Pivot for Success – Part 1

By Chris Aconley

It’s not any kind of brilliant observation to understand that a business needs to evolve to survive. There are numerous examples of businesses that didn’t evolve and failed. Just imagine if Blockbuster had moved to a streaming service in 2005. I’m not sure “Blockbuster and Chill” has quite the same ring to it. In 2004 Blockbuster had over 9000 locations. Blockbuster video was as much a part of everyday life as Netflix is today. It’s no secret that Blockbuster failed to Pivot but Blockbuster was also stuck between a rock and a hard place. As a brick and mortar franchise model, Blockbuster as a franchisor didn’t make money from movie and game rentals, it made money from royalties and franchise sales. It’s easy to say they didn’t pivot, but the pivot was much bigger, it was pivoting from franchise support and sales to online movie streaming. As a franchisor, Blockbuster had a commitment to their franchisees. Pivoting was a much more daunting task when you consider the franchisees.

Here we are in 2020 in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. At no time in history have businesses been forced to pivot faster and more dramatically. Many of these pivots are long overdue and are here to stay. Businesses had been forced to test out work from home programs, and despite the invention of the new business mullet (a business top and track pants on the bottom), work from home is here to stay benefiting our mental health and the environment. Manufacturing businesses have offered plexiglass shields, restaurants are offering more take out options and fitness companies are making fitness more accessible through on-demand and live streaming options. 

At LIVE WELL, we too were forced to pivot. Within just 5 days of closing our clinics in March, we built and released an on-demand product. Our members have worked so hard to get where they are, we didn’t want them losing all of this effort. To date, our members have logged over 25,000 on-demand workouts. AMAZING! Our clinics re-opened in June, again pivoting to meet the safety protocol requirements of the new normal. But we were faced with a multi-faceted challenge. How do we pivot to continue to allow at home exercise while ensuring a viable business for our franchisees. As well, we know that community is a key ingredient to our business success and our members success. Moving to a 100% centralized on demand business model is not an option. I wonder if that statement was uttered in a Blockbuster boardroom by somebody who had the best interest of their franchisees in mind. As well, we had to find a way to continue to have community as a big part of our membership. When we re-opened our clinics in June, we introduced Live Streaming. We wanted to meet our members where they were at … not every member was comfortable with coming to a gym.

Our challenge was simple to define, difficult to overcome. We needed a live streaming option for our members that allows success at the franchisee level and maintains our very important LIVE WELL community. Our solution was a hybrid of in-clinic and live streaming. With a TV mounted on a rolling cart and a webcam pointing into the exercise space, our live streaming members are just as much a part of the in-clinic community as the members in the clinic. This ensured the continued need and viability of a local community based clinic while giving members the option of an in-clinic experience or live streaming experience. With the live streaming experience our remote members are just as much a part of the clinic. A side effect of this plan was how this maintained the very important component of accountability. Our members maintained the accountability they have with their clinic community. This accountability is one of the most important components of a success exercise lifestyle. It’s easy to let yourself down, it’s hard to let your friends down.

WIth our first pivot completed, though still being tweaked and improved, we can get back to helping our members live the best life possible. We have successfully met our members where they are at, we’ve maintained our community and we have kept membership at a local franchisee level. In part 2 of Pivot for Success, I will look at how LIVE WELL revisited what the brick and mortar options could be for our franchisees. Knowing that more and more members will choose Live Streaming over time, even when the pandemic is finally over,  we are forced to look hard at how we designed our physical space and how this impacts the business of our franchisees both now and in the future.

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