When to End a Strategic Alliance to Grow a Business

A strategic alliance or business partnership only works when both parties are doing their parts to make it function. When one side becomes disinterested or hindering by their lack of attention or action then it is time to move on.

The company I originally made my strategic alliance was bought in late 2009.  In 2010,  the new owners by lack of action, unwillingness and new operating environment made it difficult to grow my business. We survived because I was determined to lead us into a new direction and I know the value of my business.

Sometimes we get stuck in what is safe even though we are unhappy,  and no longer progressing. It is important to turn the page to get unstuck. Having a plan helped me successfully navigate the big change of breaking Lifemoves’ strategic alliance with Steve Nash Fitness Clubs (Fitness World) to grow my business. 

Tonight I delved a little deeper into the next chapter of my working life by saying goodbye and good luck to a number of work colleagues who are now friends.  In early 2000 I joined the Fitness World Cambie club to get a job as a Personal Trainer; twelve years later I moved my independent business out of there.

End of a Strategic Alliance

There are times in life when everything comes to its rightful conclusion and we are ready for something new. For me I think I held on a little too long because I tend to see the best in situations rather than the worst. At times this means that I refuse to see the situation for what it truly is.  A strategic ally who doesn’t respond to your request to have a meeting for over a year kills any grand potential the alliance has.
In the Cold Hard Truth, Kevin O’Leary makes that point clear as well.  When one side is no longer providing the services that are required under the agreement it stalls your growth, make sure you don’t wait too long before changing your strategy because if you do it could sink your business.  In 2010, I waited patiently for all the dust to settle from a merger while I was under the impression that the new owners liked what we were doing and saw our potential (all smoke).

A nearly eighteen month stalemate nearly killed my business. It was finally in May 2011 that I was able to get a meeting to sort out what my next steps were. We mutually decided that it was in both businesses best interests for Lifemoves to move-out as soon as possible. Thankfully due to the circumstances we had until September 2012 to find the appropriate space.  

 If you own your business it is up to you to take action and pay attention to your financials so that your business thrives instead of dies.  In time like these pay very close attention to your financials, perhaps even monthly if not more often so that you can make micro adjustments to steer it straight. If you wait too long it is going to take a massive hard RIGHT or LEFT to stop you from crashing.
I am disappointed because I thought that by aligning with a larger gym which had plans to go national that I would have more influence in the design and programming of future facilities so that they would be more inclusive for clients with disabilities – this is a legacy that I wanted (and still want to) leave.  In business and life you can’t be partners with someone who doesn’t have very similar philosophies as you. However, when you truly believe in your dreams and have a vision that is ingrained in your psyche it will manifest itself because you will take subconscious and conscious steps towards it.

Lifemoves’ Bright Future 

In January we started to move our North Vancouver location to 1350 Pemberton Avenue. During the first week it was apparent that even though we all run our businesses out of that location we all work together to provide a professional, clean, tidy and friendly atmosphere for us and our clients.  We have pride for the space, unlike at our old location where equipment would disappear and tools would be strewn around floor well after someone was done with them. 
The final phase of the move happened today as well. With a lot of patience and elbow grease I removed the branding decals from the windows. I will miss the clients, members and Personal Trainers who I got to know during the last seven years plus years in North Vancouver and previous years with the original club owners.  
The future’s chapter began with our first monthly meeting at our Coquitlam location. We are part of a wellness clinic in which many practitioners share space.  Andrea, Hardip and I were all there to meet a few of them and get to know how all of our services can benefit our clients’ wellbeing (a common purpose).   Afterwards we had discussions with a designer, a glazier and a painter to help us put the finishing touches to the space.  I am really excited and I am looking forward to showing off our new space.
Moving on from the strategic alliance with Steve Nash Fitness Clubs is what I needed to do to grow my business and renew the passion I had for it.  Remember when one opportunity ends another starts.

Be Proactive. Take Action Early.

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Facing the Cold Hard Truth for Enough Growth

While supporters of the Occupy Wall Street movement complain of excess spending and compensation packages of corporations and banks I have been wondering what is Enough?  Part of question comes from trying to figure out how to protect my business and myself from the financial Aftershock.  To answer this I have to continually be ok with facing the Cold Hard Truth about my particular situation and the economy. To succeed I have to come to Common Purposes with my fiancée, my family, our clients and my staff.

All of these are books I recently read that have given valuable insight into how prevent personal and business financial crises, grow my business and lead into the next few years.  Does my business need to grow to become a large organization like some big box gyms with twenty or more locations? No, but a business does need to grow, evolve and remain profitable as the markets, society and environments change. This growth needs to be done at manageable so that the owner and staff stay sane and don’t have their own meltdowns.

Achieving Common Purpose

The original vision of Lifemoves, locations in at least one Fitness World in each community is no-longer. Fitness World’s new ownership and I were unable to come to agreement in May, so we are looking for new space and a new direction. This new direction has been set (which will be revealed in the appropriate time frame).  Engaging your team in discussions based on the question “what is next?” or “how can we improve?” leads to a two major values: 1. team members feels more valued because they are making distinct positive contributions; 2. the conclusions of the conversations become the common purpose.

On Friday, we had a very productive team meeting at a coffee bar that lead to an understanding of what our long-term goals and challenges are as well as knowledge of the steps needed to get there.

Facing the Cold Hard Truth

Growing up with parents who were both librarians (information junkies) and one who understood the power of databases (he created a school library system) means that I know the intrinsic value of having accurate searchable data. Our records give of an idea of what has happened in the business.  Accurate records enable a business to make appropriate analyses and decisions. Sometimes this data can be chilling.

Last year I hired a couple of new Kinesiologists with idea of floating the hourly rate with the current session fees that my other Kinesiologist was booking until the new hires were fully booked.  That all crashed when the original employee quit less than a month later taking much of that business with them. Action should have been taken a lot sooner to right this situation because it put Lifemoves in a financial hole that we dug out of, but it was an arduous and long task.

As we move from a single location to several remote locations I am thinking more and more about our records management system. How can maintain communications, accurate information and financial control?  I am always aiming to build this company so that we are mobile.  Adding more employees and more locations adds to the complexity of our systems. However we still need to continually evolve our records management system towards Canadian and ISO standards (which I discovered recently) while keeping it as simple as possible.  
Gaining the perspective of your employees also helps the business improve, create new initiatives and understand our strengths as well as our weaknesses.  Although, Aftershock primarily describes the future of the U.S. economy Canadians can still take home a few lessons from it.  The major one for me is how to position my business in the future. Health care will take hit in the coming years however, it won’t be as bad as discretionary spending such as retail. We need to shift further from a fitness company to a health care provider to continue to grow in a “melting economy.”

Figuring Out What is Enough?

Everyone will have their own determining factors for what is enough when it comes to life, money and business.   
  • Enough is being a market leader in several municipalities. 
  • Enough is being able to pay our accounts receivable on time.
  • Enough is being to able people full-time in a career which they are passionate about and in a company that they are thrilled to work for.
  • Enough is being able to provide appropriate benefits for our employees so that they are taken care of.
  • Enough is having zero commercial credit card debt – business and personal
  • Enough is having a flexible work schedule to enjoy recreational pursuits when I desire
  • Enough is being and to contribute more to my community
  • Enough is have $1.00 more than I need.
  • Enough is feeling like my family and I are financially secure and will be secure as we age.
  • Enough is having loving, trusting, mutually supportive and meaningful relationships.

Please share what enough and the cold hard truth means to you? How are you going to protect your business and yourself from the financial meltdown?

References

David Wiedemer, Robert A. Wiedemer and Cindy S. Spitzer Aftershock: How to Protect Yourself in the Next Global Financial Meltdown