Customer Feedback Loop

Customers who are unhappy with a business interaction are so much more vocal than those who love you (more from inc.com). Every customer interaction is an opportunity we must embrace if we are to evolve into life enhancing, passion filled, boutique businesses. How do you gather customer feedback? How do you evolve your business over time and ensure you aren’t just offering what you love, but what they want? There are so many ways to communicate these days, lets talk about ways we can ensure we actually hear what our customers are saying, and respond accordingly.

Keeping Track of Reality

You have to track what’s happening in your business! I don’t care whether you offer 1:1 Personal Training or Therapy, Group Fitness or Yoga Classes, Teacher Trainings, please, please, please, ensure you are tracking some of this somewhere! This doesn’t have to be overly complicated. We have so many software options available, with a wide range of functionality and cost. You will never know what’s working or what isn’t if you aren’t tracking and looking at reality. Our feelings and emotions will often misguide us. Minimally, I want you to track sessions served, clients, and money/sales. Play around with the software products you try, use their online help, and create habits to keep things up to date. If you have a team, train and communicate with them on what you need and hold them (and yourself) accountable for it. Be OK with changing these processes and procedures as needed. Some of my favorite business management soultions in the wellness space: MINDBODY, Zingfit, Wellness Living, Accuity, and Square.

Referral Applications

Thank you to the software gods for automating so much of our lives! Perhaps we can even forgive the occasional headaches they cause. Here are some products that either I used and loved, or my friends did. It’s not a comprehensive list, but gives you an idea of what’s out there.

Example of Listen360 Reviews Automatically Nested on LiveEdit Website

Example of Listen360 Reviews Automatically Nested on LiveEdit Website

  1. Survey Monkey or Google Forms can be used to ask some basic questions for free / low budget. I.e. rate your session on a scale of 1 to 10, would you recommend us to a friend, with an open field for more comments. I let customers know in automatic communications with links, that they would be entered into a drawing to win a free month of yoga in exchange for their responses. This kind of worked for a while, but I never got a ton of feedback this way in all honesty. It was a good start, though.

  2. Your scheduling / CRM software might have an automatic review feature for customers to respond to. Ensure you are optimizing your use of this, if so. The MINDBODY App is useful for this and often underutilized.

  3. Listen360 automatically asks for customer feedback and invites happiest customers to post elsewhere online. My clients responded to this so much more than my low budget method listed above. They also had a widget that let me list the good reviews on my website which customers loved.

  4. Referrizer can help you generate more leads on your website and more referrals through their partner network. I’ve personally had lots of clients rave about their free and paid options.

  5. Broadly’s online review platform automates customer feedback via a branded email or text directly to Google, Facebook, TripAdvisor, Nextdoor, or any other review site.

Where Is Home?

One question you might ask about any application you use, is where does the data live and how is it backed up? Does the application store the reviews in their own platform or do they help you get reviews on other review sites? It seems like Google Reviews, Yelp, and Facebook reviews aren’t going away, so getting good presence in those channels is smart. I didn’t mind the applications I used that stored the reviews within their application along with clear reporting and follow up functionality. I did make a major mistake of never exporting before I turned off the service. Poof, thousands of positive reviews were gone! Don’t do that.

Your Response Is Critical

“Accountability is the glue that ties commitment to results” said Bob Proctor. My review game went through the roof when I started using an application to help me gather them, (cough, cough, automation is wonderful) and when I enlisted a staff person to help me respond to them on a regular basis. For a while, I responded personally to everything negative with a phone call. Eventually, I had my front desk team do this once a week using some canned responses I saved for them. If they felt uncomfortable or wanted me to respond, they could always forward it on and I’d copy them on the response for their reference. They got really good at this!

Paper Isn’t Dead Yet

Last, but not least, having physical feedback boxes at my studio was always a necessity. Some people always used them and it was worth having a spot for them.

Hopefully, you are reminded how important it is to ask for feedback and this is one area where technology can really help :).

Owner Life Balance Questions

How do you know if you’re focusing on what you should focus on, as a business owner / leader? It’s SO HARD to not get lost in the weeds. Here are some leading questions that might help as you ponder this one.

Where’s Your Next Blue Ocean?

Is there anything you can do that's NEW to increase revenue? I like to think of something brand new each year to shake things up. I love the idea of "Blue Ocean Strategy" for this. Instead of doing more of the same, staying in the same overly competitive market, all providing different flavors of the same, how can you adjust and modify and go into new, less competitive market space without contradicting your current mission? Can you modify TT, do more TT's, retreats, is there a new related service you could bring in?

Who Owns The Less Desirable Jobs?

Who owns Operations, Cleaning, Hiring & Training? These are big jobs and you want to be clear about who is doing what. With more and more locations, more and more staff, I might worry about this getting swept aside and I see studio after studio suffer for it.

Delegate More. Dammit!

What do you love about your current job? What do you dislike? How can you Delegate More? How can you delegate those tasks that weigh you down? Do more of what you like? Be clear and honest about these things and work towards the work that lights you up, a schedule that helps you stay sane, and boundaries! It’s a great idea to tell your team the best way to contact you and when. You don’t have to be on 100% off the time forever. I told my staff I would not respond to texts between 7pm - 7am, unless it’s a true emergency.

The Undone

What isn't getting done that needs to? Can you find the time for it? Do you want to? Can you hire someone to help with it and somehow tie their compensation to performance? For me, this was marketing and teacher feedback and class consistency. I never found the time!

It’s hard to keep sane in adult work life, isn’t it? It’s even harder when you take on a business or role you are super passionate about. Often, that passion blinds us to our successes, and where we can best spend our energy. For example, I could hire yoga teachers easily, we had so many trainings in town at my studio and others. So, why was I teaching 25+ hours per week? Part of it was that I love teaching, but not at the expense of the evolution of my studio baby. Good luck with that ever elusive work life balance. It’s never perfect.

Is It Time To Move On?

I’ve been having A LOT of conversations lately with boutique studio owners that are thinking about selling / closing their studios. I bought my studio from a friend in 2011 and sold it to a friend in 2016, and have some thoughts to share for anyone wondering, if it’s time for bigger change.

How do you know when it’s time?

It’s so personal and subjective, it can be hard to decide when your current role as owner isn’t best serving you or your community any longer. Perhaps you’ve had life situation shifts like having a baby or growing your family. Perhaps your market just feels saturated and like it’s going to continue to be. Perhaps you are really profitable right now, and really, it’s best to sell when things are going well, isn’t it?

Personally, I knew it was time when I wanted more and more time away from the studio. When I realized that I had zero ego surrounding my role as “owner”; I knew in my heart I could still find work and serve my community in a great way, with or without the title and it’s implied responsibilities and paperwork. Perhaps I could have transitioned to silent owner, if anyone is doing that successfully, please show me your ways. I know myself, I care too much to be silent. I often find myself wishing I could have drawn better boundaries so I didn’t get so burnt out, but perhaps some of us are lifers and some of us aren’t. For me, after becoming a mom to a sweet little girl, I realized my priorities were shifting and frankly I wasn’t being challenged in the ways I craved by being the studio owner. I also felt like we had reached a peak of sorts with what we could do with our current reality and that the studio could use new energy. So, like the yogi tree-hugger I am, I said to the universe, “Perhaps it’s time for me to move on?” I kid you not, the universe responded swiftly with obvious answers that indeed, it was a good time. All kinds of offers came to my lap at that time. All I can say as someone who knows a lot of studio owners, we care a little too much sometimes, and we don’t realize we are a frog in a boiling pot of water situation. Usually, by the time you think it might be time for bigger change, it was time a year ago, so you need to heed that feeling and do some due diligence.

Pros and Cons List

A pros and cons list never hurts with the bigger life decisions. Questions I find myself asking my wanderlust clients lately: What do you love about your current role? What do you dislike? What other jobs could you get and how much would you make? Would you want to transition to teacher and what would that look like? Are you killing it and is now the time to sell while you could actually sell it easily, and for profit? Are you burning cash you don’t have? How long is your current reality sustainable? Give yourself a deadline for making a decision by.

Due Diligence

I highly recommend getting a valuation of your business if you are thinking about moving on. Business Brokers likely exist in your community who can help with this as well as find a buyer for you, kind of like a real estate agent. I have personally seen studios sell for a huge range, from one month of revenue to twelve months of revenue and more, completely depends on the size of the studio and market you exist in $20K-1M). I’ve seen plenty of long standing studios gracefully close. I spoke to someone recently who suggested studios be evaluated with the “Discounted Cash Flow” valuation methodology over the “Asset” methodology. It basically bases the value of the studio on the amount the investment into the studio can expect to grow rather than overemphasizing the amount of physical assets being transferred (as far as I understand it). This exercise helps remove some of the emotion surrounding the decision.

In The Meantime

Clean up your studio management software and ensure you don’t have inaccurate books. In your studio management system, perhaps this means cleaning up account balances, outstanding series, retail inventory on hand. Work on optimizing the amount of ongoing members you have. Do a detailed studio asset inventory and make a list of every piece of equipment and retail in your studio in a huge spreadsheet with estimated price you paid and estimated current value as this will be considered part of the assets you could be selling. Be prepared to share three years of Profit & Loss statements and Tax Returns with prospective buyers with them signing a confidentialty agreement to view them. Put word on the street that you might be changing the ownership structure of the studio. Be tactful and mindful in the way you do this. You don’t want your existing staff or students to feel abandoned, but I personally found this worth doing as I had several offers to buy from within my community that I wouldn’t have predicted were options. Maybe a face-to-face staff meeting is a good place to start.

At The End of The Day

It’s not an easy decision, but I want to remind you IT IS NOT A FAILURE to move on. Your experience is still valid and will serve you well in your next adventures. You will likely be surprised by what comes in to your life once you create the intention and space to make change. The way you’ve directly served your community and your team is an amazing gift that is worthwhile in a deep way. Some relationships are lifers, some are quickies, some are in the middle, it’s the way of life.

I hope this is helpful! Good luck to all those who are in the flow of running a business and feeling like it might be time for change. I’d love to hear your comments.

Dear College Friends

succulents go round

Today I had the pleasure of being part of a panel at Calpoly, my local university, discussing what Entrepreneurship means to me and how my background studying Mathematics served in my greater career. It was so nice to connect with those who are in that phase of life full of hard work, transitions, finals, and late night pizza. Some great reminders arose from the round table discussion and questions afterwards that I wanted to share here as reminders for us all.

  1. We are all striving to find work we can feel good about. What a gift that we live in a time that we can pursue this aim.

  2. Entrepreneurship to me, is more about passion than it is about profitability, although profitability and covering costs is a necessary part of operating a business that I think we can’t ignore. I recently read an interesting article, The Bankrupt Idealogy of Business School. It proposed that, “Business has lost sight of its true function in society, which is to provide a mechanism by which we can work together and with our environment to achieve our common goals. It is not, and never has been, to simply make a profit.” Glad I’m not the only one wondering this!

  3. I said this spontaneously while chatting with someone and I think it’s really true. In five years, no one will even know your major?! Isn’t it crazy?! The work we are doing today, as important and life filling as it is, might not really matter all that much in 5 years. It matters in that it will likely have that connecting thread that will lead you to the next thing. But try not to stress. When you are graduating put yourself out there, see what you are eligible for, and apply and interview for it. Who knows what will stick, and it will most certainly have some lessons to teach. Also, look for companies you like, towns you like, and research those and see where you might fit and try to make it happen. It might take an extra class or summer job.

  4. It’s so hard to imagine how your unique skills and energy might best serve the world and yourself when the environment you are living in is so structured and specific. College can feel like such a bubble, a sweet bubble, but a bubble none the less. We so often work and live life in such tight little bubbles we can’t see beyond our immediate windshields. I want to remind us that sometimes the best thing is to get out there and try things out. I was really impressed and proud of those students for showing up to something optional to think about how they might best contribute in life. We don’t have to know what we want to be when we grow up, what our careers will be, how it all fits at the tender age of 20, 40, or even in our wisdom years. It constantly changes! Just get out there, start working on or toward something you can wake up for and feel good about showing up to each day. My first post college job was computer programming for an insurance company. I learned people skills, office skills, how to show up every day. This later led to me getting hired at a much better company for my personality because I had experience that aligned with them. And it just kept going this way and still is for me. Make it your goal to show up and learn each and every day, and it will unfold.

  5. I didn’t get to say this to the panel, but I wanted to: BE PATIENT! I didn’t just get hired for my dream job out of nowhere, although I feel blessed to have eventually found my way to some version of it. It took me learning from lots of middle jobs, making it my mission to grow in each situation, and to keep showing up.

  6. One more thing, IT TAKES A VILLAGE. Helen Keller said it best, “We can do so much more together, than we can apart”. I have noticed in myself and our culture that there is an over emphasis on individuality. When I feel part of a team I love and am loyal to, way more magic and success happens than when I am trying to conquer the world by myself and create my own idealized version of the world. Ten years ago, I thought I could do it better. Today, I realize it’s much more interesting to try to meld with each other and find more win-win. I am still here creating my version of it, but with a more collaborative approach, I think*!

Good luck to those in transition, trying to find your spark, embarking upon the unknown. YOU GOT THIS.

My Happy Place, Esalen, Big Sur, CA

My Happy Place, Esalen, Big Sur, CA

MINDBODY State of the Industry Report 2019

MINDBODY just released a new State of the Industry Report discussing some of the trends they are seeing in the cities and industries that they serve. This is similar to the data presented at the Bold Conference every year. It’s inspiring and informative. Check it out! Here are some snippets and a link to the full article if you want to check it out.

“The MINDBODY Wellness Index is a proprietary statistical scoring algorithm that incorporates Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) level anonymized and aggregated data from the MINDBODY marketplace, third-party data from sources such as the US Census, Google and other business listing services, and data from a large-scale MINDBODY consumer survey covering the largest 50 MSAs in the US. “

“Factors that measure business health include revenue per capita adjusted for cost of living expenses, percentage of processed revenue, density of fitness, beauty, and wellness businesses in a particular MSA, and revenue per staff service hour, among others. “

“The San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California market has the highest density of wellness businesses with 2.7 businesses per square mile. Salt Lake City, Utah has the lowest density of wellness businesses with just 0.2 businesses per square mile. “

I love data and I love infographics. So this is just a win-win. Here is a link to the full article. Let me know your thoughts, favorite data, or stuff you think is useless.

Also, if you want to see some of this data in video format, check out the following from Bold 2018.

Push Notifications For The Win

Fitxcore focuses on mobility as well as strength and conditioning

Fitxcore focuses on mobility as well as strength and conditioning

I’m super excited to share this marketing win idea as shared with me at a recent event for wellness businesses. This is one of my favorite examples of how to get the most of technology to help grow your business. Many thanks to Robert Faldon, owner of Fitxcore a Strength and Conditioning business located in Torquay, Australia and attendee of MINDBODY University Sydney this past week, who shared this story.

Robert and his team wanted to add a new service offering, infrared sauna, to their business and the cost of the equipment was a bit prohibitive. They did some math and made a goal for preselling packages for the sauna in advance of purchasing the equipment. If they could do enough presales to cover the cost of the sauna, they would buy the sauna.  Sounds win-win right? If they can get their existing customers to cover the cost of the new equipment, the studio gets a new alternate revenue stream to help with their bottom line. The customers get to try a great new service at a deal that they’ll never get otherwise. The customers might also like the idea of being “founding fathers” of this program.

The very first step in moving towards offering this new program, which was key, was to create educational content about the benefits of the new service to inspire their community. They published the content a week or so in advance of the planned presale. Next, Fixcore offered the presale packages via push notifications on their studios app (the MINDBODY Branded App to be specific) available for purchase for just 24 hours (a little urgency never hurts with marketing). They sold enough packages through the push notification to cover the cost of the sauna. Now they had a piece of equipment that they put in a part of their space that was unused anyway, that could earn them additional revenue but had little additional cost associated with operating the service.

What I love most about this is that the studio brought in additional revenue, without too much effort, or up front / cash investment on their part. It’s very easy as a studio owner to think, “I can’t do that, I don’t have enough money” and Robert proves to us that growing and expanding isn’t always about the money you have up front to invest. Sometimes it’s just appropriate investment of time and energy. Most studio owners I cross paths with could use additional revenue streams.

This also points to how important it is to have a content strategy as part of your marketing plan. The success here was based on the fact that Robert took the time to research the benefits of infrared sauna and tell his customers how this might help them reach their health goals in advance of offering a promotion surrounding it. Good content can motivate, educate, and inspire, and you must do it constantly, in a variety of ways. It builds trust, image, brand, and collective understanding. What kids of content are you sharing with your tribe? Are you consistent with it?

Isn’t this just a beautiful story?! This is a great example of getting creative in finding the resources to try new things and evolving your business.

Share your experience with push notifications below and subscribe to my newsletter to read about future marketing wins and losses I hear out in the wellness business world.