Reflections on Growing (with) a Pilates Business
Next year will mark 9 years of running my Pilates studio in Adelaide, and as I reflect on the time that’s passed and the way the business has grown in that time, I think back on the studio’s successes, but also the frustrations, the self-doubt and the hard times. We all know the past several years have been a rollercoaster and there have been times when I’ve had to dig deep to find the energy and optimism to keep going.
For me, the isolation of running a small business and the desire to further myself both professionally and personally was the reason for seeking the expertise (and even more so), the support of a business coach. I think that as Pilates professionals, we feel passionate about teaching our clients but may lack the business acumen to tackle the running of a business and so much of what we learn in business is on the fly and in the moment, it’s so important to have a sounding board to bounce ideas off and to boost confidence when it gets low.
Business Coaching for Growth
Early on, I knew that I wanted to be proactive in the growth of the studio, rather than dealing reactively to problems as they came up. Chaos doesn’t work for me so business coaching was a way to organise my energy and get focused. I’ve had several coaches, and been through several business programs over the years, and they have all given me different perspectives and skill sets to use in the running of the business. I’ve sought out business coaches to establish my teacher training, to develop recurring revenue streams in the business and now to help me navigate a move to a new studio – one with a much larger commitment (but with ample growth opportunities).
My current studio, The Pilates Studio Blackwood is not my first venture in Pilates Studio ownership. I opened my first studio 13 or so years ago with so much naivete, much trepidation and no marketing knowledge. I had a ‘if I build it, they will come’ mentality and they did, but not enough of them! (so I don’t recommend taking that approach!)
But the thing is, we have to start somewhere and learn the lessons as we go, good and bad. I also found out I was pregnant when I signed my first lease and I had only moved to Adelaide from overseas the year before. So I had no network, no business experience and a passion for teaching but no idea what I was doing! I closed the studio after a couple of years, ego and mental health bruised. We moved and I brought my studio home for a couple of years when I had my 2nd child.
The entrepreneurial bug was still in my system, so when a space opened up in the suburb I was living in, I jumped at the chance to try again. This time with the experience and knowledge of how to approach things differently. The overheads looked manageable so I signed the lease and built it all, from the ground up again.
Some of the challenges I’ve found are managing growth and getting the ‘right people on the bus’ (referencing Jim Collins’ brilliant book: ‘Good to Great’). As a Classical Pilates teacher, finding Classical instructors to grow the business has been challenging so I knew that developing my teacher training was the way to manage this, and having run it a couple of times now, I’m feeling confident that the work I put into it will be integral to the businesses growth over the long term.
Taking time out for myself
On a personal level, developing boundaries and allowing myself to rest has been a hard-learned lesson. In the beginning, I took very little time off from the business and I found myself in total burnout and exhaustion. I realised it wasn’t sustainable, or good for my health and the wellbeing of my young family. Having business coaching in this area helped me realise that taking time off made me a better business owner. I now take a week off every term and 3 weeks over the Christmas break to recharge. This has made all the difference.
Another challenge I’ve encountered is learning patience and time management. I’m a perfectionistic ex-dancer with very little patience, so I’ve often felt the frustration of having to watch things grow over time, (and not in a continuous upward trajectory either!). Building a business is a long game. I think we get inundated with success stories that happen quickly but the long-term tenacity required is something else entirely!
The Benefits of a Personal Coach
I am currently finishing up my year with the Studio Grow Mastermind. This has involved weekly business coaching sessions, online content and a lot of ongoing digital resources. I joined the program specifically for personal coaching and I have been lucky enough to work with Peter, my amazing Belgian coach. I’ve set up better systems in the business to scale (and more importantly I understand the necessity of having good systems in place). I’ve had to learn to be more analytical with my KPIs and business numbers, though this is still a work in progress.
I would say that the number one benefit is having that sounding board, a source of encouragement and having someone be able to see the business objectively. When you are running your own business, you can get so mired in the day-to-day that you can’t see the forest for the trees. It can be an important reality check. Business coaching can also be confronting in that you are challenging your own set of beliefs about what is possible and having to develop skills in areas where you might lack them (I’m still very much working on the marketing part of the equation, but this will always be the case).
There is still a lot of professional and personal growth I’d like to work on. Staying on top of technology is an area I think many of us struggle with, though I have to say the opportunities of AI for business growth are going to be phenomenal and I’m excited to learn more about the capabilities available.
I am now a couple of months away from moving into the new studio (surprise, surprise, the building took longer than expected!). I’m looking forward to being in a more prominent position and hoping that will drive more interest in the studio. I have more to implement in terms of outreach in the community and among allied health professionals. I’d also love to hire an admin assistant to help with the day-to-day running of the studio so I can focus on what I do best (I have used Virtual assistants to greater and lesser success over the last couple of years). I will be launching my new Classical Mat Teacher Training early next year. I would also love to mentor and coach in the future because I don’t think my challenges in running a Pilates studio are unique.
I am so happy I decided to invest in myself with business coaching because I believe I wouldn’t have the confidence to take on many of these projects without it. Through all the challenges, I’ve never regretted opening my own business. However, I have frequently questioned my sanity! Having outside input through coaching on how to run my business has been invaluable both professionally and personally.
Kim Paxton, PAA Principal Trainer Member