November 25th 2020.
A day I’ll never forget.
My 27th birthday and also the day I became the owner of Wicklow Strength and Fitness. In the same week I was on national television via RTE primetime discussing the challenges for reopening the gym in December.
It was pretty dang wild and I was on cloud nine. Full of excitement for the road ahead and pride in what had come before. While not an ideal circumstance in the midst of the pandemic, it was still the culmination of a journey that changed my life. The start of something new and exciting.
A lot has happened in the days and months since November 25th but unfortunately not much has happened in the gym as we closed again in January following a brief stint in December. I knew going into the purchase that we faced a lockdown in January but I don’t think anyone expected it to go on this long. In all that time as the gym’s owner, I’ve had it open for 3 weeks out of 25.
Crazy isn’t it?
Here we are though, finally on the cusp of reopening in what will hopefully be an irreversible decision this time. Along with hundreds of other businesses around the country, we are counting down the days. It’s an exciting time and that in itself has made me reflect heavily on the ups and downs of the last number of months.
There’s no doubt that the months of closure have brought challenges. If i’m truly honest, it has sucked. I knew I was in for some tests but I didn’t expect to face this many. We were all stressed. Being in lockdown for a third time was grating on our collective spirit. i tried to keep myself busy and at times I was only adding to my stress levels. I feel like the weekly newsletters to the WSF clients slowly became a journal of my descent into “fist shaking at sky” levels of madness.
On the whole, I must say that I’ve been lucky. I’m friends with my landlords and they’ve been so supportive of me taking over and I look forward to repaying their faith over the years to come. They’re just fundamentally good people and knowing they had my back just gave me that extra bit of security to push on with some of the plans I had for the future.
What a rollercoaster ride it has been. When I believed I would open mid-end of February I was working at full steam. I rebuilt all the gym systems from the ground up and really tried to optimise the experience for our returning clients. I was so excited to get going.
We didn’t reopen.
We didn’t know when we would.
The media speculation never stopped and it was rarely positive.
I was crushed but never wanted to show it.
I found myself in the position having gone from manager to now being the sole person responsible to the staff and to the clients to steady the ship. There were days when I was struggling and frustrated, trying to figure out how on Earth I could make it all work. How do I keep the staff feeling like they’re still part of something when the last class they coached was over 4 months ago?
How do I make sure the clients still feel connected and want to come back?
I met staff weekly, I upped the volume of emails I send to the clients and I started this blog in the hope that I could connect with people who needed something. Just tried to do something. Some things worked and others failed miserably but I learned from it all.
While there were dark days when I struggled for motivation, there were also countless hours spent in the gym improving every aspect from the front of house to the back end systems that make everything tick. Hours spent working with my team here to optimise the experience of everyone who comes through that door.
The staff have been tremendous. I’ve got a great team here. They’ve embraced changes and got stuck into the physical renovations with me. Not only are they great at the coaching side of the job, they care about me, the business and most importantly the clients. For WSF to be a success I need them to be happy here and to enjoy the process. It’s not easy to hide job dissatisfaction in this industry so I am really grateful that I have this team around me.
Writing these blogs also coincided with the burst of motivation I needed to get the work I had started done in time for reopening. The source of that motivation was you. Everyone who has connected in some way over the past number of weeks has helped eat away at the nagging doubts in the back of my mind.
I try to put my own personality into the emails and the blogs too. I value honesty so I wouldn’t be true to myself if I just threw out something “commercialised” in an attempt to appeal to the masses. My newsletters and blogs are very much me and I can only thank those people who’ve reached out because of them from the bottom of my heart.
We’re finally opening.
Finally, along with many other businesses we can kick on. Thank God the barber shops opened before we did or you guys would’ve had a sight!
I’m equal parts nervous and excited to see what the future brings but you can guarantee we’ll give it our all. If you’ve been reading over the last couple of blogs then thank you for helping to motivate and energise me.
Let’s do this! See you in the gym.