By Stephanie Silber, Special AFS Contributor

Business rarely turns out exactly the way one envisions it. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, and the number of people who have had to shift their business models to fit, it’s no surprise that the number of individuals going strong amidst the times are the ones that adapted or adapted quickly. Kristopher Kory of Korlates Fitness, claims “It’s amazing how I’ve turned into an electrician, sound man, etc.  One just has to figure it all out and make it happen or go broke!”

Despite the difficulties of figuring out the tech behind going virtual, customers noticed when people shifted immediately to digital options, and those who did not. Back in March, Kris converted his living room into a studio within a week of the lockdown. Kris has reopened his studio now but finds that his member base has been divided on returning.

To accommodate and keep his membership retention, Kris has had to adapt his studio to provide both the virtual and in-person options. How he has done it: “I have built a studio within my studio so I can teach right from there. I dropped a 42-inch TV from the middle of the room so I can see my students large when I instruct them online.  The TV also functions as a sound system now for my reformer classes. I can tell people get excited about seeing all the technology in the studio along with the cleanliness.”

The resistance to shift, has been the demise of businesses for a long time coming. When the going gets tough, it is important to remember that many successful businesses had to shift from their original visions. Remember Facebook as a college meeting app? YouTube began as a dating service. PotBelly Sandwich Shops began as an antique shop that started selling sandwiches to try and get customers in, only to find the sandwiches sold more than the antiques. They now have 474 sandwich shops (note: not antique stores) nationwide. Innovation and going with the needs of people are key to the success of a business, whether that business is big or small, brick and mortar or digital (or now, both).

 

In addition to offering his customers both virtual and in-studio options, here are some tips Kris is using as he reopens (note he owns a Pilates reformer studio):

  1. All clients wear socks and masks. He puts plastic wrap over the shoulder rests for protection on the reformers where people have their faces.  Lysol wipes are available on each set of equipment for everyone and bootstraps are sprayed down as well.
  2. People remove their shoes when they come in and go directly to their machines where they have a special box for their belongings.  Then they put on their socks and are instructed to use hand sanitizers that are placed at every machine.  He always has extra masks and socks handy just in case they forget to bring it.
  3. Wearing a microphone was not something Kris found necessary in the past, but he does it now because it is easier to hear through the mask.
  4. Offering yoga towels for purchase to put over the machines as an extra barrier. Many of his members have chosen to purchase these.
  5. His studio is now set to 64 degrees to help with extra sweating and the air conditioning fan is on all the time, so air constantly is circulated out.
  6. Classes are combination virtual and in person. The studio built within the studio has allowed him to do that and retain the membership base. Some join virtually and some join in person.

Despite all the virtual options now becoming available, Kris’ membership base has remained loyal to him. Exercise is something that has been available for free for some time, and it is not solely the exercise our customers come for. It is us as individuals. People are loyal to people they know, trust and support. If studio owners adapt and shift to what customers need while continuing to offer exceptional customer service and personalization, studios can not only survive but continue to thrive.  


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Stephanie Silber is the founder and CEO of FitSwop, a digital marketplace for fitness and health professionals to buy and sell fitness content, books, resources, products and programming to each other. Stephanie is a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor, and has a Master's Degree from Miami University and Bachelor of Health Sciences from the University of Kentucky. You can find her at stephanie@fitswop.com.

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