As the Morrison government announced a shutdown of gyms, cafes and pubs, to take effect the Monday just gone, the small businesses of Australia took a rather large gulp. Layoffs and much heartache ensued. That, and trepidation.
John Field, owner and head coach of Bondi gym, Agoga hasn’t taken this challenge lying down. While he’s just as nervous as anyone, John is taking a unique tack to the new rules, implementing a solution for his clients and his business which combines both modern technology and old fashioned Australian creative spirit.
He has made a registrar of all his equipment, invited members to come and take some home, and is conducting classes – as close to the usual routine, timetable and teachers as possible – via Zoom, a video conferencing technology app.
Still, “it’s bloody challenging” being a small business at the moment, John told DMARGE this morning. “This was all thrust upon us really Sunday night, Monday morning. It kind of feels like yesterday went for a week. We’re in a bit of shock at the moment.”
“On Sunday night we changed all their accounts to reflect the fact that they wouldn’t be able to congregate together… so we’ve obviously taken a bit of a hit there – but I think everyone has.”
Though the government has stipulated that, for the moment, boot camps are allowed outside up to 10 people, John and Agoga have chosen “not to go down that route” having seen the “writing on the wall” that classes would have to be reduced further and further.
“We’ve established… and we did it on Sunday, a pretty much 100% online focus for our members. To assist along the way we started up a registry of all our equipment. Given that we weren’t going to use it [we figured] there’s no point it collecting dust.” A big risk, you might think? Not so much: “we’ve got a really strong membership base,” John told DMARGE.
“I’ve known them for quite a few years so I had no problem in taking a piece of our gym home and I guess there’s a couple of wins in doing that. One: they have the equipment available for whatever workout we throw their way and two: they’re heavily motivated now but in a couple of weeks time when they’re starting to feel a little bit demotivated then they’ve got that piece of Agoga in their living room and that’ll be a reminder to jump online and sign in again.”
Doing this enables Agoga to keep its core principles. As John told us: “Whether we’re open or shut it’s about that community engagement, sharing the education around those movement patterns, keep the body in as prime condition as possible and having a fun engagement with our team.”
This involves “getting them to talk to me, even though they’re on mute, via sign language.” This may comprise a “hand across your throat (as in I’m done and can’t push any harder), or the virtual fist bump into the camera at the end of each session.”
Agoga will continue to run as close to its existing schedule as usual, which means 24 sessions throughout the week: five Monday to Thursday, four on Friday then three on Saturday and three on Sunday.
“There’s enough chaos [in the world] so we’re trying to mitigate that.”
As for the next step, John told us he was waiting to hear what is set to be announced tonight by the government regarding the situation concerning landlords, renting, mortgages and tenancy agreements. He doesn’t expect anything in particular, but told DMARGE, any kind of assistance for small businesses along these lines would be much appreciated.
“Rather than panic, let the week see itself out and… see what happens when a bit of the dust settles.”