What I Learned About Being a Small Business Owner

I never intended to open a business, I always intended to be a stay at home mom until my kids at least got to high school and maybe even then, I thought I’d still possibly stay home. While I was in the middle of getting baby weight off after my second babe I started running weight loss competitions on my blog. Crazy to think about it, my passion started January 1, 2010.

As I became successful with my own weight loss I became addicted to helping motivate and inspire others. I started setting small personal goals like running 3 miles, running a half marathon, going to group fitness classes, teaching group fitness classes, doing a body building show. All those little steps offered me a platform to reach people through my blog. Social media was getting more and more popular and that allowed me to reach even more people as I developed a small scale following.Teri working out

One day, I got fired from teaching my group fitness classes because of the blog I was operating on BlogSpot. It was traumatic to say the least, as I have never really been in trouble before and certainly never fired from a job! But as I reflect back I truly believe every single door that was shut, even the ones that hurt when they slammed my fingers in the door were preparing me to build my own business.

I was passionate and on fire about fitness and health and motivating others. So building my platform and my small business never felt like work. They were all natural progressions in my journey. Every time I started to pursue something new, it was like the light shined right on the path so I could keep stepping.

Lessons Learned

As I have been in business for myself for the last 3 years I have learned lots of things but I have no formal business training. I was learning on the job, and luckily am surrounded by many people who have gone before and done different jobs that have helped to teach me. From childhood, I was never one of those people who had to “learn the hard way” as they say, but could really hear, process, and feel other people’s lessons and apply them to my own life. That is a blessing and a curse because I feel everything deeply from happiness and excitement, to sadness and trauma. Being around my father who has been a retail manager my whole life, and clients who have reflected and shared endless amounts of information with me to help me grow and refine my processes.  I have always had passion and love for my people which has driven me to keep building the business. I want to touch and influence more people and help lead them to better health and more strength that will not only help them in the gym, but help them in their day to day life as well.

When we got our business loan, we used our vehicles for collateral. My husband has stood behind me every step of my journey and for those of you who don’t know him, he is meticulous about finances and OCD about his truck. The day he said he would give his title to his beloved truck he worked years to buy and keep in mint condition, to the bank to open our business I knew, he knew I could do this. The accountant wanted to know how I would guarantee my clients would pay me, and therefore I could pay my bills so I set up my system to ensure that I don’t work without being paid, first. That has been a hard lesson to learn, and at times difficult to implement because there are people everywhere that could benefit from what my business has to offer, that can’t afford it. But I remind myself often, I have a loan to repay and the bank won’t accept anything less than their payment plan.

Pathway to Success

We love our clientsI believe my business has become successful because I have made customer service my top priority. I have had the motto from the very beginning that even if a client was not successful in losing weight for whatever reason…that they always knew I was invested in them and that I was proactive with making sure their journey was a priority to me. I tell them from day one when they walk through my door that they aren’t going through their transformation process alone, they are here at Forever Fit now, and their goal–became mine and I will be passionate and persistent to give them the tools to earn their biggest desires.

The hardest thing about me becoming a business owner is that I do not have super thick skin. I have had to develop that as I have faced growing pains. Learning to manage employees has proven to be difficult for me. I have had to learn to guide and educate new trainers to do training well, but also to do customer service well and it isn’t easy to exercise authority for me. I have learned the hard way that people won’t always do things the way I would, and even though my way isn’t the only way, my way is what has created and sustained a business and the failure of my business venture means my family may not eat for a time so failure is not an option. Setting expectations, helping new trainers set goals and keeping them accountable to their job description has proven to test me. My father told me that he has never fired an employee, unless he knew that he had given them every tool to succeed within his management. He also taught me to document everything and keep files on each person who works for me so that when the time comes, that I may need to part ways with them for the betterment of my business, that I won’t ever feel mean or bad. That has helped me immensely and I am grateful for his wisdom in my life. I think it’s important to surround yourself with people who will help build you up, but also not be afraid to tell you “Now wait a second, look at it this way.” I have several people who do that for me.

A Few Pieces of Advice

If I could give a new business owner a few pieces of advice it would truly be to find something they love so much that if they never made a dime, if they never paid a bill or bought a new pair of shoes from the income of it–they’d love it anyway. I would tell them to remember that if your business is a service offered rather than a product sold to not cheapen themselves. Don’t feel bad charging for your time and your energy because if you have a service people need, that betters the world–people will pay you for it and they need to because you have a life besides just that business. I love to donate to causes I believe in but I am very particular about when and where I donate because I have bills to pay and children to raise and we all know how much money that takes. My time spent away from my home I take seriously because it helps me create a better home and life for my family.

People have asked, how do you as a busy mom and wife balance it all? I have gotten good at delegating. I have gotten good with being grateful for the help my now 7 and 9-year-old offer (I rarely do dishes these days, they take turns each day), they don’t always do things the way I would do them but I want to teach them to work hard so that one day they can create a home and business if they choose. I need help, I can’t do it all, and I am not scared to admit it. I am not scared to wave the white flag and take a mental health day or to ask for help. My husband is extremely helpful when he can be, although his career is not only dangerous but demanding of his energy and time. He does the best he can to help where he can. But a lot of times the kids and I are on our own. I care less about a spotless home and more about making sure my kids have help with homework. I care less about their screen time and more about the time we do have together being quality and loving. And, I have gotten good at reminding myself that in spite of being a busy working mom I love my kids more than anything in the world and that’s something I know they know. I will never be a mom who volunteers in the classroom, but I will always get them breakfast and drop them off at school with a kiss and a “have a good day.” When financially we get to the debt free point, we are working toward– I will hire a cleaning lady, and I will also probably pay a food prep service so I don’t have to do things I am not awesome at, and don’t love–so I can focus and excel at the things I do love and am great at.

Final Thoughts

The last thing I want to tell you is that business has always been steady for me, but I have certainly gone into lulls or times when I am not as busy. When I first started not being frantic busy all the time it made me really nervous (what If I can’t pay rent? What if I can’t pay the loan? What if every single client stops coming?) but as I have progressed the last three years I have learned to pray a lot, ask God for guidance and take my slow opportunities to do things I can’t get to when I am frantic busy with clients. I also remember to take the very best care of the people in front of me, knowing full well that when people are satisfied and feel valued and appreciated–they will possibly stop coming, but they will continue to recommend me to others. I also remember to give God the glory because without Him, none of the rest of the business, or life matters. I pray constantly to run a business that makes Him proud.

I know my business is important to the world. I know what I have to offer touches many people and helps them to feel a bit stronger and more secure in who they are. Because of that, I know that the business will not only survive, but it will thrive for years to come. I said from the beginning, that a referral from a client means the world to me, and when the time comes that I am not so extremely grateful that a new client walks into my office and puts their trust in me to hold their hand and walk down their road with them–I’ll know it’s time to close the doors and I’ll do it. This was never about money for me, about getting rich or about recognition. It was always about helping women especially feel stronger, more proud, and more firm in who they are and where they come from.


Teri Hoeksema
Teri Hoeksema is a personal trainer and owner of Forever Fit Training and Nutrition located in Caldwell, Idaho.Her passion is helping her clients reach their full potential and live happy and healthy lives. She has been a small business owner for three years and has learned a great deal through this journey. For more information about Forever Fit Training and Nutrition, please contact them at 208-989-8421 or visit their site at http://www.foreverfitidaho.com

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