Melissa Smith, owner of 3 Peaks CrossFit in Madras, OR is a special person. She’s seen her fair share of challenges since she made the choice to open her own gym a few years ago. We thought you might be able to relate to her story, so we asked her to write a guest blog post. What follows is her honest, heartfelt encouragement to you that you’re not alone. It’s lengthy but if you’re feeling discouraged or on the verge of burnout, or just need some encouragement from someone who “gets it”, it’s worth every minute of your time…
Being an entrepreneur isn’t easy. Ok, it’s down right rough and certainly not for the weary at heart.
It takes a deep resolve in every bit of your being, and dedication to persevere no matter how rough the waters get. You know that saying by Bob Marley, “You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have?” I think that phrase pretty much sums up this last season of my life.
When I was first asked to write a guest blog, my first thought was…
Who would want to hear my story? Would anyone even read it?
But then this overwhelming feeling came over me, that I’m not alone in this journey. If there is even one business owner out there that gets even an inch of hope from my story and my journey, then I would gladly share it to give them hope!
My life over the last few years has felt like a Rocky movie. Seriously. Get knocked down, fight like hell, and get back up to continue taking the punches life may throw. Ha, shoot, even as I type this I’m watching Rocky Balboa (love that movie). I’m not a quitter, but geez it sure was tempting at times. I by no means want to whine on and on about the difficulties I was faced with, but I would like to give you some background for context.
My CrossFit journey began in 2009, before CrossFit was as popular in our area. My husband and I totally fell in love with the challenge in training. I was the Operations Manager at a local gym, and a Personal Trainer. Shortly thereafter, we found ourselves opening a Box with friends and starting our journey as “gym” owners.
We loved every aspect of our Box, but soon realized the “partnership” aspect was not working at all, so we sold our share to them in 2011 and moved on to the next season. Thinking we were done with gym ownership, we built a house in the middle of the woods, and created a rad garage gym that we could kick our own butts in. I found my comfort zone and decided to stay there.
However, my journey as an entrepreneur was far from over.
In 2013 my husband Claude and I found ourselves face to face with the opportunity and renewed passion to bring CrossFit to our home town of Madras, about 40 minutes from our home. One thing you must know about us, as a team, we are unstoppable. We aren’t afraid of hard work and always finish what we start.
3 Peaks CrossFit was born with a passion to change lives – mind, body and spirit – and to create a legacy that would change the cultures of our community and beyond. We faced a heart break before even having our doors open with the death of my brother-in-law. But once again, we pushed through and had our grand opening in Jan. 2014.
This is where we met 321GoProject. We had Clay build our website and during that time, he gave me the best piece of advice. To summarize, he said, whatever I do, just be consistent. Whether it was a blog, or posting WODs, just be consistent with what I do.
Such great advice for a new business owner; sadly, I didn’t do a very good job following it though.
Thus began the hard work, long drives every day, early mornings, late nights and digging deep. With Claude having a full time job, he helped with the before work classes, and after work stuff, and I did the rest. I can honestly tell you, we lived on adrenaline, coffee and a strong passion to help others. That’s great and all for a sprint, but not for longevity.
I had no clue what was about to come our way.
I fully believe that when you are operating where you are called to, trials are inevitable. Those trials are never easy, but we do have a choice for how we handle everything. For 2 years we pushed hard, teaching every class, running every 1-1 training session. Trying to spread a passion for fitness, pouring out of an empty tank, inspiring, and pretty much not getting a break. I didn’t have much time for anything else.
We went into 2016 with drive and hope on the outside, but exhaustion and a high level of stress inside.
During that year, our lives included financial stresses, job loss, transition of our oldest graduating high school and moving to college, a serious car accident where I suffered a shoulder sprain and vertical whiplash, and finishing the year up with relationships lost, proved to test our emotions, marriage, family, and our hope.
I was flat-lined – mentally, emotionally, and physically. I lost my vision, in fact, I can tell you that physically my visual clarity was toast because of exhaustion. It was noticeable to everyone around us.
Our business plateaued, suffered really, as any would. We were operating it out of an empty tank. I was doing everything, but doing nothing well. I was a monkey with a machine gun, putting out fires, and hoping not to piss too many people off.
I can remember telling Claude that I felt like I was barely surviving, not thriving, but for whatever reason, I had zero clue what I could do to change it. All I could see was strife, stress, and failure. After watching our membership dip to a record low, I found myself in a place where I had no choice but face our situation and make a choice. Step away and allow myself to be defeated, or try something different. Not once in my life have I ever given up, but I didn’t see an end to the hits we were taking. This time, I got up because of the help of a community who unsuspectingly yelled, “Get Up.”
Enter 321GoProject again.
I saw an email about the HUB and thought (hoped) I could possibly glean some much needed help, so despite the fact that I didn’t know if I could afford it or not, I joined HUB and was so shocked at the resources available to me. It was kind of my “last ditch effort”. I’m a learner at heart, always have been.
Any opportunity that I get to be taught something, I take it. Even if I’m not very good at something, I make baby steps to getting better and continuing to learn. I began to see some hope, not in the stresses of life changing, but for our business. I was getting some direction for my business yes, but really, for my life. It gave me some hard truths, shook me up and made me get focused.
I started reading books, listening to podcasts, and getting my hands on things that would help me be better at business yes, but more so to help me be the best version of me possible. One of the resources I read was Entrepreneur or Wantrepreneur by John Fosco and Cory Gregory. It was real, raw, and to the point.
Was I an entrepreneur, or a wantrepreneur? They are entirely 2 different things.
It’s the difference between running your CrossFit affiliate as a business or a hobby. It was a deep question, which I had to process and think on for a bit. I really had to search my heart, search my motives, and search my reasons. There was a moment, in listening to that book, when I had a “Heck Yes I’m an entrepreneur” moment rise up in me. Even if I wasn’t clear on what to do next, I knew I was made for this.
Up until this point, I hadn’t paid ourselves 1 dime. Yep you heard right, I’m “that” business owner.
Blood, sweat, and tears, followed with sacrifice and exhaustion… and I wasn’t even getting paid for it. Wake up call for me came was when I joined a M3 Group and had to confess this to my team. They didn’t judge me; in fact, quite the contrary. I was encouraged, and given some focus, and a challenge… To figure out how to write myself a check and cash it before our next meeting. I LOVE CHALLENGES and when someone who has great insight and wisdom, gave me direction and challenged me to “GET UP” and “knock down doors” until I reached my goals, something stirred in me… No, awakened in me.
I committed right then and there to do whatever it took to reach my goals. To get focused, say no to things that distracted me, and not stop until I reached them. I in no way am saying I am or do everything perfectly. But I have a deep resolve with everything in me to push through.
I had to start with renewing my vision, renewing my WHY. I committed to being a student of business again, to learn and glean what I could to see our original vision even exceed that which we had hoped. With a community of amazing people who I didn’t know well, but looked up to, not because of where they were in their business, but because they had similar struggles as I did, just at varying levels. I saw some light, in a really dark place in my life and business and it helped ignite the diligence I already had inside to keep fighting.
What’s amazing about the 321go Team, is they were the “crowd” in my “Rocky movie story”, cheering me on with words, ideas, education, and so many resources to encourage me to get back up and continue fighting! They were my Micky saying, “You can do it ROCKO”.
“You can do it Mel!”
Having someone believe in you, believe in your mission, your heart, your fight and struggle makes all the difference. It’s the difference between having the strength to get up and throw another punch, to dig deeper, punch harder, with precision; or giving up.
“It ain’t about how hard you get hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”
We are all going to take hits in this life. But only you can choose to get back up again.
If you find yourself like I was, deep in a pit, struggling, and losing hope, here are some tips to help you get back up:
1. Remember your Why.
Take a day off, shut off your phone, have a good cry, and remember why you started your business. If you aren’t sure, there are so many resources available to help you even determine what your WHY is? (Start With Why – Simon Sinek, is a great one) Biggest thing you MUST do, is allow yourself to have vision. Without vision, you’ll go nowhere. You may find in this process, that you determine you are more of a wantrepreneur instead of an entrepreneur. It’s ok, you’re not a failure. You’re a great person who loves what you do. There is no shame, only opportunity to put your focus on what you should be doing.
When you remember your WHY, write it down where you can see it every day! Let it be a reminder daily, since life will continue to happen. You’ll need to see it.
2. Find a mentor.
I get it, asking for help isn’t easy. It takes humility, and if you’ve gotten this far, what do you have to lose? 321GoProject was my lighthouse and I can’t say enough amazing things about how they’ve helped me grow as an owner and person. But I know there are more options out there. Find that mentor or accountability partner who can stand by you and offer direction when your vision isn’t clear. Ask questions and seek wise council.
Then take action. Good intentions don’t equal action. If you want change, you have to take action.
3. Think outside the Box.
It’s ok to try new things. Don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t work, try something different. Don’t get down on yourself. Chalk it up, give yourself grace, and keep moving forward.
4. Perfectionism is your enemy.
Waiting until something is perfect is unreasonable. You can analyze something until you become paralyzed, then nothing will get done. Yes, you want to do it right… I get it, but don’t let that need to be perfect stop you from getting anything accomplished.
5. Delegate everything you can.
Make a list of everything you can delegate to someone else (whether it’s one of your coaches, a member of your gym, or outsourcing it). If that’s cleaning your gym, coaching every class, programming, website work, whatever, lessen your plate on the stuff “In” the business so you can focus “On” growing the business. Sure there will be costs, but the return is more than worth it.
6. Know your finances.
I cannot state the importance of this enough. If you’re not operating with a budget, if you don’t know some basic financial numbers for your business how do you expect to grow? You have to know where you are now, in order to move forward. If finances aren’t your thing, get help. The HUB has awesome resources to get you started. Get a bookkeeper, do something to learn about the financial state of your business. Then and only then, can you assess a plan to move forward and grow.
7. Lastly… Take care of you.
If you’re burnt out, barely keeping your head above water because you’re doing everything yourself, there is hope. If you’re not paying yourself, that has to stop today! Yes be reasonable, but if you don’t take care of you, how in the world are you being a good role model for your members at your gym? Seems harsh to say, but it’s so important to hear it. Taking care of you also means saying no to other things, getting your workouts in, getting adequate nutrition (instead of living off of protein shakes or bars), hydration (not talking about coffee here), of course sleep, and finally the biggy… de-stress. Your members are watching you, and you can’t lead from an empty tank. So find an outlet to let stress go, do something fun, laugh more, (even if it’s forced), and do what you need to do to be the best version of you every day.
The biggest thing I can tell you as a business owner, is by doing the work – digging your heels in deep and being resilient to continue on your journey – you will see dividends, both literally and figuratively. You’ll have a bigger impact on others, smile more, and feel so much better. It will not be easy, but when you surround yourselves with like-minded people who hold you accountable, inspire you, and help you move out of your comfort zone, amazing things happen.
Do you hear that? Listen. (Cue the Rocky theme music).
Do you hear your name being chanted? Do you hear their belief in you?
Now is the time for you to believe in yourself, and Get Up! Just like in a WOD, just like when you’re coaching your athletes to keep going, you can do this, just keep moving.
If I can do it, anyone can.
~Mel Smith, firstname.lastname@example.org
Owner, 3 Peaks CrossFit in Madras, OR
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