24 April

Life after lockdown

What will the post-Covid world look like? Will businesses pick up where they left off or will customers’ values have changed, and what does it mean for tennis players? We asked business consultant Adam Walker, who has been a Director of Local Tennis Leagues, to look into his crystal ball.

WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR YOUR TENNIS CENTRE, COACH OR CLUB

If you can afford it...

  • Re-new your membership fee as soon as it's approaching its expiry date - even if the centre is closed
  • As soon as allowed, book your child or children into a kids' camp
  • Book yourself a series of lessons; better still, book some for the whole family
  • If your coach is self-employed, offer to pay for some lessons now, and take them later, to help his or her cash flow
  • Spend money in the tennis centre's cafe, the club bar or shop when it reopens; it's likely to be an important part of the revenue stream
  • If there is an opportunity, offer to run (or help run) an online, fund-raising quiz during the lock down or to help with an event once the lockdown ends

We have all had to work out how to stay safe and well as we endure the Coronavirus crisis, but the men and women who run tennis venues or simply coach us players, have also been wrestling with how to keep their businesses afloat. There is a lot to do. How do they protect their staff, how do they keep in touch with their customers and how do they prepare for the re-start?

The LTA has already stepped in with advice and practical support, but there is no getting away from it, tennis venues and the people who run them shoulder a huge burden.

Adam Walker

Adam Walker, CEO Oaks Consultancy

"Once they got over the initial crisis management, businesses have used the time to reflect," says Adam Walker who through Oaks Consultancy has been advising charity, educational and sporting organsations from some of the biggest (eg UEFA) to some of the smallest (like Local Tennis Leagues). "Now they are not operational, organisations are strategising and thinking about what they can improve."

Some have already got it wrong. “My Dad’s golf club went into liquidation because it sent out red letters very aggressively demanding membership fees and, en masse, the members said no, we are not re-joining.” But others have used the opportunity to strengthen their bonds with their customers. Being fair with refunds for instance, or taking time to communicate via email and social media allows these busineses the chance to look ahead and show they care.

“There is going to a moment when the cork comes out of the champagne bottle. People who have not been able to play tennis for months are going to be busting to get out and play."

For venues, it's all about being ready and being creative.. They might plan an all-day (even an all-night) tournament, an event that isolated or older people can come and watch or something special for NHS and shift workers. Crucially, says Adam, they should sieze the moment and celebrate the family.

“Families have suddenly become much more important. Previously, everyone did their own thing. This process has galvanised the family as a unit. They have gone back to doing board games and jigsaws and a lot of our charity and educational clients are thinking of how they can maintain the family unit as being important in the future, without losing that spirit of fun."

The interdependency between a business and its customers has also never been more apparent. Adam noticed it in the jewellery-quarter in Birmingham where his business is based. "The local micro-breweries all closed until local people realised they were holding lots of stock. They began a campaign to buy it at full price. Now almost all the breweries have re-opened as off-licences.”  

Tennis players can support their venues or coaches in the same way.

“Previously, the attitude was if a business was making money, it was almost resented and if it went bust people would find something else. But people’s values have changed. We are all in this together and it’s all about teams. The family has become a team, business has become a team, even the eco-system is like a team.”

Of course, the old normal may come roaring back and it could be business as usual. Some thing may be the same but mind sets have changed.

“Before it was all about having money and buying rubbish. Now it’s about families and friends and social interaction, and business is trying to capture as much of the good stuff that comes from that as they can.” High on the list will be physical activity.

“People who love tennis will want to play a lot more and they will value it more. There will be more community focus because the community has got them through and people will be more tolerant. If someone can’t get a court at 7.30 they will play at 8.30 because instant gratification was the order of yesterday. Patience is the order of today.”

So if you love your tennis centre, as soon as you can, use it. Buy the coffee and have the lunch (it is probably a crucial part of the business plan). Book a lesson (your coach is a mini-business too).  If you can afford it, block-book six. Take the kids. Make tennis a family affair. Play as much as you can, and don't forget to play with your friends. 

You never know what you've got until it’s gone.

For more business tips contact the Oaks Consultancy
For the LTA's Covid-19 support packages, click here