Coronavirus: Why branching out into online services is necessary

How to cope with the coronavirus financial crisis and emerge even stronger.

A man enters the main branch of Bank Hapoalim, Israel's biggest bank, in Tel Aviv, Israel July 18, 2016. Picture taken July 18, 2016 (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
A man enters the main branch of Bank Hapoalim, Israel's biggest bank, in Tel Aviv, Israel July 18, 2016. Picture taken July 18, 2016
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
 Anat Vertman
An App for Remote Gym Classes
“I trained as a teacher and fitness instructor, with a post-graduate degree in education. In 2002 I set up a school for gym classes for kindergartens and schools, and in 2006 I opened a very high-quality gym at the Plus Country Club in Rishon LeZion, with special equipment imported from Italy. The gym is designed for ages 6-14, and it has strength and aerobic equipment as well as a Ninja Warrior-style obstacle course tailored specifically to children. At the same time, most of our work involves clubs and gym classes for children in different cities as part of the Ministry of Education’s extracurricular activity program. All of our teachers are specially trained in working with kids.
“Before the pandemic arrived, we employed 30-40 teachers, some of whom were salaried employees who we furloughed as soon as the first lockdown began. The lockdown fell on the middle of the school year, but we did not give up. We filmed our teachers delivering lesson plans in the local park and sent the clips to kindergarten teachers who work with us, as well as to the homes of the children. The parents were really excited, and many of them told us that they worked out alongside their kids. At the same time, we are running fitness classes via Zoom for 5-6 Grades around the country as part of the “Zuzu” (“Move”) project of the Sports Federation for Schools in Israel.
“I recently joined the Israeli start-up company “Monday”, where my daughter works. Their wonderful staff worked with us and helped us to establish a digital program for remote learning, based on the office and team management platform. This is a successful initiative that has been adopted by, among other places, the Ness Ziona municipality, where they even purchased TV screens for their kindergartens. The program consists of an app that can be signed into using a link and which provides the kindergarten teachers with the materials along with the video of the lesson, in accordance with the education syllabus. When the education system was open, this activity was conducted in-person within the kindergartens, and when it was in lockdown, the kindergarten teachers would work with the kids and their parents remotely. As I said, I do not give up and I do not surrender. I feel like I am the voice of children who want to do physical exercise, but are unable to go out and protest for it.”
The writer is the owner of “Anat Vertman, Kids in Movement”. 

37 Nir David St, Rishon LeZion, Tel: 050-5260950
Racheli Barak
The New Studio Was Waiting for the Lockdown to End
“My partner Hagar Tzuk and I have been teaching Pilates for 17 years, and 11 years ago we opened our studio in Tel Aviv. We specialize in Reformer and Mat Pilates, and we also train new instructors. In Pilates, you work with each person individually, even in group sessions—one might have a slipped disc, another might have meniscus trouble, and a third needs to work out and strengthen their wrist. At the beginning of last year, after a number of requests, we opened a second studio in Harutzim in the Sharon region. We did not even get around to opening it before COVID-19 arrived and brought everything to a halt.
“As soon as the lockdown started, we furloughed all the instructors and salaried employees, but we kept in touch with them and with our clients throughout, some of whom have been training with us for 17 years. During that period, we designed and created a session plan for our clients over Zoom. It was challenging, because I also gave birth around that time. Both of our studios only recently reopened following the lockdown, but we continue to incur expenses for them, including for the renovation and new equipment that we purchased.
“We have worked with a clearly defined business plan for years, using CRM software and well-managed administration, but the situation is not easy. We are very disappointed that the Ministry of Health considers Pilates part of the world of fitness rather than as a vital component of healthcare. This is despite the fact that we work on treatment and rehabilitation of people with injuries and disabilities. We were ready with all the Purple Badge requirements regarding sanitation, distancing and working in pods, just waiting for the lockdown to end. We are so happy to be able to go back to doing what we do best—helping people to develop stronger and healthier bodies.”
The writer is the co-owner of “Hagar & Racheli Pilates Studio”.
10 Ben Saruq St, Tel Aviv and Moshav Harutzim, Tel: 03-6092262
Dan Cristal
Expanding the Range of Services
Both Racheli and Anat’s stories demonstrate the importance of fitness and sport as part of a healthy lifestyle, preventing illness, and maintaining physical and mental wellbeing during times of uncertainty. They also show the importance of flexibility and adaptability in business decisions. As with the art sector, for example, so too here the situation calls for branching out into the online sphere.
So what can and should we do to not just cope with the financial crisis, but to emerge from it stronger? 
The first thing is to keep in touch with previous clients, as Racheli and Anat have done; developing Zoom classes and opening Instagram/Tik-Tok/YouTube channels and uploading fitness videos to them. It is obviously possible to build a premium channel and to offer some of the content for free. At the end of the day, expanding the range of services allows the studio to reach new clients and ensure it is able to get back on its feet once the current situation passes.
The writer is a business and management consultant and an expert in the development of human capital
Shlomo Sacajo
Creating and Offering Integrated Services
The pandemic caught everyone by surprise, including the small business sector, and created a new reality that concealed significant challenges within it. It is clear to see how business owners who demonstrated a creative and flexible mindset and were attentive to their clients’ needs identified creative solutions that meet the needs of the period.
We can also see how, in those sectors where services would have been provided in-person and required a personal touch such as gyms, consulting services of different types, coaching businesses etc…businesses were able to creative digital and other alternative solutions, thereby maintaining their income and in some cases even increasing it. I believe that even when we come to the day after, those alternative solutions will remain, and businesses will learn how to provide integrated services.
Alongside these steps that impact the income of a business, it is also important to take steps to streamline and reduce expenses. In my role as a banker, supporting the clients, I recommend to business owners to keep us in the loop, so that we can assess together whether there are banking services that might complement the business steps.
The writer is the manager of the Neve Yam branch of Bank Hapoalim