When One Door Closes…How COVID-19 Shutdowns Became the Catalyst For Launching Verb
In addition to my role as founder and CEO of Verb, I am also the owner of the Body Blueprint Gym in Westchester, New York. I was recently interviewed by the Associated Press as part of an article on the impact of pandemic lockdowns on private gyms, and it had me reflecting on how an unanticipated life interruption can turn into the perfect first step toward something bigger, better or simply more beneficial.
As COVID-19 numbers began to spike in New York City, I opted to shut down my gym in early March. I weighed the negative blow back from clients of shutting down before the state mandate against the potential reality of having to explain a positive COVID test and the resulting fear, risk or even ridicule the business might be exposed to. I opted for the first choice, to shut down proactively.
What started out as a significant business setback also paved the way for Verb to flourish. Already in the works, Verb was designed to give users additional accountability through SMS texting and help guide them to reach their goals — including fitness and health. The additional time I had once the gym was closed allowed me to dedicate my efforts to finalizing the Verb platform and getting ready for the official launch.
More importantly, however, Verb offered an alternative to my gym goers, and gym goers around the country, who were suddenly without their usual forms of accountability — trainers, workout partners or set class schedules.
With the whole fitness world running to Zoom and FB Live, there existed a unique opportunity to give clients a different perspective and experience. I had to act fast. ‘Fringe membership’ in the gym world is something that can be detrimental to business. It’s the client who doesn’t come back to the gym after experiencing even one hiccup — often they don’t even recognize it about themselves. A COVID shutdown was the equivalent of never-ending hiccups, and the reality was that even after we reopened we would not see all the members we had previously. Gyms around the country were facing 50–100% revenue declines almost immediately. We recognized that if we could connect with our clients regularly, we could help preserve our clientele.
Verb helps people with their habits, fitness, and healthcare using text messages, AI, machine learning, and a qualified coach. With the physical closure of Body Blueprint, I immediately reached out to every client to pair them with one of the gym’s coaches through Verb’s platform. Through an opt-in option, former gym goers could receive daily texts, get new workouts, ask for help and generally receive added motivation to stay active during a highly uncertain time. From the start, about 60% of the gym opted in to use Verb, creating a brand connection for Body Blueprint even while it remains closed.
It is hard to predict how Body Blueprint will fare in the short term, but we know that one day we will reopen to full capacity. For now we’re maintaining the social distance requirements necessary to keep our members and our staff safe. Rather than a cautionary tale however, this closure represents the fundamental promise of Verb — that dedicated accountability can effectively turn a closed door in your life into a wide-open promise.
Rather than taking a break when we had to close the gym, or attempting to recreate the gym experience online, we focused on staying in regular contact with our members and helping them to achieve their goals even in isolation. The Verb platform made that possible, but also taught a profound lesson about unanticipated change — the rules of accountability are the same whether it’s a goal you’ve envisioned for a long time or one you’ve just set today. It requires daily effort and honest evaluation.
No matter your personal goals — whether they’ve been looming over you or the pandemic has created new ones — let Verb help you get started on your journey to success today.