Pale Is the New Tan: My Favorite Sunscreens

If pale is the new tan, I’m perfectly on-trend.  Going to the beach or the pool is an event including massive sunscreen preparation at least 30 minutes before stepping outside.  Umbrellas are needed.  Cover-ups packed.  Extra towels carried just in case I need to cover up.  Getting an amazing golden tan is just not happening for me—burning is more in my wheelhouse.  But summer is all about going to the pool or the beach, especially in North Carolina.  Since the whole State is either already at the beach or currently driving there to celebrate July 4th, I thought I’d share my top sunscreen picks (other than wearing clothing from neck to wrist to ankle).

NO-AD Sun Care Sport Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50 16 oz.  ($8.99):  My first job was lifeguarding at the local community pool so my only mission was to find the best sunscreen that I could purchase in large quantities for as little as possible.  NO-AD checks all those boxes.  NO-AD stands for “no advertising” so the price remains low, however, the quality of the product stays high.  Even at SPF 50, I can avoid burning and since the price is right, I tend to apply more often—which is really the key to preventing sunburn.

NO-AD Sunscreen

Supergoop!  Everyday Sunscreen with Cellular Response Technology Broad Spectrum SPF 50 ($19.00-$48.00):  As a former swimmer, I’m not side-lined to the pool deck or the sand.  I get in the water, which means oftentimes my sunscreen is coming off and getting into my eyes.  Ouch!  This is why I like Supergoop!  It’s a great weight, so I’ve actually used it for every-day use even when I’m not at the pool or beach.  And it doesn’t drip or rub off into my eyes making them sting.  This sunscreen is more expensive, but unfortunately skin cancer is real.  I’ve personally had over 20 very painful procedures to remove suspicious moles from my arms, legs and back.  What I like most about Supergoop! is that you can wear it every day with work clothes, workout clothes, and swimsuits—the whole point is to make application of sunscreen part of your every-day routine.  Lather up!

Supergoop!

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen, Broad Spectrum SPF 100+ ($9.30):  As one of the most accessible and cost-effective brands, Neutrogena is a great sunscreen choice.  I use the sprays and cream sunscreens and look for the highest SPF available.  I have found that the spray does tend to get in my eyes, so I always buy both spray and cream formulas.

Neutrogena 100+

Sun protection is no joke, so be sure to lather up every day!  Check out my post from yesterday for some great products with SPF that I use on my face, neck, and hands each day.  In my experience, the key to preventing sunburn is simply to keep reapplying sunscreen.  The best sunscreen is the brand and formula that you like and will keep reapplying, so find the best one for you and lather up!

I hope everyone has a great beach weekend!

Until then, stay on your toes!

Increase the Value of Beauty “Gifts with Purchase”

If you’ve been following this blog, you know I’m I huge advocate of Trish McEvoy makeup and skincare products.  To give you a little background, I got shingles on my face about 3 years ago and my skin totally changed.  All the products I use are either gentle or from Trish McEvoy.  I absolutely love Trish McEvoy products because they are all developed in conjunction with her husband, Dr. Ronald Sherman, and his dermatology practice.  When you’re in a business—like fitness—in front of a lot of people all the time, it’s important to make your best impression and that includes great-looking and healthy skin.

One of the reasons I like to purchase makeup and skincare online through Nordstrom.com is that usually there are great gifts with purchase.  Right now, you can double up on gifts—there’s a 19-piece gift with beauty purchase of $100 AND a Trish McEvoy gift with a purchase of $100 in Trish McEvoy products.  With every Nordstrom.com beauty purchase, you can always select up to 3 samples at checkout.  You can really increase the value of your original purchase by timing your purchases with double gifts.  And it’s a great way to try out new products or learn about new brands all risk-free!

I’ve received several inquiries over the last few weeks about what makeup and skincare products I use. Here’s my skincare routine:

Skincare Essentials:

Trish McEvoy ‘Even Skin’ Beta Hydroxy Pads ($65.50):  After washing my face with plain old Neutrogena Ultra-Gentle Daily Cleanser, I use Trish McEvoy Beta Pads to exfoliate, which preps your skin to better absorb any additional treatment or products.  I use these once a day.  When I first started using Beta Pads, I saw smoother and clearer skin after using the whole jar consistently.

Beta Pads

Trish McEvoy ‘Beauty Booster’ Cream SPF 30 ($90.50):  Next, I apply Beauty Booster moisturizer cream with sunscreen.  I have really fair skin and I can get burned easily.  I apply at least twice a day—the formula isn’t greasy, so it’s great to wear under makeup.

Beauty Booster Cream

Trish McEvoy ‘Correct and Brighten’ Professional Strength Multi-Acid Weekly Peel ($125.50):  These are a huge splurge, so I don’t buy them all the time, but if I have a big event coming up where I’ll be in front of a lot of people, I always use one of these a few days before for deeper exfoliating.  I only use at night, which is what is suggested so the product stays on your skin longer.  If you use the Weekly Peel (which doesn’t actually peel your skin) you won’t want to use Beta Pads, because that’s too much exfoliating.  Every time I use one, a few days later, someone compliments how great my skin looks.  This product is pricey, but it works!

Weekly Peel

Makeup Essentials:

Trish McEvoy Instant Eye Lift ($39.00):  Ok.  This stuff is amazing.  If you have dark circles, fine lines, or puffiness this stuff makes the skin around your eyes look lifted and lighter.  A must-have item!

Instant Eye Lift

Trish McEvoy ‘Beauty Booster’ Tinted Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 20 ($76.00):  If you have fair skin like I do, it’s a good idea to layer your sunscreens and this tinted moisturizer is a great compliment to boost the protection of the Beauty Booster cream.  Simply put some on your hand and apply with a makeup brush for coverage that is natural.

Tinted Moisturizer

Trish McEvoy ‘Lash Curling’ Mascara ($31.50)I’ve been wearing Lash Curling Mascara for about 7 years and it’s nothing short of spectacular.  The wand creates a tube around your lash that stays put until you remove it with warm water.  No need for any special eye makeup remover and no stains or mess on your wash cloth.  No matter how hard class is or how sweaty I get, I’ve never had my mascara run or flake off.  Enjoy!

Lash Curling Mascara

There are some things you can save on, but good skincare products and makeup shouldn’t be one of them.  It’s been my experience that the better the product, the better the result.  Since I am in front of hundreds of clients each day at my studios, I always want my skin to look fresh and clear.  If you try anything, I can’t wait to hear how you like it!  Take advantage of doubling up on gifts with purchase for added value.

On Friday, I’ll give you a run-down on my favorite sunscreens.

Until then, stay on your toes!

The Best Ways to Beat the Summer Fitness Slump

It seems counterintuitive.  Wouldn’t you want to workout in the summer?  All those shorts, cute sundresses, rompers, and bathing suits show more skin and require more confidence than your baggy winter sweaters.  But, alas.  No.  What seems like a busy time for fitness is actually known in the industry as the dreaded summer fitness slump.

You know, that time when it seems like almost all of your clients head out of town to the beach, the mountains, fabulous trips to Europe and the Caribbean, and a few more trips to the beach for good measure.  It’s a time for fitness studio owners to hunker down, spend as little money as possible, clean out your back-storage room, and anxiously await your vacationing clients to all come back for a busy Fall—please come back!  Pretty please!  You haven’t forgotten us, right?!  You have to workout eventually …  seriously, we miss you.  Come back soon …

But what if you could evade the summer slump?  Is it possible to actually grow your client base in the so-called slow summer months?  You’re damn right it is.  In fact, adding clients in the summer is possible—yes, there is a segment of the population that doesn’t take a 3-month vacation.  Unfortunate as they are (poor “vacationless” souls), they can keep your summers busy which is a great morale boost for your Team not to mention nice for your finances.  Here are my top 3 ways to beat the summer fitness slump:

Don’t Switch to a “Summer Schedule”:  It’s tempting to think that when a large segment of your client base heads out of town, you’d be better served to switch to a “summer schedule” and eliminate or consolidate classes.  While it seems that you would save money by not having to pay a teacher for a class that’s not full, you’re actually giving clients a reason not to visit your studio.

The first summer Pure Barre Winston-Salem was open, we decided to eliminate the 9:45 AM class because attendance was really low.  We rationalized that clients would just come to the 8:30 AM class or another time in the early morning or afternoon instead.  This was a huge mistake.  Clients who regularly took class at 9:45 AM thought we had taken the class off the schedule permanently and we actually lost about 15 clients who just couldn’t understand that the class would be added back at the end of August.  Head hits desk.  Bourbon is poured.

Lesson learned.  Now, I don’t switch to a temporary “summer schedule” which eliminates otherwise popular class times.  Removing classes can confuse your clients and thus give them a reason not to keep taking class at your studio.

Do Schedule Pop-Up Classes or Community Events:  The key to attracting new clients in the summer months is to host community events or free classes that are open to the public.  In addition to creating interest in your studio for new clients, community classes are also fun for your existing client base—a win-win for your business.

We actually just had a Pure Barre Pop-Up class this past weekend at Village Juice Company, an amazing local restaurant that serves cold-pressed juice, smoothies, grain bowls, and salads.  It was great!  We had a class outside and then all got to hang out drinking and eating some healthy treats—a nice little Sunday.

But as a business owner, there is a lot of risk involved in hosting a class outside.  You’re trying to re-create an in-studio experience outside where things such as traffic noise, weather, and a host of other factors could potentially ruin the experience for your paying clients and any new clients just learning about your business.  Ah!  It’s a lot of pressure!

If you invest in the proper equipment and have some back-up systems in place, hosting a Pop-Up or outdoor class should be pretty painless.  How did we do it?

First, we invested in the proper equipment including a branded tent, branded table and tablecloth, a portable speaker, and wireless microphone.

KD Canopy:  We purchased our tent from KD Canopy several years ago and it’s been used a lot!  While the company will tell you this tent can be set up by 2 people, you’ll have a much easier time with 3 or 4.  The quality of this tent is great and it’s easy to pack up, move, and store.  We also added on a branded tablecloth, which we’ve used many, many times more than the tent.  Definitely get the tablecloth!  It was an easy add on that is a staple to our marketing efforts at events.  Both the tent and tablecloth have been great purchases and make a very professional first impression.

Weltron WAS-TUBE 5 Portable Bluetooth Active Tower Speaker ($455.04):  We literally just bought this speaker after learning about it from a company we had been renting equipment from for our previous outdoor classes.  While the cost seems expensive, we were paying the rental company $400 for each use of their equipment, so this speaker has already paid for itself and we have several other outdoor and off-site events planned before the year is out. I bought this speaker through Amazon using American Express points, making it virtually free (another way to save).  Pretty amazing—which also describes the sound quality of the speaker.  Did I mention it’s extremely easy to set up, break down, and transport?  Simply connect your iPod or other player to it and turn up the volume.  If you’re looking for professional-sounding equipment for indoor or outdoor use, look no further.

Samson Airline 77 Headset Wireless System with Fitness Microphone ($299.99):  This is a similar model to what we use in our studios, which is a huge advantage to teaching a class in an unfamiliar environment.  You can easily connect this system to the Weltron Tower Speaker and have both music and the mic working at the same time.  Just plug the mic in, connect, and use.  It’s that simple.  We had a back-up mic just in case.

Announce a Multi-Month Challenge:  Initiating a multi-month challenge is a great way to keep existing clients engaged and regularly taking classes in your studio during a time that would typically be slower.  It’s also a great way to keep client energy high and keep your studio relevant.

During June and July, we have challenged all of our clients to participate in our Pure Health Challenge. Our past events this year seemed stale and uninspiring. We had just been recycling them from previous years.  It was time to shake things up and drill down to what really mattered most to me and my clients—a total health experience.  Here’s what we came up with and what we’ll be doing in my studios for all of June and July. That’s right!  60 days of Pure Health!

  1. First, we decided that we’d need a baseline to know where you are with your health. My chiropractor, Dr. Gray, has this body composition analysis machine called, InBody.  We partnered with him to bring InBody to the studios in the beginning of June for every Pure Health Challenge participant to get an assessment including weight, muscle mass, fat mass, water, hydration level and many other indicators to know where they were at the beginning of the Challenge.  After 6 weeks, Dr. Gray will come back to the studio with InBody to measure everyone’s progress.  We’ll literally be able to quantify all of the work completed during the Challenge.
  2. Everyone gets the Simply Real Health cookbook to start planning healthy and tasty meals.
  3. During the Challenge, we’re asking everyone to take 4 classes each week. This seems reasonable and doable.  If you complete 4 classes each week, you’ll earn a small reward from Pure Barre or our other partners, Village Juice and Kleur Shop.  If you don’t complete the 4 classes, just reset the next week.    But, sometimes just starting is the hardest part, so we’re partnering with Kleur Shop to host an evening to talk about what’s holding us back from committing to working out like we know we should.
  4. At Pure Barre, we have special Intensive classes which take our clients further out of their comfort zone to target specific areas of the body and do some exciting new things we wouldn’t normally work in a regular class. Everyone participating in the Pure Health Challenge will have the opportunity to take our Strength & Balance Intensive in June and the Full Body Burn Intensive in July.  Sweat!
  5. And what Challenge calendar wouldn’t be complete with an outdoor Pop Up class?! We had an amazing pop up at Village Juice the morning of Sunday, June 25th and got some great juice and healthy snacks after.  (This is the event I just described above.)
  6. Finally, one of my favorite restaurants in Winston, Spring House, agreed to create a Paleo Happy Hour for all Pure Health Challenge participants at the end of July!

Coordinating all these activities was a huge undertaking, so I’m glad I have my Team to help me. We’re about half-way through the Pure Health Challenge and this summer has started out strong with engaged clients and a new excitement for taking class and focusing on overall health.

While many of your clients will take the summer months to spend more time traveling than taking classes in your studio, that doesn’t mean you have to accept the so-called summer slump.  By taking the time to plan some great events and keep things fun and engaging during the summer, you can actually keep building your client list which can mean thousands in additional revenue for your business at the end of the year.

One of the reasons I like to purchase makeup and skincare online through Nordstrom.com is that sometimes there are great gifts with purchase.  Right now, you can double up on gifts—there’s a 19-piece gift with beauty purchase of $100 AND a Trish McEvoy gift with a purchase of $100 in Trish McEvoy products.  Since I need to get a few things, I’ll tell you how you can double up on gifts to get the best value in Thursday’s post.  On Friday, I’ll share my favorite sunscreens to avoid the dreaded burn.

Until then, stay on your toes!

Weltron WAS-TUBE 5 Portable Bluetooth Active Tower Speaker ($455.04)

Samson Airline 77 Headset Wireless System with Fitness Microphone ($299.99)

O Hair Tie, Where Art Thou?

Hair ties.  You always need one, but somehow they’re always going missing.  I’ve always got one on my wrist, a few in my bag, maybe a few more in the car, and some are likely hiding in coat pockets waiting to be discovered unexpectedly at a future date.  But no matter how many you have, you always have a favorite.  Am I right?!

There are countless hair tie choices, and I’ve pretty much tried them all in search of the best hold for a high bun or the best fullness for a sleek pony.  Below is a list of my faves:

Emi Jay Flexx Ties:  These are my go-to.  Have you ever had a hair tie get so stretchy that it just doesn’t work anymore?  Problem solved with Flexx Ties!  They are made of Neoprene and also create a super-full pony, which is great for those with finer hair, like mine.  If you’re looking for a hair tie to double as a bracelet, Flexx Ties won’t check the box, but as far as utility, they are tops.

She's On Her Toes Flex Hair Tie

Emi Jay Twist Coil Ties:  I like these for when I’m wearing a high bun since they “grip” your hair and hold it high without creating snags or breakage.  If you have thick hair, these work.  If you have fine hair, they work too—an all-around favorite.  Again, not sure these are bracelet material, but I’ve mixed with in with other jewelry before.

She's On Her Toes Coil Hair Ties

Knotty Ties:  I can’t help it, I like a little sparkle from time-to-time, so I love Knotty Ties because they make the BEST embellished hair ties.  I am really into the Pearl Pony ($15.00) right now.  And I have like 20 of the Crown Jewel Pony ($17.00).  These look great as bracelets with your other jewelry and hold a bun or a pony really well.

She's On Her Toes Knotty Ties

We sell all of these styles (except the Crown Jewel Pony—we sold out) at Pure Barre Winston-Salem and Pure Barre Clemmons.  You know, just providing a public service, keeping the women of Winston-Salem stocked up on the best quality hair ties.

Until then, stay on your toes!

 

 

How I’m Exiting My Business

I guess I got your attention with my last post titled “Why I’m Exiting My Business.”  To be clear, I am not selling my business or giving up on it—nothing could be further from the truth.  I have reached a point in my business lifecycle where it’s time for me to assume a new role—the role of supporting my Team.  It’s time for me to have some business freedom!  I have hired a great Team including a Manager who is extremely competent and have another stellar employee assuming more responsibility as an Assistant Manager.  My teachers are doing really well taking care of clients and helping them understand the Pure Barre technique and improve each class.  And my front desk associates are proficient at our sales process and working with the teachers and managers.  Basically, they’ve got this!  So where does that leave me?

This blog is all about explaining how to hire a great team, motivate them, and lead them to success.  (Spoiler alert: my book is also about these same things!  Coming out in late July or early August!  And, if that’s not enough, I’ve started working on a course that will teach you how to hire that Rock Star Team.)  But in the beginning stages of your business, it’s just you.  You have to do everything from teaching classes, taking care of your clients, selling, cleaning, restocking supplies, and a host of other unexciting and oftentimes dirty jobs—after 5 years, I have lots of bathroom “surprise” stories.  Two drink minimum, please.

For those of you having difficulty visualizing what I’m talking about (maybe because you’re trying not to visualize the dirty jobs), this is what your business lifecycle looks like at the beginning.  You support your clients.

Business-Cycle-I.jpg

 

But 5 years in, this is where I am.  I’m supporting my Team and they are supporting our clients.

Business Cycle II

 

Do you see the difference?  In the second image, you give all the responsibility to your Team and you focus on doing whatever it is that they need to be better at their jobs.  Ok … maybe we’re not 100% there yet.  But we will be, very soon.

It’s important to note that if you aren’t hiring the right people or people that don’t fit within your business’s unique culture, you’ll likely never get to the point of supporting your Team.  You’ll stay stuck supporting your clients and doing everything yourself.  No rest for you.  No vacation for you.  No other opportunities for you.  Since your business should serve as your vehicle to a better, more balanced life, that’s pretty lame.  Wouldn’t you agree?

Over the next year, I’m going to spend my time working with my Manager and Assistant Manager so that they are running the business without me and I’m solely focused on thinking up more ways to increase our revenue.  Since I won’t be overseeing the studios’ day-to-day operations, I’ll have plenty of time to devote to my new role and I am anticipating working remotely at times.  In fact, my goal is to be able to take a whole month away and be confident that everything is happening without me.  Dare to dream!  So how am I going to get to this point?

The first step in business freedom is to teach my managers how to track our key metrics, the most important being retention.  In the fitness business, client retention is the main driver of your future sales.  What?  Did you think attracting new clients is?

Sure, bringing new clients into your studio is extremely important, but since most are initially purchasing your introductory offer which is significantly discounted (we offer an Intro Month, which is four weeks at $99), you’re really not increasing or driving sales until they make that leap to their next package.  If you have 20 new clients walk through your doors and start taking class, but at the end of their Intro Month only 1 sticks around and purchases another package, that’s not good, and an indicator that something you’re doing isn’t working to keep these people around.  It’s also a lot of work for you and your team for lackluster results.  Forming a solid retention plan is the best way to drive and predict your future sales.  As I’m teaching them about retention and how to track it, we’ll also be recording all of our work in a manager manual—that way, if any of them go on vacation someone else will know exactly what to do in their absence.  Business freedom here I come!

Going forward, I’ll be discussing this transition in more detail and how it will allow me to gain business freedom as well as start working on something else that should be on every small business owner’s mind, diversification of income.  But more on that as this new journey unfolds.  Maybe the next book?!

I know you’ve been waiting for it … a super-serious discussion on hair ties will be posted tomorrow.  Which ones are the best?  But seriously, where do they go when they get lost?

Until then, stay on your toes!

Why I’m Exiting My Business

I’ve been dreaming of this moment for years—the time when I can start exiting my business.  No, I’m not going to sell it.  Were you worried for a second?  I mean, I’m going to step back and let my Team run it for me—you know, so I can actually live my life and do the things that you probably take for granted like go out to dinner with friends, go on vacation when I want to, or just have one day off each week.

We’ve been dabbling in this for a while, but it’s time to cannonball in.

Let’s review the definition of a business.  According to my business coach, Mary Ann, the definition of a business is:

A commercial, PROFITABLE, enterprise that works…WITHOUT YOU.

This means that you are free to work ON your business not IN it.  The business is fully functioning without you. 

As much as I hate to admit it, my business is almost functioning without me.  Damn.  Guess I trained my Team too well.  Just kidding!  This is great news—I just have to stay out of their way and not screw things up.  How am I going to do that?  Let me tell you …

Empowering Management

The first step to exiting and reaching that place where my business is no longer my life is to empower my management team to take care of all of our daily operations.  My Manager, Emily, has recently been recognized as an “approved manager” for Pure Barre meaning, she now has an @purebarre.com email address and greater access to all the information needed to keep the studios running on a day-to-day basis.  In addition, another employee will be expanding her role as an Assistant Manager later this summer.

In order to empower my Manager and Assistant Manager, I’m going to spend at least the next year working with them to fine tune all of our processes so they become simplified and easy to complete for anyone working at the studios.  We’ll also be working on tracking key metrics so they can report back to me on how the studios are performing—instead of the other way around.  For a smooth transition, I’ll create a monthly calendar of to-do’s gradually giving them more responsibility.

Figuring Out My Next Big Thing

So, this is going to be really difficult for me.  I’m not sure exactly what I want to do next—but I can’t do nothing.  I have a few ideas and I’ll have to spend some time figuring out which is the best one to pursue.  Oh, and did I mention, I have a book coming out?  Publishing seems to be ahead of schedule, so late July or early August for the release!  Shameless plug, but promoting the book should keep me pretty busy.

It will be extremely important for me to have my next steps mapped out following my exit otherwise, I could boomerang back, not leave the business, and most likely make my managers miserable in the process.  This is definitely not going to be easy—but I have hired some amazing employees and it’s time for them to step up so I can step back.

In Thursday’s post, I’ll delve I little deeper into how this transition is going to unfold and then on Friday, a super-serious discussion on hair ties—which ones are the best, which ones actually hold your hair up without breaking it, and possibly answer that age-old question of “Where do all my lost hair ties go?”

Until then, stay on your toes!

Unpredictability = Creativity

When running a business, it’s important to apply the fundamentals like, hiring a great team, motivating them and leading them to success, investing in your own leadership and management training, keeping an eye (or two) on cash flow, managing inventory, and a whole host of other activities to ensure success and profitability.  This type of management leads to creating processes and following procedures documented in manuals.  There’s not necessarily a lot of creative thinking involved.  In fact, there is great focus on eliminating randomness and unforeseen events while activities are standardized.  Since humans crave predictability and stability, this is great.  But herein lies a problem.  Unpredictability = Creativity.  If you’re running a business that relies on creativity and innovation, how to you embrace this paradox and still find success?

At my Pure Barre studios, a lot of creative thinking takes place each day.  My teachers are planning their classes and constantly innovating their cues and presentation of the workout to clients.  My manager and I are thinking up our “next steps” and planning events and programming to keep clients engaged.  Front desk associates are merchandising and creating a pleasant environment for our clients.  But there is also a lot of work that is pretty standardized—like our sales process, creating the work schedule, and cleaning—all critical to our daily operations.  How can we keep everyone thinking creatively yet still take care of our less creative administrative work?

I recently finished a great book called Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming The Unseen Forces That Stand In The Way Of True Inspiration, written by Ed Catmull, President of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation.  Throughout the book, Catmull discusses the challenges that creative businesses face specifically, working with the paradox that humans crave stability and predictability, yet the creative process pretty much ensures instability and unpredictability.

Catmull says: “Here’s what we all know, deep down, even though we might wish it weren’t true: Change is going to happen, whether we like it or not.  Some people see random, unforeseen events as something to fear.  I am not one of those people.  To my mind, randomness is not just inevitable; it is part of the beauty of life.  Acknowledging it and appreciating it helps us respond constructively when we are surprised.  Fear makes people reach for certainty and stability, neither of which guarantee the safety they imply.  I take a different approach.  Rather than fear randomness, I believe we can make choices to see it for it is and to let it work for us.  The unpredictable is the ground on which creativity occurs.”

As the owner, it’s your job to be the inspirer-in-chief to your employees and create a working environment that encourages their creative thinking yet doesn’t ignore the basic human need for seeking comfort in the familiar and stable.  It’s a fine line.  And leads me into the topic for Thursday’s post, why I’m stepping back from my business and giving my employees more responsibility.  I’ll definitely get back to this idea of being the inspirer-in-chief to your employees especially now that I’m transitioning myself into a new role of supporting them while they support our clients.

Until then, stay on your toes!

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming The Unseen Forces That Stand In The Way Of True Inspiration, Ed Catmull

Is it possible to become an idea machine?

I was recently elected to the Pure Barre Franchise Advisory Board and with that, I now represent the interest of all the owners in a specific region of the country.  This means I’m also responsible for keeping them up-to-date with important franchise information and helping them to solve problems should they need assistance.  My experience in politics working on Capitol Hill is finally paying off!  Kidding, but kind of not.

In addition, this leadership role has given me the opportunity to help shape some of the bigger decisions being made at the corporate level.  In fact, we have a meeting next week and I’ll need to present several “big ideas” to the group on where we should be going as a brand.  It got me thinking, is it possible to train yourself to always think big?  Is it possible to just become an idea machine?

There seems to be a misperception that your brain can somehow become blocked and you then become incapable of generating creative thoughts—some might call it writer’s block.  Maybe this affliction is real.  Maybe it’s bogus.  But I can report that after writing multiple posts each week and a book over the last eight months, I can’t say that I’ve ever experienced it.  And at the studios, anytime I need to come up with some new ideas, they just flow—mostly when I’m driving.  Man, I can get some good ideas when I’m in the car.  Sure, sometimes I just don’t feel like writing, but that’s not the same thing as not be able to write due to writer’s block.  So, what am I doing that seems to be generating all these big ideas?

I get organized

If I’m going to write something be it long or short, I always start by writing an outline.  At the bare minimum, I’ll write out 1 or 2 sentences that encapsulate what I’m trying to get across to the reader.  But here’s the important part … I do this days or at a minimum 1 day before I actually start writing.  Then by the time I sit down to actually write, I’ve been thinking about how I plan to start and what I’m going to type in advance.  This technique also works really well when you have a presentation, have to teach a class, or have a really over-scheduled day.  If you sit down the night before, plan it all out, something amazing happens.  It’s almost as if your mind works out all the things you need to say or do while you sleep.  Give it a try—I can’t wait to hear how it goes for you.

I make lists

This is a recent addition to my idea generation techniques and I totally stole it from James Altucher.  Well, I mean, I read his book The Power of NO: Because One Little Word Can Bring Health, Abundance, and Happiness and he suggested that everyone make a list of 10 big ideas every single day.  If you can’t think of 10, think of 20, he says.  Good advice.  If you commit to thinking creatively every day, you’ll never be without an idea to get you where you want to be.  Of course, of your 10 ideas, some won’t be that awesome after you really think them through.  But … there could be that 1 idea that is exactly what you need!  In a previous post, I talked a little about how our events have become stale and a little boring.  Making these lists has been very helpful as I seek to change all of the events and programs we’ve been doing at the studios and try and come up with some new and exciting ideas.

It seems that the ability to freely think creatively each and every day simply involves thinking ahead either by making an outline and getting organized or by actively creating lists each day of big ideas.  It’s all in the preparation.  If you make a habit of preparing, your mind will never run into roadblocks and you’ll always have big ideas right in front of you.

Speaking of which—I’ve been reading an amazing book about creativity and business, so I’ll tell you about that next week as well as why it’s important to step away from my business and let my employees do more.  And finally, I’ll round it out on Friday sharing my favorite hair ties—super important.  By the way, where do they all go?  They’re always disappearing!

Until then, stay on your toes!

The Power of NO: Because One Little Word Can Bring Health, Abundance, and Happiness, James Altucher:  I sped through this book in a few days.  Since I tend to over-commit or over-schedule myself, so I was hoping to learn a lot from the pages of this book.  And … it didn’t disappoint.  I have James Altucher’s other books on my reading list now.  The big problem with refusing to say “No” to things you don’t have time for or don’t want to do, is that they take a huge toll on the remaining time for the things you need and like to do.  The lesson here is the more you say “No,” the more you can say “Yes.”

Wanna See My Book Cover?

At the beginning of May, I wrote about how I had finished writing my book and I was in the process of selecting a company to help me self-publish.  Well, I made a decision and have been working through the publishing process for the last few weeks.  Pretty exciting!

I ultimately decided to use Createspace to help me publish and so far, the process has been pretty easy and painless.  Createspace is an Amazon service and while they do offer services to simply publish yourself for a minimal fee, they also offer some more customized selections that are still reasonably priced to create a top-notch professional-looking book.  The first step is to set up a phone consultation to determine the best choices for your particular needs and then it’s all very easy.  Next, I created an account, and completed some questionnaires based on the custom choices I selected including custom cover creation, custom interior layout, and marketing which includes writing the text for the back cover and all the marketing used on the Amazon site when the book is available for sale.  After completing the surveys, the Createspace team assigned to my book got to work.

I’ve approved the cover and marketing, so the only thing left to review is the interior layout and proof of the book!  Check out the cover below.

She's On Her Toes Cover JPEG

What do you think?!  I absolutely love it!  I didn’t really have any concrete ideas about how the cover should look, so I just asked the designer to check out my website and keep the same branding.  The designer said she had some ideas and I couldn’t be more happy with the way the cover turned out.  I did have a few edits on the marketing, but nothing major.  We’re still on track for the book to be available for purchase sometime in August.  Can’t wait!

Be sure to add your email to join my list (just go to the right and scroll down).  I hate spam, so don’t worry—you’ll just receive an email when the book is available.  If you aren’t already, check out @shesonhertoes on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Tomorrow, I’ll share a new tool I’ve been using to think up big ideas.  Because, what’s the point of thinking small?

Until then, stay on your toes!

My Thoughts on Surviving 5 Years in Business

Well, I made it.  I have officially survived 5 years of being in business.  I guess technically we didn’t open the studio doors until September, but someone had to find the location, build it out, and train everyone—and that process started months prior to our first day of operations.  Wait, the studio didn’t just build itself and everyone didn’t just learn how to teach class the night before?  Nope, sorry!  There was a lot that went into opening, including writing some very large checks.

Last week, I renewed my franchise agreement with Pure Barre for my second 5-year term.  I also renewed my lease.  And neither of these things seemed like great accomplishments, despite the fact that according to the U.S. Small Business Administration and The Bureau of Labor Statistics, only half of all the small businesses that stated in May 2012 are still open today.  So, how did I beat the odds?  I could go on and on about how business success is all about great client services and offering an amazing client experience, and yes, those things are important.  But fundamentally, there are 3 things that are required to make it to the 5-year mark in boutique fitness:  you want to have reasonable rent, you have to properly manage inventory, and most important, you can’t do it alone.

Your Rent Must Be Reasonable

This one is tricky because when you are trying to find your location, you don’t really have control over how much the rent is.  Or do you?  It’s important to remember that everything is negotiable, including who pays for your buildout.  As a new business owner, you’d like to keep as much cash as possible in your own pocket before you open and one way to do this is to have your landlord pay for all or part of your buildout.  Not the best negotiator?  Get yourself a great realtor and she’ll negotiate for you.  You’ll have the most leverage to negotiate if you’re looking to sign a long-term lease of 5 years or more.  My landlords have paid for all or a portion of the buildout for each of my studios and that allowed me to have more cash on hand before each business opened, which is always a good thing.

But how much should your rent be?  If your rent is lower than 14% of your monthly budget, then you have a reasonable rent expense.  Another way to look at it is how many days sales does it take for you to pay your rent?  If it takes you longer than the first week of every month to meet your rent obligations, your rent is either too high or you need to increase sales, which leads us to the importance of properly managing inventory or more broadly properly managing cash flow.

You Must Properly Manage Inventory

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, the number one reason small businesses fail is because they don’t properly manage cash flow.  In my experience over these last 5 years, the only reason I’ve had cash flow issues (meaning, more cash is going out than coming in) is due to mismanagement of inventory, or buying too much retail merchandise.  Often, it’s the timing of cash coming in vs. cash going out that puts me in a bind.  That’s right!  Even I have problems!

How does a cash crunch occur?  First I have to pay for the retail merchandise (cost of goods sold).  The clothing or accessories ship (usually from California, which is about 1 week via ground shipping).  Then we have to enter everything into inventory (maybe an hour, maybe an afternoon).  Then the merchandise gets sold which sometimes happens right away if the clothing is really cute or there is anticipation built up to purchase.  But sometimes it could take as long as several weeks or a month.  Do you see the issue here?  I’ve already paid for the merchandise and by the time I sell it at a minimum I’m out that cash a week at the maximum over a month.

This is where cash management really plays a role in the financial success of my business.  If I have to pay my bills with the revenues from clothing sales, I have to make sure it’s hitting my account in time.  Also, my vendors are trying to manage their cash flow as well so they usually send me my orders at the end of the month ensuring that they get to book their revenue when they need it.  This means I usually book the expense of buying the clothing in the month before I actually sell it.  Tricky.

How do I make sure that I have enough cash to pay my obligations?  I work to keep my reoccurring membership payments for classes equal to the amount of my payroll expense and my fixed expenses, which are the expenses I have all the time and won’t typically change, like rent, utilities, insurance or carpet cleaning.  If I keep all monthly reoccurring payments equal to my most critical expenses, then I won’t run into a cash crunch when I’m purchasing clothing.

When I evaluate the financial performance of my business, I’m looking at how many clients I have on reoccurring memberships.  I’m also looking at how fast we can turn our inventory.  And I’m keeping a close eye on any expenses that are larger than usual or not typical each month.  Evaluating each of these things ensures I am managing my cash flow and it stays positive.  Because after all, cash is king.  And I’m sure my employees wouldn’t be too keen on not getting paid or my landlords for that matter.  Let’s delve into the final consideration, hiring a team to help you run your fitness studio.

   You Can’t Do It Alone     

You probably know a lot of people who mistakenly believe they are running businesses, but in fact, just own jobs.  The simple fact is: if you are doing everything and nothing happens without your direct input, then you’ve not yet built a business.

It’s important to remember that most businesses all start in a very similar fashion.  At the beginning of your business inception, all you have is an idea, a product or service, and you to sell it.  In the beginning, it’s just you.  Eventually, you’ll have to grow a team to replace yourself otherwise, you’ll risk hitting the maximum threshold of work that only one person can perform and probably physically exhaust yourself in the process.

In business school, hiring more employees to grow your business is called “scaling your company.”  And don’t let anyone fool you.  Scaling is just as risky as going into business in the first place.  So why risk hiring employees?  In the business of fitness, you don’t have a choice—you have to scale in order to survive.  Let’s review the definition of a fitness business:

Definition of a Fitness Business

A fitness business is a commercial, profitable enterprise that can be run without you so you can be a role model in the health and fitness community you are creating.   

There is absolutely no way that you can operate a fitness business, teach all the classes yourself, keep up with your clients, manage all of your finances, marketing and all the other daily activities required to keep your studio open without hiring employees.

There are no guarantees in small business ownership, but it seems your odds greatly improve getting to that 5-year mark by making sure you have a reasonable rent expense that doesn’t exceed 14% of your monthly sales, properly managing your inventory and cash flow and then finally, hiring a team of employees so you can be the leader of your fitness community and have time to think up the “big” ideas.

Did the last section just blow your mind with awesomeness?  It’s an excerpt from my book!  That’s right, I wrote a book.  And it’s being published for release by the end of August, which is probably why I didn’t pop the cork on getting to 5 years in business.  I’m just so jazzed about what lies ahead.

I’ll share the cover design with you as well as my thoughts on publishing in my next post on Thursday.  Click on the right column to join my email list to get notified when the book is for sale (I hate spam, so no need to worry about your email being used for anything beyond great She’s On Her Toes information).  On Friday, I’ll share with you a new tool I’ve been using to think up big ideas.  Because, what’s the point of thinking small?!

Until then, stay on your toes!