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Your own business requires a long term plan…

“People often perceive the closure of the business activity as a failure, but absolutely it is not like this. In my case it was a wise and good decision.”

I am talking with Elly, who is saying honestly about her experiences from the period when she ran the company. She draws attention to the strength of the direct relationship with a customer and to the importance of assertiveness in running your own business.

What did you do and how long was your company in the market?

I ran family fitness classes which were dedicated to mothers and their children aged between eight months and four and a half years. I had operated for about two years in the market.

What did you want to achieve starting your own business?

My main motivation was the need to increase the number of working hours and finances. I graduated from the Academy of Physical Education and I missed this kind of activity. I also became a mum and I came up with the idea of combining motherhood and passion. I started to run mother-child gymnastics.

You closed your business activity after about two years. What contributed to such a decision?

The lack of appropriate income to invest in my business and tiredness resulting from the fact that I was responsible  everything were the main factors. The beginnings of my business were difficult. I did not know where to start, how to find clients and how to talk to them. If I started the company again, I would do a lot of things differently.

Could you tell us exactly what?

First of all, before starting the business, I would prepare a website, leaflets, a specific action plan and lesson plans for the whole year. I lost a lot of time and energy to prepare those things, thereby I did not concentrate on forming relations with customers and refining the details of classes. I would change my attitude towards customers because I was preparing a lot of things, taking their expectations into account and after which some stakeholders, despite assurances, did not turn up for classes. Today I would stick with the assumptions that I had when I started the activity and I would modify them only for the needs of regular customers.

Did you protect yourself somehow from the consequences of the absence of customers?

No, I didn’t. I was lacking assertiveness. Then I was not able to talk about money, about business. It happened that I had the client who participated in the classes for the whole term but he had not paid for them. Then he claimed that he had paid by cash. I should have defined a deposit and set some limits for participants. There were also customers who did not turn up for their classes, despite the fact that I had organized my schedule, taking their availability into account.

How did you react when a client who had an arrangement for a specific date did not turn up for classes?

In the beginning I was very overwhelmed because I perceived these situations personally. Later I learned that out of ten stakeholders, on average, three of them did not turn up for classes.

Did you contact customers to ask why they had not come for the following classes?

I did not contact them. I did not have the courage. Although I was very satisfied with my classes and I was proud of them because I had a great program, great opinions of regular customers, I was not able to talk frankly. At that time I also went through personal problems, which I translated into my business.

Did you use any support while starting your business?

Yes, I did. I used the support of a coach while starting and initial running of the company. I focused mainly on building my business but I did not work on myself. As time went on, I began to notice that I was lacking self-confidence. Coaching made me more courageous and I went to the playgrounds with the intention to create direct relations with mums present there. This way, I gained the majority of my customers.

How did you respond to the problems in your company?

It depended on the kind of the problem. For example, when someone did not pay I sent him a message informing about the non-payment at the end of the term, after twelve lessons. Now I would do it earlier, maybe after the third lesson. When I met a problem that I could not solve on my own I benefited from coaching. The conversation with a coach put me on the right track. Consequently, I moved forward step by step.

In your opinion, what is worth pointing out in running a business?

During the start-up phase it is important to do everything that is possible to be done before starting a business, so it will make you able to focus on a customer and the core of your work. So before the official opening it is worth having a website, business cards, materials, leaflets, and an action plan. Later, it is essential to gain new customers and make a contact with them. You need to provide clear rules on payment and how to talk with customers who do not pay but still benefit from the classes. Today I know that it is worth outsourcing certain tasks to others in order to focus on what you really like to do. I also advise coaching when problems arise because it gives you support and opens your eyes to further opportunities.

Can you identify the three most important things that you have learnt from your experience?

Your own business requires a smart short and long term plan. It is worth organizing the company under your framework and in accordance with your philosophy of life. You have to be assertive, which makes life easier. Today I see the mistakes that I made and I know what to change in the future. This is a very valuable experience. People often perceive the closure of the business activity as a failure, but absolutely it is not like this. In my case it was a wise and good decision. I am still benefiting from the vast experience that I gained from running my own business.

Thank you for the honest conversation and useful tips on running business.

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