Update Part 3: Depression to Hope

I started my own business.  Yay!  But my business location was a disaster.  What do I do now?  I couldn’t give up on my dream of owning my own business after only seven months.  I had to keep going and try again to make it work.

July 2013 – I searched the city for a new location.  I was frustrated that I had to move so soon after opening the business, but I couldn’t stay at a place that was negatively impacting my business.  So I moved forward, optimistic that this change could be the key to making my business a success.

I still liked the idea of sharing a space with another business in order to cut down on overhead costs, as well as give me direct access to potential new clients.  I also still liked the idea of operating my business within a salon since our clientele and services were similar.  However, I looked into other types of locations as well, including medical offices, executive office buildings, and exercise facilities.  After visiting various locations and meeting with other business owners, I narrowed my search down to two places: another salon and an exercise facility.

The salon had an upbeat, hip, young aesthetic.  The floors were covered in shiny black tile and the walls were painted neon green and fuchsia, setting off the exposed steel pipes in the ceiling.  I met with the owner, a friendly middle-aged man in black-rimmed hipster glasses.  He explained that his salon was very busy with high-end clientele, who were also interested in medical spa services.  He was enthusiastic about renting me a space within his salon to provide those services, and I was enthusiastic about the potential for new clients, as well as the vibe of the salon.  It had what my old location was missing: a fun, upscale, busy, successful atmosphere.  I could imagine myself going to work there each day and loving it!  The owner also introduced me to the owner of a similar business, with whom we discussed commission-based referral agreements to help us each increase our clientele.  I left our meeting feeling very confident and optimistic that this could be the perfect place for my business to flourish!  But there was still another location to consider.

The exercise facility was extremely busy.  That was my first impression.  It had an upbeat atmosphere that seemed full of promise.  But it wasn’t a typical gym.  This facility offered only classes.  And they were expanding.  They were adding even more types of classes and instructors, and they had recently added a restaurant to their premises, as well as other services such as massage and tanning.  The positive energy and momentum there was contagious.  I wanted my medical spa
services to be one of the new services the facility would offer!  I called the owner and arranged a meeting.  I was surprised to discover that the owner was an older man with silver hair.  I also discovered that he loved to talk about himself and his (likely embellished) accomplishments in life.  Despite a somewhat strange (and one-sided) first conversation, he thought that I would make a great addition to his team, and he offered me a space in his facility.  He explained that around 1,000 gym members attended classes there each day, and I could put signs and other marketing materials throughout the facility, as well as speak directly to class attendees, to attract new clients to my business.  Free marketing to so many people was a very attractive offer!  I had gone from feeling trapped in a doomed salon to having two seemingly great options to choose from.

I had a really hard time choosing between the two.  My head and my heart were telling me different things.  I loved the salon.  I felt like I fit in there, and that motivated me to succeed.  But my head was telling me the gym was a better choice.  Rather than a flat monthly fee, my rent at the gym would be a percentage of my revenue each month, so if I wasn’t busy, I wouldn’t have to pay a high-priced rent that I couldn’t afford.  Also, hundreds of salon clients would be exposed to my services.  But at the gym, I would have free access to thousands of potential new clients.  I chose to listen to my head instead of my heart.  The exercise facility would be the new location for my business.  Time to get my medical spa in shape!

August 2013 – After moving into my new space at the gym, I was soon reminded of the old saying, “If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.”  In addition to being subjected to the owner’s incessant, self-important ramblings about being a business genius, he tried to micro-manage me as if I were his employee.  (This is my business, thank you very much, and sink or swim, I will not be told how to run it.)  But something else was beginning to bother me as well.  Before I moved in, he had told me that I, like the other service providers renting spaces in the gym, would be flooded with new clients from the gym’s extensive membership, so I should prepare myself for a demanding work schedule.  Sounds good to me!  There was just one problem: I had yet to see any of the other service providers.  If they were so busy with new clients, I would expect to see them with, um… clients.  Where was everyone?!

Less than a month after moving in, I was introduced to another of the gym’s expansion projects: a new marketing team.  This was exciting news, or so I thought at the time.  I thought it meant I would have access to professional marketing advice to help advertise my business.  I thought it meant they would help market my business to gym members.  I was wrong.  The first task of the new team was to overhaul the old marketing procedures, which meant that everything I had been told by the owner when I moved in was no longer true.  Also, the other service providers and I were now referred to as “vendors” and were no longer considered part of the team.  In other words, we were on our own.  All the signs, business cards, and pamphlets we had placed around the gym to advertise our services were taken down, and we were encouraged to not discuss our services with gym members before or after classes since it might “bother” them.

The method for recruiting new members for the gym and new potential clients for my business also changed.  Previously new gym members were given a tour of the facility which included meeting me and other service providers (I mean, vendors), so we could explain our services and hopefully secure them as clients.  Under the new system, tours no longer included meeting the vendors.  No signs, no meetings, and no tours meant no gym members knew that I existed.  There had to be another way to access them.

I had been doing my best to avoid the owner and his micro-managing and sabotage (I mean, marketing team) until I could figure out a solution to the marketing dilemma.  However, things were about to get worse.  The next time I saw him, I learned the gym’s newest expansion: a medical spa.  There was an existing medical spa in the same building as the gym, and the gym would be purchasing it the following month, so all vendors would be required to move into that space.  Hearing this was devastating to me.  That medical spa offered the same services that I offered, and now all gym members would be referred there for services rather than to me.  I was crushed.  I had only been at this location for a month.  I had already given up the other space in the salon that I had loved.  Should I have listened to my heart instead of my head?  I didn’t have the strength or energy to move again.  Was this how it was going to end?

I tried to appear optimistic.  The owner was convinced that his gym would provide enough new clients for the medical spa and me to “share”.  I wasn’t so sure, but I did my best to force a smile on my face and visit the medical spa and meet the employees, as the owner suggested.  It was immediately clear that they were not pleased with the idea of me moving into their territory and potentially taking clients away from them.  I was not pleased either.

With so much uncertainty now, I only went to work when I had to.  I felt depressed and betrayed.  Why didn’t the owner tell me about this before I moved in and gave up other great opportunities?  The new marketing team had forced me to stop marketing in the gym, and I stopped advertising outside of the gym.  I continued providing treatments to existing clients, but I wasn’t gaining new clients.  There was no sense in bring in new clients when I could be out of business the next month.

September 2013 – I was depressed, confused, and frustrated, and I needed support!  Where were the other vendors?  I still hadn’t seen most of them.  Those whom I did manage to meet were just as confused as I was.  What was clear was that the gym was not providing anyone with thousands of clients… we had been deceived.  What was not clear was what would happen next.  Each time I went to the gym, things were different, and each time I asked someone what was going on, I got a different answer.  Slowly, the other vendors’ spaces became empty.  Were they moving to the medical spa or leaving the facility altogether?  I didn’t know.  Then the offices near my space became empty.  Then part of the gym was torn down.  What was going on?  I needed answers, and I wasn’t getting any.  The owner was nowhere to be found, and I was hearing different information from everyone else I talked to.  I couldn’t handle the chaos!

As a CPA and a business person, that type of disorder and confusion makes me extremely anxious, uneasy, and annoyed.  But that gave me an idea.  I started wondering if the gym owner and employees wanted this chaos, or if they just simply didn’t know how to avoid it.  With my prior business background and experience, organization is one of my specialties.  In fact, at times it was my job.  Companies brought me in to organize their business, finances, taxes, etc.  I might have something to offer this business besides medical spa services!

I finally tracked down the owner and explained to him my background and that I could help him organize the chaos brought on by the multiple expansions to his organization.  He loved the idea!  He even took it a step farther and wanted me to take care of all the tax and accounting work for his companies.  There was just one catch.  He had to run the idea by his out-of-state business partner, but he was optimistic and excited about the concept of having an in-house CPA to handle the books rather than outsourcing the job as they had done in the past.

He filled me in on the latest plans for the facility.  The area of the gym formerly reserved for vendors would be renovated to be used for more classes for the gym.  The new medical spa would no longer offer space for vendors, so if I wanted to continue at his facility, I would have to become his employee, and he could potentially purchase my equipment for use by his employees.  That meant giving up my own business.  That news would have been devastating, but I didn’t care at that moment.  The idea of running a whole accounting department for a new organization was much more enticing.  He told me that I could stay in my space in the gym a bit longer, while we determined what my future role with the company would be.

I did not want to give up my business, but this was an opportunity I couldn’t refuse.  I felt drawn to it.  Sure, I was hesitant about working for someone I knew was arrogant and controlling, but tax and accounting was my expertise, not his.  I felt like I could really make a difference in this organization.  I couldn’t turn it down.  If it was offered to me.  All I needed was approval from the business partner.  For the first time, I really wanted this job.  I couldn’t believe I actually wanted another accounting job.  But I was excited!  Could something positive finally come out of my business?

               Month 10:        Money Invested – Half my Life Savings

                                        New Clients from the Gym – 3

                                        Emotional Rollercoaster – Off the Charts

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