To own a small business- What I’ve Learned it “Takes”

A little bit of a change from posts about fitness, I thought today I would share a post about what I’ve learned about starting a new business with absolutely no ‘business’ background.

My intent in sharing is to inspire and motivate others who are debating whether to pursue a goal of any kind.  Whether this goal is to pick their things up and move across the country, start a business, actively seek a relationship, whatever it is people are working on, I want to give them a sense of ‘anything is possible if you are willing to be curious, interested, and do what it ‘takes’.

If you ask anyone of my close friends for feedback about me I bet you a thousand dollars they will say “Katherine is the kind of person who makes happen what she say’s she will make happen”.  I realize this is a gift for me, and I would like to share some of my tools for making goals a reality.

Here is my list of things I had to learn in order to become a successful business owner.

#1:  Be PATIENT- everything takes time, and the seeds you plant will eventually grow and blossom into something.  Sometimes the seeds you plant don’t directly grow into the flower you thought you were growing, but everything you do towards your business will support the overall goal in the end.  Before starting a business I was very much a go getter, proactive type.  I always felt that if I worked hard enough I would get results in my life, and for the most part that had been true, I had proven that to myself.  What I didn’t realize with starting a business is that no matter how many hours and effort you put in, there is a growing process where people get to know you, recommend you, and you start to hone in on your skills/offers/services etc.  To put things into perspective it took me 2 years before I became full time solely personal training to support my income.  Initially I had imagined myself being full time in 6 months, great goal to have, but realistically it took me longer.  I remind myself that doctors don’t become doctors over night, and neither do business owners!  Now I use this lesson of practicing patiences in all aspects of my life.

#2.  Anything is possible.  My whole life I imagined a personal trainer as a super muscle fit women, 120 pounds, high energy and motivated all the time.  It took me an INCREDIBLE amount of positive self talk, coaching, daily journalling, and support from my network to dispel this belief.  This was such a HUGE distractor and component holding me back from starting my business that I want to devote an entire other blog on this topic (coming soon).  In the meantime, I want you to know that any goal you have, the only REAL thing holding you back is what you are telling yourself about it.

#3:  Don’t listen to those negative self talks.  Whether they are conscious or not, I truly believe that it’s not your skills, abilities, or talents that will hold you back.  Those can be trained and coached and improved.  What will eventually hold you back, maybe not at the beginning, but at some point in your journey is what you tell yourself about yourself.  Ask yourself- what do you tell yourself in the confines of your own mind that hold you back?  Over the years I’ve used “I don’t have a bubbly personality”, “I don’t have a total grasp on those concepts yet”, ” I am not thin enough”, “I am not old enough”, “I am not experienced enough”, ” I am not detailed oriented enough” “I have no clue about taxes/accountaing/marketing/networking” etc.etc. etc.

#4:  You’ve got to do the work on yourself.  Well, I think #2-4 all tie in together.  Unless you find some kind of support system to challenge your self beliefs, keep you accountable, and keep you on the straight and narrow, I truly believe your business will fail.  Studies show that somewhere between 50 and 80 % of businesses don’t last 4-5 years.  As a self employed business, your business is YOU.  Without keeping yourself on the straight and narrow, your ship will go down sinking!  Some support I have used over the past three years is:  2 business coaches, 2 life coaches, personal development programs, therapy, meditation, journalling, goal setting circles, and friendships!  Do I think I am abnormal in my need for all these services?  No!  I was a happy, smart, self disciplined person, and still benefited TREMEDENOUSLY.  Could I have done it all without these modalities?  Probably.  I know my type A personality would have got me to this point eventually, BUT.  Instead of ‘pushing through’ I built this business without burning out, I NEVER get sick, I have a TON of time for myself and my activities, I took 8 weeks off for vacation this year, and overall I feel like I have grown a ton as a person.  So yes, results can be created without support, but I firmly believe that support allows you to achieve goals with health and happiness in tow!

#5:  You have to stay EDUCATED and PASSIONATE.  When I see what I believe my business thrives off of, it is education and passion.  Over the pest 3 years I have invested a thousands of dollars yearly on education in order to stay ahead in my field, and be seen as a go to expert.  Also, with education we can then educate our clients more clearly and in detail.  A client who is going to refer to you is a client who has learned something from you and is able to tell someone else what they have learned and experienced.  Also, education breeds passion.  With every further learning you take you realize how much MORE there is to learn, and it keeps you striving.  The second you stop learning and growing is the second you become stagnant as a business.  No matter what you are trying to sell, if you don’t have passion noone is going to buy it.

#6:  There isn’t always one right way to be, do or say something.  As a person I tend to like to control, and be right.  I always felt that I had a certain way of doing things, and that it just made so much sense to me, it must be right.  Throughout this journey I have been open to trying things in a new way, and have been surprised to see- I AM NOT ALWAYS RIGHT- ha…I am sure my friends and family enjoy me typing that one!  Also, I always believed that to be a personal trainer you needed to “be” a certain way.  Bubbly, energetic, outgoing, confident, etc.  I put so much emphasis on TRYING to be this way.  In the end, I realize that I am who I am (which for the most part is engaging and energetic).  I am not the most outgoing, not the bubbliest, not the most confident, and yet it doesn’t matter.  All clients are not looking for ‘that’ type of trainer.  Today I train 13 clients, so I am pretty sure I can lay that self belief to rest.  If those 13 people wanted a bubbly excited trainer they would have chosen someone else!

#7:  You have to remind yourself of the important work you are doing.  I work alone, no coworkers, no bosses, just me and my clients.  As a result you can sometimes start to wonder “Am i making an impact?” “am i doing a good job”, “how can I improve?” “should I get a raise?”.  Except for on the occasion when a client gives you a compliment or shares with you the benefits of your work with them then it’s hard to know if you are doing a good job!  I have found a regular schedule, tools, and strategies to remind myself regularly of the good work I am doing.  This involves saving e-mails in a little folder from clients when they express a ‘win’ (Thanks Tina Chen for the tip, http://www.innerouterwealth.com/).  I also give myself a raise yearly, and I compile lists of how I know I am making an impact.  One of the ways I know that I have been successful in this area is that a huge majority of the clients that started with me on day 1, 2.5 years ago are still with me today.  They may never gush about the results they are getting, or how great I am (and they shouldn’t have to), but I use this retention statistic to realize that I’ve done something well for these people to keep them coming back!

#8:  You have to stay client focussed.  At some points in my business, especially at the beginning, I became very focussed on earning more money, and gaining more clients.  What I was forgetting was the golden rule.  If you focus on the client, what they need, how to get them results, and how to support them, your income and client #’s will grow.  It doesn’t mean you give up on marketing and advertising, but for me it meant spending that extra few hours a week program planning, researching topics for clients, asking other trainers about solutions for certain problems etc.  As a result I have had to spend less time marketing and advertising because the clients are satisfied, returning, and referring.  And in the end, you get to spend more time doing what you love (rather than the business aspects) anyways!

#9:  You have to have fun.  I can’t imagine that a smug, unhappy, personal trainer would make very much money.  It is VERY important in my industry, and most industries to enjoy what you are doing.  It shows up on your face, in your actions, and in the numbers of your business if you aren’t having fun!  For me this meant ensuring I am making time for FUN in my personal life, and also ensuring I am having FUN in my sessions (chatting when appropriate, getting to know the clients, being engaged in the coaching).

#10:  You have to REST.  For most of my life I have gone to school and worked on average 1-4 jobs at the same time, while balancing sports, friends and a social life.  It felt normal for me to be busy.  Since personal training I realize that if I don’t rest enough it is slightly harder to control my mood in a way that is supportive for my clients.  It’s ok to be in a bad mood once in awhile in a session, but when I wasn’t resting enough I was REALLY struggling with staying positive during training hours.  So sure, I can work a million hours a day and survive, but what I couldn’t do was thrive!

#11:  You can’t do it alone.  Another belief I had to bust was that I was intelligent, hardworking, and a go getter enough to make this happen on my own.  Boy was I wrong.  Without the coaches I mentioned earlier I would have hit a lot more bumps along the way.  With my super supportive boyfriend I am not sure I would have got through some of the negative self beliefs I was having.  Kyle supported me emotionally, as well as financially at the beginning.  When I started my business I simply quit my old job with no savings in the bank and started this business!  Crazy now that I think back at it…. Sure, I made it all work and paid my bills and rent, but Kyle helped by supplementing extra groceries, and supporting me to go on a fabulous 2 week trip to Costa Rica.  He truly was my rock during this time, and it’s important to find your rock too!

#12:  You have to figure out what’s going well and roll with that.  I think one aspect of being a ‘smart’ entrepreneur is looking at what is going to work well for your business, while staying aligned with your end goal.  Sure, sometimes in the short term we train certain clients, or take certain jobs to do what we have to do.  But long term it’s important to analyze what’s working, what’s not working and where to make changes.  For example, figuring out where most of your clients are coming from, and focussing your efforts there.  Or in my case, realizing that small group personal training is a fantastic way to train more people in less hours, for more money.  AkA helping more people in a day, while supporting myself financially.  It’s important to be reflective and honest when evaluating your business to make changes, and not being afraid to make them!

#13-  Listen to the people who know more than you, who have already paved the path you are heading down, who are successful, and who you can trust.  I networked for 1.5 years t the start of my business.  1-3 networking events a week on average!  Did I gain clients from it?  Barely… Would I do it again?  YES!  I observed, watched, learned, met with EVERYONE for coffee, made connections, and in the end learned a TON about business from these people.  I think one of the things that makes me good at what I do is constant observing those who do things better than me, and learning from them!

#14:  Please excuse my language here:  but you are going to FUCK up, and everything is going to be ok in the end.  Without FUCK UPS you don’t learn and grow.  This was huge learning for me!  I thought if I was on top of my game that mistakes wouldn’t happen.  Well, unfortunately when you are starting out there are things you don’t know, that you don’t know!  Therefore you are just doing your best with the knowledge that you have.  Unfortunately though, this can lead to FUCK UPS!  This came in all shapes and sizes for me, such as avoiding topics with clients that eventually lead to conflict, taking on clients I shouldn’t have for my sanity, making decisions that ended poorly, saying things and reacting in certain ways that I know look back on and frown.  But you know what?  All of those opportunities were HUGE learning opportunities for me.  I grew, learned, and will not replicate those mistakes again.  And the learning from my professional life has carried forward into my personal life.  In the end, I find it important to trust in something bigger than me.  Whether you want to call it god, or the universe or some kind of higher power, I trust that if I am doing my best with the knowledge I have, in the end it will all work out in some way or another!

#15:  You can’t take the small things personally.  Sure, there will be times in your business where something happens and it becomes important to look at your role in the scenario.  Did you act with integrity, trust, and professionalism?  If you haven’t, then perhaps it;s an opportunity to look at how you could have done something differently.  BUT- that doesn’t mean that every time something happens that you have to make it mean something about yourself.  For example, if a client stops training with you for no reason, or you set someone up with a program and they don’t e-mail you back, or someone say’s or does something to provoke a negative self belief.  What I have learned to do is put myself in the shoes of that other person.  What is going on with them to provoke their behaviour and actions.  95 % of the time I realize it’s simply because of the place in their life they are in that they are acting a certain way.  5% of the time I truly see I have not acted appropriately in the situation and need to rectify something.  This is not saying I am perfect, but instead what I am saying is that people say and do things all day every day without realizing their effects on other people.  You can take their actions to mean something about yourself.

I truly hope this helps you.  I truly hopes this supports you in realizing that I am an average person with no extraordinary training, learning, growing and making things happen in my professional life.  I want this to inspire you to take yourself on and do the same!  Do what it takes until you get what you want 🙂

  •  Katherine

Ps- Photo credit goes to:http://www.easymortgagesolution.ca/index.php/blog/post/29/self-employed?–we-can-help

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