Everyone likes to think that they are, or their business is, great at something. Maybe you feel like you are great at marketing. Maybe you have a world-class sales team, or your trainers are the best in the business.
We're great - great - at managing snow days.
It's a skill that has never been as important as it has this season. We have lost track of the number of times we have canceled classes, closed early, opened late…and it's still early February.
We know that some health clubs stay open no matter what, but we choose not to do so. The safety of our staff is most important; we don't want them on the roads unless we think it's safe. We also have to manage a very tricky situation in our main club's parking lot, which consists of three small parking areas, several connecting roads and several changes in elevation. If we don't keep the lot empty and clear it fast, it can negatively impact members and their safety for days or weeks. Additionally, there is the real economic impact of staying open. Is it worth it for just a handful of diehards?
Here's our routine:
T Minus Two Days: We study accuweather.com and weather.com, comparing and contrasting each forecast with those of several local TV stations. By doing so, we likely could offer better weather bulletins than the pros. We make sure our managers know what's coming.
T Minus One Day: The forecasts get pretty accurate 24 hours out. We talk with and text each other frequently to see what the latest predictions are, focusing primarily on when the snow is supposed to start, when it should be at its worst, and when it will stop.
The Morning Ritual: By 4 or 5 a.m., we are on the phone and texting or talking to our managers. Can we get our clubs open on time? Should we? If we need to delay, for how long? Is the storm going to end soon enough that we can get cleaned up and open by 10 a.m.? If not, the next key target is 2 p.m., since that's when our second shift begins. If we can't make 2 p.m., the day is likely shot.
We also have our group fitness director in close communication regarding morning classes. Our earliest classes cancel automatically with any school delays, but we use discretion with later classes. If we cancel morning classes, that automatically cancels childcare. Our thinking, again, goes to our staff. It's one thing to bring in a staff person at 6 am and ask him or her to work until 2 p.m., but to bring in a group fitness instructor for 60 or 90 minutes when few members, if any, will show up is not particularly good for morale or our finances.
In fact, we played this very well recently when a storm was over by 4 a.m. School was canceled, but we had plenty of time to prepare the parking lot for our 9 a.m. and later classes, so we kept our classes on. Most members didn't come, but they certainly could have, which was important to us since we had been forced to cancel many morning classes.
Once we've made our decisions, the communication starts - we use a text messaging system to reach our members, as well as Facebook and Twitter. If the club opens late (or closes early) we change the outgoing voicemail messages. Our goal is to reach as many members as possible to prevent the unhappy circumstance of someone fighting a storm only to find we're closed. Not surprisingly, that tends to happen only once to a member, after which they subscribe to our text alert system or call in advance.
Our members know that we manage these situations closely, and we communicate early and often. We're really good at it. We just wish we didn't have to be.