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Maneuvering Through COVID-19 with CARE

Posted By Climbing Wall Association, Tuesday, September 22, 2020
Sam Thiara Keynote

The pandemic was a shock to the climbing industry. In addition to other disruptions to daily life, gym closures have been devastating to the entire industry. It’s clear that the path forward cannot be the same one previously taken. A new path forward has to be forged.


The Climbing Wall Association was equally impacted, canceling its annual in-person conference, the CWA Summit, to instead focus our efforts on creating resources for our members and the climbing industry at large. We began hosting twice-a-week Community Calls, published a Roadmap to Reopening and more than two dozen other helpful articles, and organized our first-ever virtual workshop, the Survive & Thrive Workshop, which is still accessible on-demand.


The workshop goals are simple:

  • Provide actionable strategies to survive this uncertain time
  • Generate ideas to strive for growth and forward thinking
  • Foster connection
  • Inspire - spark creativity and a sense of optimism
  • Have fun!

Within the first 30 minutes of the workshop, gyms were empowered to look inward for the answers. Opening keynote presenter Sam Thiara, a business coach with Ignite the Dream Coaching, is also a calm, introspective storyteller and professor.


He showed a picture of a monk in yellow robes and commented that he is not that monk, he does not have all the answers. But he can provide a framework for listeners to define their questions, reframing their challenges to find solutions. What follows is a quick overview of Sam’s keynote session.


You have the answers, and here’s how to find them:

  • Collaboration
  • Adaptability
  • Resilience
  • Empathy


Now more than ever is the time to lean on your team. Bring everyone together and first make sure you’re in alignment on your company’s mission, vision, and values. Only by understanding where you are presently can you move forward as a team, and in so doing build trust and fortify those relationships. Strengthen your relationships by taking care of your team (and don’t forget about yourself). This will create more solid footing in a global environment that feels anything but solid.



It is an understatement to say that climbing gyms have had to get creative during these unprecedented times. Change is tough, but a few tactics can make it easier. These tactics have to do with your own mindset toward change.


As opposed to resisting change, accepting and even embracing it can allow for greater creativity. We are now back to square one in a way, so having that “learner’s mind” and an “improvised mind” can really help. Moreover, getting strategic so that you are being proactive versus reactive shows leadership and empowers your team to try things and keep adjusting. Just remember, when implementing organizational change:

  • Be transparent with those around you
  • Communicate in the most efficient way
  • Engage others to let them be a part of the change (not top down)


We know now that COVID isn’t going away anytime soon. This is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s more important than ever to look after yourself and those around you. The best way to build resilience are with these tactics:

  • Acceptance
  • Define yourself (don’t let the situation define you)
  • Use this as an opportunity to learn
  • Demonstrate gratitude

Creating a supportive environment centered around trust, appreciation, reflection, and collaboration will create strength and unification, two major pillars of leadership.



Great leaders care for those around them. Really put yourself in the shoes of those around you. What is their mood? What might be going on in their lives, outside of the assumptions you may hold? The only way you can know the answers to these important questions is by establishing a greater level of communication.


When engaging, really listen. Be present. Just as self-care works for you, treating your team with empathy is a form of self-care for them, which has a trickle-down effect for the customers they interact with and, in turn, the way these customers feel about your business. This is called the “Service-Profit Chain Model,” another tactic you can take with you from the Survive & Thrive Workshop.


In summary, when we focus on the solutions versus our deficits, we are doing what’s called “Appreciative Inquiry.” Reflecting on how you got to where you are (what Sam Thiara calls your “base”), where you’re going (your “dream”), how you’re going to get there (your “design”) and delivery is a great way to structure your team’s approach to this unique moment.


And just remember, you’re not in it alone.


Join the Survive & Thrive ecosystem to gain access to networking tools with all attendees, ongoing Community Board forum conversations, and more valuable content like this session! Once on the platform, you’ll have access to the content and networking tools for the next 6 months! Ticket sales end September 30. Register at




Tags:  company culture  coronavirus  COVID-19  employee engagement  leadership  virtual events 

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Fostering Connection and Inspiration at the Survive & Thrive Workshop

Posted By Laura Allured, Monday, September 14, 2020
Updated: Tuesday, September 15, 2020
Kristin Horowitz Marc Gutman Laura Allured

On September 2 and 3, 2020 the CWA hosted the Survive & Thrive Workshop, its first-ever all virtual workshop. The event was built to give gym owners and senior leadership a framework for success during COVID. 150 people from over 25 states and 3 countries, including more than 40 different gyms and 20 sponsors, joined online for two days jam-packed with learning and activities.


The “venue” in this case was a virtual event platform called Whova, a hub site where attendees could navigate to different sessions and also message other attendees, join virtual meetups, visit interactive sponsor pages, and contribute toward discussions on the lively Community Board. Community Board topics include, “Work from home parents,” “Diversifying climbing communities,” “gyms still closed,” “new pricing structures,” and “competition ideas.”



Day 1 kicked off with a keynote address by Sam Thiara, an expert business coach who emphasized the importance of CARE: Collaboration, Adaptability, Resilience, and Empathy. Attendees then had the option of joining Track 1 or Track 2, 90-minute deep dives into two areas: Adaptable Business Models and Leading Through Coronavirus. The track sessions were a mixed format of presentations, panels, and Q&A, with a robust virtual chat and question threads happening during presentations.


Day 2’s tracks focused on Financial Positioning & Self-Advocacy, with panelists from a variety of gym sizes, locations, and years in operation, and Marketing & Community Engagement. Each day also included breakout sessions into pre-assigned “pods” with names such as “Pod Belay!” “Pod Save the Queen,” and “Orange is the New Pod.” These fun pods provided a more intimate, confidential space for groups of 10-15 to open up and share challenges with one another. Problem Solving sessions also allowed pods to tackle a problem together using the interactive brainstorming tool, Miro, then a delegate from each pod presented their takeaways.


Financial Survival and Advocacy


The two days of live programming wrapped up with a closing keynote with business coach, Marc Koehler presenting on how to build a strong team culture, and a special guest speaker, Tommy Caldwell, speaking on overcoming adversity. Attendees walked away with more confidence, more connections, and new skills to tackle very immediate issues facing their gyms. One attendee wrote, “Magical occasion to connect and exchange with other people from the industry in #2020craziness. 14/10 would recommend!”


Additional activities include a photo contest, leaderboard to show those who were most engaged, a sponsor passport contest, sponsor and raffle and giveaways, running through the end of the month! Raffle prizes include holds, volumes, massage chairs, climbing gear, and more.


Purchase an On-Demand Ticket to watch this valuable content and gain access to the interactive ecosystem. Once on the platform, you’ll have access to the content and networking tools for the next 6 months! Ticket sales end September 30.




Tags:  advocacy  business development  community development  company culture  coronavirus  COVID-19  customer experience  diversity  employee engagement  financing  human resources  JEDI  marketing  member acquisition  member communications  member retention  programming  public policy  regulations  risk management  staff retention  staff training  virtual events 

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