U.N.I Training offers personal training services, group fitness & dance classes as well as regular gym memberships to hundreds of people of all ages and fitness levels in and around the greater Montreal area. But like most other businesses of its kind, U.N.I has been affected by the COVID-19 lockdown. While recent events may have certainly slowed them down, U.N.I is determined to make the most of a difficult situation. Chris Ince, Owner & President of U.N.I Training shares his experience in this candid Q&A.
Other than your business slowing down, and revenue potentially being lost, what have your biggest challenges been during the lockdown?
I wouldn’t call them challenges – it has been about working towards adaptation. Things change all the time, so we are just continuing on our path but with new input and information.
What did you do to adapt to the new reality?
For us, we had many things in the pipeline, but this helped us prioritize better because we had the extra time and we wanted to make the most of it. You know redoing a website, which usually takes time, went very quickly because there weren’t that many other things distracting us. Working towards paperless operations – now we will be able to do this at 100%.
“We couldn’t sit down and do nothing… We had to figure out ways to continue to be productive.”
Can you talk about the changes you made that were particularly successful?
Not yet. We haven’t seen the changes in action because we aren’t open! However, we weren’t making the most of everything Amilia has to offer before. It was our goal to get there but the lockdown gave us an opportunity to really focus on it. Our clients will now be able to sign up and make purchases completely online. We have to wait ‘till we are able to operate again to see how all these things perform. I think they will be very well received.
Did Amilia help you adapt to the “new normal”? If yes, how?
Big time! The Amilia platform was already set up and ready to go so it made our job easier when it came to adjusting to the situation. It is going to help us be ready when we are allowed to operate again.
What were some of your favorite Amilia features during this period? And why?
I’d like to offer some context – the fitness industry has its own set of rules that have been created by the Consumer Protection Agency and a lot of those rules are super antiquated. One of those things in Quebec, for example, is a lot of paper usage – lots of printing, lots of contracts to sign. But that is tricky given this situation where people don’t want to touch things, especially things that other people have touched. Because we use Amilia, we can easily get away from all these constraints. So on the Consumer Protection Agency side, these rules will need to change. But on our side, we are ready to be completely paperless and reduce contact – our clients can now simply scan their membership cards when they come in and skip going through the reception desk and interacting with other people. It hasn’t been as much adjusting for us as it must have been for other businesses because what we needed was already there.
What was your journey to the world of virtual classes like?
We didn’t want to put more strain on an already stressful situation. So when things started to shut down, we started offering our classes on Facebook and Instagram. We wanted to continue to provide health services which is what we do. So we did that via social media for free. Now as we gear up to reopen, we are planning to put a paywall for those who want to attend, and we’ll offer them via Zoom instead of social media. They’ll be able to sign up and pay for classes online with Amilia and they’ll receive a Zoom link and they can attend the class virtually.
How did you engage your staff through this crisis and keep them motivated?
We have Zoom meetings and our trainers still use our gyms to work out… Even though we are closed to the public, our trainers come in, so we’ve been seeing each other at regular intervals. We’ve also made sure that if they need anything that they know that we are here for them.
How will these changes impact how you do business in the future?
We’ve always focused on client retention instead of acquisition, so we maintain a relatively low volume of people using our gyms. We also have an open and spacious facility so it’s fairly easy to work out while practicing social distancing. We’ve had a lot of feedback from clients that we were perfectly set up to deal with this situation before it even happened.
“Going forward, the thing I see changing the most is probably people’s willingness to go into a packed gym with treadmills that are shoulder-to-shoulder with others.”
We might cap our memberships to lower the amount of members we take on so clients feel safe and comfortable to come in and work out. One thing we will have to do is to have restricted capacity, so people are going to have to reserve the hour when they want to come in and work out. They won’t be able to just walk in when they want.
How will you be managing resuming business operations once things start to reopen?
There will definitely be restrictions and changes once we start to open back up, but we are ready for all of them. We probably won’t run any promotions or sales because we won’t be looking to attract more clients. Our group classes might change a little bit to have fewer people. We just want to get back to doing our thing which is to serve our clientele while maintaining a high quality of service.