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The 4 Mistakes I See Fitness Business Owners Doing Right Now that Could Hurt Them after COVID-19

By Paden Hughes

It’s easy to sit back and feel like COVID-19 not only took you by total surprise but has left you behind in the dust, unsure of how to make rent in a week and whether your clients will remember you after it’s all over.  

What do you do when you feel that kind of fear? What do you do when something so monumental is coming for your business and you did nothing to cause it?  

You take action and you get scrappy. That’s what you do.  

But before I share what we did and how it’s transformed our business, let me share what I've seen many fitness businesses do. I watched in disbelief as I read email after email of fitness businesses announcing their closure and placing memberships on hold.  

Here are four reasons why that’s a mistake: 

1. Putting accounts on hold essentially ends your income stream

When you’re in a fight, you always have a backup plan. In business that can be a lot of things, but in this case, many businesses led with severing all autopays and ending your income stream. It may come down to that, but not without a fight first.  


Because memberships are the lifeblood of your business. On face value, it seems like quality customer service, but you don’t get rid of that unless your back is up against the wall and it’s your only way to survive. 

Check out our blog post on what to do with memberships during COVID-19. 

2. You may have assumed in the absence of concrete information

When we look back on bad decisions we’ve made, often we can tie it to believing the wrong people, listening to misinformation, or just not waiting until you have the facts to be informed. You assumed some things—like assuming this will be done in two weeks. I guarantee it will be longer, and if you knew that you were looking at three months or longer, you probably would act differently. 

3. You cut loyalty ties with the two biggest assets in your business: clients and staff

Most of us employ fitness professionals with easily transferrable skills and knowledge but are important to our offerings and brand. So how does this play out for them? If you let your staff go, are they excited to rush back when you re-open? I believe cutting your staff in times of crisis is detrimental to trust, and trust is essential to a thriving team. 

The second asset that gets dropped is your clients. What do they do now?  Fitness provides health and sanity to so many—most can’t afford to wait until you reopen. I bet they can’t survive this without something or someone to help keep them motivated—if you don’t offer something, it’s likely they'll move on from you.  

Learn more about how you can support your team here. 

4. You solved one client problem and ignored the bigger client problems

Here is what makes or breaks a solid business: how well you know and serve your clientele. Take a minute and think about what it’s like for people now that they face financial strain, job uncertainty, sharing space with their kids, suddenly homeschooling. Think of their isolation from the very practices that brought them peace and grounded them during times of hardship. Think of people who were already depressed or anxious. What are they going to do now? What problems are they experiencing all because of this pandemic?  

If you close your doors and don’t offer a proactive solution for your clients, you’re letting them down. In my opinion, when it gets hard and we hit a recession, that’s when business owners have to step up their game--not forfeit. 

I’m not saying this to frighten you—I want to help you. At Gymnazo, we had an email in our clients’ inboxes a week before our city announced a “shelter in place” that showed them how we could migrate their membership online, continue to support them, and deliver the very elements they would be in short supply of: community, structure, and accountability.  

We executed quickly, avoided these mistakes, and converted our business model in three days to 100% online, saving 95% of our members. (If you want to learn how we did it, a link to our playbook is in my bio below.) 

If you’ve made one of these four mistakes, it’s not too late to pivot and jump back in. There is a fight to be had in fitness. There are new revenue models to forge through this pandemic. And there are lonely, anxious members you love who are lost and missing the community you worked for years to build. This is your time. Only the strong will survive this. You can do it. I’m cheering for you.  

About the author:

Paden Hughes

Paden Hughes

Co-CEO and Co-Founder


Paden grew up the oldest of five, growing up competing in soccer and speech and debate. Her career started while in college working for an international consulting firm. Several years later she found fulfillment in executive coaching and small business consulting at a local level. She is a problem solver and loves pushing those around her to achieve great outcomes. She uses these skills daily to set goals for Gymnazo and lead the team to achieve these.


Get Paden's playbook for businesses during COVID-19.

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