Hanging By A Thread: Part 2

Mike Coval
January 5, 2021

June 12th, 2020

We're open!  It was a lot of work getting the spaced prepared, but we were good to go. 

Here's the problem from a business perspective, just because we open doesn't mean that everybody comes back.  That doesn't even mean that 75% of our people come back.  Not even 50%.  We had about 40% of our people come back.

With that said, I understand why we didn't have many of our clients come back.  This situation is very unique to everyone in their own way.  Some of have compromised family members.  Some fall into the most vulnerable demographic.  Some simply weren't comfortable.  No matter the reason, I respect everyone's reason and even made it clear in my initial email that if someone didn't feel comfortable coming back that I didn't want them to until they did feel comfortable.

We received PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) money (this is basically a grant provided by the SBA) at the beginning of May and it had run out by the end of June.

I had been using money saved to keep us going up until the PPP money, and now I was faced with the tough decision….keep my full-timers at full-time pay and benefits and risk running out of money in a couple of months, or make financial cuts.

I chose the latter.  It sucked and was a horrible feeling.  I started with myself and didn't take a paycheck from June 26th until September 11th.  I believed that it was my responsibility to lead by example.  After deciding that I would start by cutting my own pay, I did 1on1 meetings with everyone to inform them of what was happening.  Even though everyone took the news very well, those were still some of the hardest conversations that I have had to have with someone.  I mean, these are people who have been committed to COVAL and providing an awesome experience for our clients, and now I have to cut back on their pay.  I didn't feel good about that.

It was during this time that I also decided that it was best for the short-term and for the long-term that we downsize COVAL.  This would mean that COVAL would only be me as a coach with Jill as a part-time administrative director and Austin & Michaela would become independent contractors.  For the short-term, it helped cut back on the biggest monthly investment; payroll.  For the long-term, it allows Austin & Michaela a low-risk opportunity to build their own business over the next 8 months before I move out of this location.  For me, I get to go back to doing what I love most; coaching people and helping people. 

Of the clients that did return, most communicated how pleasantly surprised they were by our execution and how we had the facility set up. 

Things were going great!

And then in a matter of one 90 second phone call, we faced our next major obstacle...

740AM, July 29th, 2020

I'm at breakfast for a meeting.

I get a call from Michaela.  For context, I have my phone on silent and "do not disturb".  With the exception of the staff at the gym and Heba.  So when a call comes through, I know it's urgent.

I was expecting "Mike, you have an assessment here to see you." thinking that maybe I forgot to put an assessment on my schedule.

"Mike, the cops came by.  We were reported for being open by someone."

In my head I thought "son of a bitch!", but verbally to M all that I said was "thanks for the heads up, M.  I'll call the cops when I get back to the gym and see what's going on."

I called the cops and spoke to them.  They were very helpful, empathetic, and actually sounded a bit peeved that someone actually reported us for being open.

When I asked the officer "what happens if & when you guys come back?"

The officer says, "well, I don't know exactly.  You guys were the first gym reported in Ann Arbor.  The only thing that I can promise is that you and whoever is coaching would get misdemeanors which would entail fines and potential jail time."

And just like that, we were closed again.

I could accept taking that risk if I'm the only one affected.  I won't risk that when it affects others and I wasn't about to have one of the coaches suffer because I wanted to be defiant.

My first thought after ending the call with the officer was "how do we move the gym outside?"

July 30th, 2020

It took us the better part of the day, but we got everything that we needed moved outside.

After doing a quick recharge with lunch at Ahmo's one of my friends and I took some more equipment to Heba and my house and set up a gym in our backyard.

We were ready to rock & roll and reopened "The Yard" the next morning.

Side note:  if you want a workout like you've never had before, then post an ad on Craigslist volunteering to help move any local gyms 🙂  Your body will be sore for days in places that you forgot existed. 

July 31st, 2020 - September 5th, 2020

I won't lie.  "The Yard" was a pretty cool place to train.  Most clients agreed.  It was AWESOME to be able to train outside with an actual gym.

Minus 3 days where we were rained out, "The Yard" worked pretty well.

On Thursday, September 3rd, it was announced that we could move back inside and operate starting Wednesday, September 10th.

For the 3rd time in as many months, we were going to be doing another facility renovation, but this one was a bit more heavy-duty than the others.

Nonetheless, I was extremely happy that we could go back inside.

September 8th - Present…and Beyond

We've made the transition.  Austin & Michaela are doing well and getting acclimated.  I'm pretty happy getting back to strictly coaching and figuring out what's next for me and it looks like we will be just fine until the end of this lease (May 31, 2021).

Despite being happy to going back to what I love doing, I won't lie, it does feel a bit weird at times.  I don't like thinking like this, but from time to time I find myself thinking:

"We were doing (insert blank) at this time last year"

"We were doing (insert blank) at this time in 2018"

Reminiscing.  Reminiscing a lot.

I have so many memories from when COVAL started all the way until now. 

I'll share more of those memories and my closing thoughts in "Hanging By A Thread: A Final Word" on Friday.

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Mike Coval

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

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COVAL Fitness

Personal Training Studio in Ann Arbor, Michigan

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