The celebration of my most recent Anniversary Party in late September marked five years since I decided to take the equipment out of my apartment garage and more it to a true brick and mortar gym. Since then I have grown the business from only having a few clients to seeing over seventy different people a week. This past summer I moved to a larger location and even have space for complementary services within my facility like the addition of MoveWell Physical Therapy.
Each year I do my best to grow my business so I can better serve the people who come to train with me. Looking forward towards the future is best but I do not like to completely forget the past; it is there where we can learn from either our successes or failures in hopes to refine what works to be the best I can be. In this article I will focus on the five lessons I have learned in five years of business to help those looking to start a business with some of my own personal insight.
Lesson One: Do Your Homework First
There is the business machismo idea that you have to simply take and chance and jump in head first and just do it. I, on the other hand, think of life as a fine balancing act and this applies to business as well. Too much of one side without implementation or, at the very least, acknowledgement of the other side can be detrimental to your growth.
When I came out of graduate school with a Master’s Degree in Kinesiology I had taken exactly ZERO business courses in the eight plus years I was in college. I have a bone to pick with college courses but that is for another post. Sure I might have known the physical aspects on how to do my job but I had no idea how to run a business and questioned if I should just jumped right in?
I do agree that we can analyze things to the point where we are paralyzed and do not do anything and we have all seen that within ourselves or among the talented people around us but jumping off the deep end without surveying the land quickly would be foolish in my opinion. I spent about 3 months learning about business; reading books and asking people who were gym owners how they did things before I went ahead and opened mine and that seemed to work out so far for me.
Lesson Two: Double the Time, Double the Money
Even with correct research, saving and planning good ‘ol Mr. Murphy likes to show up and sour the party. The time and money you think it will take to complete a project will simply not be the case. I had a grandiose vision to open my new location with everything done and ready to go. Well I am about three months into my new space and the posters are still not hung up on the gym walls and neither is the mirror in the bathroom. I went from wanting everything completely done before I reopened my doors to simply making sure I had the essentials in place to be able to function as a gym.
When thinking about money always think more rather than less. I had a budget in mind with the new gym and I have to say I was pretty close to how much it was going to cost me, however there were some unforeseen costs. One example is that every city has their own way of going about getting a business license. Mine has an annual cost of about $200 a year for the license and I also have to get a yearly fire inspection, another $200 and have my fire extinguisher serviced yearly at $43. This was an extra $443 that I had not accounted for and when you are a small business that adds up.
Have a general idea of how long things are going to take and how much they will cost and leave yourself a small cushion in case you get bit by the Murphy bug.
Lesson Three: Stick With It
When you own a business it is not always going to be sunshine and rainbows. There will be hard times. My business ebbs and flows around the sports and summer vacation seasons so there are weeks and months when I am down in numbers because of this. Sure there were days I thought of taking a second job working nights behind the bulletproof glass at a gas station to make ends meet but I believed in my ability to train people and the services I provided so I continued to work on them, be as active in my business as possible and push through the hard times.
Lesson Four: Everyone Needs Help
It’s easy to think that you can do it all yourself whether you think you can do it better than someone else or if you are like me, you really do not like to inconvenience other people by asking for their help.
As your business grows you may think that you will get to the point where you can be on auto pilot and the business will practically run itself, this is not the case. The business might be getting bigger and the old work running smoother, but there are more cogs in the system now that need attention and they have to be maintained and worked on. If the business gets too big you can be consumed by the cogs that do not get the attention they deserve.
I like most of the aspects beyond training that help my business with the exception of updating the website beyond the blog and marketing. I get to the point where I neglect and ignore them and they start to come back to haunt me. I am now learning that I need help with these aspects and I so not need to be directly responsible for these parts to work. If I get someone to help who is an expert in that field and knows what I am trying to portray through my business then they can help me save time, grief and some gray hair.
Lesson Five: Never Stop Learning
One of the reasons why I decided to open my own business was because I felt it gave me the opportunity to constantly learn and grow. Working at a commercial health club is great but there was a definite ceiling, especially in terms of personal growth beyond training.
I now no longer just need to worry about learning more about the area of strength and conditioning; I need to keep up with business, marketing and other areas like social media etc. Having a business that keeps up with the changing industry is perfect for people who are striving to learn and grow as a person by taking on new challenges and not being afraid of not knowing something or even failing at it initially. This year I plan on dedicating more time to learning about restoration and muscle testing and function to help my athletes but I also plan on learning more to revise my business and marketing plan to help reach more people and grow for 2014.
So those are some of the lessons I have learned in my first five years of business. I hope this helps you out in your journey through training, business and life. If you have anything to add feel free to leave a comment down below.