Business Practices to Survive a Pandemic
Catching Up with Coss Marte: Adapting Business Practices to Survive a Pandemic.
An entrepreneur, fitness and lifestyle virtuoso, and prison reform advocate, Coss Marte is a positive force in our society. He provides the formerly incarcerated (and many others) with an opportunity to truly rehabilitate and find their place in the world. His life’s mission is to tackle issues such as prejudice in our justice system and dangerous conditions in prison.
Now, there is yet another hurdle to jump. COVID-19 is posing a tremendous threat to all of us, but it is acutely dangerous for incarcerated populations. The hunger strikes and worldwide riots may not be enough to shine a light on the subpar treatment and low regard for the health and wellbeing of prisoners. We caught up with Marte to catch up and get his perspective on the worldwide pandemic and its impact on the incarcerated and business.
Getting fit while in prison was his impetus to create the program that would save so many. About three years after his release, he created the workout fitness company, ConBody, and hired trainers who were former prisoners. His program has a track record of effectively minimizing recidivism. Had it not been for ConBody, his 25 employees would likely be in the street, back in prison, or struggling to find employment to build a comfortable way of life. But with the threat of the novel coronavirus, it seems that the more employees one has, the more there is to fear.
First, we asked how his family and friends were doing. The worry was apparent. “One of my trainers has COVID. It’s very difficult. She’s in Brooklyn with her mother for about a week right now. Her mom says she’s going to take her to the hospital if her fever doesn’t go down soon,” he says.
Mind, Body, and Business
Overcoming insurmountable odds to create something great from scratch is in Marte’s nature. He refuses to let this pandemic bring about the end of everything he’s worked so hard to build. “We quickly pivoted to online workout videos. We got classes online, and we’ve got a lot of people joining us. We’ve created a community, and there are people from everywhere — Europe, Russia, China, to name a few.” Along with his fiancé, Marte maintains positivity.Depression can set in with this pandemic’s self-quarantine, almost as if being jailed, a comparison not lost on Marte. Many people look to him for direction, and he reaches out to many, as well. “I told them it’s like being in prison. When you are in solitary, we would call it “the lock,” for a 24-hour lockdown. When you’re confined for 24 hours, you start pacing and stressing and getting anxious,” he recalls. After a reflective moment, he continues, “The one thing I started talking to people about is when they’re watching CNN or other news, it keeps people in shock and full of anxiety.”Much like he did in prison, Marte keeps his mind on track with a set of simple philosophies:
- Come up with a schedule.
- Get into a routine.
- Don’t fill your mind with all the sadness around you.
He says, “It’s something I did while I was in solitary. When I woke up, I wrote letters. In the morning, I ate breakfast, very slowly. I took my time cleaning my clothes. I worked out and then washed myself slowly.” It is vital to concentrate on yourself, your own wellbeing. He reads his books and focuses his time to be present, avoiding anxious and depressing thoughts.
ConBody quickly reinvented itself for the pandemic. With people confined to their homes, his workouts are ideal, suited for small spaces like the prison cells where the concept first started. “We have an online subscription model where people could subscribe each month. And then we have a live stream from our site at $20 a class, held three times a day. People are tuning in from all over the world. It’s been phenomenal to see all these people.” Find details about the company and how anyone can get in on the action at ConBody.com.
Prison & Pandemic: A Wicked Problem
ConBody offers the “ultimate no-equipment, hardcore workout program” and has a mission to advocate for prison reform. The United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. These men and women are isolated from society, in cells for up to 23 hours a day. They’re allowed out only for showers, brief exercise, or medical visits. Calls are recorded, and visitations are limited.
People are going in and out of jail cells about 10.6 million times each year; this means a significant percentage of the population is facing uniquely high levels of risk in contracting COVID-19. Additionally, social distancing is nearly impossible in prisons, and the healthcare required to treat it is woefully inadequate.No change or reform is possible without leaders that advocate for their people. So, we went ahead and asked Marte what he believes the government and big businesses can do to help. He states three main takeaways:
- Optimism is key: “We need to hear more optimistic news, and I know a lot of people don’t agree with the president because they react too quickly.”
- Focus on the real problems: “We need to stop the fighting, blaming, and pointing fingers. We need to come up with solutions to fix the problems that are going on like paying the rent, mortgages. With everybody out of their job, how do people operate?”
- United, we stand: “We all need to come together as a community and figure out the larger issues instead of just continuing to point fingers at one another.”
Finally, we asked Marte how would this COVID-19 pandemic change us as we move forward. “I think it’s gonna be a slow start. I think we’re going to be a little scared to interact with people, getting close to people, going to stadiums. It’s going to come little by little as people get accustomed to going out, being closer to one another, it’s going to take a little bit of time,” he says.Like most of the great tragedies in human history, we will survive this latest scourge and probably come out better for it. Our technology will improve. Our compassion and empathy will grow. Those who do not evolve and persist will slowly fade away. Thankfully, Marte won’t be one to fade. “I’ve already started contacting IT people to install cameras to be able to live stream all over the world, so if people want to come and join us, they can,” he says.
“Businesses, corporations, and people, in general, will have to be innovative. Our society will have to grow together, work together, and care for each other,” he continues. “When there’s a problem, there’s a solution.”
In conclusion, there is always hope. Marte is not the only one fighting for good causes. He won’t be the last to transform to adjust and persevere. In the end, he put it best, “Humanity will conquer anything that hits us because that’s how it’s always been. And that’s how God operates.”