What I’ve Learned from Four Years of Business Ownership

Tomorrow, March 11, 2020, Summit will turn four years old. In some ways, March 11, 2016 seems like a very long time ago, while in many others it feels like just yesterday. Since opening I've gotten married, bought a house, gotten a dog, and seen our community go through a litany of life events - some good and some bad - while leaning on each other for support and celebration through it all. In many ways, opening this box and building this community has been the most challenging and most rewarding experience of my life. Here's what I've learned in four years of business ownership.

Community over everything.

It is really tempting to put on a face and act like every single day of owning and operating Summit has been full of success and celebration. The truth is far from that. It has been hard, like insanely hard, harder than they tell you it will be - but it has been worth it. One huge lesson I've learned through that is that with the right people around you, you can go through - and even enjoy - the toughest of challenges.

This lesson carries over into many other areas, as well. Why do you suppose so many people continually work for startup companies? It isn't because of the payoff from going public - that happens so rarely it is almost a myth. It's because when a group of people work hard to accomplish the same goals, there is a sense of community that is impossible to replicate. When you're looking for a job, picking a fitness program, or finding a faith community, think about the group you're getting into. Will you enjoy striving and struggling with them? Will they build you up and give you the support you need when you fail? Will you be celebrated for your accomplishments? These things matter and can be the deciding factor in your ability to find success and fulfillment in your environment.

Consistency matters a whole bunch.

You know what is pretty frustrating? That success doesn't come from one bout of hard work. Just put in a tough workout and get a six pack. Post one blog and build an audience. Have one good week at work and get a big promotion. None of these things are true, and while it is frustrating, it teaches us a good lesson: consistency should be your main focus on anything you care about achieving. You won't get fit in one hard day at the gym - but develop good habits and six months later you won't even recognize the person in the mirror.

A lot of us complain about this. Why won't it just come easy? But do we really even want that? I'd argue we don't. We think we do. But the pride you get from working hard and achieving your goal is worth far more than the end result. So be consistent. It makes you excellent and it gives you fulfillment. That word has now been written twice, which leads me to...

Start your business (or your goal) seeking fulfillment, not reward.

I remember this piece of advice my dad gave me long ago, "Never do anything for the money. Do something you love, get good at it, and the money will follow."

Intermittently throughout my life I've done a better and worse job at following that. There have been times I have done things completely for money, and they have never panned out well. There have been decisions I've made at Summit thinking about the bottom line rather than considering how it fits into our mission of building better people. In the long run, it never works out well.

The better way to go about this is to focus on the fulfillment you will get from the activity rather than the reward it will give you. We all want to get leaner and look better when we workout. Even those of us with different goals (have more energy, compete in a sport, increase mobility) also want to be proud of what we see in the mirror. But that is an agonizing process because you see yourself every single day. So you get annoyed when it doesn't happen overnight. Instead, seek the fulfillment that comes from knowing you're treating yourself correctly and living into your fullest self. Feel the confidence that comes from working hard for a goal. Then one day you wake up, and there's a change. It's all about the journey; find fulfillment in the journey rather than just seeking the reward.

You cannot give when your cup is empty.

Want a surefire way to burnout? Invest entirely into the people around you and give nothing back to yourself. Take no time to rest and recover, and simply run 100% every single day.

Six months into my business I was feeling like giving up. Genuinely, there were days when I was thinking, "I have 30 more months on this lease...how much money is that? I could probably just find a job to cover that, right?" Talk about ridiculous thoughts. Illogical, shortsighted, and frankly very selfish. Why did I feel this way? Because I was working 100 hour weeks with absolutely zero take home pay to see from it and with no idea how to grow my business. I thought this was just what you do when you start a business. Work all the time and eventually it all gets better!

There is very little truth in that mentality.

Yes, you are going to work hard when you start a business, or begin any new goal. But if all you do is pound the pavement, eventually you're going to be the one who breaks. The road never does. This means you need to reserve time for yourself. You need to fill up your own cup. And if you're an entrepreneur, you need to pay yourself. Stat. If you cannot afford to pay yourself and a staff, you cannot afford a staff. Whatever your goal is, create a system in which you give yourself a reward. If you are leading a healthy lifestyle, create a reward system with your gym attendance and for following your nutrition. Maybe it's a new workout outfit every month you attend at least three classes each week. Whatever it is, give yourself the ability to be celebrated for your hard work in pushing yourself forward. Fill your cup so you can pour it out for others.

A little bonus point - surround yourself with people who make it fun.

Final point as I wrap up; doing anything alone is pretty boring. I went 12 months with barely any help at Summit. I had to do it all because I had to prove my worth. Or so I thought. Then I started acting like I had more of a team - I gave Coach Gabi some more responsibility. Then I met Jason. Then Claire moved to town and joined our crew. My now-wife, Katie, came on board to help with health coaching. We created a team - and most importantly we cultivated a real community at the gym. I'll never be able to tell this group how thankful I am for each of them.

There are still tough days, and I expect there will always be tough days. But we have an incredibly tight-knit community of athletes I love seeing on a daily basis, and I'm blessed by a fun team of wonderful coaches who pour out their hearts to make our community better. In every single way, I'm blessed by this gym. For those who know the story of where Summit began (you can read about it here) I know my mom is proud of what we have built - and I thank every single one of you who has ever been part of this community or has been cheering us on from afar. Here's to year 5 - and to making it the best year yet.

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