Coronavirus Response: Communication and Leadership Practices for Sports Facility Owners and Operators

It goes without saying that the Coronavirus outbreak has heaped an immense amount of stress on nearly every citizen of our world. Families are facing new questions about maintaining their physical and emotional health, stewarding their children’s education, and performing the duties of their profession. For sports facilities owners and operators, these questions take on heightened importance as their facilities are closed and workforces reduced. It’s in these times that leadership takes on its highest importance. Your employees, stakeholders, and partners are looking to you see how you address all facets of this crisis. While daunting, there are opportunities to strengthen your team, build innovative solutions, and strengthen your community during this time. The key is having an acute focus on the current needs of the people around you and eye on positioning your facility for the economic recovery. Recently, we held a webinar titled, COVID-19 Response: Money Saving Measures for Owners and Operators. The video provides a variety of tips to help sports venue owners and operators trim costs during the COVID-19 crisis and prepare to lead the way when it’s safe to open their doors again. In our second article inspired by the webinar, we provide leadership and communication best practices. (Part one of the series provided tips for cost containment and can be found here.)

Provide Vision

Vision is always important, but in times of crisis, it’s paramount. Give great thought to how you want your facility and organization to function in the recovery. How will your venue operate at that time? How will you serve customers? This is not a solitary process. Your stakeholders should be a part of crafting and projecting this vision.

Create a COVID-19 Response Team

Unprecedented times call for innovative measures. Create an internal team to manage your venue’s response to the crisis. This team should include your operations manager, legal counsel, finance manager, and your director of human resources. This team should be tasked with the job of gathering best practices pertinent to their responsibility and disseminating it to the team for informed decision making. This strategy will allow you to build a set of procedures that are relevant to all parts of your organization.

Ramp up Outreach

Along with the physical and financial impacts of the COVID-19 epidemic, is a significant psychological impact on our communities. Customer behavior will likely shift in ways that aren’t yet apparent. This is the time to take aggressive action. Create a team that focuses on the growth of existing relationships with customers, sponsors, tenants, and events rights holders. The cultivation these relationships will pay dividends during recovery times.

Seek the Opportunities

While these times appear bleak, there are opportunities out there to optimize all facets of your business and it’s of great importance that you seek them. The sports facilities that come out the other side of the Coronavirus pandemic still intact will be stronger companies primed for greater success. Let us be encouraged by the list of companies that started during difficult financial times and rose to great heights, including Microsoft, General Motors, and Hyatt. For more companies, visit this article.

Communication Tips

Just as in any crisis, there’s several key audiences that you must address. These audiences are all critical and require their own custom messaging. Empathy, openness, and clarity should be at the forefront of all communication.
  • For operators communicating to owners other audiences:
    • Immediate cost mitigation plans: Show that you are being proactive in controlling costs during this time.
    • Reforecasting scenarios by re-open date: Re-open dates are a moving target right now, but it’s crucial to remain in communication with facility ownership about forecasts and budgeting based on several potential re-open dates.
    • Strategic objectives for quarantine time: As mentioned earlier, now’s the time to be aggressive. Determine what your objectives are during this time and communicate those to facility ownership.
    • Funding options: It’s also time to have a conversation about what funding options to pursue, whether via the stimulus package or other finance vehicles.
    • Communicate with events rights holders: They want to know what’s your plan for their event, including rescheduling options. You must develop solutions and communicate your plan.
    • Stay in touch with your CVB: Make sure they understand your marketing and business strategy so they will know how to collaborate with you when the recovery process starts.
    • Communicate with Sponsors: Keep in contact with this audience as well. Support their efforts to support the community. For example, if they are doing a food drive, help them promote it.
  • For owners communicating to various audiences:
    • Needs, expectations, standards: Clarity is king. Make sure your operators understand what you need during this time period as well as how you want them to lead, communicate, and work.
    • Review progress: Feedback should be clear as well. As you’ve heard many times, the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented. We must all work together to ensure that we are marching down the correct path to being positioned for economic recovery.
For more tips and resources for managing your facility during the Coronavirus crisis, please visit our resources page. And if you are already thinking about the economic recovery and need guidance, please visit our Disaster Rebound Services page or contact us at 727-374-3845.