If you’re a fitness business owner or an independently contracted personal trainer, chances are you’re following your passion and doing what you love: helping others achieve improved health and fitness. Good for you.
But owning your own business can be romanticized. In truth, once you’re out on your own, you’re likely a “one-man band”: the trainer, the admin, the lead customer service tech, the content generator, the accountant and the social media department. Welcome to business ownership.
What began as working 30 hours a week as a trainer has become working 70–80 hours a week doing a million things the hard way. And all of a sudden, what used to be joy turns into misery. Lucky you!
So how can you skip all the stress and despair and create a business that energizes you from the get-go?
Here are my top seven insights, gleaned from 18 years in the fitness industry where I did everything from providing personal training and teaching fitness classes to managing fitness centers and serving thousands of clients via an online fitness business.
Passion First, Always
Entrepreneurs often focus solely on what will make money. In the fitness industry, especially, that often results in selling what people seem to want, with no regard for how such an approach impacts you. Finding happiness in your business is all about meaning and purpose. If you’re putting out a product or service that you don’t believe in, your fulfillment will be short-lived.
Passion is what gets you out of bed in the morning—especially on those really tough days. Without passion, your business can feel like, well, a job. The whole point of creating something yourself is that it feeds your soul; otherwise, you might as well work for someone else. Passion and the desire to make an impact in the world need to be front and center in everything you do.
Know What You Do Well, and Let the Rest Go
There’s this restaurant in my hometown that began as a breakfast place. Over time, it wasn’t doing well, so it started serving lunch, too. A few months later, it added dinner, followed by a full bar and happy hour. Then it opened its doors on Sundays, and on and on, until it completely lost its angle. No one knows what the restaurant’s specialty is anymore!
Business owners make this mistake all the time, because they want to cater to what people are asking for, or they provide more options in an effort to reach more people.
But here’s the thing: Oftentimes customers don’t know what they want. It’s your job to tell them! In the shuffle, you can easily lose yourself—and by extension lose your business message. Trying to satisfy every customer’s whim is impossible, and it dilutes your brand. If you aim to be for everyone, you’ll end up being for no one.
So decide what you do better than anyone else, and own the heck out of that space. Let the rest go.
Focus on the People Who Get It
It’s easy to get caught up in the negativity of people who disagree with you or don’t like your content—especially if you do business online. I understand that; it’s a blow to the ego. But ultimately, fighting the trolls and naysayers takes precious time away from connecting with those who want your positive attention.
People who don’t like what you offer aren’t your customers anyway, so let them “unfollow,” unfriend and unsubscribe. I love when people leave my circle, because I never want to be in a position where I have to convince someone to interact with me.
Focus on the people who show up, and who love your stuff. Deliver amazing content and value to them.
Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time
Business owners often find themselves in the grind of “busy,” churning out emails, phone calls and social media posts. I call this the Cycle of Inefficiency. Learn how to manage your energy, and by extension your productivity, to maintain a low-stress internal operating system.
Start by chunking out your time each day. Focus on one “to-do” at a time. I apply New York Times best-selling author and personal development trainer Brendon Burchard’s “block time” philosophy to help me complete projects that require creative energy. For me, that includes blogging, writing email newsletters and creating program content. I tackle these tasks at the time of day when I am most alert: early morning. I close down email and social media and turn off my phone, so I can get busy with zero distractions for 2–3 hours (a “block”). You’ll be thrilled by how much you can get done with a single time block each day.
Another insight that I’ve found incredibly helpful in the growth of my business is choosing time over money whenever I can. For example, I know that training a client who lives 30 minutes away from me will require 2 hours of my time. I ask myself, “Could I use those 2 hours to create a product or program to sell online—one that would make more money and help more people over time than this single personal training session?” The answer is yes. Time is not money. Time is worth way more than money.
Develop Systems and Establish Boundaries
If you want to find happiness in your business, don’t be afraid to say no. People will survive if they don’t get an email response from you within 2 hours; they can wait until tomorrow.
Create boundaries ahead of time, so that customers and clients understand how interacting with you works. People are rarely upset if they know the deal up-front. For example, if you create an online training program, be specific about how clients can contact you and when you will be available. Will you respond to emails between noon and 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday? How many times a day will you check Facebook and respond to questions there? Will people get a response from you within 12 hours or within 72 hours? When are you on-hand for phone calls?
Be as specific as possible at the outset of your relationship, so you can create the exact schedule you want—not one that requires constant client management. Hello, freedom!
Be Unapologetically Authentic
It’s tempting to try to be the person you think each client wants. But over time, it’s hard to keep up that charade. And then you end up with clients who want only that “other you” and who didn’t come into your fold based on the “real you.” Instead, work to portray the real you from the get-go, whether you have an online business or a brick-and-mortar facility.
This may seem counterintuitive, but pretending to be the individual you think each of your customers wants is an outdated approach. Today, people have sharper BS radar than ever, and they appreciate transparency more and more.
Being yourself will make running your business feel effortless. And getting to be yourself when you write, when you speak and when you interact with clients and customers makes the entire process much easier. You’ll know that the clients and customers who show up are true fans of you. It’s a perfect system!
Check Your Inner Curmudgeon at the Door
Every business has bad days. On those days, the biggest mistake you can make is to point fingers. Complaining about a problem can feel good, but indulging your emotions isn’t a solution. Owning 100% responsibility for what’s going on and then taking action is the approach that puts you back in control.
From Ryan Blair, CEO of ViSalus™, I learned the phrase “The path is all math.” In other words, when a challenge arises, take your emotions out of it as quickly as possible, and instead ask, “What’s the solution here?” Don’t make the situation about how you’re “a failure” or people don’t like you or “it all sucks.” Those are just distractions that prevent you from learning and growing as a business and a person. Resist the temptation to take a trip to Negativetown.
I have two tools I use when this happens: I try to find any bright spot—even one single thing to be grateful for—and I try to give others the benefit of the doubt and practice empathy. These tools turn my perspective around, so I can look more clearly at potential solutions.
The Path Toward Business Happiness
Running your own business can be amazing. But remember: If you let it, it can also take over your life and define your happiness (or lack thereof). Work to find balance, and enjoy the process. Soon you’ll love your business and your life.