Over the past six months, my Tuesday evening indoor cycling class attendance started to gradually decrease. While at first, I attributed the drop in numbers to occasional members leaving due to lifestyle changes (family obligations, work-related travel, etc.), what was alarming was the loss of some of my core group. It took me about nine months to build the core group; selling out classes was an afterthought once the core group was established.
The Core Group
This special group of dedicated riders exhibits a behavior that creates the nucleus of an indoor cycling class: loyalty to the time slot, always there, always there early and more importantly, the core group acts as jumping platform for recruiting new members who see a full class and who are encouraged to attend when they talk to members of the core group. Much like in traditional businesses, losing a loyal customer has a deeper impact than losing the occasional customer. When a loyal customer leaves, their seat takes much longer to fill. The nucleus is weakened and as a result the entire class suffers.
Should I Stay? Should I Go?
The more I thought about the decision, the more I thought about the song (The Clash) with these lyrics:
“This indecision's buggin' me If you don't want me, set me free Exactly whom I'm supposed to be Don't you know which clothes even fit me? Come on and let me know Should I cool it or should I blow? “
This also got me to reflect on the reasons and ultimately, am I better off if I stay or if I go? Today, I am making the decision to go – here’s why:
5 Reasons For Staying or Leaving An #Indoorcycling Studio
Self-Doubt: Don’t Even Go There
That was the first thing I thought about. Is it me? Is it my music? Is it my routine? It was none of the above. I knew I sell out classes at other studios. I have the breadth and depth of experience, expertise and skill. Qualities such as leadership, compassion, customer service, modesty, athleticism and being a former DJ are evident and abundant in my character. I also receive consistently positive feedback from members and other instructors. I vary my routine constantly. I curate hundreds of playlists based on the demographic and age group of the members. I ask them for suggestions and I provide what they ask for. It wasn’t me.
Loyalty To The Remaining Members/Core Group Is Ineffective
When the core group members started to quit, it was an early warning sign. The group numbered around 20 in November of last year (the class capacity is 32). Over the past 6-7 months, the core group was at 8 members. I learned that many have left because the facility increased its membership rates, ride prices and some poorly designed credit card auto-billing system. Additionally, the remaining seats were not being filled regularly. The class started to appear half-full. Less new members were inclined to join a class. And, on average, it takes a good 6 months to establish a core rider. Therefore, the dilemma was: should I stay and try to rebuild the core group or should I recognize that this class/timeslot is reaching it natural conclusion? Please note that I have been teaching that particular timeslot of about 3.5 years.
There Isn’t Much “More” Than I Can Do
I constantly promote the studio on social media outlets. I help out at the studio during open house days (at no pay), street fairs/exhibits and have subbed other instructors countless times. In fact, I have never, in 3.5 years, missed a class or arrived late to a class. I write blog entries for the studio’s e-newsletter and have mentored junior instructors. I like to think that these efforts have contributed to recruiting new members as well as helped retain existing ones. However, I do not believe there is more that I can do to increase attendance given the amount of time I dedicated to non-indoor cycling activities (namely promoting the studio).
Management Isn’t Helping
So I approached management about the decrease in attendance. I asked if the studio is attempting to recruit new members or if the studio is exhibiting a decrease in attendance for other fitness formats (they also offer TRX, Yoga and PT). It turns out that the business as a whole is struggling to attract new members. More critically, their customer service and sales reps have focused more on new members at the cost of neglecting to keep existing members who started to leave due to changes in the market landscape – namely cheaper, entry level competing studios who offer lower rates, aggressive social medial promotions and rewards for loyalty (such as buy 5 rides, get 5 free – I know, very aggressive).
The Market Dictates The Lifecycle
You’ve heard this a million times: supply and demand. That is the fundamental rule of small and large businesses alike. It is a rule that has proven true in a variety of commercial endeavors, including fitness platforms. Indoor cycling studio failures are not new. Running a small business is no small feat. It requires utmost dedication, sacrifice and the patience of a saint – to see through the difficult challenges and believe in what you are doing. There is, sadly, a time at which, you as the owner or the management team, is/are unable to maintain the competitive nature of your business; or, more importantly, the inability to adapt to the changes in market conditions. There is a time for things to end – for businesses to either re-invent themselves, roll with the changes, or simply choose to continue with the current path. Both approaches will bring about uncertainty, chaos, upheaval and doubts. One leads to success, the other to failure. Simple but harsh facts.
For me, this particular timeslot has reached the end of its useful life. As much as it pains me to leave this location, I do it with the confidence that I went above and beyond with my services and dedication to the studio and its members.
Good things do come to an end.