COVID-19 Affiliate Advice: Community, Consistency and Commitment

Images courtesy of CrossFit Boston Iron and Grit.

As part of our ongoing Affiliate advice series, Tina Ramon, the owner and founder of CrossFit Boston Iron and Grit, shares her experience and three pieces of advice on keeping your Box’s community together during this time:

1. Have honest and clear communication with your staff, your members and with yourself. 

Tina Ramon: Honesty has to be at the center of everything we say and do. I’m not here to preach to people, but rather to support them during this incredibly difficult time. Our message has been consistent since we closed: workout every day for the sake of your health, sanity and family.

With my staff I have asked them to step-up, and they met the challenge. I had two interns at the start of March, and I threw them into the turbulent waters and told them they had to run classes on Zoom. I didn’t know what would happen, but both of the young Coaches are running their own programs on Zoom. I think the Coaches that have had the hardest time adjusting are those who have been with us for a while and had the “norm” turned upside down.

My life partner, Brian, and I both coached regularly in the gym and the changes we had to make deeply affected us the first two week. We are in our 50s and don’t like social media, but if you saw us now you wouldn’t know it. Not only did Coach Brian get his Instagram game on point, he is also an excellent Coach on camera. Who would have thought?

My communication to my team has been as clear as possible. I’m here for you and we all have to continue to deliver to our members the best hour of their day if they show up to your Zoom class. So far, it’s working and we continue to improve every day. It’s not perfect, but the Coaches are willing to try and that is a blessing. I am proud of this team.

Honesty with myself. This was a tough one and in Week Three I struggled with this because I asked myself, “Do I want to continue to run my gym in this environment?” There are so many unknowns. I let myself sit with this for a week, and after many tears I decided yes, I want to try and keep this business running, but more importantly keep this community together. It may not work in the end, but I am going to give it everything I’ve got. 

2. Be willing to pivot.

TR: This is important, and every owner has to be ready to pivot with a plan and be ready to change that plan in a day. This is where I have been tested the most as an Affiliate owner. The plan I had six weeks ago is very different than the three-month plan I have now. We didn’t know what would happen in mid-March. Everything I read indicated gyms would be closed longer than two weeks, but I wasn’t sure. There wasn’t any data giving a clear picture of what was going to happen in the near future let alone the rest of the year.  

In 2019, we pivoted our business and we were poised to have the best financial year in 2020. That is not going to happen. I had to shelve all those plans and rethink my business model. Currently, I plan week to week, and I have a short-term plan for reopening. The reopening will be determined by the state and city regulations, which are unknown at this time. We are living in the unknowable and we have to be ready to pivot again. I think if we are going to survive COVID 19 as a community we have to be ready to pivot.

3. Stick with your values.

TR: Now more than ever, you as the Affiliate owner have to know why you are doing what you are doing, why you started a CrossFit Affiliate and why you want to continue. The values that led you to open are more important now and I have gone back to them, and this is what I communicate to my members and my staff. They are as follows:

  • Community. It is at the center of everything we do. It’s an overused term now but it has meaning, and it is important we let our members know how much we value them. Even the members who have had to put their memberships on hold. I deliver the same message: you are important to us and we want you to continue to join us on Zoom classes. Let us know what we can do to help you during this difficult time. 

    Community to us has also been about helping marginalized children in the city of Boston. This was one of the reasons I started CrossFit Boston Iron and Grit, and I want to keep this community together as much for their health as I do to keep improving the lives of children in Boston. That can be a difficult balance during good times; right now, it’s easy to lose sight of what motivated me in 2015 to open. I remind myself every day the importance of giving to our wider community.
  • Consistent. This value has two different meanings for us. This has been a value for us as a coaching staff and a message we give to our members. We are consistent in the delivery of our coaching. We show up to give our members the best hour of their day. We have very specific roles for each staff member, and they must be consistent in their jobs. We have a nutritionist on staff, and this is all she focuses on. Our Coaches coach and some develop the programs. My role is to keep us on task and aligned with our vision, mission and values.

    We tell our members being consistent is how they will live long and healthy lives. Getting “fit” in a month or getting a beach body in six weeks is not who we are. This is not how you build a strong body, strong immune system and health into your 90s. Sure, we all want to look better naked, but that isn’t who we are. We are about longevity of health and this only happens with consistent training and healthy eating every day.
  • Commit. We are committed to our community, our way of life and to each other. This is a time to be grounded in our values. I think it is a time we get to see true colors and decide what we want for our community and ourselves. For some, both Coaches and members, they may choose to leave. That is OK. We have to let people go and make them feel comfortable leaving. This is an unprecedented time. We don’t know what the new norm will look like and if it will stay, change or if we can ever go back to doing business as usual. I’m not pessimistic, but being a realist and now more than ever I have incredible hope. Hope for an unknown future, but one in which I think we can build a better business for our community of members, children in Boston and my coaching staff. 

We continue to be led by our vision, we are grounded in our mission and we live by our values.

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Taylor Brown is a staff writer at Peake Media. Contact her at taylor@peakemedia.com.