HEALTH & FITNESS FRANCHISES

#3 Rules for Surviving and Thriving in the New COVID Normal

The ongoing COVID-19 health crisis caused many of us to retreat to our cocoons. But as vaccines begin to be rolled out across the country, we are optimistic that life will sooner, rather than later, return to a new—highly sanitised—normal.

Health and fitness franchises are starting to see a resurgence of customers wanting to dust off the cobwebs and start looking and feeling good once again. But visiting the gym, salon or physical therapist in 2021 looks a whole lot different to what it did just over a year ago. Stricter hygiene and safety measures may be here to stay, and new technologies are changing the way service providers and their customers interact.

Service-sector franchises that not only accept the new order but lead the way in introducing these changes will be the ones to flourish. Here are three rules to ensuring your health and fitness franchise is up to the challenge!

#1: Embrace necessity

The old saying “Necessity is the mother of invention” is being played out before our eyes during this pandemic. Businesses who may have been experimenting or simply thinking about incorporating new technologies into their business model before COVID-19 have suddenly found themselves thrown into the deep end, forced to sink or swim.

Some concepts to lessen the amount of person-to-person contact have been relatively simple and easy to implement, like:

  • creating online content to keep customers engaged (think fitness classes shared through Zoom or meditation and mindfulness tutorials shared via Youtube or podcast platforms)
  • informing clients about COVID-safe policies by updating content across all communication platforms (from the company website and social channels to email campaigns and booking confirmations).

Other concepts have involved a lot more effort and expense, but for those businesses determined to be ahead of the curve, they will no doubt continue to pay dividends in the long run. Concepts like:

  • introducing cashless, touchless payments so customers and service workers don’t need to exchange unhygienic dollar bills and coins (already a global trend that could ultimately see the end of wallet-bulge as we know it)
  • creating branded apps for customers to download and maintain their engagement (like fitness apps that track progress and keep the connection between trainer and trainee outside of the gym)
  • developing e-commerce platforms to encourage product sales during slow service times (allowing customers to purchase beauty products, fitness equipment or protein powders online to maintain their health and beauty regimes even during lockdown).

It’s this ability to look ahead to see what trends and emerging technologies are going to shape the way they operate that makes a successful franchise, rather than naively hoping the global health crisis will go away so they can return to old ways of doing business.

#2: Look beyond the pandemic

The pandemic has provided opportunities for businesses to rethink how they do business, creating ways to keep their customers and staff safe while also keeping their franchisees afloat through tough times. Post-pandemic, these new necessity-inspired ways of interacting with customers could well remain the new ‘business as usual’.

Simple safety measures like implementing hand hygiene stations—or just having greater awareness of hand soap stocks in bathrooms (something that for many patrons has often been frustratingly overlooked)—may become standard practice long after COVID-19 has passed.

Online service options, contactless payments and greater social distancing awareness amongst staff and customers could well be here to stay. After all, if it’s keeping your customers happy now, it’s likely these options will keep them happy in the future as well. A sudden return to “the way things used to be” may be an unattractive proposition to people who have come to appreciate the new, more hygienic way of managing their health care and fitness needs.

Which leads us to rule number three:

#3: Put people first

By creating a safe, hygienic space for your employees and their clients and introducing new systems and technologies to improve their interactions, you are building an environment of trust and wellbeing.

No matter what stage of lockdown restrictions your state is currently in—and we are all constantly learning how fickle that freedom can be—it’s essential that you follow your COVID-safe plan to the letter and keep your people safe. In doing this, you will keep them coming back, and that’s got to be good for business.

 

Thinking of running a health or fitness business?

Rather than going it on your own, joining a franchise offers security in uncertain times. Reputable service-based franchises have now had plenty of time to implement COVID-safe plans and find solutions to any practical barriers regarding customer safety. Many franchises have also introduced innovative technologies to keep their customers engaged and keep their businesses moving onwards and upwards.

In addition to being a sector that has proven it can survive the pandemic, and is, in fact, in high demand as people seek ways to improve their health and wellbeing, Heath and Fitness franchises offer a wide variety of business models—from soothing spas to intense gym work outs and everything in between. Many businesses have found new and exciting ways to offer these services, incorporating technology and innovative ideas to keep customers happy, healthy and engaged with their offering.

With a lot of variety comes a lot of choices, so do your homework before making a significant investment. Attend franchising expos (even if they are virtual-only events), speak to other franchisees, and make sure you and the brand are a good fit for each other. Make sure your franchise of choice is strong enough to not only survive the current trials and tribulations of the pandemic but is ready to thrive in the future. Has it put customers first by creating a safe, hygienic space? Is it taking on new technologies and trends to adapt to changing customer needs? If the franchise is ready to take on whatever challenges may lie ahead, then it sounds like a fighting fit business opportunity!

To see what franchises are available, explore our Franchise Directory: https://franchisingusamagazine.com/franchise-directory