Pete Schenk is the founder, president and CEO of LifeSpan Fitness, a Salt Lake City-based company that supplies fitness products to help you be healthy in your home, office or gym. An alumnus of the University of Utah, Pete earned his undergraduate degree in marketing and then his MBA. He then gained valuable business and leadership experience working for IBM and American Stores, getting hands on experience in how technology gets applied in the business world. He started LifeSpan Fitness in 2000 and began a brand that has since been featured in multiple news outlets and television shows as well as grown to being in demand in multiple countries. The company continues to have record-breaking revenue years, expanding from individual fitness to that of whole institutions such as corporations, universities and more.
Make Your Business a Business
While many entrepreneurs treat their business as a hobby or possibility, Pete believes that his success has come from treating his business like a business. “This was never my company–it was always a corporation,” Pete says. “Even when almost all of it was owned by me (which it isn’t any more), I always separated out the stockholder side from the business side.” Keeping personal and business separate isn’t easy at times, especially when you may start out enlisting the help of family and friends to get your company off the ground. But for your company to thrive, every decision has to make business sense.
For Pete, this entailed thinking of his responsibility to investors and stockholders, leaving ego at the door and hiring people because they were qualified rather than because they were related to him. It also entailed planning ahead to keep long and short-term goals, involving the right people and paying attention to what is and isn’t working–and changing accordingly. Seeing his strategies work is personally rewarding for Pete, further inspiring him to continue the policy to keep the business a business.
Another key to success for Pete is being strategic and smart about company growth. Long-term success can sometimes be sacrificed by being short-sighted or too eager. “I understand that if you’re not focused on today, you can’t pay your bills tomorrow,” Pete notes. But tackling all avenues of growth at the same time–a common mistake of new entrepreneurs–can lead to spreading yourself too thin and growing more slowly than you’d like. “Don’t try to do too much at once,” Pete cautions. “If you’re doing too many things at once, you may not be doing any of them well.” For example, he advises to choose one channel that gives you the best chance of getting your product or service out there, rather than tackling several at once.
Another part of growing smartly is to think long-term. Build processes that can be repeated and make sure employees clearly know their roles and responsibilities to maximize efficiency and make growth easier. Watch the way markets go and be flexible to change with the times. “Companies like Blackberry are gone because they couldn’t change their paradigm,” Pete notes. Long-term success depends on being able to change quickly, which happens best with efficiency.
Engage, Inspire & Leverage Customers
Since happy customers are paramount to business success, Pete advises keeping them foremost in your mind and business priorities. “Don’t leave it up to the customer to decide how to use your product,” Pete advises. Inspire and inform them, showing and telling them all the possibilities and benefits to what your company offers. “Creating little ‘ah-ha moments’ for customers is the best way for them to know how the product will better their lives,” Pete says.
Also essential to making happy customers is making quality customer service one of your highest priorities. “You must train people internally to provide good customer service to make sure customers have a good experience,” Pete notes. Listening to your customers will help them not only have a positive experience with your company, it will help you know how to improve your product or service. You may even want to reward customers by letting them beta test new developments and give you feedback ahead of time. Your customers are your bread and butter, so make sure they are happy for your company’s success.