A few weeks ago I sat with my leadership Team in our orange meeting room. It was a heavy meeting; the energy was low and morale was visibly depressed.
We were deep in thought, looking at the numbers, and weighing our options. It was clear that keeping a DreamBody Centre (DBC) running in Bahrain was no longer feasible. I wish I could say that our type of business was immune to economic realities, but it’s not.
As soon as the government subsidy reductions were announced we saw our sign-ups drop. It was clear that as the cost of living went up for people, things like weight loss and wellness expenditure went down. We’re a luxury that few people can – or want – to afford right now.
To be honest Bahrain was never the real business, it was just the template for potential franchisees. As long as it was self-sufficient, we were happy. The real growth was world-wide.
But as we sat there and looked at the numbers, it was clear that Bahrain was heading nowhere fast, and the centre was not self-sufficient. “The final decision is yours, Sensei,” someone said. It was one of the most depressing moments of my professional career. I had to pull the final plug on a business I had built from nothing.
Can it really be that I have to break up this amazing team that has been working together so amazingly for so many years? I agonised for 3 days as I came to terms with the reality.
I met with the management team again and confirmed what they sort of already knew. I told them we’d close down the DBC. We later met with the rest of the Team Members and broke the news to them. They were shocked. They knew the numbers were bad (we’re completely transparent) but I guess they didn’t think the day would ever come that we’d actually close.
There wasn’t a dry eye in the room. Of course they all worried about having to find new jobs, but what really affected them was the loss they felt because the DBC meant so much to them. They absolutely loved working here.
I was depressed for the couple of weeks that followed. I remember one evening I was trying to clearly identify the emotion I was feeling, and then I realised what it was…
I lost something that mattered so much to me and I was literally grieving. I am the first to believe that when God closes a door he opens a window. I didn’t need to be told that this was meant to be and that other good things will come, it’s already part of my core belief system. My faith was in tact, I just needed to get over it. I needed time to grieve. In a situation like this no pep talk can lift you up, you just need to go through the process.
I went through a mini-depression. Though closing the business was heart-breaking, it wasn’t about the business per se. What really hurt was having to break up this amazing Team I’ve built up over the years. The leadership Team had been with for seven or eight years. Breaking up this dream team was really hard. I hated it.
What also hurt was that all the hard work did not bear any fruit. In the old days I’d wake up at 4 am and start work by 4:30 am, and get home anywhere between 10 pm and midnight. To think that the years of the hard work I put in – and my Team put it in – came to nothing was a bitter pill to swallow.
Of course having lost a lot of money was also very painful, but that’s not as hard to take as the rest. Money comes and money goes, and God willing it will all come back and then some.
So what’s next? I’ve not given up on the DBC idea just yet. I plan to reopen in Saudi directly, rather than enter there through franchising. I am utterly convinced that the world needs a unique weight loss centre that offers diet and nutrition advice, motivation, and fitness in a 23-minute format under one roof. With 2.1 billion people around the world either overweight or obese, I feel a sense of obligation to continue with the DBC. But for now, the dire economic circumstances in Bahrain don’t allow for a DBC.
After closing the DBC on the 24th of March I moved into the Falak Consulting office and installed myself as CEO. I made sure to take Saba, the remarkable DBC GM, with me. I also took a short holiday to London to break the routine, and to think and reflect. The trip did wonders for me and I’m glad to report that my depression is gone and that I’m feeling revitalised and ready to turn Falak Consulting into the world-class company I know it can be, while also preparing for DBC 2.0.
I have no regrets. Being an entrepreneur is a risky, stressful and exhausting life. But choosing the path less trodden is also very rewarding and I wouldn’t change a thing.
The future is bright.
Thanks for taking the time to read this.