Networking as a Lifestyle

It’s not about what you know, but who you know.”

Let that ring in your head for a while. The world is connected and no matter how much technology improves, your ability to connect with people will make or break you.

network event, los angeles, marketing professionals, selling yourself, business attire, young professional

I used to think networking was something I needed to do for my business (which I do), but only until I built a certain level of client base then I could give it a rest (boy was I wrong).

When things really started to click for me is when I adopted the belief that networking is a lifestyle, not a goal.

It’s the same approach I take towards my health. Diets don’t work. It comes down to nutrition and fitness. What you eat and how often you exercise. I only eat sugar 2 -3 times a week and workout 5 times a week. That’s something I continue to do without an end date in mind.

My goal in networking, or “connecting,” (which I believe is a better term) is to meet with/or talk to at least 2 (preferably new) people a week. If I can grab coffee locally, that’s my preference. If not, phone or Skype will do. Over time that means I talked with 100+ people per year. I also track when and how I communicate with people, by date & form (meet, phone, email, etc.). Fortunately one of my strengths is remembering where our conversation ended, but I admit I cheat with LinkedIn most of the time.

My hope isn’t for you to be impressed with my story. What I do hope you get out of this post is how important it is to connect with others regularly. Whether you work a corporate 9 – 5 or have your own business, this is one of the 3 skills you need to succeed in life.

Figure out what system works for you by trial and error. Once you figure that out, use it daily. You and I need others to thrive. (We’re also social beings by nature, so the interaction doesn’t hurt either.) Nothing great was ever accomplished alone. Therefore: network or die.

The Soccer Shots L.A. Story

I met Rian through my wife, Lisa who hired Soccer Shots when she was a Preschool Director. She raved about how professional and fun the staff was so when we were looking to add vendors to Community Perks, we didn’t even bother approaching their competition. Rian and I decided to grab coffee not too long ago and we talked “business” for hours. There’s always commonality with entrepreneurs and it helps to talk to others in a similar boat. I hope you enjoy hearing Rian’s story told from a prior post from his blog.

Way back in 2008, when the country was in the early stages of the greatest recession of our generation, my wife Alyssa and I were in our first full year operating Soccer Shots. After months of careful consideration we decided to purchase the 16th franchise in the Soccer Shots system (today, there are more than 100 franchises in the system).

We knew the challenge that confronted us, not just the odds that face all new businesses, but given the turbulent economic times we knew we had an extra steep hill to climb. Looking back, I think we were also somewhat blind to the odds (either consciously or unconsciously, I am not sure) as we only focused on succeeding. We had a business plan, financial projections, and the desire to do what it took to succeed.

soccer shots los angeles, rian heim, orange shirts, preschool programs

Alyssa and I knew we wanted to work with children and in the field of education.

Given the importance of physical fitness in children and their ability to learn and excel in school, Soccer Shots seemed like a perfect fit. Having previous experience working for a privately run charter school, global agencies, local companies, and Fortune 500 businesses we also knew that we wanted to start something of our own. And an opportunity that would support the family that we planned on having and that would succeed or fail based on the effort, decisions, and dedication that we invested. And of course there is always some level of luck involved.

In early 2008, not a single child in Los Angeles had experienced Soccer Shots. This year 10,000 children will experience Soccer Shots. In 2008 it was Alyssa and I handling every task, starting every relationship with schools, scheduling every season, coaching every class, and completing all of the administrative tasks. We were very much learning day to day and improving little by little with the intent to survive and hopefully grow. Today our team consists of 11 full time salaried employees and 10-15 part time employees. Virtually every hour of every day of the week there is a Soccer Shots class running somewhere in Los Angeles!

When I think about the growth that we have been so fortunate to experience, I can’t help but think about the future and where Soccer Shots will be in years to come. As a small business owner my focus naturally shifts to looking ahead but it is important from time to time to reflect on the past and how we got to where we are today. Looking back I realize that from day one we have been very intentional about our vision for Soccer Shots and truly believe that this vision and our success are directly linked. Every decision that we have made has been answered by thinking about our vision and who we are.

Our goal has always been to offer a quality program for the families in Los Angeles.

This goal has not changed, however we have learned that in order to survive in an increasingly competitive market, we must continue to strive to be remarkable and that part of achieving this was identifying the ways to make our program truly unique.


Employees, Not Independent Contractors

Our directors and coaches are all employees of Soccer Shots. This means our entire team is covered under Workers Compensation and Disability and many receive health and other benefits. Many programs farm out services to independent contractors. However, due to the nature of our work with children and the quality we wish to uphold, we prefer the conservative path of fully trained and screened employees.

Character Development + Soccer

Character development is the foundation of our program. Our professionally designed curriculum is structured around our 10 character building words. Each class utilizes our innovative curriculum which extends beyond physical activity to incorporate values like respect, honesty, teamwork, and encouragement.

Family Owned & Operated Since 2007

Soccer Shots is owned by myself and my wife Alyssa. Together with our team we make every effort to deliver a remarkable program that children, parents, and schools will bene!t from and enjoy. As parents ourselves of two young children (Charles and Amelia) we understand the many needs of families.

Our primary focus is and always has been to serve the needs of the schools that we partner with. We understand the unique challenges and are experienced in meeting and often exceeding the expectations.

Trained & Certified Coaches

All coaches have successfully completed extensive group and one-on-one training by Soccer Shots. This means up to a couple of months of training alongside an experienced Soccer Shots Director/Lead Coach as well as ongoing professional development.

Squeaky Clean Records

Our entire team has successfully completed live scan fingerprint background checks through the State of California, certified FBI and Department of Justice agencies. Copies are provided upon request.

Early Childhood Education (ECE)

Many of our coaches have completed or are working toward fulfilling at least 12 ECE credits. We seek individuals with backgrounds in education and child development first. Soccer skills and experience are second.

Certified Mandated Reporters

Our entire team is aware that by law they are Mandated Reporters and are all certified by the California Department of Social Services. The safety and well being of the children are always top of mind.

Rewards Program

At the schools we serve we offer scholarships & all-play policy in an attempt to include children who want to participate regardless of their ability to pay. Many schools have fundraisers throughout the year and we make donations, typically in the form of gift baskets which include certificates for a free season. Another form of fundraising for schools that we serve is an incentive where we give a portion of the registration fees back to the school.

Maximum Levels of Insurance

Soccer Shots is fully insured with above required levels of coverage.

“Our primary focus is and always has been to serve the needs of the schools that we partner with. We understand the unique challenges and are experienced in meeting and often exceeding the expectations.”

In the end, our vision is to offer an experience that will leave a lasting effect on the children and families that we serve.

How to Be More Confident

Who wouldn’t like to be more confident?!

It’s the most desired, intangible trait you can have. Believe it or not, it’s not overly complicated to attain.

Want to know the secret? Drumroll…

doubts, self-confidence, superman, superwoman, boost my confidence

Achieve more.

That’s it?! Simple enough, right?

Think about the last time you were confident. It probably involved you performing and getting recognized for it. A lot of the times we do what we get noticed for. Not always a bad thing, but our ego is involved.

People who are self-confident achieve more. It goes hand-in-hand.

Take for instance one of my coaching-client conversations:

Client: “I’ve been in the same job for 5 years and hate it. I want to leave, but am afraid if I do I won’t have anything else. Can you help me make the transition?

Me: “So you know I can’t promise you employment right? That’s a guarantee no one can make (unless they’re going to hire you themselves).”

Client: “Oh yeah, I don’t expect that, but I need a game plan…something to help me figure out if it’s worth taking the risk of leaving my current job.”

Me: “So you want me to help you with an exit strategy and give you tips on how to get into a new industry right?

Client: “Yes.”

Me: “So what you’re really looking for is to gain more confidence so you’re willing to chase after your dreams.”

Client: “Exactly.”

When you set and achieve goals it builds momentum. It’s like that snowball rolling down the hill in cartoons. It starts small then gets bigger as it picks up speed. Start with small goals, achieve those, then become more ambitious in your pursuit(s). The more you achieve, the greater your confidence.

At the heart of what I do as a coach is build people’s self-confidence. That’s what I tell people when they call me from Yelp!

A Holistic Interview w/ Lauren Faretta

When my wife and I were putting together Community Perks, fitness/wellness was a category we both wanted to see promoted in the community. Lauren responded to our request for a partnership even before her location fully opened! She’s been nothing short of gracious since we met her and besides getting a great workout (my wife LOVES it), Lauren’s personality is just icing on the cake. Cardio Barre is one of the best workouts around and we’re fortunate to have it in our own backyard!

lauren faretta, cardio barre santa monica, community perks, wellness, fitness, ballet, 3009 Lincoln Blvd.

1) What was your motivation behind opening your own location of Cardio Barre? 

There was always a voice telling me to open my own business. From early on I loved giving people advice and helping them feel their best, specifically something that motivated others to believe in themselves.  When Cardio Barre was introduced to me it automatically clicked that this was not only a system that worked for the physical aspect, but for people that desired an internal growth as well. Cardio Barre is something everyone can do. I am not going to lie, it isn’t easy but when it clicks, it clicks. People have more confidence in how they walk and talk to others. It was a life changer for me personally; my entrepreneurial spirit, desire for helping others and awareness of my own physical capabilities. We had to share this experience with everyone on the Westside!

2) What skills/experiences have you taken from modeling that has helped you in managing your new business?  

Oh, modeling! It was a great 15 years of experience. How to keep a tough skin when you hear a lot of “No’s” or how you handle the pressures of keeping up with your appearance and essentially being your own business and brand. You have to be able to manage yourself in order to manage others. I met so many amazing people along the way and I certainly gained some valuable lessons in what is real and not so real in the industry.

3) What have been the biggest challenges of running a franchise?  

Making sure every customer walks away with a smile. Customer service is the key component and since you cannot please everyone, you have to stand by the value of your product and make sure they are satisfied and give them the best experience possible. Another big challenge of running a franchise or any business for that matter, are the hidden costs. Be prepared for things to break, floods and vandalism!

4) What is your greatest asset as an entrepreneur?  

My greatest asset is my ability to listen to each and every person that walks in, calls or emails. If they do not feel heard then they will not get the satisfaction they deserve. Most individuals just want to be listened to and taken care of. I am a nurturer at heart and enjoy being around people so it’s something I enjoy.

5) What’s one piece of advice you want to give fellow entrepreneurs?

Every day remind yourself of how you got to where you are. You DID IT. You made it here. Now appreciate your significance. And throughout the day-to-day issues that surface, keep focus on all of the amazing gifts you have in your life. There is always someone else out there in a far worse situation. Never lose sight of your accomplishments and always give back to the world.

Lauren was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts and knew early on that she wanted to achieve something meaningful. Before graduating from Franklin Pierce University Magna Cum Laude in Business Administration and Marketing, she took a year journey to London to study abroad and travel. She has traveled and continues to travel to Egypt, Indonesia, and Israel to all over the globe to see the realities of life.

When a job offer in Los Angeles brought her out to the West Coast she found her home of opportunity. From working in Advertising, managing a movie marketing company to becoming Talent Acquisitions for a hit show on MTV, she also found time to work side jobs doing Print and Commercials. It seemed nothing was too intimidating to experience even once. Lauren got her inspiration for the creative process and her love of capturing beautiful moments on and off film. But what led her to the next adventure was a simple suggestion by her friend to own a popular franchise called Cardio Barre

Always a very ambitious woman, owning a business was something she wanted to accomplish next. Her strong desire since childhood was to always help others lead healthier lives. By 2013, after 2 years of a grueling city and financial process, the studio became a reality. She is now the Managing Partner together with, Tamara Hakim, the very friend that brought the idea to her.

“My experience with Cardio Barre is what drives me to continue to be even stronger, whether it be diving into deeper understandings of growth, connections, and witnessing clients light up when they walk in and walk out. We have all created a community that everyone looks forward to every day. My clients inspire me. We inspire each other. It isn’t about the clichéd body image, it is about how we feel about ourselves internally when we walk down the street and communicate with one another. People sense your confidence and that is more powerful than any defined arm muscle. There isn’t any competition here at Cardio Barre Santa Monica. We all go at our own pace to be the best version of ourselves. This is an endless and gratifying process, to stand beside the most compelled and committed women and men I know today.” 

Overcoming Doubt

Everyone has doubts.

No matter how successful you are, you’ve had periods where you’ve doubted yourself. You can’t avoid it, but you can counter it.

So how do you battle those doubts in your head?

winnie the pooh, piglet, disney, chrisopher robin, the psychology of winnie the pooh, depressed, self-doubt, negative thoughts, emotions, limiting beliefs

I don’t consider myself an expert by any means, but here’s what’s worked for me personally, as well as a coach:

1) Push through it

2) Know the present/future is not predicted by your past

3) Help others

Doubt is more perceived than real. It’s a mental block that can stop you in your tracks (if you allow it). In the midst of fear, usually the only way to get over it is “push through it” to reach a different outcome. If you do that, you’ve created a new schema to build upon.

If your past is the only way to predict your future, then it’s game over. That would mean your life is predetermined and there’s nothing you can do to change it. If you really believe that, you’re sad. Don’t be a victim. Start doing things different now to achieve a better future. Start with small steps and build from there.

At the heart of doubt(s) is “me” focused. The next time you start feeling sorry yourself, go help someone in need. It may sound like a deterrent/distraction (and to some degree it is), but if you shift your focus towards helping someone, a lot of your negative feelings will dissipate. Sometimes the best thing we can do to cope is to reach out, even when our natural instinct is to stay isolated.

Like I mentioned before, I don’t claim to be the expert on this subject because I have my own doubts that linger from time to time. But the worst thing you can do is nothing. Vent to a friend. Journal about it. Try something new.

So now it’s your turn, what’s worked for you? 

Nikki Shapes L.A.

I met Nikki about a year ago via Twitter. My wife and I were starting to put together a business called Community Perks and looking for small businesses to partner with us to serve the non-profits and schools in Santa Monica. We agreed to sit down and meet over coffee and I’m sure glad we did. At one point, we traded services so I know what it’s like to train with Nikki. She’s very attentive, listens well, yet can tell how hard to push you by reading your body language. When you meet her, it’s hard to imagine she can push you hard because she’s so nice, but don’t let her charm fool you. Personal trainers are about image (to me at least). If they don’t look the part, why would you hire them? Nikki walks the talk and she’s also committed to eating healthy too. If you’re struggling with weight or performance, I highly recommend contacting her!

nikki shapes la, velocity brentwood, personal trainer, santa monica, japanese american, fitness, nutrition, holistic, lifestyle change

1) Health/Nutrition is obviously a HUGE issue in the United States, so why did you become a personal trainer?

Physical fitness has always been a part of me. Growing up with one sister, I was the one playing sports with my dad and loved it! I became a personal trainer because I wanted to teach people how working out can be fun and beneficial at the same time.  The benefits are endless 🙂  I also wanted to teach people how to correctly perform exercises so they do not injure themselves!

2) Why did you decide to leave a gym and train on your own? What are the pros/cons of being your own boss?

The reason I stayed at my previous gym for so long was for my clients. I couldn’t leave them! But life is about timing and I couldn’t stay at a gym (they changed owners) where I didn’t believe in their philosophy so that was my reason to leave! I took the leap and never looked back.  Sometimes you just need a little push.  If you love what you do and are passionate about what you do, you will succeed.  Their are only pros to being my own boss. I get to make my schedule and get paid for all the time/energy that I put into my clients (instead of the gym taking 75%).  You get out as much as you put into your business.

3) How would your clients describe your style of training?

I think they would say challenging, but fun. Each workout is different so they never get bored!

4) How do you gain new and retain current clients?

I believe I retain my clients because I actually really care about my clients and their goals.  I also try and teach them how to make this a lifestyle change. You always have a couple people that don’t get it, but at least I can say I gave 110%.  I gain new clients through my website, yelp, or referrals.

5) What’s one piece of advice you want to give fellow entrepreneurs?

If you believe in your product and work hard, you will succeed.

Nikki Kitamura has been a Personal Fitness Coach for over 13 years. She graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a B.S. in Kinesiology and is AFAA, CPR, Nutrition and First Aid certified. Nikki uses a “whole health” approach to solutions that ensures my clients experience lasting, sustainable results that improve their quality of life, confidence and overall well being.  

Switching to Auto-Pilot

Have you ever driven somewhere so many times that after you’ve reached your destination you completely forgot how you got there?

Believe it or not that happens at work too, BUT it can be a good thing.

airplane the movie, auto pilot, cruise control, auto park, distraction free driving, leslie neilsen, kareem abdul jabbar

Similar to athletes “getting in the zone,” when distraction-free, your mind produces at a phenomenal rate. There are different ways to arrive there, but let me share what’s worked for me the past several years:

Schedule everything into your smartphone with reminder alerts (and I mean EVERYTHING).

There’s a reason why iCalendar has three categories: home, social/out & home. You’re supposed to use them all.

Start with reserving “pockets” of work you need to get done (it doesn’t matter if you work at an office or at home). During that period don’t answer the phone, check emails, play games, etc. (unless that’s you’re actual task)

Next, put down the outings you’re planning on taking: chores, shopping, pick-ups, etc. (basically anything where you have to travel to).

Lastly, what needs or can be done at home? It can range anywhere from washing dishes to calling a friend on the phone.

I know it might sound a bit ridiculous, but here’s the payoff…

If you pre-schedule everything you have to do, you don’t have to remember anything. Even when you get sidetracked, your alerts remind you what to do. I’m obsessed with efficiency so that’s probably why this method works for me, but it really comes in handy when I need to pay a bill online because that’s something I would normally forget to do.

I probably take it too far since I even schedule where we are going to eat and do on vacations, but it actually saves time because decisions are made in advance. Of course there are times when things happen out of your control and you have to adjust, but at least you can re-schedule what you originally planned to do and continue to function on auto-pilot.

Even if you’re a free spirit, creative who hates structure this can work for you (type A’s love it). Running on auto-pilot saves time so you can spend your actual free time on what you please.

Looking for more time-hacking strategies? Check out this month’s free webinars!

How to Tune out the Noise

No matter where you work there are constant distractions.

Some are uncontrollable like co-workers, bathroom breaks, phone alerts, etc.

Others are controllable (especially if you work at home or remotely): TV, snacks, chores around the house, etc.

Bottom line: there are distractions EVERYWHERE.

So how to you tune out that “noise” and optimize your performance?

beats by dre, noise canceling headphones, tune the noise out, happy place

1) Find your “happy place.” Setting has a LOT to do with how much you get done and to what level of quality. For myself I prefer to work at home alone. Sure, there are distractions, but I get the most done there so I schedule pockets of time to do my most important work by myself. Hey, if Happy Gilmore can do it, why can’t you?

2) Know your peak energy levels. If you split the day into mornings, afternoons and evenings, when are you the sharpest? Tasks can usually be split into 3 categories: catch-up (emails, follow-up, etc.), meetings & urgent work. My peak is late morning to early afternoon, so I prefer to meet in the mornings to get my creative juices flowing and give me momentum before doing my most important work. Energy suckers like checking emails can be done around the other two tasks in my opinion. Emails aren’t going anywhere and it’s up to you to decide when to respond. Prioritize based on efficiency.

3) Take short breaks. Think interval training. Go hard for a while, then rest for a short break. Your brain can only handle about 90 minutes of concentrated work without losing focus or making mistakes. When you feel a bit tired or “brain dead,” step away from your desk and take a walk, have a snack or talk to a friend. Breaks are like rest for your brain. Imagine your performance on zero sleep. Your brain needs to rejuvenate too.

Sometimes the best defense is a good offense (although as a Lakers fan I can’t stand Mike D’Antoni). If you schedule ahead and prevent distractions, they won’t control you. Create a personalized game plan to get your best work done now! If you need further suggestions, let’s talk!

The Hardest Part is…

getting started.

getting started, finish line, accomplishing your goalsIt’s where excuses appear and dreams disappear.

When you think about it goals are merely a means to an end. Momentum is built after goal accomplishment. Confidence is gained through the process.

Even after knowing that, STILL the hardest part is getting started. That’s why it’s not as important to get it completely right the first time. You and I learn by trial and error. Get the ball rolling by doing something (rather than nothing)!

Most lifestyle entrepreneurs want to monetize their hobbies/passions. I suggest doing this part-time before quitting your day job. Figure out a way to make money doing what you love. It may happen slow, but if you don’t try how will you know if it works or not? It’s like old basketball adage, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

Another crucial factor is accountability (or lack thereof). Tell a friend. Write it down somewhere you will see it daily. Hire a coach.

Do whatever it takes to get started because after you do, it’s much easier to keep going.