Why there’s never a better time than now to embrace your entrepreneurial spirit
I never anticipated that receiving a pin the size of a penny would spark my entrepreneurial journey, but that’s how it all started. Let’s rewind to my days in New York City.
After spending eight years at the Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine (NISMAT), one of the doctors at the institute offered me the opportunity to lead a new physical therapy practice they were opening. I found myself at a crossroads. I yearned to forge my own path but also cherished the camaraderie and intellectual challenge of being part of the brilliant NISMAT team. I decided to accept the doctor’s offer, which gave me a chance to make more money, continue my research, and stay connected with the NISMAT team.
With the practice up and running, my anticipation for an end-of-year bonus grew as we reached the end of the fiscal year. However, instead of a substantial check, I received a modest pin from the practice’s administrator. This unexpected gesture forced a realization – it was time to start my own venture.
Nearly 15 years later, after navigating the entrepreneurial landscape in NYC and currently overseeing two businesses in Seattle, I want to share my insights, failures, and lessons with you.
These insights are also at the core of the Running Your Business mastermind, which Nathan and I are hosting for the third time in 2024. If you’re interested, you can visit our page to learn more. We’re also happy to coordinate a call to ensure it’s the right fit for you.
You’re Never Ready
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”– Chinese Proverb
Launching a business can feel like you’re on the precipice, wondering if the leap will lead to success or peril. Despite feeling like you’re about to dive into frigid, shark-infested waters, I assure you this is likely not the case. Reflecting on my entrepreneurial journey, the pivotal moment came when I mustered the courage to share my venture with my network. Friends and colleagues emerged ready to support and catch me if I faltered. Among those colleagues was Gary Cohen. In a transformative three-hour session, he kindled the entrepreneurial spirit within me, sketching out a 20-year vision on a paper table mat in an Upper East Side restaurant.
Gratitude extends to others like Joe Masiello and Gabe Valencia of Focus Integrated Fitness. During a crucial phase, they provided a physical space on the 11th floor of 115 W. 27th St. and supported me as I got my biz up and running. If you’re reading this, know you guys are class acts. RESPEK 👊🏻. And of course, a sincere thanks to all the people who trusted me to troubleshoot their situation during my time in NYC.
Get Clear on Your Core Values
“Once you have identified your core values, they become guide rails for your actions.”
– Brad Stulberg
The term “core values” often gets thrown around casually but treating them lightly can be catastrophic for a new business. About five years ago, I realized the significance of not only having values but giving them life—putting pen to paper and articulating why they mattered to me. This exercise proved to be pivotal. Core values serve as anchors when you face tough decisions that impact the fate of your business. I challenge you to invest time in distilling your core values. Once they’re identified, post them on your desk, discuss them in your newsletter, and proudly display them on your website. This not only holds you accountable but reinforces a sense of purpose and direction on your entrepreneurial journey.
“There are no small jobs, only small fees.”
– Zig Ziglar
As a self-proclaimed people pleaser, I’ve grappled with the inclination to overextend myself, often going above and beyond. However, a hard truth emerges over time—delivering the attention a situation warrants requires immense effort.
In my practice, connecting with patients or clients is more than a scheduled appointment. It involves giving undivided attention, working systematically to devise a comprehensive plan, and following up with a detailed email summarizing the session. I also make myself available for any questions or situations that may arise. If I were to bill solely for the time spent during the appointment, it would be a disservice to myself and my customers, as their situations wouldn’t receive the attention they deserve.
Life is About Relationships…Hard Stop
In high school, I had the privilege of being coached in tennis by Whitney Snyder, affectionately known as “Whit.” His unique life perspective, shaped by his father’s role as a pioneer in the steel industry during Pittsburgh’s heyday added a profound layer to his insights.
Whit emphasized that relationships are the most critical aspect of life and it resonated deeply with me. He lived by this principle, evident in his weekly calls with each team member to discuss tennis strategies, team roles and to delve into personal aspects of our lives, such as prom plans or remembering to get a Mother’s Day card for our moms.
While the allure of transactional relationships may be tempting, my aim is always to cultivate what Edgar Schein terms level 2 relationships. In contrast to level 1 relationships that maintain professional distance, level 2 relationships thrive on openness and trust. Just as I encourage clients to share personal information, I reciprocate by being open and honest, embracing vulnerability when necessary. I am also committed to actively maintaining connections with mentors and coaches who have positively influenced my journey. Personal and professional relationships contribute a profound richness to life—a depth that transcends mere transactions.
If Use Value Isn’t > Cash Value, the Offering is Weak
My close friend and insightful thinker, Ryan Debell, once shared a fundamental truth in the realm of entrepreneurial ventures: when the use value exceeds the cash value, success becomes inevitable. If you’ve ever wondered why a venture faltered, a product failed to resonate, or people hesitated to invest in your time or offer, it likely traces back to a breach of this universal law.
This principle resonates profoundly in every product, offering, or resource I create and the litmus test is straightforward: when my clients reflect on the services they compensated me to provide, do they feel that it was money well spent?
In the rare event that customers or clients feel their money wasn’t well spent, I gladly issue a refund. Violating this law induces distress and invites negative energy. Upholding this principle not only safeguards the integrity of my ventures but ensures a harmonious and positive entrepreneurial journey.
Take money, power, and status out of the equation. Then make your decision.
One of the most profound pieces of wisdom I’ve ever received was from a gentleman named Wilfred. During the latter part of his life, I had the privilege of working closely with him.
In a reflective moment over lunch before his passing, Wilfred shared a nugget of advice that has become an anchor in my decision-making process. He remarked, “Look around… nearly everyone here is preoccupied with money, sex, power, and status. If there’s one thing I’ve learned at this point in my life, it’s that it’s all bullshit. If I can leave you with one thing, it’s that anytime you go to make a decision, take these things out of the equation, and you’ll never make a bad one.”
These poignant words, spoken by someone who had amassed a fortune but realized its inability to bring solace in his later years, left an indelible mark. Since that day, I’ve adhered to this advice and it’s proven to be a north star guiding me toward choices aligned with authenticity and fulfillment.
Map out Your User Journey
One critical step I admit to overlooking during the early stages of my career is mapping out a client’s journey with my business. Committing to this process can reveal potential bottlenecks and allows for refining specific touchpoints, ultimately elevating the overall client experience.
For instance, when a budding entrepreneur schedules a session with me, my initial step is to conduct an online search using their name. If the search results are empty or if I fail to land on their website, it raises immediate concerns. If a website is present, it’s important to evaluate how seamless the process is for visitors to understand the offerings and schedule appointments. The user journey must be frictionless, especially considering many patients are already stressed about pain and injury. Making the process easy for them becomes paramount, especially if you operate as a fee-for-service provider.
Never be Afraid to Ask and Take Initiative
“Ask for what you want and be prepared to get it.”– Maya Angelou
During my time playing competitive tennis as an undergrad for the University of Delaware, I grappled with a serious shoulder injury. Throughout my recovery, I collaborated with world-class physical therapists, which made me realize that studying physical therapy and the rehab process was something I wanted to explore. While it was not my major at the time, I took the initiative to identify researchers at UD who were studying areas I was interested in and then headed to the physical therapy department to communicate my interest. I ended up connecting with Dr. Lynn Snyder-Mackler, a leader in ACL rehab. After sharing my story and interest to pursue a career in physical therapy, I asked to volunteer in her lab. That pivotal moment marked the beginning of my journey and changed the trajectory of my professional existence.
I challenge you to summon the courage to ask for what you want. The worst-case scenario is a rejection, which, far from being a setback, might serve as the very motivation to fuel your pursuits.
Don’t be Afraid to Fail
Failure is an unwelcome companion on the path to anything worthwhile, yet it’s an integral part of the process. Even if it involves a substantial financial loss, failure holds value as long as it imparts lessons that are applicable to the future. When I reflect on my initial triathlons where mechanical issues led to DNFs or the early days of teaching courses with minimal attendance, I recognize that while these experiences bruised my ego they also fortified my mind.
Embrace failure, learn from it, and let it propel you forward on your path to success.
Take Care of Yourself
There may be no simpler advice for ambitious entrepreneurs. When I first ventured out on my own, it was during the “Crush It” era when Gary Vaynerchuk inspired young entrepreneurs to hustle at all costs. As much as I appreciated Gary’s message about hard work and hustling, I also knew deep down that adopting this approach was not sustainable.
Similar to training for marathons or long-course triathlons, achieving success as an entrepreneur demands consistent, measured efforts day in and day out. Like endurance training, embracing incremental gains and navigating road bumps become essential. Though my persistence remains unwavering, I’ve come to appreciate the importance of carving out time each day for training. It fortifies me physically, sets an example for my kids, heightens my intellect, and bolsters my productivity.
So, whatever your endeavor, prioritize physical activity. The mode of exercise is less critical than some social influencers may suggest. It’s about community, connection, and exploring movement in a way you enjoy while staying mindful of wellness factors. And when in doubt, I recommend farmer marches and going for a walk—a simple yet effective way to recalibrate both body and mind.
“Professionals base their decisions in denominators, not numerators”
-Dr. Malachy McHugh
Early in my career, I was called out by my mentor, Mal McHugh while delivering a presentations at a NISMAT staff meeting. I had drawn erroneous conclusions from a study, having only read its abstract. This experience taught me a vital lesson—speaking authoritatively on a subject requires a thorough understanding of the pertinent research.
Many individuals discuss topics without realizing the wealth of published research critical to claiming expertise. Beyond one’s specific field, it’s equally, if not more essential to explore unrelated subjects. This broader reading often facilitates the discovery of analogies and parallels that enrich my professional work. While folks love to ask, “What do you do for a living?” I find greater value in knowing what someone is reading and what captures their interest. If you haven’t yet embraced the joy of reading, I encourage you to do so. Nothing has proven more valuable in my life than immersing myself in the pages of a book or research article.
Our most precious and finite resource is time, a commodity often squandered. While I’m not immune to distractions, I’ve honed a highly effective Pomodoro workflow strategy, working in focus for 25-minute blocks throughout the day. By consistently completing 6-8 Pomodoro blocks daily, I accomplish substantial tasks.
An element of my routine that I find particularly enjoyable is incorporating short breaks for exercise or movement after each 25-minute work segment. This enhances my productivity, and by day’s end, I’ve also engaged in meaningful strength training. This approach also leaves me feeling physically and mentally primed for activities like swimming, biking, and running.
I advise activating the, “Do Not Disturb” mode and diving into your work. You’ll be astonished by the enhanced productivity and overall sense of well-being that a structured routine can bring. Remember that while not every day may unfold as planned, like training, success is about the collective body of work.
Barriers to Entry Are Minimal
The present offers an unparalleled opportunity to embark on your entrepreneurial journey, and with the advent of AI and the abundance of user-friendly, no-code tools, launching a business has never been more accessible.
If certain business aspects don’t align with your strengths or interests, consider outsourcing them. A wealth of individuals are passionate about the tasks you might find tedious, and they can efficiently handle them for a reasonable fee.
If I can navigate this path, I’m confident you can, too. If you’re teetering on the edge of entrepreneurship, it’s time to trust yourself and take the plunge. Even if you discover that entrepreneurship isn’t your calling, the lessons learned will be invaluable and will undoubtedly shape your future endeavors.
I appreciate you taking the time to read this, and I’m eager to hear your thoughts.