I was hoping to single-handedly save a business that wasn't mine. How great of a story would that have made? Amber managed to save 9Round Evans through hard work, determination, hope, and a desire to not believe failure could be possible in a gym loved by what few members it had, with a concept no other gym in the area could compete with. Yet, that's not what happened. At all.
Instead I write this in tears because as of today, 9Round Evans declared bankruptcy--and it wasn't anything I could have stopped because, of course, I had no say in such matters. I was hoping putting my heart in the business would have inspired those who have a say in the business's survival to keep pushing forward, but 9Round Evans was doomed to fail from the start. It hadn't even been around for three years; management was always rocky. In its final few weeks, it was just me and me alone than ran the entire place, from dealing with the headache of cancellations and freezes and refunds to explaining to members why we were closed when we weren't supposed to be (I've got my job at the Y to think about too!) to finding creative ways of dealing with broken equipment, like fallen and popped bags; to trying to keep member morale up in the face of obvious failure; to still signing on new people, even though we were losing just as many as we were signing up; to calling HR's, frequenting small businesses, and sketching up ideas of what could bring in more members; and a lot of other things to keep up the pretense we were doing a lot better than we actually were.
No amount of heart can overcome poor management. And that's what 9Round unfortunately suffered from. This fantastic franchise, with such a unique concept, could have succeeded and gone above and beyond if it were just in the right hands. I hate saying that, too. I know management tried to find another way; however, you have to have passion. Otherwise, every major undertaking in your life is doomed to fail.
But I've learned loads these past few weeks about business management, things I know I wouldn't have learned simply majoring in business management. The number one thing I learned is that being a manager is rough. You spend most of your time being exasperated that you're only one person and can't make things work without a strong, reliable team. My boss at the Y once told me how stressful being a manager is and that you're only as good as the people you hire, but you can't really understand that until you're in that position.
I was never officially a manager at 9Round, but I had no choice to play that part, as I was the only one willing to dedicate time to it when we shut off our morning hours and only opened in the evenings. I had to make sacrifices, like really limiting the days I trained my clients at the Y. I also felt like I was the only one getting furious over all the times we were closed due to miscommunication among management about who was supposed to be working since I couldn't be there. This past Saturday, I decided to open up an hour early, as we had to close early so I could be at the Y to train clients. At that point, I was all about trying to appease the members, even at the expense of my own sanity.
Being constantly frustrated chips away at your usual self, so you would think the shutting down of this business would be a relief for me. It's really not, only because I refused to give up hope that something brilliant could happen beyond January. Yeah, we were losing members at an alarming rate--but what if we just started all over, wiped the slate clean? Why not hand this business over to someone who can afford to do that? 9Round Evans had loads of potential, but no one was ever willing to pound the pavement to get the members it really needed. Those who considered the risks of taking on the business themselves didn't feel like they had the business acumen to save it. Maybe they were right, but I knew exactly what would need to happen to make the business successful. The only problem is that I was the only one willing to do the work and that thought alone destroyed any motivation I had to implement all of the ideas I had. Plus, I would have needed more than just January to make those ideas happen. If I had all the money in the world, I would have happily taken on the business myself, wiped the slate clean, and spent some time finding people with as much passion I had to work for me.
I have some business acumen, skills I garnered from being the owner of a literary magazine called The Corner Club Press. It's non-profit, so we never made any money from it; therefore, there was no headache of payroll or taxes or any of that to worry about. I also had to step away from it a few years ago as lead editor so that I could focus on my own stuff. Despite this, the magazine has been around for seven years. It's gone through staff because the people who have been a part of it have been purely voluntary; thus, for them, it's always been a labor of love. Yet, I have always made sure that the people chosen to take over were in it for the passion of the written word, were in it for the experience, and were talented themselves to be able to choose the right stories. They have never disappointed me. More importantly, they've never disappointed readers. Even without me being there, they've always found a way to make things work. However, if they ever needed my help for something, I'd find a way to help. I'm still owner, even if I am in the shadows, but if I'm going to keep calling it my magazine, I have to be willing to make sacrifices if the current staff were to ever need me to make them. Owners who aren't willing to sacrifice for their businesses fail within a few short years.
There are plenty of non-profit magazines that have folded within even two years. The first magazine I was ever published by folded within three years. I had even become a slush pile reader for that magazine. Why did it fail? Poor management. People who weren't willing to make it work. Miscommunication. When the current staff communicates to me that they don't think they're going to be able to continue on with the magazine, we always make sure to find replacements just as excellent as they were. When I started The Corner Club Press, I started it knowing I would never let it shut down, even if that meant always having to hand the keys off to someone else. That's the kind of mindset you need to have when starting a business. So here's exactly what I learned from a failed one:
I've learned many more valuable lessons, but these are the ones I can rattle off the top of my distraught mind. So the question remains: where do I go from here?
This Saturday I have my CSCS examination. There is a gym in my area with a position specifically for CSCS holders. I'm sure there are other gyms in the area as well that would be willing to offer me competitive pay, simply for holding such a prestigious, difficult-to-earn certification. Management at 9Round believe I'm destined for management, but if this is the case, I want it to be at a gym that still lets me train at least a few clients. Training is in my blood, after all. I didn't get certified to ultimately climb the ladder of management. If my future does lie in management, I hope it's managing my own successful business.
Maybe 9Round's closing is a signal for me to kick the business side of The Daily Workout Lifestyle into gear. Maybe it's time for me to truly launch this business.
ACE Certified Personal Trainer, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, nutrition coach, young adult author, moody ballerina.
I help people perform without pain.
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The views expressed on this blog are entirely my own. Any advice I offer is not to be taken as medical advice. If you think you have contraindications to exercise, please see your physician before implementing any sample workout plans I present on this blog.
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