on the emotional level to them. You have to share your problem. We have a big problem now. And if you stay a member, we can open. We can open again.

What can we do? Every day we started social communities. Every day we have workouts. Its from spinning to yoga to pilates classes, everything. And that helps a lot.

So it's a combination. It's the business you can share your problem, but you have to show them also. Okay, what can we do for you? And every week we communicate. It's communication. Communicate, communicate, communicate.

Don't be shy to share your problem. Don't be too proud also to share your problem. Why not? Why can't you say to your members, we really have a problem and we need you to help to solve this. Eh? And some people always have problems with the ego, and then I found a sentence, "When the ego cries, the soul rejoices." And I like that sentence.

Don't be, don't be too proud to ask for, "Help me, please. Help us."

5. Don't Reinvent the Wheel

I always say the most important is what I learned—especially with IHRSA—is don't reinvent the wheel. Copy from each other. Look around to other operators. Okay, what are you doing? What are you doing with this thing? And how can you evolve that to something? What's going on?

If you see a nice newsletter from other people, from other companies, use that, start with it. Don't reinvent the wheel.

Stay calm, and share, share, share your information.

6. Cut Your Costs

Yeah, that's is so obvious, of course, but I still wanted to say it. Cut your costs at this moment. Cut your costs and be creative.

In my biggest club, I pay almost 10,000 a month, almost, with a swimming pool for energy costs. So, the manager went to the energy company said, "Okay, can we cut it for 50% at this moment, 'cause we're not using it."

So it's small things, but I suggest it. Like the music rights, we don't have music in our gyms at this moment. This could help you 5-6-7-800 euros a month. Perhaps, and all these kinds together, all these things together will help you.

For a comprehensive list of all IHRSA resources created to help health clubs navigate the coronavirus outbreak, please visit our coronavirus resource page.

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