By Jane Bahneman, AFS Community Expert

For the first 30 days of an eventual 3-month mandatory shutdown of my two yoga studios outside of Washington DC, like many, I began re-engineering my business in the midst of a complete firestorm. Truly – from an energetic standpoint, it is almost impossible to be your best, most creative, and innovative self, when survival is being threatened.

I didn’t exactly see this as a gift at first. If it was, it was wrapped in the ugliest wrapping paper I had literally ever seen.

Yes, as small fitness business owners, we were all were faced with a most unexpected turn of events that threatened our very security and stability - almost overnight. And in that space, we had to dig deep to find creative solutions so that we could withstand the brutal storm.

I believe I have heard it said best regarding the COVID-19 experience: “We are all in the same storm, we all just are in very different boats.” I believe we can safely say that small business owners were hit pretty hard, relatively speaking.

Fast forward 3-months. We have re-built our businesses largely around mandates that are completely outside of our locus of control – and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. It is hard to forecast and make accurate business predictions when the “rules” of your business operations are constantly unpredictable, and mostly out of your control (for now).

But here we are. And it is from this very place that we all must begin again.

This, for my yogis out there, is a real-life Mountain Pose. And I am a realist.

Regardless of the very real truths of the current state of the economy, I committed to fearlessly re-opening my businesses and to finding a way. Old belief systems and ways of doing things no longer really applied; what “worked” pre-COVID-19 is unlikely to work again, if ever, for a long time to come.

I began to realize much of what I needed to tackle was about mindset. For some, closing their small business was the healthiest long-term solution; for others, weathering the storm and emerging with a new plan was best.  

Wherever you landed, kudos. Be proud of doing the best you could with what you had at that moment in time.

I feel incredibly fortunate to be typing this today – for today, we are open and slowly moving the needle, again. I am also incredibly grateful that my business had already gone through many iterations since its birth, and I have survived those too! This is just one more hill to climb (albeit the most difficult challenge to date!), another chapter in the book.

I would like to share just three ideas here today with my beloved studio colleagues. I am no authority, and I am honestly figuring it out just like you. And I can admit that this whole thing really did get me into a funk some days (understatement). But I diligently studied and began changing my mindset - confronting everything I had once believed in order to allow my business to survive and to thrive again.

COVID-19 will leave a residue – one we can all grow from if we allow it to be so.

In my opinion, the unrealized gifts of COVID-19 thus far have been:

Re-inventing my team

Pre-pandemic, it took about 30 staff members to make my business’ go each week. The shutdown experience allowed me to see a lot of true colors. What my instincts told me about certain folks before COVID was largely confirmed during the closure. Our best team players worked hard to sustain us as a unit, while others demonstrated it was all about themselves. I now see this time period as an opportunity to reward the best employees and replace a few staff with new folks who might show more dedication. There are great fitness pros looking for homes, and I am excited to welcome new faces in!

Re-designing my services

The revenue streams in my business will look very different in our new world simply due to fewer bodies in the doors and unpredictable changes in behaviors. This has allowed me to look closely at our services, and create offerings that might sustain us for the long haul. I think there is still much to be tested and measured in this realm, but I also do believe it is important to react in a timely fashion. It is ok to be unsure and imperfect. Make a plan and try – because you must! Remember Blockbuster? Right.

Re-imagining my business

My business, pre-COVID-19 had healthy profit margins and was a fairly streamlined operation. You know the saying “If I ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” While I worked endlessly to improve my business practices, they were, largely, “working”. With the new challenges of a COVID world, I quickly realized I had to let go of what “was” and embrace what “is” if I am to survive. I have considered it a gift to be able to step back and create a new vision for my business with new practices that were essentially born of use after this pandemic. Was my hand forced? Yes! Am I grateful? No doubt about it.

Yogis talk all the time about “comfort zones”. All of us business owners have been kicked so hard out of our comfort zones that now is the perfect time to just keep going.

Lean softly into the hard edges; find some quiet time to think; map a plan; create a new strategy; take action. Do things that get you into the right flow and mindset – and then go for it!

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Jane Bahneman, MS, is the owner of Nectar Yoga Studios outside of Washington DC.  Jane has been teaching fitness and yoga and speaking nationally for nearly two decades. She has held leadership roles in many fitness & wellness settings and owns Jane Bahneman Consulting for aspiring entrepreneurs. Jane is an Athleta Brand Ambassador and serves on the American Council on Exercise Industry Advisory Panel and the Advisory Council for the Association of Fitness Studios. Her certifications include: ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist; NASM Certified Personal Trainer and Corrective Exercise Specialist; ACE Certified Group Exercise Instructor; Yoga Alliance E-RYT 500 and Prenatal-RYT; Spinning Certified.

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