I recently had a conversation with a friend who is planning to own a yoga studio. I love talking to people as they are in the beginning stages of owning their own businesses because the conversations bring me right back to my own experience. During that exciting yet stressful time before signing my lease, I remember having this one, big, looming question:
How do I know I will be able to make this work?
I guess the short, pessimistic answer is: I don’t. Nothing is for sure and anything can happen, but we can set ourselves up for success. I think that business plans, marketing goals, networking groups, and promotion ideas are all awesome and necessary things to have worked out before opening a business, but there’s more. There’s the mindset and attitude, which over the years have made me realize that there is so much mental yoga you can take with you into running your business. Specifically, five mental qualities exist in yoga that can help improve your small business.
Now, almost seven years in to owning Bikram Yoga Natick, I tap into these mental qualities on a daily basis. They keep me grounded and focused. They allow me to view decisions with a “big picture” perspective and not get caught up in the tiny minutia of day to day operations. Like yoga, business is a practice, something that gets better with mental effort as well as physical.
In yoga class, we talk a lot about the physical qualities of the practice: strength, balance, and flexibility. And those qualities are fairly easy to understand and straightforward to process. But we also delve into the mental aspects of yoga, and these five mental qualities answer that big scary question: How do I know I will be able to make this work?
First and foremost, you’ve gotta have faith. If you take on the risk of opening up shop and you don’t have faith that you can make it work, success will be an uphill battle. Trust me, I’ve had moments where I’ve second guessed everything, and those are the times when business was the worst. Call it law of attraction, but I fully accept that I will not be able to attract customers if I don’t have faith in what I’m doing. So have faith. Have faith that what you are offering your community is the best, most helpful product or service ever created. Have faith that you can deliver it day in and day out, never sacrificing the quality. Have faith in your work ethic, your education, and your decisions. Have faith that you can make it work.
I’m writing quite a bit from the yoga studio owner perspective, but I believe this crosses over to other industries. Use your self-control when it comes to promotions and daily deal sites. Used sparingly and strategically, these tactics can deliver lifetime members and customers, but use them too much and risk watering down your service. Being part of every new thing can be so tempting, but tap into your self-control to only participate in the programs that you see having long-lasting benefits. Less is more. I’ve found that customers appreciate a high quality of service which costs money to operate. It’s better to pick and choose carefully how and when you offer your discounts. These decisions require self-control.
This where the grit and sweat come into play ? Determination is a major part of answering that whole how do I know I will be able to make this work? Keep at it. Don’t give up. Work hard and smart. In the beginning months, don’t be afraid to stay up late and wake up early. While burning the candle at both ends surely is not sustainable long-term, we all have a bit of adrenaline on which we can run, especially at the beginning. Use it. Spend time handing out flyers, visiting other local shops, hosting an open house, and pounding the pavement. While I personally think all of the above should be continued well into the life of the business, it’s especially important at the beginning to be able to make it work.
This has become more challenging for me over the years. I’m vulnerable to distractions, whether it’s a social media check or taking care of something for my family and kids. I complete my most productive work when I turn my smartphone off (not just silenced, but OFF) and put it in the other room, and when I tackle my important tasks first thing in the morning. We all have a certain time of day where we can concentrate the best. Recognizing when that is and capitalizing on it helps me channel my concentration into productive work. Limiting outside distractions allows for more opportunity for that focus and concentration to help make a business thrive.
Like stretching tight hamstrings, growing a small business takes time. I read this awesome quote from Elephant Journal (that actually relates to yoga!) that said, “Don’t compare your chapter 1 with someone else’s chapter 20.” Boom. That totally resonates, right?! Established, busy, and successful businesses in your industry are exactly that: established. They’re on their chapter 20. While drawing inspiration from others can provide ideas and excitement, realize that it took those businesses months if not years to get where they are, so try not to compare. As long as you have momentum building behind what you’re doing, then your decisions are working. Something that can be inspiring and comforting is seeking out a mentor who will share her business experience. I was helped along by other yoga studio owners who had been operating for years before me. Learning how they grew their small classes and listening to stories of how much time it took educated me that I couldn’t just hang an “Open” sign on my door and expect full classes. When I truly practiced patience, I realized that getting my business off the ground wouldn’t happen overnight. This acceptance made it easier to exercise my faith, self-control, determination, and concentration toward my studio.
When all is said and done, guarantees don’t really exist. I came to realize, though, that it was riskier for me to not at least try. I would always wonder, could I have done it? And I’d much rather answer the question: How do I know I will be able to make this work?
Do you own a small business? Do you want to? Was this helpful? I know I take a yoga approach to a lot of my posts, so I would love to know!