Running Three Businesses during a Pandemic

I am writing this blog to share my experience from the past three months so that I can tuck this chapter away and move forward. I have been a business owner since 2010 (ten years now) and I have overcome a lot of things along the way, but a worldwide pandemic was something no one could have been prepared for. I am going to walk through the process of deciding to close my gym, how I adjusted my business model to keep my members enrolled, how I continued to employ and pay my team, preparing for a re-opening even when I didn't know when I would be allowed to open again, and finally re-opening the gym. Meanwhile, my e-commerce business was off season not producing income and my off campus student housing business got hit as well due to students leaving town breaking their leases because schools went virtual.

The Week before our Closure.

I happened to be on the other side of the country when the media started hyping the virus and people started staying home. I told my team what to do at the gym to clean in between sessions so that we can prevent it from spreading. I filmed the above video and emailed it to our customers letting them know what we have been doing to keep everyone safe. I had no idea at this point how severe the virus would spread and the impact it would have on my gym.

I booked an earlier flight to come home so I can take control of the situation at the gym. People were not coming in and we were losing money being open. The last day we were open I saw a kid rub his hands all over the walls and a grown man blow his nose in from of me and wipe his face and not wash his hands. That was when I decided to close the gym. This was a week before our health studio license and the state of Florida mandated us to be closed. Even though we were cleaning a lot in the gym in between sessions, I didn't trust that people were doing their part in keeping the facility clean so I am grateful I closed when I did to prevent anything from coming in.

This is Going to be Great!

As an avid planner and efficient worker I was initially thrilled to be closed as I was excited to use this time with my staff to film training videos for future employees, re-paint the entire gym, and focus on my franchise model to expand. In my head, two weeks was all I needed and then we could re-open and get back to making money. I promised my team I would never stop employing them no matter what happened I would find a way. Two weeks passed and rent was due. My landlord told me he expects me to pay on time as this could all blow over in a week and if I pay him for April, if we were still closed in May, he would possibly work with me on rent. So I paid rent and continued to process payroll, but the phones kept ringing with customers freezing their accounts and requesting refunds. We had four private birthday parties booked every weekend until June and every day we were refunding their expensive party deposits. The cushion I thought I had to get us through this was quickly fading.

My employees were mad that I wasn't giving them many hours, my landlord was demanding rent, and my customers were demanding refunds. My one year old successful business just lost everything so fast I couldn't even process what was happening. I knew I had to stop members from freezing their accounts so on our third week closed, we launched our Virtual Ninja program. We joined ZOOM pretty much like everyone else in the world, and my entire staff joined forces to create a fun curriculum that would be ever-changing and keep the ninjas engaged via a screen. It wound up being great for the kids who joined, however, it wasn't enough. I was studying webinars on how to survive the shutdown, I was ferociously applying for loans, but our expenses didn't disappear and our income was withering.