Everything you need to know about running a yoga studio during social distancing

The world doesn’t look the same as it did a few months ago. Sheltering in place, social distancing, and cancelled plans are the current “normal” and that’s shaking things up for all of us – including yoga studio owners. 

These are the situations that test us, as individuals and as business owners. Right now, you’re facing unprecedented challenges. How will you keep your yoga studio alive and support your community through this uncertain time?

Truth → How you navigate this crisis will define your business going forward.

Your studio community needs you to remain calm and provide stability. They are confused, stressed and stuck at home. Now more than ever, they need yoga.

But you can’t provide the support your community needs without a clear, actionable plan. It’s time to get clear on your finances, goals and next steps. IT’S TIME TO TAKE ACTION.

STEP 1: Get your studio online

Are online classes new to you? You’re not alone. Yoga studios are shuttering their brick-and-mortar locations to keep their community safe. It’s time to take the leap into a new type of class.

DON’T OVERTHINK IT! The most important thing is to get yourself out there. Don’t spend too long curating the perfect system or you’ll never start. Your community needs you, and they need you now. Launching is EVERYTHING.

Truth → Your community doesn’t expect perfection. They expect you to show up.

When this is all over, no one will remember if your first class was a little wonky. They’re not checking your camera angle or critiquing your sound quality. What your members want is something that will keep their minds and bodies occupied during this uncertain, stressful time. That’s what they’ll remember.

You can start out as simple as you need to in order to get online. Even if you’ve never live streamed anything before, I bet you have all the technology you need right at your fingertips. This can be as simple as a Facebook Live on your cellphone if it needs to be.

Start wherever you’re at and then make it better each time. For simple ways to up-level your setup and sharing platforms, check out “How do I take my yoga studio online?” Just because you start simple, doesn’t mean you have to stay there.

STEP 2: Create a new class schedule

Online classes are VERY different than in person classes. Beyond the obvious challenges of camera set up and uploading, the atmosphere is entirely changed. You’re competing with different things now.

In the past, getting to your studio classes meant members had to work around their schedule, drive across town, find parking, and finally set up their yoga mat in a dedicated space. The challenge was physically walking through the door. By the time they unrolled their mat, they were ready to concentrate in a space dedicated exclusively to their yoga practice.

Now they’re in their living rooms. Getting there is easy… staying focused is HARD. You’re competing with a million distractions from family members to chores to hobbies to grabbing a snack. Besides, they know they can catch the recording later… procrastination is alive and well, even when we’re bored at home.

Truth → Life has changed for your community; so should your class schedule.

Try switching up your schedule with shorter classes that work around their new life. This is where it’s important to know your community. If you have a lot of moms, try classes before or after the kids are up. If you have a lot of college students, early classes probably won’t fill.

Play with it. Figure out what works for your community. Get creative about meeting their needs in this changing world. Observe what people like and notice what doesn’t seem as popular with your members…and then do more of what works. 

For more ideas, check out “What’s the ideal online yoga class schedule?”

STEP 3: Prepare to shift membership pricing

You’re probably concerned members won’t be able to pay – that cancelations will start rolling in by the dozens. First off – Don’t panic. You may be tempted to drop your pricing preemptively, but DON’T.

Truth → Don’t change your pricing until your members ask for it.

Keep your pricing where it is for as long as you can but be prepared to change it. If you lose a few of your members – even a quarter of them – you’re still making more money than if you dropped everything to half price. There’s a sweet spot with pricing.

Create a down-sell option for your members. Retention is VERY important right now, much more important than it was before social distancing. People are going to want to cancel. Think about this conversation ahead of time. Know what to say to them.

Make the conversation about your members and what they need, not about the cancelation. Create a special relief offer for members trying to quit. Give them access to a discounted membership until in person classes are up and running again.

Truth → Not all your members have to pay the same.

Think about it… your members are ALREADY paying different prices. Some are on an autopay, some a yearly membership, some grabbed a special sale or intro rate. There are a variety of price points already. Take some time to decide internally what your discount is for members who are looking to cancel.

Ultimately, you’ll need to create a virtual membership. The key is to keep it simple and avoid competing with your existing members who are willing to pay the regular price. They exist, I promise.

This comes down to a communication and marketing issue. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking what you offer isn’t worth much because it’s online. You’re offering something different, but the community and your expertise is still valuable. For tips on making the shift, check out “How do I shift my membership pricing for online yoga classes?”

STEP 4: Look for ways to limit your expenses

Cutting your expenses is easier said than done, but every dollar is important right now. Make sure you’re not spending money on anything that’s not essential. Things are tight, and your rainy-day fund will only stretch so far.

Take a look at all your big expenses – business loans and other debt, rent and payroll. What changes can you make to keep your studio strong? Most of your biggest expenses seem set in stone, but these are unique times and there is a little wiggle room.

Truth → Right now EVERYTHING can be negotiated.

Most countries and states have programs available to help small businesses and landlords and banks are probably willing to work with you. Interest rates are incredibly low right now and there are assistance programs in place. You may be able to refinance or qualify for a new low-interest loan. It never hurts to ask.

Truth → Ask BEFORE you get to a place of desperation.

Your landlord might be getting a break on their mortgage because of the financial instability caused by COVID-19. They might be open to payment flexibility or negotiation – especially if your studio is an anchor store. Those spots are hard to fill in the best of times, much less during a stay-at-home order.

Keeping your studio in their building is a win for both of you. When you talk to your landlord keep it professional. Let them know you have plans to keep your studio strong for the long-haul. Invite them to partner with you for both your benefit.

Truth → Restructuring your payroll is never easy, but it’s necessary.

Once you get your rent and loans sorted it’s time to think about your payroll. It’s going to shrink somewhat as you transition to online classes and cut the daily class load. Without the studio to maintain, your other support staff won’t need as many hours either.

If that’s not enough, then it’s time to have a difficult conversation with your staff. Make sure your staff knows you want to stand by them as much as you can but the same level of payroll simply might not be possible right now. Make sure you clearly communicate changes during this time. For more guidance check out “How can I lower my yoga studio’s expenses?”

Step 5: Communicate openly and frequently

Communication has never been more essential. Things are changing every day. Everyone is overwhelmed and stressed by challenges they weren’t expecting. It’s important to keep the lines of communication open – with your studio community, and ESPECIALLY with your staff.

Truth → For your staff, feeling supported is the most important thing right now.

Your staff are hearing lots of conflicting information about unemployment, assistance programs and how social distancing will last. They might be unsure how to pay their bills or what will happen to your studio. Take the time to research legislation in your area, so you have the answers they need.

Be honest and control the narrative. Make sure they know you’re a team. The studio’s survival and success is in everyone’s best interest. Brainstorm ways to get them involved with your online classes.

Truth → Your staff didn’t start teaching yoga for the money.

Everyone who works at your studio is there because they believe in the life-changing power of yoga. Challenges like this have the power to pull you all together around a common cause – like your studio. You need each other now more than ever, and it’s up to you to stay calm and supportive. Click here to learn more about managing your studio staff during COVID-19.

STEP 6: Ask for the help you need

Finances still a bit tight? Cutting expenses can be a big help, but it isn’t always enough. Your studio is facing a completely unexpected financial hurdle. You’re not alone. This crisis has caused unprecedented financial and social instability around the world.

The good news is everyone else is in the same boat… so you have a lot of options.

The Small Business Administration provides several kinds of loans that can help. There are a couple options open specifically to deal with the impact of COVID-19. One option is a Disaster Relief Loan. These loans have been around for a while to deal with unexpected natural disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes, and they are now available to help with COVID-19 related losses.

Truth → A low-interest loan can ease your financial stress.

A Disaster Relief Loan can be used for day-to-day expenses like rent and payroll. You may be able to get an Express Bridge Loan while you wait for the Disaster Relief Loan to go through. These loans bridge the gap with emergency funds of up to $25K, as long as you have a prior relationship with an SBA lender. Try checking with your back to see if they’re an SBA lender.

With recent laws, such as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act there are even more options for small businesses. Keeping your cash flow healthy can be the difference between staying in business or going under. Apply for help if you need it!

CARES is designed to give our economy a helping hand during the pandemic. Many individual Americans benefited from stimulus funds, expanded unemployment and medical leave. You’ve likely received a stimulus check… or you will soon.

You might not realize this… the stimulus package also created options for small businesses. The biggest is the Paycheck Protection Program, designed to help your studio keep up with payroll, rent and other bills. Congress recently allocated a second round of funding for this program, so this is a good time to apply! 

Truth → This program is unique because it hands out loans you might not have to pay back.

Depending on how you use the loan, it may be forgiven and become a grant. That’s an AMAZING opportunity to get your business the cash you need. CARES can also help you get a better tax return for 2019 because it allows you to carry business losses from this time back to 2019. For help deciphering which option is right for you check out “How the CARES Act can help your yoga studio.”

Reminder: Don’t forget to take care of yourself

You’re facing unprecedented challenges as a studio owner. It’s natural to feel some stress, overwhelm, and even fear. Hold space for yourself to process those emotions. Hold on to what matters to you personally. You started your business with a purpose and a mission. The work you do is important… so don’t give up hope! 

Self-care is VITAL. You cannot take care of your community or your business if you’re not taking care of yourself. Keep breathing, meditate and do what brings you joy. Remember you’re not alone. We’ve got your back with helpful resources to get your through this time stronger than ever.

Struggling to adjust your studio to social distancing rules? Confused about what to do next to keep your studio running? Join the Yogapreneur Collective and access our YC Bootcamp Webinars: How to Open your Studio Strong Post-COVID so you can respond with confidence and keep money coming into your studio during this time. Take action now! Click here to get started! 

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