A few months ago, I was at a condolence reception (Azza) when a gentleman sat next to me and expressed his sadness that the DreamBody Centre* (DBC) had been closed recently (I closed it in March of 2016). Bless his heart he was full of praise and said that he’d miss it because it was so effective. Then he said something like “allow me to give you some feedback Mr. Suhail about the DBC…” and then proceeded to give me his opinion on the marketing we used, and how other “gyms” were supposedly more effective in using social media.
I struggled to hide my annoyance at the unsolicited advice, because he obviously had no clue what was happening at the DBC. But I also knew that he had nothing but the best of intentions as he was coming from a place of genuine concern and empathy.
I proceeded to explain that with the difficult economic situation in Bahrain and the removal of some subsidies has made many consumers un-prioritise their health and fitness. We felt the impact immediately, the number of join-ups fell through the floor, we could not meet our monthly costs, and the potential franchisees we were talking to had also pulled out. Our big plans and dreams all imploded.
I told my new friend that I could have easily kept the DBC running if I had decided to reduce my costs by becoming a small business owner. I could have fired all of my leadership team, started doing the accounts myself, and could have spent most of the day in the workout area training our members myself. I could have also stopped our Healthier and Happier Initiative (where we invest a percentage of each member’s fees into societal health and wellness) and kept the funds in-house.
But that would have stopped me from being able to work “on the business” and forced me to work “in the business”, turning me into a small business owner, with limited capacity to scale the business and to make a big impact in the world.
One of the major differences between a small business owner and an entrepreneur is this: clarity. I knew exactly what I wanted out of my business, and I knew that I wanted to scale it and grow it. I wanted to have a great team and change millions of peoples lives. I did not want to spend 12 hours a day training people myself, and doing it only for a few hundred people.
By the way there is nothing wrong with training people 12 hours a day, but I had already done this in my twenties when I started a martial arts school. I’d rather close the business than become something I did not want to be.
I was very clear in my mind about what I wanted. As I explained this to my friend I could see from the expression on his face, an "Aha!" Moment developing. Once I explained this he appreciated why I made the decision. It was a gut-wrenching decision, but I’d rather close then not be true to myself.
And I will end this article with some -unsolicited- advice; be clear about what you want out of your life and career. Don’t sell yourself short and don’t live your life based on what others expect or think.
You only have the one life, live it to the fullest.
* The DreamBody Centre is a 23-minute fitness and weight loss concept that I had founded back in December 2007 here in Bahrain.
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