10 minute interview with
Jo Cordell-Cooper of
active solutions and health network
20 May 2016
I am super excited to bring you this month's interview with Jo Cordell-Cooper from Active Health Solutions and Health Network. I met Jo sometime ago thought the Hobart Mums Network's Business Connect group and have found somewhat of a kindred spirit in business. I admire the way that Jo is always chasing new markets within her business and she is always trying to find a better way of doing things. Every time I speak with Jo, she is doing something to make her business better and she really holds true the idea that a dream is just a dream unless you put actions to that dream. She is a constant reminder in my life and in my businesses to keep striving for a better way, and to just make happen all the ideas that are so often floating around in my head. Jo, I want to thank you for being such a positive influence in my life, when I see you just getting on with it, learning new skills or just finding out an even better way of doing things in your business, it reminds me to just keep going! Just keep going!
MD: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today, Jo! Firstly, please tell me more about Active Solutions and Health Network?
JCC: I specialize in women’s fitness at various ages and stages, both in water and on land. I run about half of my business out of the Hobart Aquatic Centre where women are drawn to my four classes of: Aqua Boot camp, Pregnancy Aqua, Deep Water Gymstick and Shallow Water Aqua.
I also offer 1 on 1 water based personal training which is typically for people with permanent or long term injuries that still want to be fit and strong. The other half of my business is run in Lindisfarne and Geilston Bay. I offer 1 on 1 small group personal training as well as the highly popular small group personal training with a maximum of 4 like-minded ladies. I also run a very popular Foam Rollering and Spiky Ball Workshop 3 times a year – it’s a self massage technique that can improve muscle stiffness and back health very quickly.
MD: Oh yes! I attended one of those foam rollering classes and it’s really helped me in terms of muscle relaxation between workouts and massage appointments! You focus a lot on water based training. What are the benefits of this? Who is it best for?
JCC: Water based training ticks all the boxes in that it’s multi-directional, low impact, high intensity and fun - or it should be fun! Also, it has a number of medical benefits such as improving circulation and reducing swelling via hydro-static pressure. It has the reputation of being a soft option for seniors and pregnant people and my mission from day 1 has been to expand this perception to include the fitter and younger client and athletes. Water based training is underrated, but I’m not done in changing that perception. There are a few products I use to tap into land based muscle contractions, so the workout makes you strong for living on land.
MD: I have attended some of your Aqua Boot camp classes as well, and they are absolutely a lot of fun! Tell me more about who your clients are?
JCC: My clients are almost exclusively women. My youngest Aqua Boot camp participant is 13, the oldest is in her 70’s and everyone else is in between. Most of my clients tend to be 35+. Women are moving from one product to another as they move through different ‘ages and stages’. It is quite common for a woman to start her time with me in Pregnancy Aqua, come to Group PT until the core is rehabilitated and then slot into Aqua Boot camp or something more mainstream. Generally though, my Group PT ladies stay for years. They are not looking for a quick fix. These are like minded souls that need to schedule exercise into their lives to get the balance they need to achieve and succeed in all the things they are required to do as a 21 century woman.
MD: Yes, you’ve hit the nail right on the head! I know, for myself, keeping active really means better health which means I am more prepared and in a better frame of mind to tackle everything else in life… I know you are very active but what drove you to become a personal trainer?
JCC: Historically, I’m a PE Teacher so becoming a PT means I’m working with the parents rather than the kids. Parents drive change in their families so it was a sideways step. But the actual nuts and bolts of this question was around a Health and Wellbeing Consultancy I developed in 2007-2008. I was contracting the PT services out – so I trained to be a PT to get a bigger slice of that business. The need for health and wellbeing consultants for workplaces died with the global financial challenge late 2008 and as I qualified and found PT clients easier to find than workplaces wanting health and wellbeing programs I took the path of least resistance.
MD: Oh yeah, now that you mention it, I do remember there was a very big corporate push on fitness a little while back, that seem to have died down. Just from my hanging out in the online space of Instagram and facebook, there does seem to be a resurgence of personal fitness, of taking that control of your health back for yourself. Is this what you love about what you do? Helping women regain control over their health?
JCC: I love helping women improve their lives via the medium of health and fitness. The relationships I form with my clients are often quite intimate as they confide in me. What an honour to share the journey with such personal issues! I’ve worked with women who have had multiple miscarriages, lost a child, lost themselves in their busy lives, or lost their physical health either short term or something more permanent. Whatever the issue the women that come to me have an innate understanding that improving their physical health can help them in all aspects of their life. Also I love learning, and there is plenty of opportunity to learn in the fitness area. Applying that knowledge to the problem my clients have is extremely satisfying.
MD: You know, I’ve never thought about it like that but we really essentially depend on the state of our health to live fulfilling lives. Tell me more about who Jo Cordell-Cooper is? The person behind the brand…
JCC: I’m a fun loving, hard working mother of 3. I always aim for the right balance and I don’t always get it right but I live by the idea of KAIZEN – I strive for continuous improvement bit by bit, day by day.
MD: What is it like being in business?
JCC: I did not plan this business – it evolved and opportunities came my way at a time when I could pause and consider those opportunities. I’m very proud of all I’ve achieved.
I absolutely love my job and I’m very proud of what I’ve built. It’s honest and honourable. I love creating new products. I have a certain amount of flexibility – ultimately you have to work when your clients want you so there are early mornings and evening work where my husband does all the family stuff. But I get to volunteer in my children’s schools, and be at assemblies and carnivals. I can forward plan for holidays and as I only work with totally awesome women they are respectful of my need to rest and reschedule from time to time. They have the same flexibility with their training, life balance needs.
Of course, there are some jobs that I’m not yet in a position to outsource, like marketing and SEO. You have to be such an expert in so much over and beyond personal training. The only person you are answerable to is yourself so that stuff just has to be done – it’s not my passion but the results of it are. Good google ratings bring more business – simple as that. It worries me that if I get sick I can’t work (and can’t earn) and that when I take a holiday I earn next to nothing. That’s my next challenge to plug those holes. Mind you I haven’t really been sick since 2008.
MD: Impressive! I do agree with you about having to be an expert in everything when you are in small business. I always think women in small business have to be the most multitalented people on the planet! What advice would you give to mums thinking about going into business?
JCC: Going into business is an enormous undertaking. Many times I have thought if I knew how much unpaid work it would be I would never have started it. If I’d stayed with teaching we would be financially better off, but there is more to life than money. I’d ask someone thinking of going into business: Is the timing right? Do you have some family back up? And, if you are trying to monetise your hobby you can do that without starting a business – keep it simple and be patient. I’m not against it but there is a lot of work outside of the earning money side. I routinely do one hour of admin for one hour of money earning work – so the money earning work has to cover the admin.
MD: Thank you for bringing that up. That’s a really good point to balance out the backend time investment with the money making ones. So often, when we start a business, we have no idea how much “backend” stuff are required to keep the front end going. That’s really good advice! We talk a lot of about balancing motherhood and business in our interview series. What’s your take on it?
JCC: It’s really tough to get the balance right, especially when kids are young. Now that all my children are school age it’s much easier but before then it was damn hard. Childcare was not a great solution for me as the work was one hour here and there so to pay for a whole day of care was not viable. If there’s support with child care I think it’s much easier. I’m also lucky that my husband has a government job with entitlements – so if the kids are sick he can take a day and I can still work. Actually my kids are rarely sick (and tend to know what each day has in store for me – sometimes I get a call from the school just after I’ve finished with clients . . . )
MD: LOL! Kids! They take it so much more than we think they do! What have been some of your favourite moments from being in business?
JCC: So, I do not have the perfect body. I’ve been to a few conferences where the lecturers have asked whether anyone has really rounded shoulders, or over active hamstrings, or forward pelvic tilt (I have all 3) and then asked if everyone can take a look at how you sort that with your clients. I always step up because you can learn so much this way. It’s a bit embarrassing though as you have a whole bunch of very expert trainers commenting and trying to improve your not perfect body . . . . You feel like a bit of a train wreck. People see your photo on top of the mountain and think it’s been easy for you to get there. It’s not – I have a physio, a PT, a masseuse and I practise yoga weekly to get up that hill. My body is far from perfect – but we know each other well. We take each other places.
MD: I think you look great! But, you are right though, being appreciative of our bodies, however they may be, starts with an acknowledgement of what it does for you. It carries us every day. I’m curious as to how you came up with your business name?
JCC: Groan . . . . I got fixated on the Active Solutions bit but someone was already using it – but I also wanted to hook into other services in the community, hence the ‘and Health Network’ bit. I might rebrand down the track because it’s too bloody long.
MD: Haha… Hate it when it happens and it’s happened to me a few times too… Come up with a great business name but someone else already thought of it or it’s available and you nervously search to see if the domain name is already taken… Nail biting moments! Through our discussions over the years, sharing our business journeys, I have discovered that you are someone who is always searching for better ways of running your business. Why is that important to you?
JCC: Running a better business means offering better, more complete services for my clients, while keeping my own life balance in check – that’s the trick. It would be very easy to work a 60 hour week and earn twice or three times as much but you have to maintain the balance. I just started selling pregnancy bathers – that was a really simple addition to my offerings that sits well with me (I think this idea came from a conversation with you, Heidi). I asked my loyal following should I sell beauty products and supplements and all said they come to me because I don’t try and sell them stuff they don’t want. So I am following that advice - it gives me a point of difference in an industry that is image driven and confusing. Eating good food is a key message (I’d rather sell cooking lessons than supplements) and if you want beauty products I can hook you up with experts in this field, but I’m not an expert in this field.
MD: What is your vision for your brand going forward?
JCC: Well, do you want to know a secret? I’m building a studio on my property in Geilston Bay . . . . Watch this space! I’d also like to do a health coaching course – it’s an approach I already use but can improve on.
MD: That’s really exciting, Jo! As a coach myself, I always get a bit excited when someone else see the value of coaching and want to help others even more by becoming coaches themselves. Any other advice for our readers?
JCC: I’d just like to say if you are going into business go for it, but, always keep viability in mind, ultimately you have to earn money. Don’t worry what your competitors charge – work on your product and then price it accordingly (you’ll soon work out if it’s viable). Don’t worry if your product is not perfect from day one – make sure your product is wanted before you invest heavily with time or money. Keep KAIZEN in mind – continuous improvement – bit by bit, day by day – otherwise known as “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time”
MD: Love it! Well, Jo, thank you for being so candid and sharing your tips with us today. It was an absolute pleasure chatting to you!
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