We spoke with the CEO of Phoenix Regen Center to see how he thought COVID-19 would affect the retail business he runs.
When you present your business strategy to a bank, investors or to have on file for yourself, you don’t typically plan for a global pandemic. You don’t think that 3, 6, 11 months or 4 years into your business model that you will have to close your doors anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months because you aren’t considered an ‘essential’ business. Of course, we all think that we are an essential business…
We’ve all had clients walk through our doors that have ranted and raved about how Cryothearpy and / or Red-Light Therapy has literally changed their lives. We have had customers set new personal records for marathons, and weightlifting numbers. We’ve sponsored numerous clients during their training for triathlons, the CrossFit Regionals, Lacrosse tournaments, long distance running events and much, much more. Our sponsored athletes go on record each, and every, time saying…
“I couldn’t have done it without the help and recovery of Phoenix Regen Centers”
…and how uplifting is that to hear?! That is one of the many reasons we got into this business. But it’s not all about athletes. There are clients who come in with pain on a day-to-day basis that have found relief being a member with us. Clients that we see every single morning who have cut out coffee because, “Cryotherapy gives me that boost of energy that I need without filling my body with a stimulant.” We have people who have had serious health issues - from car accidents to motorcycle accidents to serious disease or illness - that use this time to help with their daily pain so they don’t have to take as much medication or even any at all. So, while the city and state might not see us as essential, we do and our clients do.
However, even with this, we did make the hard decision to close our doors. It wasn’t because we don’t care, we clearly do. It was because we felt like it was the right thing to do for our clients and our staff. It was the single most toughest decision we’ve made as a business to date.
We are not upset with any businesses that have chosen to keep their doors open. At the end of the day that is their decision. However, for those that did close their doors, recovery business or not, times are hard, and we are going through the same things that you are.
We sat down with Eric Rauscher, (via skype that is) the Managing Director of CryoUSA & Phoenix Regen Center, and asked him a few hard questions…
- When you first heard of COVID-19 hitting the US, did you think it would turn out the way it has with the social distancing and ultimately closing numerous businesses doors?
I had no idea things would escalate as fast as they did. As Americans I think we sometimes have a false sense of security living on this gigantic island that we have. And we sometimes talk ourselves into believing that it could never get as bad here as it is in other parts of the world. I’ve been a part of some major world events from the bank crisis of the late 80’s to the stock market mini crash in 1997 to 9-11 to another bank crisis and world recession in 2008. The world recession of 2008 taught me a lot of valuable lessons. When something like this happens we make a practice of gathering as much fact based information as fast as we can. We always want to make knowledge based decisions without emotion or bias. What we found was that this thing changed and pivoted overnight and from hour to hour putting us all in unprecedented times. Even then, when we started seeing different parts of the country start to enforce social distancing we still didn’t think it would have the effect that it has had today. So, No, I didn’t think it would come to the point it is at today and, unfortunately, we may have to weather this longer than anticipated.
- When did you first make the decision to change hours and then ultimately close Phoenix Regen Center (PRC)?
When we started seeing mandatory quarantines and shelter in place mandates combined with data coming out of the state and federal government level, we knew that this had the potential to overwhelm the hospital system as we know it. We simply couldn’t put our staff and clients at risk knowing that there was the potential for us to contribute to a problem that was growing at an unprecedented rate overnight. This was a very, very hard and personal decision for me and we support each and every one of our clients that decided to stay open as we know that it was and is just as tough for them.
- How did you inform your staff and reassure them that you had their best interest at heart?
Normally I like to have these conversations face to face but this situation prohibited that. We have a Group Me text that I used to reassure staff that we would do everything we could to continue to pay them, as well as, pursue every government stimulus and/or program that was out there. I had the opportunity to talk with some staff on the phone – which was welcomed – and personally text others. I provided letters to staff to give to their landlords in order to ask for rent relief, along with guidance on unemployment should they choose it.
- What have you done to try and help your staff at this time? Some of them this is their full time job to support their family with.
Step one was to freeze all cash and begin discussions with all lenders, landlords, vendors and anyone else that affected cash flow in order to stabilize it as much as possible. Cash flow was vaporizing overnight so we needed to freeze what we had and then open honest discussions with everyone expecting checks or payments. Step two was to encourage staff to do the same to the extent it applied with landlords, credit card companies, etc. I then provided a letter for any staff that needed it to give to their landlord. My goal is for all staff to continue with us and we’re doing everything we can to make that happen.
- What is PRC doing currently to accommodate their retail customers while you are closed in April?
We toyed with many ideas. At first we thought, if this only lasts 2-3 weeks we would offer complimentary services for those that stayed with us during this hard time. Unfortunately, as time goes on, we aren't sure when we will get to open, so ideas like this just didn't make sense. The moment that we made the decision to close our doors we immediately emailed all customers, posted on all social platforms, put a sign on our door and even called those that were most worried. We asked our customers to stick by us during this time and continue to try and figure out what we can do for them when we re-open, but a lot of that is contingent on when we can re-open. We've received a lot of recommendations from our business customers on the CryoUSA side and are sharing with you those recommendations in the next few days to come.
- What do you think the long-term effects of this will have on not only your business but other businesses like yourself if social distancing does continue through the end of April?
Honestly...I think it’s going to be catastrophic. I hate to be a pessimist. But I think there is going to be a very big re-set in our industry and the economy in general. On the one hand, we had a lot of bad actors in our industry that were giving it a bad name. On the other hand, we had a lot of very good operators that are probably not going to make it. This isn’t a matter of the strong or smart surviving. Yes – they will have an advantage. But the ramifications of this go way beyond our little industry and there are many other things that are going affect our daily life before we get back to the recovery industry. On the plus side, I think we will come out of this stronger and faster than any other recession.
- Do you think startup businesses will be affected more during this time or the same as long term existing businesses?
I think this entire situation is an equal opportunity offender. Frankly, our segment relies on disposable income – although we were making great strides in making it a lifestyle necessity. However, our segment was still reliant on an upper demographic who will be also be greatly affected by this. I believe it will be easier for those that have diversified their offering, but you must be careful how you position yourself coming out of this. Also, cash is now king and for those who have it – startup or existing business – they will be in better shape. For existing businesses, this is an opportunity to perform a top to bottom examination of your operations, trimming anything non-essential to coin a widely used term these days. Finally, as always, it comes down to people and if you have good people in the right spots and can manage to keep them then you stand to come out of this in better shape regardless of whether you are a startup or long term business.
We’re not saying every business is alike, and many businesses are still getting approval by their local government to stay open as ‘essential’ and other businesses, unfortunately, are not. How your state defines essential during this time, does not define your business or who you are and how you help your customers. Take this time to reflect on where you want your business to be and where you want it to go so that when things return to normal, you can at least hit the ground running.
Don’t dwell on the negative side effects that this is having or could have, but don’t sweep them under the rug either. Recognize them and plan for them. Do what you can right now because that’s all we can do, and most importantly support each other. Now is not the time for political arguments, finger pointing or complaining. Now is the time for support and uplifting, because everyone is going through hard times. They may be different trials and tribulations than yourself, but everyone is hurting right now. When all of this is over, we must come out a stronger industry.
Until then..hang in!