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How Mark de Gorter and Mike King of Workout Anytime are Navigating 'the Great Reopening' Together

Nick Powills and Charles Internicola are joined by Workout Anytime CEO Mark de Gorter and franchisee Mike King to discuss how the 24-hour fitness brand is keeping members safe and happy during COVID-19.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected franchise brands of all sizes, across all segments. Now, as many states slowly start to reopen, brands are implementing new strategies for survival, with franchisees and franchisors working together to make sure they emerge from this pandemic stronger than ever. 

1851 Franchise publisher Nick Powills and Charles Internicola spoke with Workout Anytime CEO Mark de Gorter and franchisee Mike King about how the Georgia-based fitness brand is navigating the crisis, especially as many locations start to open up in certain areas.

Here are some of the key insights from their discussion.

The Great Reopening 

Since Workout Anytime is based in Georgia, the health-club franchise has been leading the way through the uncharted reopening process. When Georgia’s gyms finally got the green light to reopen on April 24, Workout Anytime had already created a forty-page playbook for franchisees, including new sanitation requirements, capacity planning protocols and more. 

Now, the challenge that every state is navigating is how to thread the needle between keeping everyone safe and trying to get staff back to work as soon as possible. Since Workout Anytime had done the due diligence over these past few months to create a robust, thoughtful program for reopening, it was up and running quickly. The feedback that Workout Anytime has received from members has been very positive, with everyone eager to exercise again after weeks in quarantine. 

For all brands, the reopening process is obviously a highly charged issue as many people are concerned about a spike in cases. Franchisees need to stay engaged with members in order to communicate plans for reopening and sanitation protocols so they can feel safe and comfortable. It is not about what the brand thinks, it is about how the members feel. For example, the 24-hour gym brand is now employing staff to stay on site overnight to provide information and keep members safe. 

In addition to pent-up consumer demand, many brands may emerge with a stronger value than ever. For example, a clean, sanitized club will likely become an added value proposition for fitness brands. The clubs that do the best job at creating that trust for members will now have an additional item to add to their portfolio from a marketing standpoint. 

The Importance of Leadership

Adversity reveals character. Good leadership determines the direction of a franchise. Everyone is looking to leadership right now. Franchisees need indicators to know that they will emerge from this crisis and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. 

Good leadership should be collaborative. Everyone — staff, managers, franchisees and franchisors — has to work together to meet the team’s goals. Titles don’t matter right now. 

Leadership teams need to have a robust training procedure to ensure that franchisees have a protocol for taking temperatures and managing staff safety. It is also important that staff members are coached on empathy and using good judgement as this health crisis is a very complex emotional issue. 

More than anything, fitness brands want members to stay safe and healthy. Since new information is coming out everyday, leaders need to help franchisees in each state navigate the reopening process based on the state and county requirements as well as CDC guidelines. 

Franchisee Validation

For many franchisees, this has been a validating process as franchisors show exceptional support during an unprecedented time. The expertise and knowledge of leadership teams allows for a proven infrastructure that franchise partners can lean on. For example, the fitness category has gone through plenty of tough times, and Workout Anytime has developed best practices over the years that franchisees can utilize. 

Unlike previous crisis moments, all communication has been done virtually during COVID-19. Franchise networks need to create an environment of open dialogue and transparency so that franchisees can leverage the experience of the franchisor to handle issues behind the scenes. With this support, whether it be help with vendors, PPP loans or marketing initiatives, franchisees can instead concentrate on daily operations and customer satisfaction. 

Workout Anytime attracts entrepreneurs who want to make a difference by helping members achieve fitness goals. That mission-driven approach allows franchisees to succeed during difficult times like this. A positive mindset is going to be a choice as we navigate these upcoming months.