How I Built My Team: The Good, The Bad, and The Lessons I Learned

Uncategorized Aug 25, 2021

I firmly believe that having a team is the number one thing you need to have in your business. This sounds daunting for some people, but here is the good news: you don’t need an army to have a good business. Your team may just be you and a few virtual assistants, or it may be an entire in-studio team. 

If you don’t think that you are one of those business owners who can have a thriving team, I encourage you to read on to find out what kind of flexibility and freedom a team can bring you in your day-to-day operations.


How I Built My Team

Building a good team is the cornerstone to every successful business. Note that I said “good”; your team needs to build some synergy the more that they work together. To do this, you need to start with creating the best possible culture for your team to grow. 

Let me tell you an unspoken secret in this industry: no one is born knowing everything about building your team. I started Pilates in the Grove over a decade ago and I learned these lessons over the years, usually the hard way. 

Fresh beginnings 

In 2010, I left my former clinic and went all-in on my business, which eventually became Pilates in the Grove. I was so excited to jump in feet first and take control of my own business. 

The downside? I was in control of everything in my business, to the last teeny-tiny detail. I sat at the front desk to answer the phones; I responded to voicemails in snippets of time between classes; I answered emails around the clock. I went from teaching classes in the studio to balancing the books at night. My business wouldn’t survive as a one-woman team; I needed some help. 

Meeting the immediate need

To start, I began by hiring four other instructors: two full-time and two part-time. This helped free up some time and provide more to our clients, and they were able to help fill in the gaps by checking clients in if I wasn’t in the studio. 

Still, I had a lot of behind-the-scenes work to do, and not a lot of time to do it. I was doing all of our bookkeeping, payroll, scheduling, vacation requests, refunds, as well as building our website. 

Delegating at the desk

My 12pm-3pm “downtime” wasn’t cutting it anymore. I needed a few more tasks off my plate to function at full capacity, so to help with this, I brought on some part-time help at the front desk. These two ladies took on the tedious yet essential tasks of answering the phones, returning emails, money-changing, scheduling clients, and even occasionally sweeping the floors. 

Finally, I was able to leave the front desk entirely. This felt like a victory, but I was still doing payroll and even cleaning the studio on the weekends. We operated this way for the next three or four years and, while it was a step in the right direction, the next step in my business would require us to go back to the drawing board. 

Balancing the books 

In 2016, Pilates in the Grove expanded into our third location. As exciting as this way, managing multiple studios proved to be a laborious task. 

Finally, I caved and brought in a team member we desperately needed; a part-time bookkeeper. This was a tough pill for me to swallow — partially out of fear, partially out of pride — but it ultimately became an invaluable resource for us. 

The hard truth? This was a major test of my ego. It was difficult to let someone else have access to my books but if I wanted to be a seven-figure CEO, I had to face the facts: seven-figure CEOs don’t do their own books. 

She came in once a week to reconcile the books and complete payroll, and the work that would take me an hour took her fifteen minutes. Once I was able to let go of my need for control, this leap of faith freed up even more time for me and took a significant stressor off of my to-do list. 

The breaking point

Pilates in the Grove continued to flourish in 2017. Now, I had two full-time administrators for each studio location (Coconut Grove and Miami), which let me remove myself a little bit more from day-to-day operations. We promoted our two most veteran instructors at each location to be studio managers. Staff would go to them for day-to-day needs (inventory, vacation requests, refunds, etc), and I would be free to focus on big-picture ideas to grow the company.

Still, there was a roadblock I couldn’t quite breach. Everyone was still coming through me for everyday tasks and answering all of their questions took valuable time. I couldn’t be in two places at once and I couldn’t give 100% to their needs or my own. 

I was becoming the bottleneck of the company and this was a recipe for drastic burnout. Something had to change, and fast. 

Re-evaluating our needs

To solve our organization problem, I decided that I needed to learn how to be a better business owner. It was go big or go home time, so we took the leap and enrolled in the Entrepreneurial Operation System Traction training. This was a hefty investment to the tune of $50k, but it was worth every penny once we got through the door. 

Our progress started in that very first meeting. My managers and I sat down and finally acknowledged the elephant in the room: no one was happy with the current situation. It wasn’t working. We were all getting dragged down and this wasn’t going to end well if we continued like we were. 

Just admitting that we were frustrated was a huge step. EOS gave me the nudge I needed to finally see the truth: I had not set clear expectations for anyone in my company, let alone the managers! All the core values of the company were in my head, not on paper. How was anyone supposed to work towards the same goal if we never actually spelled out what that was?

This was the first clear and open communication we had in a while, all because EOS had given us the safe space to do so. Our next steps became clear: it was time to refocus. 

Focusing on the zone of genius

Now that everyone’s concerns were out in the open, now was the time to make a change. The entire team culture had to change into one based more on open communication and transparent expectations. That meant sharing some of my own administrative tasks, and building support for the company from the top-down as well as the bottom-up.

One way we did this was to hire our Chief Operations Officer: Steve. I’ll admit, I initially hesitated to hire on any administrative positions that were traditionally “non-revenue generating,” but the efficiency that a good admin team member brings to the table ultimately pays for itself in the long run. 

Steve is a great example of this. He was one of the highest-paid team players so far, but we absolutely needed him if we wanted to break seven figures. Steve wasn’t a veteran in our industry — he didn’t know anything about Pilates or physical therapy — but he was an expert in the operations side of the business. 

One of the first steps was to streamline our internal communications. We switched to Slack and Asana for task tracking and management, which kept the hundreds of requests out of my inbox (and got them answered in a much more timely fashion). He took on payroll, bookkeeping, and the overall day-to-day operations. 

The result? I got to really dig into the visionary part of the company and start making some major changes. Our company got the infusion of creativity it needed to grow, and it gave us some resilience by removing the bottleneck problem. 

Steve even teaches some of our masterclasses! Some are free, and all are less than $20.

Always a work in progress

The best part about a team? As your business grows, your team can grow with it. I know mine certainly has!

Just three years ago, I launched my first coaching campaign. Rather than task my front desk team with the logistics of the online promos, I hired our first virtual assistant, Sarah. (Some of you may even recognize Sarah from the Inner Circle!

We started with a simple PDF design on an online jobs board. From there, she blew us all away so much that we asked her to stay for a 3-month trial that turned into a full-time position. Now, we can’t imagine the company without her! 

She became our expert in graphics and design. Today, she uploads all of our email content into the server, edits our videos for our on-demand platforms, helps with podcast creation and audiograms, creates PowerPoint decks for our masterclasses, and designs PDFs for our coaching groups. 

You can imagine how much time and frustration this saves our admin team. Her time and expertise result in amazing digital products, and we couldn’t be happier with her. 

From there, our team continues to evolve. From our project manager Kristin to our copywriter Latasha, we have slowly developed a synergistic team of experts who love what they do. 

Creating your team culture

Today, Pilates in the Grove now has 10 full-time employees, two part-time employees, a robust executive team, and even a virtual/remote sales manager. I haven’t even touched on all of them here, but you can definitely learn more from the Female emPOWERED podcast I recorded all about this!

Why does our team work so well? In part, because of the lessons we’ve learned through the ups and downs over the last eleven years. We focus on establishing clear expectations, empathetic communications, and of course, treating each other with mutual respect. 

We’ve also gained a new perspective on who to look for when we hire. As we discuss in our hiring masterclass, we now start with deciding the seat first, and then looking for the right person to fill it. 

Don’t get discouraged if you are still working on building your best team. It doesn’t happen overnight--in my case, it literally took over a decade? And now, I’m proud to say that I work with a group of smart, funny, and just overall amazing human beings. 

If you are ready to build your own amazing team, now is the time to start! Check out our Female emPOWERED podcast for even more insights, and for hard-hitting resources on hiring your best possible candidates, check out our Hiring Masterclass