Hanging By A Thread: Part 1

Mike Coval
January 5, 2021
We've all been living and dealing with the same general consequences of the global pandemic since early March. 

Then within the general story is our own, unique story.  Loved ones lost to the virus.  Jobs lost.  Businesses closed.  Mental and physical health deteriorating.  The list goes on. 

I feel for each and every one of you as there is likely an element of your personal life that has been significantly impacted. Hang with me for a bit.  I'm going to share my story with you with the hope that I can inspire you that there is light at the end of the tunnel and that we control whether that light is on or off. 

March 15th, 2020 I'll never forget the feeling that I had this day.  It was a Sunday morning and I'm in the gym.  I'm scrambling around trying to figure out what our next move is."Do we stay open and wait to be told to close?  Or do we close down now?"That question literally ran through my head until 8PM or so that night before I decided to close the gym for 2 weeks.The feeling of uncertainty that erred more on the side of uneasy that day…I could feel it in the air.  I was getting emails and text from clients notifying me that they were going on hold.  Reports coming in on the radio, social media outlets, from friends and clients, and consultants/advisors non-stop for the nearly 10 hours that day.2 days later, Governor Whitmer came out and announced that we would be closed anyway, but never did I anticipate that this would go until September 9th.

Nonetheless, onward we march.

March 16th,2020 - June 11th, 2020This was a really tough time, but before I get into that, there are 2 big positives here.

1)  The COVAL team did an amazing job adjusting and being on top of their game during this time.  We had to transition to purely online immediately and without their help there is absolutely no way I could have pulled this off. 

2)  The COVAL Family was incredibly supportive.  We had a good number of clients continue to make payments to support the gym even though they weren't utilizing our services. 

Others contributed with their words, thoughts, and writing reviews for us online. 

I can't thank you all enough.

The reality of this time is that we continued to lose money each month.  Luckily, I had saved up 2.5 months worth of expenses for a rainy day…I just didn't know that a rainy day = a global pandemic that doesn't have an end in sight.

In 2019, we grew 29%.  We started 2020 off by growing 14% more vs 2019 until the pandemic hit.  Since then, during this time we saw a drop of 51% and losing as much as $12,000 in a month. 

During this time, I took a pay cut, but kept our full-timers at full-time pay with benefits.  I didn't want them to have to stress during this time so that they could focus on doing their best for all of our clients. 

Plus, the way I see it, as a leader I am responsible for them.  These are my people and if I let them suffer, then I let them down. 

I wasn't about to have any of cutting back anybody's pay or laying anyone off (although I did have to let one of our new employees go and another part-timer go which wasn't easy either). 

Any of you who are in a similar leadership position, I feel for you.  Truly.

I can't begin to tell you how stressful it was to have something that you've poured your heart & soul into for over 9 years crumbling to the ground. 

Despite all of the chaos, I managed to have only 4 days during this span that were truly "bad" days for me.  I allowed myself to have those "bad" days without guilt but promised myself to get back on track the next day and I did just that.

By the end of May, I didn't understand why gyms couldn't open.  Especially a place like ours.  We're small enough, we control how many people come in, and we're a community where everyone knows and respects one another. 

That's not to mention all of the hypocrisy behind the opening of places that were deemed safer than gyms such as, you know, places that are the epitome of health & wellness..like liquor stores and strip clubs 😉 

I knew we could come up with a plan and execute it so that we could make the return to the gym as safe as we possibly could.

I decided that I wasn't dealing with this nonsense anymore. We would reopen on Friday, June 12th.  We would do responsibly.  We would do so in a manner that was as safe as we could make it. 

And we did just that.

More to come in Part 2 of this series…

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Mike Coval

Coval Fitness is a Personal Training Studio and Gym in Ann Arbor, Michigan

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