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BANDIT CORONACHRONICLES

The Light at the End of the Tunnel Edition

by Janice Marie Ferguson

Four weeks ago, I did one of the most difficult things I have ever done. I voluntarily closed the doors to our facility amidst the lengthiest period of economic and health uncertainty our country has seen in my lifetime. We are all existing in this new normal and with no real answers to our questions about the future.

By the middle of March, I knew what was coming. I spent Friday, the 13th, on the verge of a panic attack. I worked myself into being sick and at home for three days that next week at a time that my gym needed me the most. For one month now, I’ve spent each 24 hour segment of time working furiously to control what I can control through a time of near chaos and not knowing exactly what my business is going to look like in the next 24 hours. Every 24 hours is different. It’s been letting up some, but the looming uncertainty about the future never goes away.

I have spent every day thinking about what this all means long-term for our coaches’ and members’ careers, their families, and their overall health and wellness. Not only because I care about them as people, but because their economic and physical health and happiness is crucial for the survival of Bandit CrossFit–which means their health and happiness is inextricably linked to my own. 

I can only hope the constant changes and adaptations we have made nearly every 24 hours this past month have looked fluid to the outside world and to our members. Because inside my head and my heart, I could barely control the anxiety and the constant fear of an uncertain future, or the thought that this could be the end of a business that so many have invested in over these past years.

But, looking back over this past month, it seems kind of silly to be afraid or worried. I should have more confidence. I should have more faith. Our gym is not about the building.

Let me explain.

I was raised in a church. And for all you Baptists, you know this immutable fact: The “church” is not the building. It’s the PEOPLE.

Well, CrossFit works the exact same way.

I have ALWAYS claimed that Bandit CrossFit is not about a building. It is about our people. We are not selling equipment. We are selling health and fitness. In our gym, although many potential clients walk in the door thinking they are buying into our facility, I have never seen our primary offering as selling access to equipment or a facility. That’s why we aren’t a good fit for everyone. That’s why our pricing is not similar to Planet Fitness or other types of gyms made for the DIY crowd. People who just want access to equipment or a place to workout, are not the people we are trying to do business with. We are selling our expertise and our coaching. We are selling relationships and accountability. People who want that….well, those are our people. 

Why was I so worried that our people would jump ship when we closed down our building? That was such a waste of worry. Do you know, that we haven’t lost ONE SINGLE Bandit due to our new way of doing business. In fact, we have Bandits renewing their membership commitments with us despite the uncertain times we are in. 

I’m kind of disappointed in myself that I couldn’t see that this was the exact opportunity I needed to prove the point I have been trying to make for the last 7 years. Oh ye, of little faith!

Don’t get me wrong, I knew these strange times could set us apart. It could be seen as an opportunity. I’ve said it a couple of times out loud. I’ve had a couple of epiphanies tucked in there amongst all the doubt. I even had a conversation with Ralph, another business owner in our gym, about this idea. But, just today as I am writing this, it is so crystal clear. I think I finally believe it.

This IS our defining moment. 

I never intended to just ride through this by loaning out the equipment, and sending our members a vanilla, cookie-cutter workout, then leaving them to their own devices to do this work on their own. That’s what someone who is selling their building and facility would do.

I refused to exploit/take advantage of you by doing the bare minimum, but callously accepting your full membership dues. You are just too important to me. My responsibility to deliver our high standard of coaching and service to our Bandits is one of the most important responsibilities in my life. While our gym is only a piece of your day, you are EVERYTHING to me. My whole day is revolved around how to help you. I exist to help you.

I knew early on that if we wanted to keep this gym alive that this crisis could not be used as a time of “vacation” for our staff.

On March 13, I had to make a choice. How can I navigate the uncertainty of this new world we are living in, and adopt the technology and processes and procedures we need to keep delivering our services to a standard and value that you deserve? 

All of these are the things I have tried to address in the past four weeks. 

Rather than allowing fear and uncertainty to paralyze me, I tried to lead the best I could. Even though I felt a lot of fear, and I still do, I never gave up. I’ve done the best I could to look at these strange times as a moment of opportunity, even if I didn’t understand how or if I felt like it may not work. I had to work like this was a chance to grow our business anyway. 

These past four weeks have flown by, and I’ve had very little down time or rest. In that time, with the help of the most amazing coaching staff on this planet, we have turned our business into an online coaching service TOGETHER. Many of our members are getting more attention and coaching than ever before. It is scary to put that out to the market, knowing that we could fail, but we have already gained online clients. Maybe, this will work after all?

Want to know the most important paradigm shift I’ve experienced in this whole Bandit Coronachronicles saga? Before these strange times, we used our facility to force our clients to meet us where we were, knowing that we weren’t reaching those clients optimally through the changing seasons of their lives, and having to face losing some really amazing clients. We had meeting-after meeting and conversation-after-conversation about how to get more engagement from those clients who were struggling to be on our facility group class schedule. And the answer has been under our feet the whole time. If Online Coaching had been a snake, it would have bit us!

I will forever use this lesson on how to use technology to find creative ways and alternative means to reach our clients where THEY are and on their time, with their resources. 

Thanks to our amazing community of coaches AND members, the new Bandit CrossFit that is coming out of this crisis is going to be better than ever. Bet. 

I won’t lie, I still have concerns for what May looks like. I am hoping with the new guidelines of opening nonessential businesses that we can slowly return to the gym over the month of May. And I hope that all of our members will have weathered this storm economically and with their health intact. 

Know this, if you need us, we will be here. If you lose your income, we will be here. If you are afraid, we will be here. I have Bandits who have offered to help pay for members who lose their income. Your Bandit family will not let you fall. We have come this far. We have many more miles to go. 

I sat down to write something totally different today. But, this is what came out. I don’t even know what the point of writing this is. Maybe it’s because part of me just wants the world to know that we did not quit at Bandit CrossFit. Our coaches didn’t quit. Our members didn’t quit. And I didn’t quit. So, Suck It, COVID-19!

We adapted. We overcame. We did the best we could. We proved that our mission of making our Bandits harder to kill is not just something we say because it sounds cool. We have bought in, and we believe this motto to our core.

And, more importantly, we will do whatever it takes to deliver on that. 

See you on the Internets, my friends!

PS: If you know someone who need some online coaching, send me an email: janicemarie @ banditcrossfit.com. 
I’ve got something for every price point and every level of commitment. 

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