Six Lessons I’ve Learned In Owning a Business

By Loni Rodriguez, PT, DPT

Two years in… It seems like just yesterday I was opening the doors at my first location within CrossFit781. It was a tiny room, just myself and the puppies.

Two years later I have a 6 person team (two dogs included) in a 1,500 square-foot office space. The growth has been substantial but the lessons have been even more significant. Here they are…

1. Find a balance

That email can wait, that text does not have to be answered NOW, that person can be seen in two days and not in your one slot of availability in your 12 hour day TODAY. When in business for yourself, you have to find a balance between work and life. I definitely miss the days of leaving the clinic after a shift and being able to LEAVE THE CLINIC. Those days were gone until I found a balance. Burnout is real… and I have, a few times. Finding a balance is not so easy especially if attention to detail is your specialty (my way of saying I am SUPER anal without admitting I’m SUPER anal). The way I found it was figuring out what exactly was burning me out and adjust it. For me, it was working too many hours straight and having to put in long hours on the weekends. Once I took a good look at my schedule, made some adjustments (with a little help), I was able to breathe a bit easier every day.

If you are dealing with finding a work-life balance, try looking at your day to day duties, prioritize them, delegate what you can, and schedule ample time for the things that take time to complete. You will find that time will magically free up. If you’re like me… you’ll fill it with more stuff that will stress you out, but hey… at least you’re being more productive, right?

2. Add value to everything you do

Being able to add value to other people’s lives has been the mainstay of our success.
What has really been amazing, however, is that I have learned how to add value to other things in life like friendships, family, relationships, even down to how I treat my dogs… if you can make almost everything you do valuable, things just become more fulfilling.

Try doing even mundane tasks to the best of your abilities, it will become more of a habit and less of a hindered effort.

3. Find the importance of customer service…

I have learned SO much about customer service since owning a business. It’s kind of like when you become obsessed with a new car, you see it everywhere? I now notice really GOOD customer service and really POOR customer service. Coffee shops, dentist offices, CVS cashiers, Lowe’s service people, and the folks at Trader Joe’s. I WILL go somewhere again based on my experience as a customer. I find that now knowing how important it is, I have really been able to eliminate a lot of negativity in my life but also know how to handle it when it comes my way.

4. Listen more, talk less

This was a big one. As I began to develop relationships with clients, I realized how important it was to just listen. Most of your questions will be answered without even asking them. By listening, you also begin to learn a lot more about the person you are talking to. Showing interest in a person is a great way to foster a solid relationship. This skill alone has dramatically strengthened my ability to help more people, create more friendships and strengthen the relationships I already possessed.

Try this… With friends and family, respond right away to that text or email, be sure to ask how their day was and what they’re doing over the weekend. Do not say a darn thing about yourself until asked.

5. There are no failures, only lessons.

Throughout the last two years, there were many things that I wished I had done differently. Hindsight is 20/20 and in reality, if I had done them differently, I would not have learned what I now know. I had a few crumbled partnerships, lost some clients, wasted some money, etc, etc… the list goes on. Yet, I see none of these are failures and only as lessons learned. Failure would mean that something ended. Nothing ended here, I just kept learning and moving on.

Look at the last time you considered something a, “failed attempt”. Find ONE thing about that time that could be considered a learning experience.

6. Find your team.

When you are building a business, it is incredibly important to surround yourself with good people. These people must be on the same page, yet be able to bring something to the table that is different than what you can bring. They need to know the value of teamwork as well as how to tell you when you’re being an idiot. Find them, treat them well, respect their needs and aspirations, give them support and great things will come.

Do you have a team? Even if you do not own your own business, look around you, who are your true friends? Does your immediate family serve as your team?

To anyone who thinks that building a small business is not possible, think again. If you have zero business experience and feel that you would not be able to fathom starting your own company, think again. I went to school for physical therapy, not business. I have been lucky enough to have support on the business side, but we learned together, as a team. We grew together and I would not change it for the world.

Are there days that I still wake up saying…

“What if patients stop calling…?”

“If the business fails, I can always get another job…”

…of course there are. But with the team we have, there is no losing sight of continued growth. On to year three…

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