For most individuals finishing up their post-secondary education, the idea that the world is going to give you an opportunity to ‘showcase’ your new found skills and knowledge is really just fantasy. In an ideal world, we would walk directly from the stage, accepting our degree and into our new place of work. We would all be making what we demand and start in our dream position.
Reality – we do not live in that world. People are afraid of risk. The fear of uncertainty is real and strong enough to turn some of the strongest of wills away from what they feel is right. In my opinion, the only way to make it in this world is to create your own opportunities. One way to do this - starting up your own business! It’s going to be difficult; rough--only for the strong. It’s going to be what solidifies your legacy in this ‘rat race’ of a world we live in.
Over the past 10+ years of self-employment, I have lost tens of thousands of dollars through trial and error; uncalculated moves that lead to mistakes and flat out just not knowing what the hell I was doing (largely because I went into starting a business blindly). Here are 5 key points I have learned during the arduous journey of starting my own business. Take note and do not commit these same mistakes.
1. Trust is EARNED, not given.
My biggest mistake in business is that I gave my trust to people too easily.If I have a personal connection with you, this means you are trustworthy - that you have my best interests in mind and that you would not do anything to jeopardize the connection. REMEMBER: “It’s business, not personal.” Personal connections have no reflection on what can possibly happen in a business relationship.At the end of the day, people will take care of number 1--themselves.
When I started Acceleration Fitness Center, I had 4 other partners that I felt shared the same vision as I did: to build the consummate fitness facility that embraced every client’s needs and wants while providing a comfortable training atmosphere. All partners were all on board… or so I thought.
Fast-forward 12 months later, we were $30,000 in the hole and dropping quickly.I had landlords breathing down my neck, the city sending bailiffs to seize equipment, creditors calling me every minute of every day. How could this be? We weren’t exactly hitting our projections but we certainly were not too far off (at least NOT $30,000 off).
Upon investigation, I realized that the company was ‘locked’ into an illegitimate sub-lease agreement created by the father of my ‘business partner’ that was nearly double what we should have been paying. The particulars of how we got into the sub-lease agreement I will leave out as it can take pages to explain - point is, the agreement was illegitimate and illegal.
I will take majority, if not all, of the blame for this. I should have paid attention to the fine print.I should have listened to my instincts and approached the contract with caution – given the numerous warnings given by outside voices. But, here was where I ‘.I had known the family for quite some time; I had trained the family and provided therapy services to them as well. I had gone to university with my ‘friend’ so I had the mindset that ‘these people are my friends, they would never do anything wrong to me.’
In the end, the lease was terminated, the one partner was kicked out and the father was barred from our facility. With all the extra cash injections that were put into the company to offset our losses, we lost approximately $50,000.
So, what lesson can we take from this?Trust cannot be given; it must be earned, no matter whom you are dealing with – friend, family, partner or colleague.
2. Do NOT aim to make everyone happy.
You cannot make every single person you meet or are in contact with, happy. Learn and realize that this is an impossible feat. If you feel more ‘accomplished’ or ‘satisfied’ pleasing others before yourself, then be prepared to live a miserable life. True happiness and satisfaction comes from within - make yourself happy before anyone else.
I was guilty of that habit. I had to please all my friends, clients, and professional networks – EVERYONE! After all that energy and time was spent on everyone’s happiness, where did I fit in? I didn’t. There was nothing more left to give to myself.
How is this bad for business if everyone is satisfied? Isn’t this the goal of owning your own business to give clientele something they want? I thought that this was what the people wanted. I thought that if I made everyone satisfied, more success would roll my way because I was giving the people what they were looking for.
FOR THE RECORD: I am not speaking for every person here. I do not want to paint everyone under the same brush but there are a lot of people out there that are never satisfied.
In western society, we have been conditioned to take; to never be satisfied and to ‘get more’ at all times. What you have is not good enough! The grass is ALWAYS greener on the other side. There are people in our society who will never be satisfied and if you choose to be their ‘saviour’ it will be a never-ending, self-deprecating process.
“You should run your business like this!” “Ever thought about doing this for your business” “This place I know has this, why don’t you have this?” The suggestions and/or requests are endless. It appears that everyone knows more than you when it comes to operating and owning your own business.
Furthermore, everyone will have his or her own wants, needs and goals. In a facility that can house many individuals at one time, someone’s request will certainly be someone else’s dislike. How are you going to make them happy? You can’t and you won’t so don’t even think about it. Offering them your best service and facility is all you can do and they will love it. Those that don’t will find a facility best suited for them. Let them be, it’s nothing personal, it’s just business.
3. Learn from your mistakes.
Whenever I train clients for sport performance, I almost always encourage them to make mistakes. Making mistakes means they are trying the best they can, they are working outside their comfort zone and they are learning from their mistakes. The same motto should be applied to any business owner. Mistakes develop strengths, strength encourages growth, and growth will lead to knowledge that will benefit you in the long run.
If you are launching a program that you are excited about and spend hundreds of dollars on marketing material while investing time and effort trying to get the information out there, but only 1 person signs up, something went wrong. A mistake was made. If you continue to do the same thing and repeat the same process, clearly you did not learn from your mistake(s).
When we first started our fat-loss training program – we wanted to tell the masses. We decided that we would pay for radio time so that people will hear about us and sign up. At that time, we thought radio was a medium that would reach more people than we could possibly imagine. One instalment for airtime cost us $1300 during prime time slots - our return was 0. Maybe we needed more time or more exposure so we tried again. The second time through and $1300 later, our return was 1 client. That was a costly mistake but we learned that it was not an effective means of recruiting clients.
So. What did we do instead? We already had a strong following in our program and we decided to get the people involved to help us out. The total investment for the getting our clients to help recruit for us was $0 but it came with a return of 10 new clients. Clearly, we will never pay for radio time to promote our programs again, as we have the most effective means of recruiting – our client’s word of mouth.
There are many more instances of mistakes that we have made that have taught us valuable lessons in business operations and training. In fact, there are too many to share but each mistake has made us better at being an entrepreneur and a strength/performance coach.
4. Embrace your staff’s unique qualities.
I read a book a long time ago called ‘The Starbucks Effect” and I have to say that the main take home message from the book was to embrace the staff’s individual characteristics and strengths. Everyone can provide something unique. Having the staff feel like they are an integral part of something bigger motivates them to give their all. Having a ‘my way or the highway’ approach to employee management will surely lead to disgruntled employees or even an employees’ revolt.No one wants to be a rat in the rat race of work life. People want to feel needed, important and invested. Why wouldn’t you want your employees to be invested in the development of the company?
You have already lost if you think your way is the right way or the only way. When in that mindset, you prevent yourself from learning and having an open mind. There is only one way to do things – from program implementation, training, rehab, marketing, promoting, etc.There are many ways – it is all about the situation and the effectiveness of the plan you have set out for your client or your business.
By getting your employees more involved with their individual views, thoughts and ideas, it makes them feel ‘a part of the team’. They become more invested in the company, thereby creating a higher likelihood they will work harder and bring more enthusiasm to everyday job duties.
The team we have within our facility contributes ideas and thoughts on a regular basis. While I log in terribly long hours daily, I am not here 24 hours a day, 7 days per week.Their experiences within the company will certainly differ from mine and they can offer insight into what is happening – good or bad. While my official title to them is their boss, I learn from them as much as they learn from me.In fact, I dislike the title of ‘boss’ when I am working with the team. I will make the necessary decisions and lead them but I can do that without emphasizing the ‘boss’ title. We are a team - we operate as a team.
5. Don’t give up - EVER!
Owning your own business is truly an epic roller coast ride that can take you to the very top – feeling free, invincible and believing that the sky is the limit! Then in one fell swoop, you can feel low, vulnerable, defeated and seeming like there is no hope in the world. How do you take this? Pack it in and concede defeat or be resilient and push through and overcome?
A little bit of stress never hurt anyone, not even a lot of stress. The ‘thing’ that separates the few from the rest is, how to handle the stress? Referring back to the example I shared about losing an excessive amount of money, I was near the end of my road with carrying on with the gym. I felt as though there was no way out of it and the only way to salvage what I had left, was to close the doors. But something clicked. With my back was against the wall, I could have packed it in but I didn't.
There you have it… my 5 key points about making it in the business world. Take it as you wish: implement the points and see the changes it can make for your business, or don’t because the best way to learn is to experience it yourself!