Kevyn Zeller on How To Bounce Back Stronger in Business
Kevyn Zeller is the Founder and Owner of Kevyn Zeller Pilates+ as well as the AWOKEN & UNBROKEN™ Coaching and Retreat Experiences.
Can you start by telling us a bit about your journey as an entrepreneur, focusing particularly on your experiences with setbacks and challenges? How has this shaped your understanding and mastery of resilience in business?
After 20+ years of running a successful Pilates studio, I decided to expand into retreats in 2014. I knew I could deliver an exclusive, one-of-a-kind experience that combined Pilates and life coaching, but I didn’t do my homework. I had not clarified my vision for the exact retreat experience that I wanted to provide for guests. I had not articulated the intrinsic reason for running retreats beyond providing my clients with a healthy, fun, and restorative vacation.
I filled my first retreat, and the ones that followed were typically half-full at best. I was hemorrhaging money bringing my team and guests to paradise, and it was not fun for me!
However, instead of writing this off as a failure and abandoning the retreat business, I went back to the drawing board and reflected on what was working and what wasn’t. I got curious about the potential missing links, rolled up my sleeves, and went to work. Most importantly, however, I became ultra clear on my mission; on why I want to run retreats in the first place.
This journey toward clarity led to the launch of AWOKEN & UNBROKEN™ Coaching and Retreat Experiences. At the heart of AWOKEN & UNBROKEN™’s mission lies the fundamental understanding that we are meant to fail. That failing is in fact an essential part of ultimate success and it doesn’t mean that anything has gone wrong. Failure doesn’t mean that we, or that the idea is broken. The journey is just messy and there is no way around that.
In the world of entrepreneurship, failure is often seen as a stepping stone rather than a dead-end. How do you perceive failure, and can you share an instance where a failure led to an unexpected growth or success in your business?
I believe that learning to fail well is the key to success. You must learn to understand that failure is simply part of the process.
When I work with my coaching clients I advise them to fail fast! I help them to recognize entrepreneurship is much more enjoyable when we stop trying to “get it right,” and instead meet challenges with a healthy dose of curiosity. This curiosity leads to creativity. Creativity only exists when we relinquish any notion of perfection and choose to color outside of the lines!
What strategies have you employed to cultivate a culture of resilience within your organization? How have these strategies made your team more adaptable and innovative, especially during trying times?
My AWOKEN & UNBROKEN™ Retreat Experiences team is by nature resilient. I choose to work with people who have experienced significant adversity in their lives and have turned that adversity into their superpower. This is something that I deeply value in team members, employees, and friends. Within that, I make sure that at the heart of AWOKEN & UNBROKEN™ exists a culture that is deeply supportive, and one that nurtures the idea that things will go wrong. That the experience of life in and of itself is trying. I am very clear with my team and with my clients that the idea of everything running smoothly consistently is an illusion. I often say to them jokingly that “there is no ground” or that “the train is always off of the tracks…” This inspires within them a steadfast resilience that keeps them from jolting to a stop when things don’t go as we had originally planned or expected.
You've spoken about bouncing back from failure, but I'm curious to know if there is a methodology you follow to analyze what went wrong and how to correct it. Could you describe your process for assessing and learning from mistakes?
Each evening my retreat team meets to discuss the events of the day. Each person offers their unique perspective and we discuss what worked and what didn’t. We then come up with high-quality questions that require our brains to deliver creative solutions. For example, instead of asking, “Why did we fall behind on our schedule today?” I ask, “How can we work together to deliver our schedule as planned tomorrow?” I believe that the way we speak to our brains and request information is extremely important. If you want your brain to come up with a high-quality solution, you must ask high-quality questions!
Many entrepreneurs fear failure to the point that it paralyzes them. How do you balance taking calculated risks with the fear of failure? What advice would you offer to other entrepreneurs who struggle with this?
While how we speak to our brains is important, it is potentially even more important that entrepreneurs become observers of what their brains are saying to them! Our primitive brains are VERY dramatic and LOVE to tell us that we are “paralyzed.” Entrepreneurs get stuck when they believe this mistruth.
The first and most important thing I do when working with my coaching clients is to challenge them to stop blindly believing their brains. Then I have them learn to separate the thoughts that are useful and true from those that are simply the primitive brain functioning around its beloved motivational triad which encourages us to avoid pain, increase comfort, and conserve energy. Hard things are meant to be hard! Nothing has gone wrong, you aren’t paralyzed and you CAN do this!
Sometimes, resilience requires knowing when to pivot or even walk away from an idea. How do you recognize the difference between a challenge that requires persistence and a situation that necessitates a change in direction?
This is a great question! I once had a friend tell me that the best thing she learned taking Economics was that the most expensive mistake you can make is to keep working toward something that isn’t working just because you’re already so invested in it either financially, energetically, or both.
Personally, I believe that the only thing that matters in this life is following our bliss and designing a life aligned with our values, needs, and desires. This philosophy also guides how I coach my clients. Starting your own business is something that most of us do out of passion. While it is arduous work, it is worthwhile and rewarding beyond measure. But you may not get it right the first time around. You may start a business that you thought was aligned with your values, needs and desires and halfway in you realize that this isn’t what you want. This is the only reason I would encourage someone to walk away.
The global economic landscape is always changing, and recent years have seen some extraordinary disruptions. How have you adapted your business to overcome unexpected global challenges? What were the key factors in your successful navigation of these waters?
I have expanded to work with clients virtually and am also curious and excited to see how AI might play into my business model in the future. In addition, I have furthered my education by becoming a certified Life Coach through The Life Coach School and have brought on my personal Pilates mentor so I can continue to develop my skills as a teacher. Investing in myself and my education has been the best tool for me to successfully navigate today’s global waters.
Resilience in the face of failure is often linked to personal growth as well. How have your business experiences shaped you personally? Can you share a moment where your professional resilience translated into a personal transformation?
Growing my business has required growth on a personal level, more so than I ever could have imagined! Most notably, when I first opened my studio I brought in teachers as independent contractors to share the space and I failed hard and fast and over and over. I couldn’t figure out why these individuals, who had the necessary skills and looked great on paper, could not come together as a cohesive group that aligned with my company’s values. It took serious work on a personal level to understand why this kept happening. Ultimately, when I began to trust my intuition and allow myself the freedom to do so unapologetically, I learned that someone’s credentials are one thing, but that doesn’t mean they are the right fit for my business.
Your insights on resilience have been incredibly enlightening. For our audience who might want to learn more about you, your business, or perhaps even reach out for mentoring or collaboration, where can they find more information or get in touch with you?
Please come follow me on Instagram at @kevynzeller or connect with me on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/kevynzeller/