Sharpening business focus with yoga
I've built Bikram into my work schedule, even when I travel. It helps me deal with clients - and with stress.
(FORTUNE Small Business) -- Two years ago on labor day I stumbled onto Bikram yoga in a studio on West 72nd Street in New York City and was hooked within a week. Now it's an integral part of how I run my business.
Bikram, also known as hot yoga, involves doing a series of 26 tough poses in a room heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. When you are in the studio doing Bikram, you have to be absolutely present. Your mind can't race to the plane that you're going to miss or the client whose call you didn't return, or you'll be flat on the mat before you know it.
I have a wine consulting business, and I am a one-man show. I'm based in New York City, but most of my revenue comes from corporate clients around the country who want me to plan their events. Problem is, when a brand is based on one person, if business is up 20%, that person is working and traveling 20% more. For instance, over the past ten days I have been in six cities, and sometimes when I wake up, I can't even remember where I am. It gets exhausting as you get older (I'm 44), and it takes its toll on sleep, on hydration, on your stress level.
I used to have a shotgun approach to dealing with stress - I'd retreat to a health spa for ten days - but I really needed a day-to-day routine.
Now I spend around ten hours a week on yoga - five Bikram classes of 90 minutes each, plus dressing and shower time. I buy the classes in bulk, so they cost me around $15 each. Add on water, towels, and tips, and the total cost comes to about $125 a week - worth every penny.
I always do yoga before seeing a client. For an out-of-town meeting I'll take the earliest plane, land, and head directly to the studio with a T-shirt and shorts in my bag along with my presentation. I know the studios for cities I work in regularly - Boston, Washington, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas - and Bikram is easy to find in other major cities. To be sure, Bikram-on-the-road is a time commitment - I find I need two to three hours to get there, work out, shower, and head to the meeting. Keeping to my routine during my busy season is hard.
It's worth it, though. Since I've learned to focus, the details of business have become less overwhelming. I have begun to delegate. I hired three full-time people to back me up (two work on marketing, one does administration), raised my prices 25%, and outsourced public relations. The result: My company's 2007 revenue was up 39% over the previous year, and I expect sales to be $1.2 million in 2008.