Recover Strong: Investing in Your Group Fitness Team and Community

Club Automation


April 4, 2020



minute read


April 4, 2020

Here, we are joined by Shannon Fable, the GroupEx PRO Product Manager, to talk about how to invest in the group fitness program at your club. Shannon co-founded GroupEx PRO in 2006 with her husband, John Fable, and is an experienced educator, freelance writer and certified Book Yourself Solid business coach. She helps fitness entrepreneurs navigate the industry and make more money.

Short on time? Here are the takeaways:

  1. During the initial shutdowns, group fitness managers were being let go, and clubs were left to wonder what the future held for group fitness programs.
  2. In the face of so many unknowns, club leaders need to increase communication with their group fitness staff and invest in the future of the program so it can bounce back quickly.
  3. Group fitness is here to stay, even if it looks different in the short term. When members come back into clubs, they’re going to come back for the connection, not just for the equipment.

For the full webinar, read below or play the recording above.

Video Transcription

Christy Brown: Hi everyone, I'm Christy Brown with Daxko. Oh, Marissa, you're muted.

Marissa Meyers: That's not the way to start. Hi guys. I'm Marissa Meyers, with Club Automation and CSI Spectrum.  

CB: We're so excited that you joined for today's session on investing in your group fitness team and community in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and how to position yourself to recover strong when the time comes. Before we jump in, I wanted to give just a couple of housekeeping notes. All participants have been muted to cut down on background noise, but you can submit questions in the chat or in the Q&A above. We will get to those throughout the conversation and we'll actually have time dedicated at the end to dig in deeper. We will also be sending this out, this recording out as a follow up. If you have to hop off or have someone that you want to share it with, you will receive that following this webinar. Those are my housekeeping notes. Marissa, turning it over to you.

MM: Sounds good. Next slide. To start, we are talking with a pretty diverse group today. We've got gym owners, YMCA operators, club facilities, CrossFit boxers, a little bit of everything actually. I just want to address that up front and say, we are very different in many ways, but right now we are facing the same challenges and really big challenges at that. Our members are staying home, many of our locations if not, most are closed, and we don't know how long that will be. We do still want to continue to communicate with our staff, with our members and engage our community.

CB: Today we are joined with Shannon Fable, the GroupEx PRO Product Manager. Shannon co-founded GroupEx PRO in 2006 with her husband, John Fable and is an experienced educator, freelance writer and certified Book Yourself Solid business coach. She helps fitness entrepreneurs navigate the industry and make more money. Thank you so much for joining us today Shannon.

Shannon Fable: Sure, excited. This is a really good conversation to be having right now.

MM: All right, Shannon, let's just start to dig in a little bit. Can you tell us a little bit about the pressures that group fitness instructors are currently facing, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic?

What Pressures Are Group Fitness Instructors and Owners Facing?

SF: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, where to begin. I've spent the last 25 years in this market and my work as a group fitness manager and a group fitness instructor all those years is what led to the development of GroupEx PRO so you can imagine I have been bombarded with that question like, A what's happening? What can we expect? And then what's going to happen when we come back? And gosh, I wish we had a crystal ball. But all I know right now, the pressure we're feeling is clubs are closed, like you mentioned, many group fitness managers don't have a job. Many instructors were laid off because it doesn't make much sense to keep people on payroll when we have no idea when the doors are going to open back up.

And what's really challenging I think for group fitness instructors and managers is teaching is not just a profession for us. For many people, it's not even their primary source of income. They do it because it's their social contribution to the world. It fills them up in such a way that they probably can't even describe. Most of them I know, they've been telling me they feel like they're walking around with their right arm cut off, if that makes sense. They don't get the interaction with the members that come to your clubs every day that filled them back up and allow them to be recharged and continue doing what they were doing. They're not getting their fitness the way that they've always done it because they've probably never been at home exercises. They exercise in your clubs every day.

They're not getting that social connection and they're also not growing as instructors because every time we make a new class plan, pick our music, put on our outfit and drive to the gym and start teaching, we have to up our game. We're constantly retooling our craft, so to speak. Gosh, I mean, it's just a really hard time, both physically and mentally for everyone.  

And then if I think specifically about what group fitness managers are facing, it's the unknown. Not that that's any less challenging for a group fitness instructor, we don't know when we're going to get to teach again, or if we're going to get to teach again, or will our time slot still be there? Will our favorite members still be there? But if I think about the time I spent as a manager, constantly in reactive mode, when you're at the gym, and you're dealing with your member phone calls and instructor phone calls and making sure classes are... You're not getting to play that role anymore.

But more importantly, you're wondering, like I said, when is the club going to open back up? And if I've had to lay off all my instructors, how and when am I going to hire them back? Do I hire them all back at once? Am I going to be allowed to do that? What's my new budget going to be going forward? Because we've always had to beg for budget. Even though group fitness accounts for on average, 25% penetration in most clubs, meaning one out of four participants that usually walk into your gym, experience a group fitness class in some way. Even though that that's how important that little epicenter is, it's tough because it looks like a cost center.

There's just so much going through the poor group fitness manager's head of how am I going to be ready when members decide to come back? And what's the new normal going to look like? They're trying to hold it together for themselves, and they're trying to hold it together for their instructors and sometimes they definitely don't have all the answers. I really feel for what group fitness instructors and managers are going through right now during this time of just not knowing.

CB: Definitely. What are some things that group instructors need to be working through, I mean to be thinking about when they are planning the next coming weeks with COVID-19?  

SF: Yeah, and that's been the advice I've been providing and it's like everything is so unknown. We can embrace this time right now and use it as a pause. While the phone's not ringing, while you're not dealing with member questions, comments, concerns, complaints, while you're not dealing with making sure that 5:00 AM is covered, so you don't have to wake up and go do it, we've got some time. We really can take a moment, take a breath, now that we're all settling into week two. We've accepted this. I was just doing a Facebook Live and my guest described it as like, it's the stages of grief. Now I'm finally in acceptance. I know we're in this for the long haul. I've got a plan.

I boil it down to these three key points you see on the screen. One now is a great time, more than ever, to begin connecting with your team or if you have already done a great job of connecting with your team to continue connecting with your team. Because as much as we don't know when, how or if our members are going to come back at the same time, in the same way, in the same numbers, if we're not connecting with our team right now, we don't know if they're going to be there when we reopen. It's very important that we try our best to connect with our team. I know we can go into this deeper.

Then, virtual class schedules. Many people are in a rush to service their members online and meet them where they are, which is in their basements and in their living rooms. If you have jumped on that bandwagon, making sure that you're doing that in a really thoughtful, meaningful way. That it's not just, I've been saying, not just spaghetti thrown against the wall, but something that has as much thought as you would for your live schedule that you produce in the clubs.

Finally, like I alluded to a minute ago, now's a great time to set yourself up for reentry success. I'm telling people think about this as a grand opening. I've helped open many health clubs. What you have to do to prepare to open up a health club is very strategic. When do you hire, what does that schedule look like? How are you going to train people? How are you going to onboard them? Almost thinking you're set up for success by assuming that this is just like a grand reopening or a brand-new health club. Those are the three things that I would be spending my time doing right now, if I were a group fitness manager. If I was an owner, that's what I would hope I had somebody who was able to do for my group fitness department.

CB: That's awesome. I want to dig into that first one, with connecting with teams a little bit more. I think that we are urgently connecting and trying to communicate with our members. But sometimes the team aspect can fall to the wayside. I wanted to pick your brain a little bit on why connecting with your team is important. You've touched on it, but if you can just go in a little bit deeper, why it's important in different ways that group fitness managers can do that.

Communicating with Your Team

SF: Yeah, I think you hit on something really important. I've been describing this pause as like when we initially all heard we had to stay home and oh my gosh, clubs are closing. It was like we towed up to the start of our first 5K. If anyone remembers the first time, they ran a 5K, even if you could run 30 minutes not stopping no matter what, you usually go out of the gates too fast because you don't know how to pace yourself, and by the half mile marker, you're completely gassed. That's what I'm watching in this rolling contagion with group fitness managers and clubs. Because we did, we all started communicating frantically. We wanted to get ahead of it, we wanted to tell them what we knew, but we didn't know a lot. We were communicating often. But it's not very clear because we don't quite know. I digress.

One, I want you to start thinking about this communication both with members and with your team as a marathon. It needs to be well paced, well intentioned and it has to be relevant. Let's talk about communicating with your team. I have always been a big believer and probably a public pusher of how important it is to communicate with your group fitness team. That's honestly why GroupEx PRO was created because I found myself struggling as my team got bigger, and the span of my management had across so many different types of people too, your yoga instructors, your cycling instructors, your part time instructors, your full-time instructors, so on and so forth.

I realized that, as it got bigger, it got harder to communicate with people. Communicating with group fitness is extremely important whether you're closed or not closed, because they are a disjointed and disconnected team as it is. We always use the word team, but a lot of times it's not necessarily teamwork that we're witnessing. It's just really good cooperation. The clubs that are thriving, and I hate to say thriving, because no one's really thriving right now. But the ones that are really able to meet the needs of members at this point are the ones that focused on creating teamwork, and the backbone of that is communication.

What do I mean by communicating with the intent for teamwork? It is communicating often, but in a way where your group fitness instructors can connect with it when it's convenient for them, versus having to react to it because it shows up in their email inbox or on their phone. That is so important with this type of a staff that's disconnected part time with varying levels of engagement now or even when you're open.

I always say think about the lawyer that teaches every other Saturday versus someone that maybe isn't working outside of the home, but has 3.5 kids, she might have more access to her phone throughout the day, where the lawyer may not be able to look at their phone all day. If we're treating them the same way and communicating out and they have to be reactive to it, if it doesn't hit them at the right time, they can dismiss it and then they might not have a way to ever come back to it so they miss your message. The further behind people get on your messaging, the less likely they are to go back to the beginning in their own devices and try to figure it out. Does that make sense?

When you go to communicate with them if you can have one portal where you put it in, and they can go and connect there when it's convenient for them and they can attack it in a way that makes sense to them, then you get a little bit more bang for your buck, I guess is the best way to play. Why do you need to? That's the reason why you need to do it that way. But going back to the original question, which is why do you need to connect with them, I said it earlier, you don't know what they're doing during this pandemic, during this crisis, you don't know where they're at mentally, physically and you're going to completely have to re-engage your team when they come back. It is much harder if you haven't been filling up their bucket along the way.

While you need to be communicating the necessary information about what's happening with regards to club closures, when do you think you're coming back online? What should they be doing right now? I call that the business, you also need to find a way to create community with your team and keep them motivated. Because as I said in the outset, their heartbeat is teaching classes. That's how they get filled up. Right now, they're not getting filled up. Does that make sense? If you can, that would be really, really good.

I know we're getting a question about we're not able to communicate with employees who've been furloughed. Let me get to a really important question. That is exactly why you need a portal where it's all there. If and when they come back as an employee, they can read it when they're onboard and see it in chronological order. Versus like you said, you definitely should be very wary about pushing things off to people's personal email addresses, Facebook Messenger, Facebook groups or text messages, because if they have been furloughed, and they are no longer being paid by you, then you can't technically be communicating. But if you can put it in a portal where it's a repository, so to speak, that they can grab hold of if it's convenient, voluntary, so to speak, that is a much better way to handle that. I hope that answers your question.

Let me touch on one more thing. I was talking about motivated and then I saw the question and I moved on. One thing that we're trying to do with instructors that I talk to is they get filled up, like I said, by the classes. I'm trying my best to provide them informal continuing education. Because now is not the time to ask them to pay money for content probably. But little things that, much like I was saying managers don't have the time to do because we're always in reactive mode, this is a great time for instructors to be given, like we're doing for our kids. We're giving them all these, well, go outside and paint a chalk rainbow or maybe go explore this or explore that. Give them ideas of how to spend their time, even if you can toss up ideas like that to keep them motivated, like filming yourself and watching yourself teach and what could you work on so that when you come back, you're ready to go. Think about this as an opportunity to provide informal content they can consume now, or they can consume in the future.

Yeah, I just think it's really important that we try to stay connected with them if we can, but definitely, definitely pay attention to the whole employee piece and take the lead of your HR folks. They know the legalities of communicating with them. That's why if you put it in this portal where it is not pinging them, where they have to react, where they can go and interact with it at their leisure voluntarily or when they come back online, that'll be the best way to communicate with them.

CB: That's awesome. We did have one more question about portals to use. I wanted to pick your brain a little bit about specifically what the GroupEx PRO portal looks like, and how that can be leveraged by someone who has GroupEx PRO.

SF: Yeah, of course. I mean, there's tons of portals now to use to communicate with people, whether that's Slack or a Facebook group, or you can create your own groups and other things. One, GroupEx PRO was created with the intent to streamline communication. Meaning everything that I need to run my group fitness department is in here. If I use this as the place where I send out my weekly updates, or my daily updates, or however frequently you communicate, if I use that side by side with how I manage my subs, how I manage and display my schedule, how do I do my reporting and collect my numbers, if everything is in one central portal, you get a lot more uptake of your information or compliance, so to speak.

And the best thing about the way GroupEx PRO does it from a portal standpoint is we have two specific places to communicate with your team, one for business and one for pleasure is the best way to explain it. There's a notices section where I as the manager can push out information. Because it's not pinging you every time I push out information, I can do it at the pace with which I receive it and it's important to me. Like I've been saying you can consume it when it's important to you and remind yourself that, "Oh, I've done that one. I've done that one. I've done that one."

It's an easy way for those different personas of instructors that you manage to pace themselves with the ingestion of your information. But you're the only one that can send out notices. They can ask questions, which that's the other thing, is when we send out emails to people, there's two things that happen, people hit Reply All and it becomes a really, really, all of a sudden, you're talking about happy hour. Or worse, somebody just responds to you and asks a very important clarifying question and then you've got to re reach out to everyone again, to clarify your message where the way this works is, if I've got a notice someone asks a question, I can clarify right there and everything sees that in real time.

The benefit of doing that in a closed portal like this that was designed for that, versus a Facebook group, Facebook is run by Mark Zuckerberg algorithms, which means your important information can get hijacked by other conversations. The timeline of it all isn't necessarily chronological, which makes it very hard to follow. I am dealing with this right now with my kids' competitive gymnastics team. I cannot follow this group at all because I'm like, "Well, was that yesterday? Was that today?" It drives me nuts. That's the business side.

Then we have a whole other section called forum where it is bi-portal, meaning I can post something and start a conversation or tee up something like a resource, "Hey, I saw this article today from IDEA about all the ways they're supporting us during COVID-19. Go check it out." But they can also start, your instructors can also start conversations. It's perfectly separated and neither hijacks the conversation of the other. I just appreciate that we've given you a place where you can keep the business, the business and the fun stuff and the community, because that's just as important with regards to communication. Is that community, creating that team I was talking about. You do that by water cooler chats. We have a place for the water cooler chats and a place for the memos. They're framed in the kitchen, if that makes sense. Hope that answers your question.

CB: That was perfect.

MM: Yeah, no, that's awesome. Just segueing away from that, can you tell us a little bit more about the offerings for online classes or shifting to a virtual gym with your staff and using these communications in place?

Offering Virtual Class Schedules

SF: Obviously, probably everyone on this call, you've seen everyone's rush to go online with their classes. Because it's the only way we can service folks at the moment. Now I have my other thoughts about whether or not we should be doubling down on virtual classes in the way that I'm seeing. I think it is a great, great way to provide a service for your members. But I think you need to again, let's go back to the analogy of a 5K versus a marathon. You need to treat this like a long-term solution, versus what I think a lot of people did was assumed it was just like the two-week Christmas vacation and they started posting all day every day. You need to do something that you can keep up with, something that's sustainable, and something that you can potentially pivot into a long-term strategy to support members and non-members, potential members. Or people that may not even be anywhere near you but might love what you have to offer compared to the gym that they have down the street. Who knows?

But digital is here to stay. Whether that is live streaming, pre-recorded. I just did a Facebook Live about the music modality of that, it's on the GroupEx PRO Facebook page, if you want to go check it out, because there's some important considering with regards to the legality of the music side of it, and the programming side of it. But I think this virtual idea is really good. Like I said, it's got to be sustainable. What does that look like? You don't have to have 127 classes on your Monday through Sunday schedule. You don't need to have one in seven different studios. We need to be really mindful about how often we're doing it throughout the day, based on what we know our members need at this moment.

And what I mean by that is in the studio, before we shut down, hit was hot. If I can predict one thing that is going to come out of this, is I think hit is finally not going to be in the number one slot of group fitness trends. Because people are going to realize that your body can adapt and respond to other things both mentally and physically. They're starting to experiment with wellness, not just a number on a scale being their motivation, a whole other conversation that I plan to tackle later. Not in this webinar, another one.

But I think it's going to be really important, so don't feel like you've got to just repurpose everything you've done on your current group fitness schedule and do it virtual. You need some a yoga and maybe not power yoga, maybe it's restorative yoga. You need somebody conditioning that is very simple to follow with stuff people can find around the house. I'm loving all this no equipment. Instructors really having to dig back into their toolbox and teach from how they learned how to teach in the '90s and early 2000s. Maybe I'm dating myself. It needs to be less choreography. Choreography is really hard to follow online when you're being distracted. If you haven't tried to consume fitness at home these days, try it and see what happens when there's a cat walking through, you've got to get your kid on a Zoom for your school, and you can't see the screen. There's lots of things to think and shorter classes too. Those are some of the more practical tactical tips.  

But you need to have a schedule so that members know when your classes are happening. This is the thing that I see people are missing, they are doing these ad hoc schedules with Instagram, using Canva creating a PDF and putting it up online. Every day, I've got to go check and find you in my feed, and figure out when your classes are, so I can't plan. People are still planning their days and their weeks. Now they probably have more to juggle than they ever have, because I know I've got my kids calendar going for virtual online school, gymnastics, math. I've got my husband's schedule, when he's going to be in, when he's going to be out. I've got my schedule. It's a lot harder to fit in exercise now. If I don't have a schedule where I know where it lives on your website, and I can't interact with it, like I used to interact with your schedule, I may get frustrated, or I'm going to find you by chance, not on purpose. That would be my mantra is have people find you on purpose and give them ways to find you on purpose.

In GroupEx PRO, you can have a location called Virtual, which means I can then give you a schedule, that's just your virtual schedule. You can embed that on your website and update it whenever you want, and it real time updates, it's great. The other real benefit of this is if you can start to teach people to use your digital schedule online because I know I've heard from everyone over the last 10 years, my people just won't do it. They're older or they don't want to, they want that damn printed thing. Sorry. I hate printed schedules. They are the bane of existence for group fitness managers, front desk staff and everyone else under the sun. Make this the opportunity. Take this as the opportunity that it is, they are all online and they are figuring it out. If you don't think they can I do some consulting for SilverSneakers, their average age participant is 65 plus, the first workout they did online, 16,000 people. They can get online.

CB: That's awesome.

SF: Isn't it amazing? I was like, "You're kidding me. We've just dispelled the myth that older people won't get into digital." When it's their only option we can take this time to retrain and I think that's, we've always said that at GroupEx PRO, having the ability to update your schedule whenever you want, have it reflect your subs, reflect last minute changes like the cancellations we all are experiencing right now, and do that with a press of the button and everywhere that your schedule is displayed, have it updated, that is such a benefit. I just encourage you to get your virtual class schedules online, make it where it's easy for the group fitness manager to update and not go through 17 layers of bureaucracy to get one date or time changed and direct the eyeballs to that website so people can find you on purpose, not on accident.

MM: Yeah, no, that's great.  

CB: That's awesome. I want to shift gears and talk a little bit about that last point about really laying the groundwork for a strong program. You've touched on this with shifting to more digital online. But with more free time that we are having now to really take a step back and think through what this is going to look like. I know that many people on the call aren't even... Really, they're struggling to even think about this.

SF: Of course.

CB: But group fitness is going to be key to their recovery because there will come a time when the doors open and the members flood in. What they have and what you have in place is going to be important to have that really strong recovery that we've been talking about. I wanted to take some time and talk about what are some things, YMCAs, JCCs and clubs are doing to really set themselves up for success to have a really strong recovery and program in place when the time comes.

Set-Up for Success

SF: What I see from clubs that are going to not only survive, but thrive following this, they are operating from one origin of thought. That is, when people come back, they are going to come back for connection and community, not for fitness. They are experiencing lots of options for getting fitness. What they are missing is community and connectedness. I trust that every owner on this call or every manager that sees this call and knows that group fitness is important, I started off with a statistic on average 25% penetration. One out of four people utilize groupings in some way, shape or form.

You are going to have to operate from the place that group fitness is going to be more important than ever when you come back. Let's set that to the side. Just remember, that's our overarching conversation. Once group fitness managers have figured out a communication strategy that they can use now, and then build on that in the future, they're going to want to start using that communication strategy to really think about team. Because what we're experiencing during this virtual boom, is lots of individual instructors if they're not being managed, or they don't necessarily see that they are part of your mission and vision that they're our members, not my members, they are over here creating their own brands. There's good and bad to that. But they're over here servicing members.  

When I go back to this communication thing, it's about reminding everyone what the mission and vision is, how much bigger and more important that's going to be when we come back and continue to interact with your team in a way that brings them into the fold. Because having program dependent programs is going to be more important than ever compared to having person or people personality dependent programs. The superstars are not going to make your group fitness department thrive in post COVID-19 world. It is going to be about you having a well-tuned machine that fits together and the sum is greater than the parts. That's number one, the parlay of the communication we talked about.

Two, I already talked about the fact that you're going to need a virtual play. People are going to come to love and enjoy having an option for... The statistics haven't changed in any health club in the last 15, 20 years of how often people come to the club. It's two to three days a week. That hasn't really changed. We've been trying to build a better mousetrap to get them into the club more often, to spend more money in it. I'm not saying that we don't still want to do that. But we have to respect the fact that life is going to be fundamentally changed after this. Remote work schedule is going to be even more of a reality than it ever was. If they used to have their schedule of everyday at 5:00 AM, go to the gym and then come home, get dressed, drop off at school, so on and so forth, that's going to fundamentally change forever.

There's going to be more of this in people's schedules when they come back. Part of that is going to be like, what can I find on your schedule that meets my ever-changing needs? Also, if I can't get there, how can you service me? Or do I need to find someone else that does? We need to spend some time while we've got downtime, considering what is our long-term strategy for digital.

Then finally, what I was just moving towards is you're going to have to rethink your schedule. You're going to have to rethink your resources, people, products, equipment, space allocation, everything and treat this like a startup in a new community. I don't mean that you're not going to have the same people come back. But one, your people are going to be fundamentally changed too. Not only their work schedule, so I've talking about the practical tactical pieces, but mentally, they are going to be completely different human beings than when they left. Your front row frowners that used to have a tape in their bag waiting for the instructor to not be there because they thought they could do the job better than them, they're not there anymore. They're there in solidarity. There's going to be this empathic sense in every sense of the word, which is going to be amazing. But those people are going to need something different.

The other thing is, I won't get into it. I did it on a live last week, and it made me cry. I won't talk too much about it. But I had my own pause 11 years ago, when I laid in a hospital bed for 73 days awaiting the birth of my kiddo and the world was still spinning. It's slightly different than what we're doing. But I remember coming back from that, and before that I'd exercised my whole entire life, I was an athlete, and I identified as an advanced exerciser, that could do anything and everything. The conundrum or the dichotomy between who I thought I was and who I actually was, after that experience, I was a wreck. What I needed from instructors changed.

I predict that is going to happen to most exercisers. They are going to want the person that is standing beside them on the journey with them, not the sage wise woman on a mountaintop. They are certainly not going to want the drill sergeant that's yelling at you to go harder, bigger, faster, better, more. They are going to want a more holistic approach to their exercise. When I say you're going to have to rethink both your schedule, what are you offering, what classes? How long are they? They're going to get very used to pinning together their own schedule of 20 minutes here, 10 minutes there, 15 minutes there. I don't know many people that are sticking to their 16 minutes every day in the same way. We're going to have to experiment with timing of classes, with how we can allow people to customize their schedules and do five of this, 10 of that, to make their perfect realm. We're really going to have to turn the volume on some of these. They're not going to want intense classes, but I think they're going to want more variety and intensity levels and programming types.

You're going to have to really think about the instructors that are going to lead this new evolution of the fitness professional. The impact that understands behavior change and positive psychology and truly gets with their places in front of a room and it's not to perform and it's not to wow and it's not to impress, it's to be a partner in their health and fitness journey. I think you can take some time to really think about that.  

Then finally, just set up your SOPs, all your standard operating procedures that you always wanted to do, writing down your sub protocol, getting a really good sub protocol in place that people can sink their teeth into that has transparency and some organization too to make your life easier and their life easier. Switch to an online portal like GroupEx PRO. When you never thought you had time to build it, you got lots of downtime, hopefully now to sit in front of the computer to do it. Just really tying up the business end of group fitness because I get it.

Our tagline at GroupEx PRO has always been get back to the good stuff. Take the time, sit down, get your stuff into a system that can help you manage and be proactive in the management of your group in this department, so you can get back to the stuff you love. Because the minute you get back in the gym, you're going to want to be with members teaching classes, mentoring your instructors and creating that community we were talking about. I think it's a great opportunity for you to take some of that downtime and work on the business pieces of group fitness.

I see a question over here, when we do come back, do you feel that we'll need to continue to offer just as many group exercise classes online as we are right now? I don't know that you'll need to have as many but I think they'll need to be strategic. Does that make sense? Maybe there's three to five a day. That's a whole other conversation. I'd be happy to talk to you about it offline if you want to find some time to chat with me. I'm not sure yet. I haven't made a prediction there. But one thing I was going to mention that I didn't and I thought as I read it, this was the question, I don't think you're going to need as many live classes as you had before. I think our group fitness headcount and our class count has gotten really bloated over the years because we started, I don't know, I started in the early '90s, when we had one studio and two formats.

And every time something new came, we just kept adding classes. We added levels, step one, two, three. Then all the other different types of formats in between, and then all of a sudden, we needed another studio. Then we needed another studio. We kept adding people and adding instructors, because not everyone could teach all the formats and then adding subs because we were worried, we couldn't have people to subclasses, we wouldn't have enough. We've got this bloated headcount. We've got bloated class schedules that I think about the last club where I was managing where it's like a 4:30 class on Monday that was just there because they've been there forever. How many of those do you have on your schedule right now where you really can take a moment and go, "Wow, I can shake things up and I will not have the comment cards that I would have had before that I would have to deal with." Because it felt like ripping off a band aid when you had to let go of an instructor or change a popular class because it just wasn't serving your clientele anymore. You've got a blank canvas.  

I think you need to start back intelligently. Sit down with your management and ask them like, "I know you probably can't predict right now, but is it going to be, do you want a percentage of classes to come back online right away?" And when I say online, I mean, live. I'm not talking about digital. Is it a certain budget that I'm going to have, that's going to be reduced by this amount? And I'm sure there's going to be a ramp up phase, but I would have those conversations with your owners now. You can really think strategically about how you're going to lean into this new normal. I mean, the world is your oyster, honestly. I think it's a great opportunity for rebirth and to set your club up for success now that you've got this pause.

CB: That's awesome. Shannon, I wanted to ask one more question before we get to some more Q&A. Are there any examples of clubs, YMCAs or JCCs that have been leveraging GroupEx PRO that have really seen success with it. You've touched on it a bunch, when talking about these trends, but I wanted to maybe have some light notes of people who are seeing success with the product.

SF: Yeah. I don't know about calling people out specifically. But I can tell you globally, what they're doing and how they're finding success, and it's twofold. It's a lot of what we've talked about with having a controlled portal for communications and the HR departments are loving that. Because there's more transparency with communication, knowing how to determine how often people are having to read or how much effort that takes so they can reflect that in compensation. Which I know that's coming for a lot of clubs. If I'm expecting my instructors to read things and do things outside of teaching at the club, I need to compensate them for that. It's hard to do that when there is no transparency to how much information is going out and knowing how or if people are consuming it. Just having that really easy to use communication structure is super helpful from an HR perspective, that's what JCCs and Ys are loving about it.  

The second thing, their marketing departments are appreciating what I was talking about with the virtual schedules, that they can get their schedules online. Because if I can train people to go online to look at my schedule, which is dynamic, and most of our websites are not super dynamic, or people don't assume they're dynamic. They're just receptacles for information that I process when I want to. But if people are, if one out of every four of your members is interacting with a group fitness, then that means one out of four of your members needs to go on your website every day or on your app every day to look at your group fitness schedule, now you've got eyeballs. If I've got eyeballs, then I can serve up information when I want to. Marketing departments are loving.

I know it's easy to display your schedule on, anyone can figure out how to display a schedule on a website. But having a schedule that your group fitness manager controls on the back-end without having to go through like I said, 17 layers of bureaucracy to get it updated so it can be dynamic, so people are looking at it every day or multiple times a day, is helping marketing departments really leverage their apps and leverage their website.  

Those are the two big things that I see to be helpful. In this COVID-19 pause that we're seeing, the success I'm seeing from these clubs is they're able to cancel. There's a cancel occurrence feature on there. We're doing that in batch for people to make it simple. But that way, when people pull up your live schedule, your face-to-face schedule, they see that it's just canceled right now, it's not gone forever, which instills a little bit of confidence. Even if that schedule isn't going to come back fully, right now they feel a sense of normalcy to still see their favorite instructors and their favorite classes and you can slowly start deleting them and changing them in weeks in the future. Group fitness manager can do that. Being able to have that virtual schedule that exists on its own, that they can create. That's been a real big win for those big clubs that have hundreds and hundreds of classes and lots of instructors to manage on the back-end. Hope that answers your question.

CB: That was perfect.  

SF: Okay.

CB: Thank you.

SF: You bet.


MM: That was great. We are going to leave a little bit of additional time to answer some more questions. We're going to open up the Q&A below, you will see the Q&A box just below the webinar screen. While you're submitting questions, we did want to let you know that we are recording this webinar and we will be sending it out with a follow up of additional information on complimentary access to this, in the next day or two. On the same note about moving your gym virtual, we have also had a webinar last week that talks about creating your virtual gym. We do encourage you to watch this recording as well. We will be sure to include that in the follow up too. If you want to watch that or you have some time, feel free to check it out. We'll just give you a couple of minutes to ask questions.

SF: Cool. I'll take the time, as you guys are writing the Q&A, we do have a Facebook group or a Facebook page for GroupEx PRO and starting to do some more lives there. We always share tons of information relevant to instructors and managers. Definitely jump on there. Let us know how we can support you with the questions that you have about how to manage during this time because we know it's challenging and we all feel isolated at our homes, not knowing what other clubs are doing. Let us know.

CB: I'll go ahead and kick off the first question. Someone asked to confirm, is it much better to have our schedules online through the GroupEx PRO?

SF: Yes. I'll tell you why. Because when you enter your schedule into GroupEx PRO, there are lots of reasons I'll give you the easiest one. When you enter your schedule into GroupEx PRO to your portal, one, instructors see it. Two, when they come back live, their teaching classes again, they can create their sub request right from your schedule inside of GroupEx PRO and all the information matches up. When someone gets accepted or approved to be the sub, that goes and reflects on your schedule inside GroupEx PRO. That's a pretty cool thing that happens without 17 emails and you having a desk calendar and posted notes all over the place. It's all reflected.

Now that schedule in GroupEx PRO can feed your website. It's embedded on your website, and it updates real time. They hate it when I say real time because it's like .1, two, four, or seven seconds. But whatever, that's real time for me. It's not like what I used to have to do before I made my husband create it and told him he couldn't go to bed if he didn't, where I had to put it all into a spreadsheet, and then I'd load it into an Act! database. Then I'd call the IT department and tell them I put it into the Act! database. Then they'd say, "Okay, great. It'll be 72 hours before I can make those changes." And then I'd have to remind myself to go check the schedule in 72 hours and make sure it was right. There was no sense in updating subs.  

The last thing I'll say is having those subs reflected real time, that I know as much as we hate it as group fitness managers, we don't want people to care about subs, but they do. Knowing that that sub information is reflected real time is such a blessing to your members. They take great solace in knowing that your schedule is always up-to-date, it's always up-to-date. Like I said, I mean the real benefit is that the group fitness manager has that all at their fingertips without having to pass through a million different people and wait on someone else to do it. Because we know group fitness managers do their job at 5:00 in the morning, 8:00 at night on the weekends all the time. It just makes it easier to keep track of and you can count on your schedule, both internally and member facing schedules. Hope that helps.  

CB: That was perfect.

MM: Yeah.

CB: Yeah.

MM: That was great. Another question for you, do you anticipate the continued social distancing within classes and even health clearance of both staff and members prior to returning?

SF: Gosh. I wish I had Dr. Fauci's cell phone. I have a feeling even if it's not mandated, I don't believe that everyone's going to come back with the same level of competence in being crammed together and sweating on top of each other. Just because we have awareness to it now. Does that make sense? I mean, I never question the fact that the gyms that I frequent are the ones that I managed or clean. But I also never thought about, I don't know, didn't your mind change when all this started happening where I walked into take a class at such and such a gym, and as we were going through the circuit, I'm like, "Oh, my God, how many people have touched," they may clean these every night, "but how many people have touched them in the last 22 minutes?"  

Even if it's not a mandate federally or statewide or whatever, I do believe that will be a self-imposed thing. Social distancing will be self-imposed for a lot of people. You may and I know a lot of clubs did this, they did capacity checks and we do have the ability on the schedule in GroupEx PRO to do reservations that aren't linked to POS which is really great. You could set a capacity for every single one of your classes where you may have never thought about that unless you have paid for classes. Or a cycling class where they need to do it. But now it may be that your hit class or your yoga class you want to cap it 15.

Granted, you guys, we always should have known what our studio capacities are based on the type of movement we're doing. I know, I myself did not take that into account. We need to go back to the rule books of when we use that steps. Because not as many bodies can be packed in the room. I'd say that's first.

Then figure out how you might be able to do some registrations because that might, circling back to my original comment, which it's going to be self-imposed probably even long after the restrictions are lifted. If you can give me peace of mind by doing registrations for all of your classes, that might help me get back to the gym a little bit faster than I might have in the past. To reiterate, on GroupEx PRO, it has a reservation feature, you say 20 people can go, 10 people on the wait list, here's how far in advance you can do it. They sign up, it's super, super simple. You have the printed reservation list, and I can do roll call at the beginning. Or even if you never do roll call, it's just peace of mind that there's that one extra step you're taking to prevent the overcrowding. Yeah, I think that's a really great question and a good solution to it.

CB: Sounds awesome. I have another question of if social distancing will be with us for the foreseeable future, how will that affect GroupEx classes?

SF: Great question. I think a lot of what I just said rings true for that question as well. You'll be able to service the same number of people, if you get creative about your schedule. I think the 60-minute class is going to start losing favor to 45-, 30- and 15-minute options that people can piece together. Your class schedule might appear to have more volume, but it's the same payroll amount. Does that make sense? I think that's going to be one real unique opportunity that you have, so you can space people out. I also think people are going to be making better use of extra space in their club, maybe racquetball courts that aren't being used or turf that we can space allocate between different departments. Yeah, I think we're going to have to get creative with space allocation and also how we space out our classes and turn our rooms. The only way you can keep servicing one out of four members is if you have more opportunities to do it, and there's only so many hours in the day. We're going to have to shorten up classes.

CB: That's great. We also have a question about a copy of the recording. Yes, we will send out a copy of this recording afterwards. You should expect it in your inbox on Monday. There's just a couple of maintenance things, Zoom getting this recording up and ready to get out to you all but be on the lookout for an email with that recording soon.

MM: All right. That might be all the time we have for questions today. If any more questions come in, we will happily answer these after the webinar as well with the [crosstalk 00:45:58].

SF: Hey Marissa.  

MM: Go ahead. Yeah.

SF: Oh, I just see one in the chat. Someone asked in the chat.

MM: Oh, sorry. I mustn't have seen it.

SF: No, it's okay. I just happened to see it pop up. It says I pay instructors per class; how do you recommend paying per class link? Are you asking with regards to how the software does it or which way is better? Because I can talk about the software. The other one, I'm not sure I want to touch with a 10-foot pole without a lawyer present. I'll wait for Rachel to respond. The first one. Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. The GroupEx PRO system allows you to either pay by class link. You select the option for that in the back-end of the system or you can pay per class. It's totally done on the back-end of the system, but we can handle either one. I hope that answers your question.

MM: That was great.

SF: And you can actually set that by category. I should have said that too. You might have some that are paid by hours, some that are paid by the class time. You could set up a category the AI totally takes care of that because a lot more people are switching to the pay per class.

CB: Thank you all so much. Thank you, Shannon, for all those questions. If we didn't get to a question, we'll make sure to follow up with you directly as well. I did want to go ahead, and we've had a couple of questions about leveraging the software. We understand that the last few weeks have been anything that nothing that we could have ever expected and there are financial pressures, getting people access quickly to get in a position to recover strong.

As part of our rapid recovery toolkit, we are offering a 60-day complimentary access to the system. If you're interested, we're going to include that in the follow up. But we are going to be offering that for as long as we need. If you think that this is something that you might want to look at in a couple of weeks, hopefully as transit spike up or if you want to go ahead and get it out the door and get access quickly, we are offering that 60-day complimentary access and we will be providing in the follow up direct links on how to access that. That will give you some time to get into the system, see how it's working and see how it can really set you up to recover strong.

SF: Yeah. If you've never used it before, this complimentary access we're offering for you guys, it's your first time using GXP, this is the perfect time. Because like I started out before, usually the only pushback we get is like I don't have time to sit down and get the system started, learn how to use or technology averse or where am I going to fit this into the nooks and crannies. You've got the time now. We can get you up and running, get all your instructors in, get your schedule, get your communication, help you implement it. You can also roll it out to your team before we all get back into the hustle and bustle.

Then the cool thing is you will be able to get back to the good stuff when your clubs are back up and running. Your business will be managed. Your business will be streamlined, you will feel like you have... I mean, because having you guys all cleaned out all of your closets, all your doors, all your everything, that's what this is. Clean out your closets, clean out your drawers. You're going to have a fresh wardrobe when you come back. We're super excited that we're able to provide this to people that have not had it before. Let us know, we'd love to help you do that during this time.

CB: Definitely.

SF: Cool. Thanks, guys.

CB: Well, thank you all so much for talking with us today. As I said before, be on the lookout for our follow up email. We'll have more information to come. But thank you Shannon so much. Marissa as my co-host-

MM: Thank you.

CB: ... for joining us for our webinar.

SF: Cool. Thanks, guys.

CB: Have a great day.

MM: Thank you.

SF: See you.

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