SMEs pivoting during COVID-19 means Bahrain’s fitness sector goes digital

During these unprecedented times, small and non-essential businesses in particular are struggling in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The changing landscape and consumer behavior is forcing businesses to change gears and innovate fast, which is what we’re trying to do at Elements Jiu Jitsu Academy.

While some industries can apply the work from home mandate more easily, there are others like fitness and sports academies that rely on close customer contact. Elements JJ was in fact the first martial arts academy to decide to temporarily shut down our doors, before it was mandated by law. While we understood the financial implications that we’d have to face, the wellbeing of the community we worked tirelessly to build took precedent.

We instantly recognized that this pandemic will be accelerating the digital fitness movement, and that we needed to look into ways to pivot as a business.

My advice for small business owners is to use this opportunity to grow. Given more free time than usual, I’ve personally been studying to restructure some of our services and provide a better experience to our customers. These are fundamental developments that I probably would have never made, if it wasn’t for this hurdle.

I also think that any developments made at this time shouldn’t be seen as a temporary adaptation, but a natural growth in your service/product line up. If during these difficult times if you have decided to invest in a more interactive website or offer new online services, then these should be seen as a necessary addition in an increasingly digital world – pandemic or not.

While facing the challenge of identifying new business opportunities, entrepreneurs need to look to their customers. How can you provide them value with your products and services during these times? An understanding of their needs will guide you on how to pivot your business to meet them.

In our case, we are bringing Elements JJ to our students’ homes. We’ve launched an online live personal training service, and it has kicked off nicely bringing in students from outside of Bahrain who would usually travel here for the weekend and camp at Elements. We also reacted quickly and set up our online shop to ensure our students can still enjoy our products while the Academy is closed.

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Of all our digitization initiatives though, one that has been in the works for a long time has been to release our very own online course platform, Elements Online, where we release original, detailed content on Jiu jitsu training. This is an unprecedented product in the Middle East and one we are very proud of.

Our community of Jiu jitsu practitioners is at the core of what we do in Elements JJ, so keeping that communication line active and engaged is important to us. The main takeaway I’d give is to communicate with your customers, let them know they are your priority. It will take more than time off and social distancing, to dismantle a community that we have all built over time on a solid foundation.

Lastly, if your business has been impacted by the pandemic, know that you’re not alone. There is still opportunity for us to come out stronger than ever before – embrace the pivot, speak to your customers, evaluate your costs and take a calculated risk.

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