I did something crazy a year ago and opened a Pilates studio. I’m totally risk-averse, and it terrified me, but it’s been a wonderful journey towards success! I had worked at various studios in 3 vastly different markets over the previous 13 years, so I had a pretty good idea of what I was getting in to. BUT, it has been a wild adventure for sure, and I’ve learned a lot. Here are a few lessons I found very valuable in my first year in business!
Roll with the punches.
Things will happen that you don’t expect. I didn’t anticipate additional costs associated with the lease, (the kind you know can happen but everyone tells you they won’t). An unforeseen break-in, huge growth upon opening, etc. Learn to accept/celebrate these things, adjust your plans as needed and make sure you keep a bit of extra dough padded as a just in case, (and I’m not talking pizza dough here).
Most things will take longer AND cost more than you think.
Pad your budget by 25% minimum. Trust me.
There’s a never-ending amount of work that can be done. Schedule time to do what needs to be done, put things on the back burner that don’t, delegate what you can, plan ahead when you can, and take some time to disconnect from the business, (even 10 minutes of quiet meditation), and DO YOUR PILATES! It’s what we love and it makes every day better.
It is humbling.
You have to learn a lot of new skills to run a business. Of course, at the same time you see how much you don’t know on a daily basis for the first several months. That can feel daunting and disheartening. There’s a lot of responsibility and stress that comes with owning a studio. It’s crushing sometimes, but learning to manage it is part of the deal. Sometimes I feel fancy owning a business, but I’m also the janitor. Find other small business owners locally to have a meeting of the minds and bounce ideas / bear each others burdens together.
Balance isn’t always possible.
There is no perfect balance – it is a constantly shifting thing. Sometimes the business and clients need more attention. Other times, your personal life does. I never feel like I get it “right,” but I do my best to make my schedule reflect my priorities. It’s easy to work all of the time when you have a business to run and build, but it’s important to SET all of your priorities to feel successful in your business and in life.
It takes a village.
You need help. Some of the best advice I was given was to find a good lawyer, accountant, insurance agent and real estate broker … and don’t be afraid to use them. I also found that having other Pilates studio owners to talk to is critical. It’s a unique business and few people understand it. Having a personal support system is just as important. Not only did mine help me set up the studio, but they babysat, listened to me obsess about endless details, celebrated with me, offered a shoulder to cry on – amongst many other things. They also gave me accountability to help me take time off so that I’m a better mom, wife, teacher, business owner, and woman. And let’s not forget the clients and teachers! These are the folks who keep the studio doors open. Treat them with respect and truly listen to their feedback and ideas.
Change is necessary.
Nothing stays the same. You have to try new things and see what works and be willing to change when something isn’t, even if YOU thought the idea was brilliant.
It’s hard to trust that the right clients will find you, but they will. It takes time and you have to work for it, but remember that you will attract what you want. And when those customers do find you, it makes you remember what a joy it is to do what you love daily … and that is priceless!