How one email nearly ruined me…


It’s 0308hrs on Sunday the 6th of August and I’m sitting on the sofa of my girlfriends house thinking about the year that has passed so far.

Yesterday was my 28th birthday and the last year has been CRAZY.

I’m not writing this to blow smoke up your arse and say how I earn £20,000 a day from a beach in Bali…

I’m going to tell you why October 2016 was one of the worst months of my life and why I am SO grateful for that when I look back on it now.

I am a firm believer that every situation can either break you or give you valuable lessons to use in the future.

(Side note – if you haven’t heard of Jocko Wilink, watch the video below to see a summary of this mindset.)

I didn’t quite realise how harsh some of these lessons could be!

The story so far…

As a bit of background in November 2015, myself and my business partner Steve launched Southend Personal Trainer Academy which is a fitness education provider based in Southend-On-Sea in Essex.

We were using advanced learner loans to provide high quality education to students who wanted to become personal trainers or sports therapists and we quickly became quite successful and were generating a monthly income of £10,000-£15,000.

One day in October I received a devastating email.

The short version was this… our funding provider had gone bust and this had three major and potentially business destroying side effects;

1. Our income in one day was going from £10,000-£15,000 to approximately £0

2. The provider hadn’t registered around 90 of our learners with our awarding organisation, Active IQ, as per our agreement (this would later cost us £27,000 in fees alone)

3. All of our outstanding invoices were not going to get paid (totally around £50,000)

Me and Steve sat together in our office after reading that email in a state of shock, panic and fear. For about an hour we sat like that in silence, both numb about the ramifications of that one email. However, I’m a fighter by nature and I won’t ever let a situation beat me.

So this is what I said to Steve (and to myself internally!)

– We cannot assume anything, before we panic, give up or react we must get as much factual information as possible

– Making backup plans is an immediate priority to see how we can solve this problem

– The situation is out of our control so let’s just handle the elements that we can control

Over the next few days I set about phoning as many people as I could that knew about the situation and learning the truth about what had happened.

I also repeatedly phoned and emailed the Student Finance Association, Student Loans Company and Active IQ to see if I could find a possible solution or at least do some damage control.

After a few weeks Steve’s other half then went into labour and then had a severe brain haemorrhage which meant Steve was in hospital for six weeks with his partner and his new baby girl (thank god both his partner and their beautiful daughter were ok).

At this point I was trying to take as much of the burden as possible because Steve had enough to deal with!

Eventually, we managed to find a solution for our students which meant they still got certified, our unpaid invoices were going to be dealt with by our funding providers insolvency company and we managed to help the business survive and become financially secure again.

This entire situation, starting from one email, was the most stressful time of mine and Steve’s lives but it taught us some HIGHLY valuable lessons.

The lessons…

1. Diversify your income

I cannot overstate how much this could have changed the immediate fallout of this event. Basically as I mentioned above our income went to zero really, really fast! This is because we were depending on one source of income for over 90% of our total turnover. We had little bits and pieces here and there to top up the account but we should have focused more on additional revenue streams to provide some extra security in the case of a gargantuan fuck up like this!

Moving forward we have made sure that our government funding only makes up about 40% of our business as well as running CPD courses and masterminds amongst other things.

As a PT I recommend you sit down with a pen and paper to write down all of the things you could provide to your clients to increase their lifetime value to your business whilst also attracting new customers that maybe your core offering doesn’t cater for.

2. Evaluate all of the information and avoid assumptions

It would of been extremely easy for me to shut down in a panic stricken fight or flight response. You can also get trapped in a cycle of F.E.A.R (False Events Appearing Real) where you guess and assume about the situation without having the full picture.

I bypassed this by making sure I gathered as much information from as many sources as possible to build up an accurate view of what was going on.

3. Take ownership, stay positive & move forward

Another big mistake that I see people making in stressful situations is to instantly blame everyone and anyone but themselves. By taking ownership of the situation and admitting that it was my fault this happened I can choose my route forward and execute the plan.

When I tell people it’s my fault they are instantly confused but let me run this past you. If I had setup the business in a different way or kept a closer eye on our funding provider then this could be avoided. I cannot control other peoples actions but I can definitely control mine! Therefore everything is my problem!

By constantly blaming others all you are doing is giving yourself a way out of not having to find a solution.

4. Make contingency plans

It is essential that throughout your business life cycle you plan for eventualities that could be damaging. It’s very easy to fall into a complacent mindset when everything is going well but if you don’t have backup plans then you will be blindsided when something does hit you.

Some examples you could plan for;

– The facility you use closes or has to shut long term, for renovations for example
– You have a quiet period such as the summer holidays
– You get injured or taken ill
– There is a family emergency

The list could be endless and I think it is a very good idea to write down as many scenarios as possible and then write a brief plan for each one. Normally there will be solutions that solve or prevent multiple problems, for example the list above could easily be solved by having a strong online personal training business.

5. Learn from every mistake and prevent it from happening again

This is the biggest takeaway I’ve had from this whole experience, I will never let someone or something else affect my business as much as this dude did with his negligence.

By no means do I think I can predict everything that’s going to happen (I wish I could!) but I am going to put systems, contingencies, procedures and most importantly people in place to make sure that I am well equipped to deal with ANY future situation.

Thanks for the taking the time to read this article! If you need any advice or help with your business just fire over an email to [email protected] and I’ll help out where I can!


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