Dedicated. Organized. Innovative. Resilient. Caring. These are words that describe founder Kosta Shilev and the staff at Chicago Fit Performance. We sat down with Kosta to hear a story of how one fitness center dealt with the COVID-19 shutdown shock, overcame obstacles, and is now reopen and thriving again with new processes – and technology from TrustPlace.
The Storm Makes Landfall
At the end of February, we started to think that the COVID-19 virus was actually going to make it all the way to the US. I have a bunch of friends and gym owners on the west coast and in mid-March they started shutting things down. I thought, “okay, this is going to get us at some point” but we were hoping we wouldn’t have to shut down like they did. But we all know what happened next.
The mandate for shutdown of non-essential businesses was announced on a Monday and we shut down right away. At that point we weren’t prepared. We were shocked and stressed – I thought that if we don’t take any action right away, that could be the end of it!
I thought that if we don’t take any action right away – that could be the end of it!
Adapt and Overcome
We had to pivot immediately. We told our clients that we were physically shutting down but not stopping training – we’re just going to continue coaching online. For two days, our team did nonstop work to learn how to conduct online sessions. There was a learning curve. With the help of my coaches and mentors we managed to execute everything right away.
On Wednesday of the shutdown week was our first live session – it was stressful not only for us but for the clients as well. We were really grateful for their understanding and support. Up to this day I receive emails and messages that people were really grateful that we helped keep them sane back then. Your fitness goals might actually take a backseat and you need to do it more for your mental health than anything else.
We were pleased how things went with our transition to virtual training – I was thinking “Okay, we can do this. We can sustain this. It’s going to last, maybe, three, four weeks max.” But we all know that wasn’t the case. Things started getting pushed back week after week, month after month. And it was three and a half months almost we were shut down.
There was an announcement in June that we could reopen with 1-1 training and eventually up to 10 clients per session under new guidelines. A month prior to that we did a survey – “If we reopen, will you come back?” About 60% of the clients answered that they would come back if we were open. We showed them every single day what we were doing preparing for the reopening. We hired three different professional companies to do prepare for the reopening and did everything from deep clean, to duct cleaning, to floor scrubbing, to turf cleaning, to sanitizing and disinfecting the entire gym. And we actually even repainted the walls as well.
In the survey we had some clients saying that they would not come back right away but for reasons not to do anything with CFP. One client for example had no concerns about herself but has elderly in-laws with heart issues and pre-existing conditions – she can’t take any chances to getting them exposed. She said, “I’m going to stay home and I’m going to train virtual as long as you keep providing it until there is a vaccine.” Some other clients were still on the fence of coming back. Some said, “I’ll wait for a few weeks and see what happens. It all depends on your policies and procedures moving forward.”
June 29th was the day we reopened. It was really exciting day for us. I was overwhelmed with messages as soon as we made the announcement we are reopening and some clients were really happy and couldn’t wait to get back in the gym. Although we couldn’t do the regular hugging and high fives, we were so happy to see our clients back in person. And they are so happy to see us. Just being in the gym, getting together with your fit fam, getting out of the house for an hour and just feeling like themselves again. We kept increasing our standards and cleaning policy, just making sure everything’s spotless, sanitized and safe for everyone.
We showed them every single day what we were doing preparing for the reopening.
Keeping It Safe for Everyone
I want clients to have peace of mind that CFP is a safe place. We don’t make compromises or cut any corners regarding health and safety, which have always been the most important things for our clients and staff. We implemented many new rules and procedures for our members. We check each client’s temperature before they come in to the gym. Everyone must wash their hands before and after each session. We have hand sanitizers throughout the gym so people can use them between sets and reps. We also have disinfecting spray and wipes at every single station so people can clean their equipment after they use it. Everyone without question wears masks.
When you get into the gym, you see we have dedicated squares for each client and different paths. And no more sharing equipment. You have the gear dedicated to you only. You use it throughout the whole workout. We have social distancing in place which is way more than six feet. You stay in your square the whole time. Every client is required to thoroughly clean their equipment after each use. Our cleaning supplies and disinfectants are all hospital grade EPA-approved.
We vacuum the floor twice a day and mop it every night. We have a cleaning company coming twice a week do more detailed cleaning. We have professional companies scheduled to come on a regular basis to clean the turf, scrub the floors and disinfect.
We also invested in Victory Innovations electrostatic sprayer, it is probably the best equipment out there to disinfect. It’s one thing to keep the gym but we also want to make sure we sanitize and disinfect so we can keep CFP germ free. We also invested in the Air Doctor air purifier that’s proven to kill 99.9% of viruses and bacteria. In addition to that every 30 minutes you have a fresh set of air in the gym circulating. We also keep the HVAC vent on all the time for more air circulation in the gym.
I want clients to have peace of mind that CFP is a safe place. We don’t make compromises or cut any corners regarding health and safety.
Using TrustPlace to Improve Compliance and Transparency
Prior to using TrustPlace we had just an old school paper checklist with all the items you need to complete. When we started with TrustPlace, it forced us to go over the list and make sure we didn’t miss anything. It has a lot of procedures for not only just the staff but also for the cleaning crew to follow as well. We want to make sure nothing is missed.
And at this point it’s been a month since we’ve been on TrustPlace. It gives you peace of mind that after you complete a shift every single thing gets checked off. That allows me to be more confident that I don’t have to check with the staff every single time. “Hey, did you do this? And did you complete that?” When I see that TrustPlace is checked off, I know that’s been completed. When you go over the checklist and the procedures, you actually see what everyone has done.
The TrustPlace mobile app helped us tremendously. It’s portable, easy, and user friendly. It’s not overloaded with stuff that you can’t find your way around. If anything hasn’t been completed we can go back and make sure next time it gets done the way it’s supposed to be completed. Also, the Reference Cards that they have in place was a good way for us to see exactly how things need to be done.
TrustPlace helped us create good habits. After each shift the staff have different responsibilities and different procedures that need to be completed. So now it doesn’t matter if you do morning or afternoon shift, you see everything in TrustPlace, check it off and know it gets done and nothing is forgotten. The more you kind of put an effort into it, the more it’s going to become a habit and part of your routine.
It’s also good to have the TrustPlace public portal so people can see the steps you’re taking. Just because sometimes people are curious about, “Okay, what do they do?” Sometimes they see, sometimes they don’t. Just because, our goal is from day one to show the clients that we do everything we can to keep them safe. Now it is constantly on the website, live with all the procedures step by step. We don’t have to keep posting things on Facebook. I have nothing but positive things to say about TrustPlace, not only from me, but from the staff as well.
TrustPlace gives you peace of mind that after you complete a shift every single thing gets checked off. That allows me to be more confident that I don’t have to check with the staff every single time.
The TrustPlace mobile app helped us tremendously. It’s portable, easy, and user friendly.
What the Future Holds
I wish I had a crystal ball but I don’t. Let’s discuss two scenarios. If things continue to move in the right direction, we can start actively marketing again to get new clients. Since we reopened, first, we wanted to make sure our staff and our clients can get used to the new procedures and routines, and that we are providing everything we can to our current clients to have the best experience and safe training possible. Purposefully we want to keep the numbers low at the beginning so we can get used to conducting sessions virtually and in person. Then when people get more comfortable being back in the gym and the COVID numbers start decreasing we can actually start enrolling new members.
The second scenario is if things started to get worse and COVID numbers spiking, and getting shutdown again. Although I hope that doesn’t happen this time we are prepared and we can shift back to virtual only. It’s not going to be as stressful as it was back in March. We’ve done it, we’re still doing it and we’ll keep doing it. Down the road we actually may expand our virtual training offerings if there is a demand for it.
CFP is more than just a gym. It’s not even just about training. It’s about coaching. It’s about accountability. It’s about support. It’s about community. It’s about care. It’s about creating that personal connection with the client and the clients among each other. It’s about being there for them no matter what. It’s about not just showing up for your workout. We coach our clients on nutrition, stress management, sleep – all the pieces of the puzzle. What we do it can’t be compared with with all free workouts you see everywhere online. I believe that we put much more value on the table than just working out. And that’s why our clients that have stuck with us, they didn’t switch and go train with free workouts on Instagram or YouTube, for which we are forever grateful.
I’m hoping and keeping my fingers crossed that things get better. I know online is a great substitute (it’s the second best thing) but my heart goes to in person training. Nothing can replicate that face to face, “skin to skin” interaction. When we reopened, clients were rushing back.
“CFP is more than just a gym. It’s not even just about training. It’s about coaching. It’s about accountability. It’s about support. It’s about community. It’s about care. It’s about creating that personal connection with the client and the clients among each other. It’s about being there for them no matter what.”