Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Starting a Business : Interview with Gavin by Rachel Cook

There are so many hidden responsibilities that business owners have.  When they are starting up their business they often spend 16+ hours a day running around doing everything and anything.  They have to know how to sell their business, they have to figure out how to manage all the aspects that aren’t their specialty, and they need to redirect quickly when things don’t go as planned.  It is all on them, that is pressure.  Fusion Cross-training’s owner, Gavin McKay, is one of millions of entrepreneurs that have worked tirelessly to turn their dreams into reality.   As Gavin shared with me, starting up a business is not for the weak hearted; 50 percent of businesses fail within the first year and only a small fraction last 4-5 years, but those that do stick.  Fusion Cross-training just passed the 4 year mark!
As an Intern at Fusion Cross-training, I am interested in owning my own business someday so I interviewed Gavin recently about the realities of being an entrepreneur.  Below are some of the highlights: his experiences, struggles, and rewards as a gym owner.
1)     What lead you to the point of wanting to start a business?
Both of my parents are small business owners so I was always around that atmosphere. I liked that idea of creating something greater than myself, generating my own wealth and setting my own schedule.  It's harder to make a difference in the world when you’re working under someone for a business that doesn’t align with your purpose.  

2)     What were the biggest struggles when you started your business?
The first barrier came early in finding a bank to give a loan to an unproven businessman, with no collateral and little cash.  There was only one bank that offered and these days I doubt I would have received it.  Another big struggle was finding a balance between my health, relationships, and my business. Starting a business takes a lot of time, attention, and energy away from you and whoever you are in a relationship with. It was so hard to pull away from the business when you are running in the red and you don’t have the money to hire people to help you grow, but now I know my healthier limits and ways to get through.

3)     What are the perks of being a business owner?
There are quite a few perks that come with being a business owner. I get to make all of the decisions and see my vision become a reality without much compromise. I was able to create my own community, my own culture that people could join and be surrounded by great people connected by common values.  That is very satisfying after working in the corporate world with little say as to how things are done and people are often just there for the money.  Having flexibility and control over your schedule becomes an amazing bonus once you get established. Another perk is that people tend to have a lot of respect and admiration for business owners, especially a business that helps people live better.  And lastly, I created something that I’m proud of, that I can feel good about.

4)     What are the tradeoffs of being a business owner?
There is no guidebook to follow and you feel personally responsible, sometimes defeated, by the inevitable setbacks.  There is also no guaranteed paycheck for a business owner, hence little stability or security.  This uncertainty creates a large amount of stress that is always right there weighing on your mind, but eventually you get used to it and no longer dwell on it.  You can easily become emotionally, physically, and mentally stressed if you try to do everything by yourself and be “on” all the time. Always be careful about how you tie your sense of self into your business, because when things don’t go well it will change your attitude and happiness if you let it, which is a dangerous downward spiral.

5)     What skills / personal qualities are necessary in this career?
Starting your business is like running a marathon not a short sprint so positive, high energy, endurance is a must when you own a business. Always be authentic and passionate about what you’re doing to inspire clients and employees. Other necessary skill sets are connecting with people, clearly communicating what your business is, being a good employer to attract and retain the best employees.

6)     What are the major lessons you’ve learned?
We set expectations based on estimates that we pull out of our asses for the most part, so it’s key to have flexible expectations, timelines, and strategies.  When things aren’t working you have to be quick to jump off your original plan and try something new. Let the market decide what version of your ideas are the best.  Also, don’t hire someone just because you need a body, suck it up and survive until you find the right people and it’ll save you headaches later.  Lastly, word of mouth and public relations are the ultimate marketing tools in the service industry, and they can’t be bought so you better make sure your sh_t is tight.

7)     What would be your first words of advice for anyone starting a business?
Don’t just get caught in the fantasy. Take your time to learn the reality, do an internship, research your business, and model it financially first.  You’re going to have to learn your own lessons at some point, but listening to other business owners as much as you can will accelerate your decisions.

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