When Times get Tough, The Tough get Back to Basics, Part 1

Cedar Point Sports Center

A guide to getting your sports facility business on track during turbulent times

It’s no secret that times are exceedingly difficult for most people. Uncertainty about the physical health of our communities and the fiscal health of our economy has left many of us with more questions than answers. However, with any challenging time, a decision must be made. Will you let your company wilt under the pressure that this time period has created, or will you use this time as an opportunity to build better systems, innovate your product offerings, and adapt to the surrounding circumstances. In essence, will you be conquered by change or will you grow stronger from it?

Below is part one of our comprehensive guide for keeping your sports business on track during these trying times. We will provide guidance in the following essential areas:

  • Project Management
  • Market Factors Analysis
  • Organizational Development
  • Programming

For more resources related to dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit our Coronavirus Resources Guide.

Project Management 101

In these daunting times it’s critical to lean on certain constants that provide direction for your business and can dictate your next moves. It’s during these times that project management can be a key to your success. In this era of COVID-19, it’s time to reevaluate everything. What have your goals been in the past? Does the pandemic require you to make adjustments? Re-establish your goals for this time period. They should prepare your facility for an eventual economic recovery. It will also be crucial to produce several forecasts to prepare you for a variety of potential outcomes, including possible reopening dates, lowered attendance, and the potential of another temporary shutdown.

With refreshed goals, it’s time to establish a timeline for completing tasks as well as an adjusted budget. Once you’ve established your plan, it’s time to communicate it to your team and to stakeholders. It’s more critical than ever that everyone is moving in one direction towards the venue’s goals.

Market Factors Analysis

One thing is certain during this time of uncertainty. The market factors that dictate how you operate and promote your sports or event venue will change. The economic impact of the Coronavirus, along with changing views about being in proximity with others are factors that not only alter the competitive landscape, but customer behavior as well.

It’s time to take a close look at your customer. Their needs have changed in recent weeks. Assess those needs closely and realize that even though your facility isn’t open there are still opportunities to serve your customers. At many SFM Network facilities, innovative programs have launched to keep communities active and occupied during this time of isolation. For information and ideas, visit this recent article on virtual programming

Beyond sports and fitness, is there a health and wellness need in your community to be met? Recently, Cedar Point Sports Center partnered with Firelands Regional Health System and the American Red Cross to host a blood drive to aid in relief efforts for those affected by the Coronavirus.

An examination of your competitors is critical as well. When it’s appropriate to open our doors again, competition will be fierce for customers looking to regain a sense of normalcy. Prepare for the recovery today. Marketing planning and budgets should shift, in part, to draw people through the doors when your facility re-opens. Also consider customer incentives such as early-bird discounting for events rights holders or discounted memberships for recreation programs.

Organizational Culture

With sports venues temporarily closing and staff members working remotely, a heightened focus has been placed on maintaining culture. One of the primary tenets of culture is accountability. While it must be built prior to times of crisis, it’s still a good time to assert or re-assert its importance. In essence, having all of your workers at home means starting over from a culture standpoint. New norms must be established to ensure that goals are being met and that your organization is ready for the recovery.

When building a culture of accountability, you must start at the top. Leaders must stand by their words and actions. While your employees may not always meet your standards, your level of accountability becomes the benchmark for your group. While this is key in terms of showing work ethic and commitment to excellence, it’s equally critical when you make a mistake. Leaders must be able to admit when they are wrong. It’s the only way to show employees that it’s okay to make mistakes. A culture devoid of this type accountability leads to the type of mistake cover-ups that can be highly damaging with time.

Additionally, your willingness to accept feedback will set the tone as well. Your employees are watching, even it if doesn’t seem like it. Make sure that you maintain and open-door policy when it comes to feedback or they will take their feedback to the other less productive places.

Tips for maintaining accountability with a remote workforce

  1. Daily check-in meetings with staff
  2. Daily reviews of pluses, minuses, and lessons learned
  3. 30 and 60-day action plans
  4. Weekly and monthly goal setting tied to your financial goals
  5. Make use of online tools such as Zoom or WebEx, as well as chat platforms
  6. Determine what will set your re-opening apart from others. What will be your big moment? That can serve as motivation during the monotonous times of social distancing.

Partnerships and Programming

Even the most difficult of times present tremendous opportunity. For venue owners and operators, you have a chance to serve your community in ways that you may not have considered previously. The financial toll that the COVID-19 crisis has afflicted on so many people and affording youth sports may become a challenge for some. Working with schools to create programming may be the answer. Additionally, the uncertainty of when schools will open their doors and concerns about safety, may lead to an increased demand for “homeschool PE type” programs.

As venues draw closer to reopening for business, it’s important that they work with sponsors to increase access to sports for the less fortunate within our communities. This message will resonate with many of your partners and stakeholders.

In the second part of this guide, we will examine what facilities can do from a business development and operational standpoint to weather the storm.

The SF Companies are dedicated to helping all facets are industry from facility owners and operators to parks and recreations departments to events rights holders. We know times are tough and we are meeting the challenge with a bevy of resources and services. For more information on getting ready for the economic rebound or for more detailed guidance contact us today at 727-374-3845.