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Coronavirus – Is Your Martial Arts Business Prepared?

Other businesses are preparing - Are you?

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by Paul Kindzia in Jiu-Jitsu Business

Pre-Note – Many of you are already familiar with my work as a financial advisor and we already communicate through small private groups or individual communication.  I have a passion for martial arts and especially jiu-jitsu.  I also have a strong passion for the business of jiu-jitsu and the jiu-jitsu industry.  I feel this note is worth sharing with the entire martial arts community so that we can all benefit from information and best practices that are also being used in other businesses and industry – Paul Kindzia, MBA, CPA, CFP

As I write this message, the Center For Disease Control (CDC) is currently working with state and local health departments to ready the public health workforce to respond to a possible pandemic here in the United States.  I am based in Atlanta, Georgia, only 28 miles to the northeast of the CDC headquarters and have been tracking the latest information from many sources related to the Coronavirus and the impact on the global economy and businesses/individuals that I directly work with.

Although the virus outbreak began in China, it has quickly spread with over 79,500 “officially diagnosed” cases in 32 countries (and rising with each passing week).  There have been 2,628 total confirmed deaths related to the Coronavirus (COVID-19).  Emphasis should be placed on the term “officially diagnosed” because many believe that China is not reporting accurate numbers to alleviate a possible social panic and related economic crisis.  In many countries and regions, they don’t even have the test kits to complete an official diagnosis and they either hid the death count or blamed it on another cause. 

Many major cities in China are already under full-quarantine.  Citizens for all intents and purposes are under house arrest.  There are no cars driving on the streets, there are no people going to work, there are no students going to school, restaurants are closed, no factories are open, and there are no outside the home entertainment activities happening.

Here are items that may help soothe those who are already in personal panic mode if they fall on the hypochondriac end of the spectrum which many in the health and wellness industries tend to gravitate towards;

  • Although the Coronavirus appears to be quite contagious, most deaths have occurred in those who are old in age (certainly those 60 years old and older).
  • The mortality rate appears to be higher in men than women.
  • Most deaths appear to be happening with those who already have compromised respiratory systems.
  • Many experiencing the worst of the symptoms and problems are in China where the rate of smoking is extremely high (which compromises the respiratory systems).  It is interesting to note that in China, a large proportion of their population smokes (including doctors) and the rate of smoking is much higher in men than it is in women.  The average person that smokes in China smokes 22 cigarettes a day.
  • Some scientists are reporting that the Coronavirus and the SARS virus which hit China in 2002-2003 attack the human body through the ACE2 receptor “Angiotensin-converting enzyme-2” which is an enzyme that plays a role in the constriction of the lungs. 
  • Children don’t seem to be as impacted as much as other virus instances including the various strains of the flu.

On the downside as far as spreading quickly, many individuals are contracting the virus and are acting as carriers but are showing little to no symptoms or very minor symptoms.  The incubation period is quite long (over 2 weeks) which means that many people have no idea that they contracted the virus and they become carriers without symptoms.  Many will experience very little or no symptoms at all before making a full recovery.

The purpose of this article isn’t to update you on the biological components of the Coronavirus or to rehash news that you could get from other sources of media.  The article is to provide you, as a businessperson in the martial arts industry, information that could help you make the best decisions for you and your business.  You have a passion and a business related to an activity that happens to require extremely close person to person contact.

Some are under the belief that the Coronavirus won’t impact their business or haven’t really given it much thought yet.  But if it could happen to Apple (whose primary suppliers have shut down halting the entire supply chain), it can happen to any company including your martial arts business.  Apple has become the first U.S. tech company to say that it will miss financial expectations as a direct result of the outbreak.  The main reason is that the workers who work on parts, components, and assembly are under quarantine and are not allowed to go to work.

With the CDC preparing for a Coronavirus to take a foothold in the United States, this preliminary article will encourage you to ask yourself some of the following questions;

  • What would you do if businesses, schools, and institutions were under quarantine and you couldn’t conduct your normal classes for a period of time?
  • What would you do if your leads dried up for weeks, or months because people are focused on other things and not interested in signing up for an activity that requires close personal contact with other people amidst an outbreak?
  • What would you do if your drop off rate or cancellation rate increased for a period of time unrelated to the excellent instruction and services that you provide?
  • What if out of fear, people stayed home out of choice for a period of time while things played themselves out?  What if some of your best students wanted to stay home rather than expose themselves to others who may be infected?
  • How would you adjust your staffing and wages?
  • How would you adjust your marketing and advertising?
  • How would you adjust your schedule?
  • How would you communicate to your customers?  What would you say to them?  What if they are looking to you for guidance and leadership, what would you advise them to do? What would you say to the children?  What would you say to the adults?
  • How much would you spend on large business expenses that could be delayed?
  • How long could you pay your bills if you had a business interruption? 
  • How would you personally react to an outbreak? What processes would you change?
  • How much of an impact would this have on your personal wealth building and preservation plans?
  • Are you trying not to even think about it because you don’t want to imagine possible scenarios?

In speaking with some martial arts businesses and schools, some initial comments included, but were not limited to:

  • “I would increase cleaning at the gym.”  My response is that I would advise doing this all the time even though it would have limited impact on the Coronavirus spreading within your school and community.  We already know through our industry research that top performing/highly profitable jiu-jitsu schools run extremely clean academies.  This should already be an implemented best practice.  If it takes a potential Coronavirus outbreak to get you to change your business practices on cleanliness, it’s not a bad idea.  With that said, the Coronavirus appears to spread through person to person contact and airborne transmission from person to person.  Washing your hands frequently along with cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces may help reduce spreading, but we must realize we are doing an activity that requires very close person to person contact.  We rub, roll, sweat, and sometimes even bleed on one another.
  • “I would tell my members that if they are sick to not come in.”  That is good practice even during flu season.  It’s common courtesy to not infect your training partners with colds, flu, coughs, infections, and skin conditions.  Students need constant reminders of this principle.  If you aren’t healthy and well, it’s not acceptable to roll.  It’s important to note specifically to the Coronavirus that the incubation period is very long with this virus (over 2 weeks).  Many of your students will be carriers of the virus and won’t be showing a single symptom for days or weeks.  That’s one of the reasons why this outbreak is rather problematic from a global perspective.  It’s highly contagious and most carriers that are infected have no idea that they are spreading it.
  • “There is nothing I could do.  Bad things happen to me all the time.”  First, deciding to not make a choice is actually making a choice to do nothing or to do zero preparation.  You may not be able to control many of the variables at play, but neither does every other business out there.  If you choose to do nothing, just know that your approach isn’t necessarily the same as other organizations with functional leadership including schools, churches, and institutions.  Second, ask yourself if when confronted with an obstacle, are you taking a victim mentality?  What if it turned out that your competition down the road was less prepared than you, ended up going out of business due to a poorly run business and as a result, once the virus ran its course your business expanded handsomely next year?  Is that possible?

ACTION ITEMS – FINANCE

  • If you haven’t already funded your emergency funds, begin building emergency funds on both a personal and business level.
  • Delay making any large purchases that could be delayed until we have more clarity on the situation as it unfolds.  Those financial resources may be needed for other items in three to twelve months.
  • Begin strategizing about your business and personal expenditures via the highest priorities and the lowest priorities.  What would you cut first if you had to?  What would you cut last?

ACTION ITEMS – LEADERSHIP

  • Be open and transparent with your staff.  Will you be the leader who explains, “If what is happening in other countries starts happening here, our business may be forced to shut down or will be impacted which affects every single one of us.  We will get through this together as best we can.”  Or, will you be the person to show up to your business on a random Tuesday and announce, “Everybody has to stop working and go home.  I have no information for you, and I don’t know what you are going to do.  Good luck.”
  • Are you prepared to lead your students and parents who are customers in your business?  Some individuals may lose a loved one because of the Coronavirus and be emotionally impacted.  Some individuals may work at a place that is more impacted than others resulting in financial duress.  Some individuals may be anxious and stressed even more than they are already anxious and stressed about their lives.  They may need martial arts and a community more than ever.  Will you offer them comfort and stability when their world is falling apart outside of the school?

Leadership takes many forms.  You are a leader to your staff, your students, your household members, and your community.  If there was ever a time for leadership, it may soon be that time.  Generals don’t walk into war with a plan to “wing it and see what happens.”  Leaders hope for the best but prepare for the worst.  If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.

We may all enter a very unique and challenging business environment over the spring, summer, and fall.  It may turn out to be a non-event (although that is looking more and more doubtful at the moment).

The business owners that I work with are already one step ahead on the need for emergency funds and building in margins of safety into business planning for unforeseeable events.  The Coronavirus is certainly an event that was unforeseeable and may be bigger than many speedbumps we normally encounter as business owners.

ACTION ITEM – STAY STRONG, HEALTHY, AND FINANCIALLY SECURE

As they say when we board an airplane, “In the event of an emergency, put your oxygen mask on first.”  You can’t fill a cup with an empty pitcher.  How are we going to help others if we are in no shape to help ourselves?  Make sure to take care of yourself.  Rest and recover, eat well, practice good hygiene, manage your stress and anxiety.

ACTION ITEM – STAY INFORMED

I encourage all of you to stay informed.  Read the news, communicate with your peers, implement best practices.  If you would like to be on my email list for items related to the Coronavirus and other industry information along with best business practices from a financial standpoint, please email me directly at paul@paulkindzia.com.  I will be more than happy to add you to my list.

Please share and pass this information on to your friends and peers within the martial arts industry.

Paul Kindzia is an avid jiu-jitsu practitioner who is a wealth manager and business advisor.  He has an accounting degree from the State University of New York, an MBA in corporate finance, is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), and a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) specializing in the process of wealth building and wealth preservation.  He is a writer and assists jiu-jitsu school owners in increasing their bottom lines through best practices.

Contact – paul@paulkindzia.com if you would like to be added to the email and article list.

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