Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in health and fitness but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Mica Dalton, Owner of Altered, located in Joplin, MO, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
For the past 8 years, we have been a private personal training studio (ALTERED) that serves people who are tired of yo-yo dieting, searching for quick fixes, and always reverting back to where they started. People who are stuck in an "I will start over Monday mindset." We are selling a lifestyle. What we are not selling is a quick weight loss journey. We focus on the whole person. Everything from their sleeping habits, daily stress, and even schedule management. We take it as our job to help our clients figure out how to make a healthy lifestyle fit into their lives and not the other way around. If you don't find ways to enjoy making habitual changes, over time, you will find yourself right back where you started.
Tell us about yourself
I started personal training in college after accomplishing significant weight loss myself. I had gained 40 lbs after I stopped playing college sports and had a really hard time finding someone who could help me in the little town I was in. I did my own research and found that the leanest people in the world (bodybuilders) were eating specific things and doing measurable exercise. I started down a path of weight loss which quickly became an unhealthy obsession to get on a competition stage. Through post my own journey, I was approached by a couple of gyms to come work for them. I finally accepted a job at my first gym. It was actually sort of perfect because, at the time, I was in school to get my bachelor's to begin applying to physical therapy programs.
I trained and managed that gym for the remainder of college, and when the time came to go to PT school, they changed it to a doctorate program. Not really interested in going to school for an additional two years or accruing more student loans, I decided I was pretty good at what I was doing and to take a corporate director job in Kansas City, Missouri. Quickly, I discovered that it was going to be about percentages instead of the client. This gym was not succeeding because its overhead was so high that all they could focus on was how poor the numbers were (rightfully so) and not on how to retain clients or good trainers. They were charging somewhere around $100 per session and paying trainers $12. I realized that this was not in alignment with how I operate and started looking for a different job.
I found myself training at a small studio downtown whose main identity was bodybuilding, taking everyday weight loss clients, and getting them on stage. At this point, I was THRILLED. I was still chasing the idea of getting on stage myself. After about a year, some things were going on with the upkeep of the studio and how much we were being paid that it was no longer a good fit for me. That is when I decided to take all my experience managing gyms and myself and move back to my hometown and open my own studio. I remember telling everyone what I was going to do and people thinking I was nuts. But here we are 8 years later.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My biggest accomplishment is giving trainers the opportunity to create a career doing something they love. We try to keep 10 full-time and 3 part-time trainers on staff. If I am proud of anything, it is that we have grown slowly and stayed in our lane so that we are always thinking about the client first. I tell my team all the time to focus on the client, and the money will follow. No different than what we tell our clients to focus on the lifestyle journey, and the weight loss will follow as a side effect.
What I have come to realize is that we are not really a training studio (we are and we are not); we are actually a personal training management business. I get to teach other trainers how to build and sustain a life-changing business. That is pretty awesome. We are currently in the business of going into corporate-style gyms and managing their failing personal training departments. I am most proud that we have designed a system that works, has data to back it up, and will change many more people's lives through education. It is all a trickle-down effect.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
The thing I struggle with the most is also the thing I am the best at. Managing people. I am told that I am a little too lenient and give too many chances. I always operate in a mindset that we never know what people are going through and that we should give them the benefit of the doubt. When in reality, some people are just not right for your business. That doesn't mean they are bad people or you have a bad business, it just means it doesn't work. This has bit me in the rear end a couple of times over the years.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- The business needs to pay you. I spent years afraid of having the business pay me because what if it needed that money? Guess what, I started paying myself, and the business made MORE money because I could focus on running the business instead of working in it. Even if it is not a lot upfront, pay yourself something.
- Be honest about what you are good at and not. Hire out for those roles. Again, it may cost money upfront, but it will make you money in the long run. I started offloading one role at a time. The first was bookkeeping.
- Have your core processes and operating procedures ready to go and make updates along the way as your business evolves. This ensures you are held accountable, your team is held accountable, and everyone is rowing the boat in the same direction.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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