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Let me shoot straight:

It’s rare for a business owner to survive beyond the decade mark.

Finding someone who has built and held onto that kind of success is like looking at Tom Brady or LeBron James. No matter what you think of them off the field or the court, they are special. They’ve had to adapt to countless unprecedented circumstances. The game is brutal, and they found a way to keep climbing, no matter the curveballs.

Running a business takes more than a typical skillset if you plan to survive (and thrive) long term. And it’s not the type of game where you shake hands with your competitor at the end of the day- it’s cold and unrelenting.

I’ve been in business with Results Performance Training for over a decade. Owning RPT has tested me and challenged me to my limit. I fought hard for these insights, and I hope they help prepare you for the wild journey of business ownership.

Always be ready for change.

Who you think you are now, how you run your business now, all your systems, all your knowledge of how your world functions… at some point, that will need to change. You started as just a trainer, but you will need to become a manager and leader- and so your relationship with your clients and employees will change. Relationships may end, even the ones you thought would last forever. The people you work with come and go.

The market changes. The industry changes. People change. Your business will change.

And you will change, too.

When you’re the owner, your business is your baby. It’s like watching a child go from a newborn to a 12-year-old hitting puberty. You love them just the same, but their needs are entirely different. One day you were changing diapers, and now they’re worried about dating, or flunking their math test.

And they just keep growing up- you have to learn to let go of your image of them. You need to let them be who they are. You have to get good at letting go.

But that’s an integral part of growth. Change is hard, but growth is impossible without it.

And too many businesses fail because they stick to a plan that worked when they started but failed to adapt to new circumstances.

So, be fully prepared to cultivate both resilience and flexibility. Some of your colleagues and employees will resist your transformation, especially when your success means change for them. You need to buckle down and stand by your vision, even when that means facing some uncomfortable situations.

Money may not be the end game, but it can end your game.

Most trainers don’t get into this industry for the money- we do it to help people. Well, guess what it takes to stay in this industry, to take care of yourself, and to impact even more lives? Yeah, money. If you’re holding onto judgments or fears around money, you’re screwed from the start.

Let the market give you the answers. Or, you can stick to your guns when the market isn’t responding, and go the way of Blockbuster (and if you’re young enough not to know what Blockbuster is, I rest my case).

Keep your head in the game.

Be prepared to make tough decisions- and make decisions based on numbers, not emotions. We don’t play this game with unlimited time. You only have so long to get the score you need to win, so sometimes you need to make decisions quickly, and following the numbers is the most reliable way to make those choices under pressure.

Again- staying in business helps more people long-term. Make this your mantra!

Stay sharp.

The better at your craft you are, the better you can adapt to your new roles. Stay invested in learning, and build your chops in training, marketing, sales, and leadership.

Life was so simple back when I was “just a trainer”. Now, I wear a lot of hats, and all of them require me to invest in my knowledge and skills so that I’m always expanding. I’m always preparing for the next step.

Know your worth.

You are providing a unique, special service that changes lives. That alone is worth its weight in gold, so feel confident charging your worth. You need to turn a profit to stay alive; no one will make it a decade by being a discount trainer. Identify what you bring to the table, and realize how valuable that really is.

Become an adaptable leader.

A successful business owner must become a leader. Eventually, you will have a team of employees. You will be put in unexpected situations and it’ll be 100% on you to direct the next course of action. You have to be ready to take that responsibility and the feeling of pressure that comes with it.

The physical and mental grind of business ownership will eventually require delegation. You’ll need to learn when and how to delegate with confidence. Those skills don’t always come naturally- it might feel uncomfortable at first. You’ll probably make some pretty dumb mistakes. That’s ok- it’s all part of the metamorphosis of your professional persona.

And once you’ve put in the years of grinding to become a good leader, you need to lead a generation you probably don’t have much in common with. You’ll need to find fresh tactics for interfacing with employees and clients. That will require reinvention, too.

Your evolution will constantly cycle to new levels and perspectives.

Who are you really competing with?

Be real with yourself- you probably aren’t competing with a major corporation any time soon. You don’t need to try to upstage a major big-box chain.

Who has a specific need you can cater to better than any other business? Zero in on that. You will only make things harder for yourself if you try to start a small business by just copying others.

Know your purpose.

You need a rock-solid foundation to support you through this. Make sure you have a clear, strong sense of purpose. Define it. Return to it when it feels like things are falling apart. If you don’t have that, you won’t have the fortitude to overcome the battles ahead.

What truly matters to you? Why is this your passion? Are you creating a high-quality, welcoming environment that gets people to kickstart their fitness? Are you supporting people’s transformations? Are you serving a niche market that gets shafted by the big-box gyms? What are your core values, and what is your mission?

Keep a written record of your answers, and let them be your guide when you inevitably hit one of those dark days where you question everything. Oh yes, I promise you- you will have those days!

But you’ll have ones where you’re on top of the world, utterly in love with what you’re creating, too.

The game isn’t easy, but if this is your calling, trust me- the level of transformation that awaits you is immensely rewarding. Remind yourself of your purpose daily, be willing to change, put in the work, and watch your creation flourish.