Building a Virtual Community With Competitors… Here’s Why & How You Should Do It Now.

The COVID-19 crisis is throwing a wrench in all of our lives. Let’s be honest, it’s kicking our butts. As Jason and Greg from Thriveal mention, unless you’re in the toilet paper manufacturing business, your business is taking a wiping right now.

And it’s not just our businesses, but our personal lives and mental well-being as well. As the saying goes, you don’t realize just how much you need the water fountain chit-chat or spin class banter until you no longer have it. Or at least that’s my saying now.

Which brings us to the topic of community. As fitness business owners, that’s what many of us lost when closing down shop back in March due to COVID-19. A sense of community. Along with cash flow, memberships, employees – we know, community isn’t as sexy – but a sounding board of fellow peers is just as important to the success of our businesses long term and I’ll tell you why.


“What’s the point of killing a lion if you don’t have a community?” – Jason Blumer


I am part of a larger community group of accountants called Thriveal, where I spoke on a recent podcast about the importance of community and how we benefit from the camaraderie of others. It’s what spurred this blog post and you can listen to the whole podcast here if humorous accountant banter is your thing. (Yes… it’s a thing.)

As an accountant, I’ve been lifted up and propelled forward by the Thriveal accounting community in more ways than one. Recently, I created this CARES Act tool to help my clients navigate the various options of the government relief programs which I’m sure you’ve seen by now. It became an uphill task when I realized I was deciphering a government guide for topics the government itself has yet to understand… but I digress. After finishing the tool around 4am, I shot it over to the Thriveal community group of accountants – my tribe – for their feedback and input.

The end result? The tool became better and more robust than what I could have created on my own. With the help of my tribe and the group’s awesome, constructive feedback, it came to life. The end result is what my clients ended up using to get hundreds of thousands of dollars back in government relief for their gyms and studios. And it’s my tribe that pushed it forward.


community fitness group

So… what, Eric. What does this have to do with gyms?

What Jason and Greg point out on the podcast is this: community drives us. When we meet our goals or achieve a big win, we celebrate that achievement with others. Alternatively, when we fail to meet our goals or things aren’t going our way, we’re propelled forward by this same tribe. The tribe of people – fellow business owners, employees or friends – who understand us. The ones at the end of the day who say, “we get it”. They push us forward… and we need them.

While our businesses are clinging for dear life, our tribe is more important than ever. As business owners, we need to learn how to propel ourselves forward, even if it means finding or creating a new version of community.


Finding Your Fitness Tribe

community fitness group_the fitness cpaUnfortunately, it’s trickier to maintain a sense of community from home. Especially in an industry that runs on sharing blood, sweat, tears and human contact with fellow fitness pros. But it’s not impossible.

It’s up to you to seek out a tribe during these difficult times. We need that coveted alternative perspective if we’re going to crack the coronavirus code and push through to the other side whether that’s a franchise group for your gym’s franchise, a local fitness community, or a group you create among fellow gym and studio owners –

Just as I have my accounting peers in Thriveal, there’s a community group for you too.

Chances are, you are probably part of a community already but maybe not actively involved.  Now is your chance, get involved.  Make a post, ask for help, help someone else or post a funny meme.  The more you put into your fitness community the more you will get out.  I promise.

If you don’t have a community already, I recommend going onto Facebook and searching for fitness owner groups and/or franchise community groups. After just a quick search, I found this one for Crossfit owners, this one for gym owners, and this one for yoga studio owners.

Join the groups and ask as many questions as you can. Get ideas for what you can do now to increase or retain as much revenue as possible until we get to the other side. That may mean teaming up with a nutritionist to offer joint streaming sessions online, or it may mean outdoor *social distancing approved* park workouts with a fellow yoga teacher at reduced COVID-19 rates. Open the conversation with fellow peers and you may be surprised at what you come up with. I have a feeling it’s going to beat whatever both of you are doing now.


Change is Inevitable

And who knows, you may find a preference for this new normal after a while. I, for one, don’t ever plan on getting out of sweatpants again. And Zoom has become second nature to myself and our team. As a virtual firm even before COVID-19, all of our meetings, birthday celebrations and Christmas parties are done through Zoom. The face to face conversations through video can be just as personable (and convenient) as in person meetings. Sweatpants and Zoom – we’re going to hold onto you, forever.

Whether you choose to navigate through this new normal or not, business models are going to change. Many businesses are going to find new avenues for income that they never would have been compelled to pursue previously, especially if we’re staring down 6-12 months of coronavirus chaos. Clients may start to prefer streaming gym classes when they’re running on 2 hours of sleep and only have 45 minutes to squeeze in a workout. Others may lean towards outdoor workouts as opposed to indoor group classes for the fresh air they once took for granted. Times and business models are going to change. It’s up to you whether your business is going to change with it.

The takeaway to all of this? More times than not, other humans can coach you forward better than you can coach yourself. So, find your tribe  whether that’s with competitors, collaborative partners or even your employees and members. Find your tribe and propel your business forward. Find ways to capitalize now and into the future.

We have the best chance of pushing through this together. Hang in there.

If you have any questions about your existing business model or need ideas for new ones, reach out to us. My team have been up all hours helping clients navigate this uncertain time financially and personally.

In the meantime, you can also check out our COVID-19 resource hub – it’s going to have the answers to most of your questions.




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