The Gym is About to Reopen: What Changes Are Ahead?
The owners of the rights to TruFusion in Washington and Colorado discuss reopening plans.
Scott Swerland is no stranger to hospital-grade disinfectants and their proper use.
Swerland, a YPO member, is the CEO of SST Group, LLC, which owns 85 businesses across four brands: TruFusion, Seattle Sun Tan, Desert Sun Tanning Salon and Urban Float. Sixteen years in the tanning business, using hospital-grade disinfectants regularly, has translated into equally clean and sanitized gym environments with every one of his business units.
It’s something for which Swerland, who owns the rights to TruFusion in Washington state, is known.
Now, like many business owners, he is waiting for state officials to decide when it’s safe to reopen. Unfortunately, gyms fall into the third phase of a four-phase plan in Washington. Seattle isn’t even into Phase 2 yet.
“[We’re having to adjust] the business model to survive the COVID pandemic,” Swerland says. “I don’t understand how Home Depot can be open with lines out the door, but I can’t have 10 people come do a yoga class.”
When Swerland gets the green light from the state, he’s mapped out much of what reopening his gyms will look like. It includes some picture of smaller classes, which minimizes the number of people in the gym at one time, temperature taking as clients enter the gym, staggering classes, regular and consistent cleaning schedules of all surfaces, and making sure there is at least 30 minutes between each class to properly sanitize rooms, allowing disinfectants and cleaning agents ample time to dry.
“The direction is such a moving target,” said Gabe Goldberg, Chief Marketing Officer of SST Group. “It’s a bit of a shell game right now, but making sure our clients feel safe is our No. 1.”
Losing the joy of discovery
TruFusion was launched in Las Vegas in 2013. It has earned a reputation for having a great variety of classes and hot fusion workouts – literally 65 different types of group fitness – including kettlebell, barre, Pilates, cycle, aerial, battle ropes, boxing, boot camp and yoga. The gym features 18 different types of yoga alone.
TruFusion can be found in 13 cities across the U.S., including Las Vegas, Scottsdale, Coral Gables, St. Louis, Seattle, and Bellevue, Washington.
Part of the beauty of TruFusion is the joy of discovery, literally walking out of one class and jumping into something new. Pre-scheduling has not been part of the business model.
That’s about to change, at least in the short-term.
“We are going to have to go to a traditional registration process, which is a bit of a bummer,” Goldberg says.
Class sizes range from 15 people up to 55, and 60% of the TruFusion products involve heat and humidity, Swerland says.
“We’ve always used hospital-grade cleaning products,” he said. “We carried that into the gym business. Now more than ever, we’re going to step that up and share that with our members.”
Swerland’s 85 business units and locations pull in USD35 million total revenue. He employs 424 people, most of whom he’s had to furlough. Swerland opened his first TruFusion in Seattle in March 2019. He was just getting ready to open his second location – in Bellevue, Washington – in March 2020.
Then COVID-19 hit.
Opening while the world remains shut
TruFusion built a repository of information and online classes for members while they’re home. Information spans food nutrition and how to create healthy meals to classes on wellness, meditation, stress reduction and yoga.
Brett Cortese, a YPO member and franchisee of TruFusion, owns the rights to TruFusion in Colorado. He was just about to open the first of two locations when the pandemic struck.
The timing worked to his advantage. He’d yet to hire anyone, and now he can take more of a wait-and-see approach with regard to opening his gym.
“We can take a little more time,” he says. “When we do open in the next few months, we’ll be a brand new gym, and we can learn from other locations.”
In the meantime, Cortese is looking closely at everything, from HVAC to UV purification set-ups. One thing that he hopes will not be compromised in all of this: the vibrancy of the TruFusion culture.
“No one knows how [group fitness] is going to look,” Cortese says, mentioning that TruFusion members come for a sense of community. “These locations end up being a very social place. [Members] stay in shape, they meet with friends, and they make new friends. That’s not something that I believe is going to go away.”
For more crisis leadership stories like these, check out the COVID-19: Leading Through Crisis page on YPO.org. All YPO members can find breaking news, offer insights and view current discussions happening about COVID-19 impact within the YPO community on the YPO member-only platform.