BodyMindLife: How COVID-19 has fuelled a wave of business innovation
Has COVID-19 forced your business to do things differently? Fitness entrepreneur Phil Goodwin innovated his business model by taking his yoga classes online.
The COVID-19 pandemic has dealt thousands of Australian businesses a body blow. Many have been unable to operate normally and have seen demand for their offerings plummet. For others, the crisis has been both a challenge and an opportunity as they’ve sought innovative ways to service customers and keep employees in work. BodyMindLife’s Phil Goodwin shares the story of how, in less than a month, he shifted his yoga and Pilates classes online.
Established in Bondi in 2002, BodyMindLife has grown from a single studio into a thriving wellness enterprise with five upmarket outlets across Sydney and a sixth under construction in Byron Bay. That was before March 23, when fitness businesses were forced to close in a bid to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The government’s announcement came as no surprise to Goodwin. He’d kept a close eye on the news, had predicted the restrictions and was ready to respond with livestream classes available on subscription to new and existing customers.
“Like many business owners, I really started paying attention to what was going on towards the end of February,” Goodwin says. “We started thinking about what an online world would look like for us and we very quickly decided that was the way we were going to go.”
Goodwin lost no time translating thought into action. In early March production specialists were hired to teach instructors how to stage and stream sessions, and a digital expert was drafted in to create a professional online platform.
It was a significant investment at a time when revenue was drying up fast but one Goodwin believed was well worth making.
“BodyMindLife is all about quality of experience,” he says. “We offer excellent instruction in an aesthetically pleasing environment and I felt it was important for us to do the same in the online world. We didn’t want to degrade those key elements of our brand by cutting corners at a time when business continuity and customer retention was critical.”
By the time gyms and studios were ordered to shut BodyMindLife was livestreaming 70 sessions a week - sessions which members were able to access at a discounted rate of $60 a fortnight instead of $77. Video on-demand classes have also proved popular with customers looking to sandwich shorter sessions into their work-from-home schedules.
The online expansion has provided regular work for around 30 of BodyMindLife’s 120-strong team of instructors. Most importantly, it’s enabled the business to generate income and remain connected with customers. Around 15% of pre-COVID regulars, including several corporate customers, have stuck with the studio in cyberspace. With the lifting of restrictions from June 13, many more are raring to return in real life.
“When we went down this digital path I had two goals – maintaining customer relationships and supporting our wonderful teaching community,” Goodwin says. “I saw not doing those things as a very big risk. It hasn’t been an easy transition and we probably spent too much but it’s rewarding to think that, through being innovative and agile, we’ve been able to meet our customers’ needs during this period.”
The business plans to continue to offer livestream and video on-demand classes after studios reopen.
Staying focused on your mission and true to the values on which your business is built is essential when you’re breaking new ground. Innovating BodyMindLife’s operational model on the fly was no easy undertaking, Goodwin admits.
“I’ve run a business for 18 years and there are always decisions to be made but never with the speed and intensity that was necessary during those weeks,” he says. “All business owners would have been feeling the same – it was one decision after another and it felt like we only had one shot at getting it right.”
An existing relationship with competent web developers made launching online classes easier. “We had people working on our site who were able to switch over to this project quickly,” Goodwin says. “That was very lucky for us because having to find a tech team that was trustworthy and capable, in a pandemic world, would have been interesting.”
Having a good handle on finances has been a huge help, too. “We have everything up to date, to the point that we can see, minute by minute, how our cash flow is tracking,” Goodwin explains. “Because we always know exactly where we are financially, we’ve been able to avoid financial pitfalls. Having this discipline has paid real dividends during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
A positive attitude is also important when you’re breaking new ground. If there’s fear and uncertainty in the air, a leader who can reassure the team and keep morale high is essential. “I’ve always been a very optimistic person so I think that’s helped,” Goodwin says.
As has practising what he – and his business – preaches. “Yoga and meditation keep your mind clear and agile and, at a time like this, that makes a big difference,” he says. “That, and not spending too long watching the news.”
During times of significant disruption it can be impossible for companies to continue with business as usual. However, innovative business ideas help deliver your products and services and in turn, shift adversity into opportunity.
This article is a general overview and should be used as a guide only. We recommend that you seek independent professional advice about your specific circumstances before acting.