When I was first reflecting on this new series, I was sitting by the fireplace enjoying a cozy winter evening. In 3 days I would be hosting a luncheon for some of my female coaching and personal training clients to celebrate the holidays and thank them for their business over the previous year. Some of those attending would have been with me for 14 years and others for just a few months. What a blessing they all had been to me during precarious times.

Whereas many businesses saw a drop in income in 2009, mine was up 5%. It amazes me to look back and realize I have been selling my personal training and coaching services for 22 years! I know a lot more now than I did all those years ago as a 23-year-old starting her own business fresh out of college. Although my business still requires diligence, attentiveness and hard work, it is much easier now than it was then because I know so much more. I know what I want, and I am at ease and comfortable with my hours, my skills and my clients.

Regardless of the economy, the weather, the decade or your age, having “the business edge” is about having a business that is organized, dependable and current and that stands out from the run-of-the-mill wellness business.

This is what this series is all about. We will be sharpening your business edge by helping you get organized and purposeful about your workweek. For the fitness veterans out there, this series will serve as a review of areas in which you might need a fresh perspective. Together we will discuss working on your business through regular marketing, business development and planning, and working in your business through client hours, business administration and bookkeeping. We will look at your schedule and client scheduling, record keeping, client adherence, business development and planning, and a sound marketing plan that pays.

The Foundation

Before we delve into the specifics of creating and maintaining the business edge, I want you to do some foundation work. Take some time to answer on paper these questions about 2009:

  1. Were you happy with your income? What do you want that number to be in 2010?
  2. How about your client load? Did you have too many clients or too few? How many clients do you want to have?
  3. Are your current clients the type you want this year (geographical location; economic situation; personality type; services you provide, whether personal training or coaching; etc.?)?
  4. Did you like your work schedule—the hours each day, the structure of your days and the total hours per week?
  5. Did you take enough vacation time? Did you actually plan a vacation?
  6. What did you love about last year?
  7. What did you wish you had included in your year but didn’t?
  8. Do you feel like you took great care of your clients? Did you meet their needs?
  9. Did you take care of you last year?
  10. What do you want to be different going forward?
Finding Your Edge

I know that many of you have read my articles for years and may be thinking that I am always organized. Let me comfort you by opening up and confessing right now that there are occasions when I am not perfectly organized.

Last December, all the holiday activities just felt like too much. Although I have made it a tradition to take the last 2 weeks of the year off, the first 2 weeks of the month are typically crammed with clients, shopping that needs to be done and events to attend and plan. This past December, I noticed that all the things I had to do were running through my cluttered mind and wearing me down. I had little piles of notes and reminders here and there—on the kitchen counter, the kitchen table and my desk (which was driving me a bit nuts because I had to set my laptop on top of that pile!). But then I made a long list of absolutely everything that had to happen by December 31, and I went through my calendar to plan when all those errands and activities would take place.

In the process, I deleted the less important items and delegated a few of them to my husband. By getting better organized and thoroughly thinking through what had to be done, I felt a little less overwhelmed and more in control. And before January rolled around, those little piles of clutter were gone!

The topic of being organized brings back fond memories of high school and my mom’s famous “organizer.” In the mornings as I was sleepily eating my bowl of cereal in silence, Mom would suddenly appear in the kitchen with her handy-dandy FranklinCovey Day Planner–style organizer and begin with her page of questions and to-dos, pen in hand. I usually responded with curt yeses and noes—as she checked off her list and I snickered to myself about her ultra-organized planning.

I was a very organized, proactive teen who rarely procrastinated about anything, but my mom was the epitome of organization. So, with many thanks to my wonderful mom, I have carried those skills with me and can share them with you today (although I don’t use the FranklinCovey organizer). I have found my business edge over the years, and I will be sharing those insights and some of my form templates with you in the next four articles.

As I wrap up, let me leave you with these four core areas to consider, so you can jot down some goals before we start remodeling your work schedule in the next few issues:

Mental. What are your goals in this area? How can you grow yourself mentally this year to be better at your business and skills? Or what mental “sharpening” do you need to do?

Physical. What do you need to implement in your own exercise and nutrition program in order to be the role model you need to be in your personal and professional life? What do you need?

Social. How can you improve your relationships with clients, colleagues and family this year? How can you incorporate more fun into your social network?

Spiritual. How can you leave a legacy through your business? What legacy do you want to leave?

I want the rest of my 2010 to be a bit different from the last 12 months.

  • Physically, I want to reduce my client hours a little bit to allow more time to think and relax during the week. My days have been more full than I like. I cannot maintain my business edge if I am overbooked and tired. As I grow older, I want to work less and have more quality of life, not just for myself but also in my relationship with my clients.
  • I also need to increase my intake of fruits and vegetables.
  • Socially, I want to plan more activities with my family and closest friends—probably one fun social activity each week.
  • Mentally, I want to review and revise my coaching tools and models to further help my clients.
  • And spiritually, I need time! I want to get back to having an hour each day to sit and think in silence and write in my journal. Life is so clear when I do that.

Together, we will sharpen our business edge by getting organized, purposeful and clear about what it is we really want for our businesses this year.