Fitness and wellbeing coach Kourtney Thomas explains the importance behind identifying your values and choosing a career that aligns with them.
Website: Kourtney Thomas
LinkedIn: Kourtney Thomas
Kourtney Thomas is on a mission to help women find their own inner Dolly Parton. Through guided self-discovery work and coaching, she helps women see themselves so they can trust themselves in every choice they make for their bodies, lives, and businesses.
On the daily, everyone needs the blunt (but kind) reminder that the only “right” way to do something is the way that works for YOU.
In the last decade, Kourtney has worked her way from personal trainer and endurance running coach at a facility, to successful business owner, sought-after contributor and real-life difference-maker for her clients and audience. With her background in fitness, business, and life coaching, Kourtney has a gift for understanding all kinds of people, building instant rapport, and saying what she means without being mean. She helps women cut through the fluff to the conversations that matter. There aren’t confetti cannons around here, but there’s a whole lot of grit and growth.
When she’s not coaching, Kourtney enjoys bicep curls and hiking fueled by cake in Denver, Colorado, where she lives with her husband, dog and cat.
What you’ll learn in this episode
- [0:48] Why Kourtney is such a big fan of Dolly Parton.
- [3:27] Who Kourtney’s clients are and why she only works with women.
- [5:28] How Kourtney’s clients first find her services.
- [7:25] Why Kourtney decided to work in real estate after studying hospitality.
- [11:39] How Kourtney got hired in new roles that she had no experience in.
- [15:46] The difficulties Kourtney found in working in an industry where people are seen as a commodity.
- [19:30] How to find out what your values are.
- [21:50] How Kourtney found her love and passion for fitness.
- [26:21] How Kourtney first started working in the fitness world.
- [29:59] Why Kourtney started her own business rather than continuing to work for a gym.
- [31:26] How Kourtney’s past experience helped her when starting her own business.
- [33:10] The fears and doubts Kourtney had when starting out.
- [35:36] Why Kourtney expanded her fitness coaching to life coaching and mindset awareness.
- [39:07] How Kourtney’s life coaching works and what her sessions look like.
- [42:58] Where Kourtney hopes her business will be in 5-10 years.
Resources mentioned in this episode
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To see the resources recommended by all our guests, visit the Resources page.
Episode 90: Aligning your work with your values - with Kourtney Thomas
Jeremy Cline 0:00
When you discover that your own personal values are at odds with the company that you work for, what do you do about it? That's one of the things we talk about in this episode. I'm Jeremy Cline, and this is Change Work Life.
Jeremy Cline 0:27
Hello, and welcome to the Change Work Life podcast, where we're all about beating the Sunday evening blues and enjoying Mondays again. Now, what would Dolly Parton do? That might seem like an odd question for a podcast all about career change, but it's a question which has been occupying the mind of this week's guest. Kourtney Thomas is a fitness coach, a career coach and a life coach, as well as being a Dolly Parton devotee. Kourtney, welcome to the show.
Kourtney Thomas 0:51
Thank you so much. Thank you.
Jeremy Cline 0:53
So, let's start with Dolly. Why are you such a fan and what influence has she had on you?
Kourtney Thomas 0:58
Oh, my goodness, I have been a fan since I was a little girl. Dolly has been a part of my life for a very long time in kind of different ways. When I was little, I was sitting on the ground with my grandma watching reruns of Hee Haw and this big kind of blonde, huge personality. And she's a pop culture icon, so you always are looking at 9 to 5 or "I Will Always Love You" is coming on the radio or something like that, so always been a presence. And then, within the last five years or so, I really reconnected with Dolly from this sense of really understanding who she is, as not only a person but also as a businesswoman and as this really incredibly inspiring presence for totally showing up as, you know, exactly who she is, and also, aligning all of her choices, again, personally and professionally, in the public eye, in her home life, she knows what she stands for, and she isn't afraid to make the decisions that align with that. And that really just, it spoke to me so much at this stage in my life, like late 30s, and you're going, she's, you know, in her mid 70s, and she's just a multi multimillionaire. She has incredible philanthropic work throughout the world, and she has her own theme park for Pete's sakes. She's one of the most highly decorated award-winning artists and songwriters of all time. You don't realise, once I started looking into it, you kind of don't realise just how much of a presence Dolly is in other artists and places in kind of show business that you might not expect. She's very much behind the scenes as a producer. And all that just really came together for me as this presence of, just like you opened the show, what would Dolly do in this situation? She would know what to do, and she wouldn't question her choice, and she would know how and where to move forward. And it just really became important touchstone for me to incorporate in my thought process, and just, again, pretty much everybody can identify at some point with, whether they think she's goofy or not, like she's a recognisable figure, to just look at and have in conversation.
Jeremy Cline 3:13
And in terms of your own practice, life coaching, career coaching and fitness coaching, sounds like quite a lot. Can you drill down a bit more into who you help and how you help them?
Kourtney Thomas 3:27
Yeah, yeah. I do work with folks who are identified as women. I pretty much have come to that space over the years of just really getting into a place where I tend to work with clients on a very personal level. And while certainly, I am capable of having the same connection with male-identified folks or otherwise gender-identified, it just seems that most clients are very drawn to me maybe because of my journey, my process, and we're able to go a little bit deeper in kind of that comfort space of digging into what's really going on. And beyond that, I don't niche it down a whole lot tighter or anything, as far as who I work with, really, it's pretty much women who are in this space of wanting to figure something out. And sometimes they don't even know what that is. They do this broad search of 'life coach' or 'career coach' or 'mindset' or something like that. My website might come up, and oftentimes I get them on the phone: 'I don't even know, I didn't know really where to start, but once I started going through your site, I just was like, I think this is the person that I want to work with. And I don't even know, here's a few things that are going on. And I just want to figure this out.' It's not like one specific problem that I'm solving or one really particular customer avatar, if you will, and that kind of language or any of that stuff, mostly kind of women who are in the space of wanting to figure something out, whether that is related to career, sometimes it's more broadly confidence in life, I would say, is certainly something that I get some clients who want to work on, or on the fitness side of things, these days, it's much more in the space of body image and body acceptance and confidence, versus specifically fitness training anymore.
Jeremy Cline 5:13
So, how do people find you in the first place? So, I kind of get that once someone is on your website, they will see you, they will resonate with you, they might arrange an introduction call with you. But then, how do they actually get to know about you in the first place?
Kourtney Thomas 5:28
So, I actually did the smart business person thing last year and made a spreadsheet to look at this, over the last about year and a half or so, where my clients came from. And it's about a 50-50 split from that just broad internet search, which is actually pretty rare that a business gets found for something as broad in SEO as 'life coach near me', that's actually really tough to do, but I have been on the internet...
Jeremy Cline 5:56
You must have an SEO wizard on your team.
Kourtney Thomas 5:58
I know, I think it's a function of being on the internet for a very long time. And so, I have a lot of SEO history. And I think that really helps me get found. But I know that's an anomaly in the SEO world, I don't put a ton of energy into it. And somehow, it's like magic. So, about half my clients do come from just finding me on the Google search. And then the other half truly are personal connections, which has been really interesting to learn that it's either people who, I don't know, I met at a conference five years ago, they joined my email list, and when they're ready, they're coming and saying, 'Hey, I think it's ready, I think I'm ready, I have the money, I have the time, I want to do this', or I do just absolutely a ton of community building, networking, relationship building, so there are just, there are a lot of people in a close circle of mine, and then, those kind of concentric circles of people you've talked to once or twice or whatever, and maybe they refer somebody or again, maybe you're just top of mind. But it's definitely personal connections, friends, prior clients, client referrals. And so, it's about a 50-50 split.
Jeremy Cline 7:05
I really wanted to spend most of the time of this interview going into your backstory, because it's quite interesting to learn about how you got to where you are. Because I recall from our initial conversation, you mentioned how you started in real estate, having studied hospitality. So, how did that come about?
Kourtney Thomas 7:24
So, I initially, when I went to college, went to hospitality school on purpose, by choice. I chose one of the top hospitality schools in the country, in fact, because I had this crazy idea that I wanted to become a hotel resort manager in a tropical island somewhere. And I started actually studying hospitality, did a couple of internships and realised that was not what it looked like. And that industry is a bear. It is very difficult. It is a lot of long hours, a lot of really tough, stressful work, every night, every holiday, every weekend, forever, for very low pay. So, by about my start of my junior year, I realised that wasn't where I was gonna go. But I also didn't want to stay in school any longer. So, I was lucky that at the school that I went to, hospitality was a business degree. So, it still just had this strong kind of business background. So, I stuck with that. But also, my family, my stepdad had a construction business, he had a real estate investment thing on the side where he had some properties and was into buying and selling and that sort of thing, and I just had an interest in that. So, I started leaning that way when I was going to career fairs and looking at options and interviews and stuff like that. And basically, I just sold myself to all the recruiters and ended up getting a job with a large home builder, a large residential home builder, as a project manager, like my first job out of school. And then, promptly the large recession of 2008 happened. So, I was laid off within a year because just housing tanked. So, that's when I just sort of eked over into more commercial property management, then, dabbled in that, like in building management in downtown Chicago, which was really interesting. A large city skyscraper building is like its own city. So, the management arm of that was really interesting. And then, it was a, I'd call it a bridge job, I ended up finding a thing that was a marriage of what I had known so far in the professional space, which was working for a casino company, actually, but in their construction and development arm. So, that was a cool marriage of my hospitality background and also like getting to play in that development side of things. And I actually worked within construction procurement. So, I worked with a woman, my manager, basically was in charge of kind of ordering, procuring, managing the deliveries and the installs of everything from the carpet to the lighting fixtures to the wall coverings. So, it was this really interesting, kind of, just cool thing, and then to see hospitality buildings come to life. And that was really fun. I did that for a little while. And my last job, before I did get into the fitness side of things was, happened, I had to leave the hospitality job because my husband and I ended up moving, and so I got a job in corporate recruiting for the large staffing firm. And that was, it was really interesting, especially looking back, because it became this like really clarifying thing about myself and about how that connected to my work, because I realised that just did not and could not ever align with my soul. It was selling people, it turned people into a commodity. And that, just, I couldn't get that right in my gut. So, I was very unhappy there. And that was when I was able to make a total transition.
Jeremy Cline 11:05
And a couple of follow-up questions on that history. One is, was there ever an opportunity to join the family firm?
Kourtney Thomas 11:11
There certainly would have been, but I grew up in a very small town in the middle of nowhere, which I immediately chose to escape as soon as possible. So, I did not want to go back there by any means. Had I had any interest in that, I could have, yeah, easily walked in the door and been a part of that.
Jeremy Cline 11:31
And how, having studied hospitality, were you able to sell yourself to these real estate companies?
Kourtney Thomas 11:38
It's funny, because this has happened to me multiple times then, too, along the way with getting different jobs and not really having the exact right experience or any of that. I am just a really good relator. And I think I'm good enough at recognising the strengths or the skills that a person or a company or whatever might be looking for and able to just zhuzh those up and bring them enough into conversation and showcase enough of how that applies. And I'm generally very enthusiastic, I can remember getting that job offer after a second in-person interview or something like that. And they were like, 'It's just, we aren't exactly sure, you know, why you're wanting to go into the field and not into design.' Like that was a function of kind of sexist thinking in that industry, that all the women were in design, and all the men were in the field. Anyway, whatever, they were like, 'We're not really sure exactly why, but we really just, there's something about you, we think it's gonna be a good fit. And we want to place you here, and are you good with that?' And I was like, 'Yes, absolutely'. I don't know, probably at that point in my life, when I was 22, blind optimism, and salesmanship.
Jeremy Cline 12:54
That's quite a natural skill to have though, to be able to identify what it is that they're looking for and project the bits of yourself which fit in with that, especially when you're straight out of college and haven't got any experience you can draw on.
Kourtney Thomas 13:09
I think at that point too, I really wanted it. I think there's something to be said for that, too. I really wanted it, and I knew I was going to have to convince them. So, I made sure that I found a way to do it.
Jeremy Cline 13:20
And was it a similar story when you went into corporate recruiting, having apparently not had any background in that?
Kourtney Thomas 13:27
Yeah, that one was, I think it was a little easier. I skipped one where I had, there was another short-term job, because again, we moved, where I was a leasing agent for an apartment company for a little while. And I went straight from that into the recruiting. And I think that one, I could leverage that sales background. Leasing isn't exactly the same as this type of kind of commission-based sales, but I was able to do that. And also, it was still very entry-level at the time, and this was a company that, they basically would hire anybody who was hungry, like anybody who was like, 'Yeah, I want to move up and I want to make money and I want to do the thing.' And it was a very – you know, it's coming into the professional space now to talk about this masculine energy versus feminine energy kind of thing. And this was all masculine, super dominant, let's go out and crush it thing. And I could, again, I was young, I could play that game, as much as they wanted me to, and... Like I said, I did for a little while and then realised I didn't want to. But yeah, that one I think was more of a direct connection with the job that I had just recently come from, too.
Jeremy Cline 14:34
And when you joined that, what were you thinking at the outset? Was this kind of an interim, 'Eh, see how it goes, it fits' job, or was there something a bit more, 'Okay, no, this might be where I end up, what I end up doing'?
Kourtney Thomas 14:48
I thought, definitely, when I initially interviewed, that it would be something that I would want to stay in and grow in. Again, they were just, it was a company where there were tons of opportunities for advancement. And again, I was like, 'I want this, I want to climb the corporate ladder' kind of a thing. That's definitely this place in my life that I was at the time. And there were myriad opportunities to be able to do that. So, initially, I think, for sure, I was like, yeah, I'm all in, let's do this. I'm on the phone, making those 100 calls a day or whatever it is, I am in it to win it. But yeah, as I got in it some more, I realised, oh, maybe this isn't where I want to be long-term.
Jeremy Cline 15:31
Can you talk a bit more about that? You said how people as a commodity didn't fit in with you. So, how did that kind of manifest itself in the work you were doing and how you were reacting to it?
Kourtney Thomas 15:45
Yeah. So, the process was very much you're the middleman between a company who wants to hire some folks, whether that's temporary or temp to perm, or a permanent position, or whatever it is, doesn't matter, you're this middle person. And I was the one reaching out and talking to people and basically putting it in, 'Hey, I have an opportunity for...' And we've all been job seekers before, when somebody calls you and says, 'I'm considering you', you're like, oh, finally, it's happening, you're very excited, because this is your livelihood. And I would bring people in and even just initially get to know them, if they were a fit, then you're putting them through not only your internal process, but then also the process with the company, with the hiring manager, going through all of that, you're the main point of contact for these people. So, you're spending the most time talking to them, getting to know them, their situation, all that kind of stuff. And you're also then in a position to be the one who gives them all the bad news, whether that's, you didn't get hired, or, oh, they thought this was going to be a long-term thing, but sorry, you're getting fired next week. Or sorry, yeah, you know, this is the end of the term, and no, they didn't end up having an opportunity, or whatever it is. And it was just one too many times of these people just being absolutely crushed. And a lot of times, too, it was in a weird – which again, it's totally out of the control of the staffing firm, for sure. That's why companies hire them. But like, a lot of times it would be to where they had maybe signalled initially in the contract that there could be a longer-term opportunity or something like that. And they just poof up and change their mind. And it just broke my heart so much for these people who were thinking like, 'Oh, I'm gonna have a longer-term opportunity, finally, some stability', you know, like whatever it was. And that was just, that was so hard. And there were people in my office who, they just, they didn't care. They literally saw every person in this system, every employee, whatever, every contractor as just numbers bumping up their weekly commission, and I just, I couldn't see them that way. They're real people. So, like I said, I never expected to learn that about myself necessarily, but that was a key turning point for me to where I did. And I was like, I value people and relationships a lot, and definitely more than money. So, it was huge.
Jeremy Cline 18:08
So, was this about the work that you were doing, and you didn't like being the bearer of bad news and having to crush these people's dreams? Or was it not just about what you were doing, but what the company as a whole was doing? Because you mentioned how there were potentially lots of opportunities. Was there the option of working for the same company, but not necessarily being on the front line in terms of that sort of thing? Or was it just you wanted out of that industry in its entirety?
Kourtney Thomas 18:38
Yeah, out of the industry, for sure. I mean that too, once you get into something, and you do learn a bit more about the industry, and sometimes the company in particular, you sometimes find that there are just things that just don't align with your values. And again, I was definitely learning more about what my true, strong, identified values were, and that just did not jive at all. It's funny, because I'm still connected on LinkedIn or whatever with some of the people from way back when and it just, it doesn't change. It's just the same environment and the same philosophy. And yeah, it's just, it's a necessary service provider out there in the world, but not something that I wanted to do as my career for sure.
Jeremy Cline 19:23
So, that sort of thing didn't match your values. But how were you working out where your values did lie?
Kourtney Thomas 19:30
At the time, it was certainly a function of them revealing themselves to me through life experience, which was, like I said, surprising and interesting. These days, I do that in a much more conscious way. But yeah, at the time, it was, wait a second, I think that this is important to me, and so, now I want to do something around that, or alternatively, don't want to do something that's going to butt up against that. So, I can look back to that, again, that was like a tipping point a little bit for me in my life in general, I think I floated through things thinking I was supposed to do a whole bunch of different things, like basically up until that point. And then that was really a shift for me in taking more ownership and autonomy of certainly myself, but also definitely of my career.
Jeremy Cline 20:17
It's interesting what you said, echoes what a previous guests said about one way of working out what your values are is to look at what's made you angry in the past. Because that's a really good way of figuring out, well, if you're angry about something, if you feel that there's an injustice, then that's a really good indicator as to what you do value and what you do hold dear.
Kourtney Thomas 20:39
Yep, yeah, absolutely. I have a very expansive, determining your values worksheet that I go through with clients. And that's actually one of the reflections in it, is we say, like you said, basically, you know, what is meaningful to you, what do you really believe in, stuff like that, but then also the flip side, like can you think of a time when something, like you said, made you so angry or upset or whatever it was, like in a negative way, what value may have been in conflict at that time, and that too is really helpful a lot of times for people, because I find, at least with a lot of clients initially, there's this kind of pressure to have certain values based on what our society values or maybe what their individual families or friends or communities value. So, it's really hard to separate sometimes. And that kind of opposite reflection around that can be really helpful.
Jeremy Cline 21:32
So, you're going through this phase where you're beginning to identify your values. And you said it was from here that you went into fitness. So, what was it that you went into? And how did that relate to these newly discovered values of yours?
Kourtney Thomas 21:49
Personally, at the same time that I was in this job that I totally hated, I was also really personally finding some stuff that I really loved, which took the form of fitness for me. I did not have any background whatsoever in fitness, I didn't play sports, I hated anything that involved hand-eye coordination, I just, I didn't do any of it. So, 'fitness', like with air quotes, was totally new to me. I had gotten into endurance running. So, at the time, I was actually training for my first half marathon, really enjoyed running, I also had found a group fitness gym, where I did circuit strength training and took spinning classes several times a week and was just really loving it. And I always give my husband the credit, because at the time, he was the one who was like, 'Kourtney, okay, so you're really unhappy in this job, you don't know what to do next. You do know that somebody owns the gym that you go to.' And I was like, I didn't even think about it. Yes, that's true. Just because it was a whole different world to me, I never even thought about it. But I did, I ended up going and talking to the owner of that gym, and he was nice enough to have a meeting with me and sit down for a half an hour or whatever. And I was like, 'Okay, so what does this all even involve? What is this all about?' And he was like, 'Okay, this is a good place to start, this is a good place to start. If I were to hire a personal trainer at my gym, here are some certifications that I would consider. Those might be ones to look into.' That kind of thing. And that really started it. So, then I did, I looked into some certifications. I initially started with my spinning instructor. And then, I got my personal training certification and went from there.
Jeremy Cline 23:22
It's one thing to really enjoy a particular activity, and it's quite another to then decide that you want to start teaching people and training people. And people look at different careers and things that they, I seem to remember a quote from a comedian. It's like, people like comedy, so they think they're going to become a comedian, and it's like people deciding that they like beef burgers, so they're going to decide to become a cow. So, what was it about the training other people aspects that appealed to you? And why did you feel that it was right for you beyond just doing all this stuff, doing your circuit classes and your running and all that kind of thing?
Kourtney Thomas 24:09
Yeah, I think there was definitely an element, which again, really did start to build on these identified values for me, that fitness had, over the course of just those couple of years when I started training, started running, it had really changed so much of my mindset, it had just opened up so many doors for me mentally and emotionally and just really changed a lot as far as, I'm sure it was a trigger for some of these values, and just for finding a lot more meaning beyond this is who you are and what you're supposed to be as XYZ thin white woman in the world, like this is all your value and this is all your worth. Doing this different type of work and feeling it so physically and committing to the work and the schedule and putting thought into the training programme, all that stuff, it just, it felt like this really cool combination of, again, like self-exploration, but also kind of creativity and translating that professionally, like you said, that is, especially with fitness, that is a huge myth, personal trainers do not work out all day. That's not what – they are the trainer. You are the teacher, you are trying to teach someone else how to move their body. That's a challenging thing to do. There are a lot of myths in the fitness industry, but for me, I liked that, that again, it was, for me, it was like this creative thinking challenge of, 'Okay, this person doesn't have the specific body awareness to do XYZ exercise, how can I provide them the right cues, make sure that I'm able to, they're comfortable with me, maybe touching their arm to move it in a certain way or like whatever, how can I adjust this if needed, modify or advance the move?', or whatever it is, that just really was a cool way of taking what I had learned in my body and how it had transformed me into providing that same experience for others. And underlying all of that was all of my hospitality background too, because at the end of the day, you're spending an hour at a time with people, and it's pure customer service the entire time. It just felt like a really cool combination.
Jeremy Cline 26:13
What was the set up? Were you employed by the gym? Or was it like a sort of a self-employed thing, and they just gave you a space in which to operate?
Kourtney Thomas 26:21
So, initially, I started off as an employee at a gym. And this was another, yet another case of being like completely new to an industry, snagging an interview through some connections, them knowing I had zero experience, was completely 1,000% green. And this too, my manager there was like, 'I know you don't have any experience, but we can totally train you on that. And you just, your personality is such a great fit for this, we absolutely want to bring you on board'. So, it was another case of being really enthusiastic and wanting it and showcasing just enough of what they were looking for. And then being teachable, being coachable myself. So, I initially started off for about a year and a half, a little more than that, in a gym as an employee there. And I cannot say enough good about that experience, I was really lucky that it was a gym where, one, it was like a smaller facility and their process was that trainers just got to train, trainers did not have to sell, they did not have to work the floor, the management really took care of that, they brought the clients in and they matched the clients with the coaches. So, that really took that off the table, which was fantastic. So, I basically spent all that time, they had a really good like internal training and learning development programme and stuff like that. So, I got just a ton of training as far as like methodology went and different tools and things like that. But also, I essentially learned how to properly and like effectively conduct a good training session and just got a lot of practice at it. It was a really good environment for that. And then, again, after about that year-and-a-half mark, I started to, I was by that point, like already pretty good at what I was doing, and then, these other things started to kick in again to where it was like, 'Huh, there are a few things here that are just signals to me that this isn't my long-term home, maybe there's another way for me to do this'. I had started to really more firmly develop my own training and coaching philosophy and kind of figuring out who I wanted to work with and how, and started to look to the next steps. And that meant going off on my own and starting my own business.
Jeremy Cline 28:28
Was this not something that you would be able to do in a way which fit in with where you were?
Kourtney Thomas 28:33
Yeah, it was definitely limited. The management philosophy was pretty strict. And also, this particular gym was in like a high-dollar, kind of hoity-toity part of town, all the clients were that way. And I just, it wasn't, definitely all my clients were fantastic, but I also realised I wanted to work with a more diverse group of people, with different mindsets and training goals. So, it was definitely a philosophy mismatch. And also, there wasn't a lot of opportunity for advancement. And I always say, if we're real honest about it, and I again, especially now, 10 years later, I know a lot about the industry, I understand there are operating costs to a business, but at the end of the day, they were charging whatever rate to the client, and I was getting paid a third of that. I get it, you've got overhead and you've got to pay everybody and you gotta pay yourself, but I just knew that I could build a business where I would be able to capture that whole rate myself. And, indeed, that was true.
Jeremy Cline 29:35
Where does the idea of doing this in your own business come from? Were there not other opportunities where you could train the sort of diverse people that you wanted to in a different environment using your own methodology? Could you have done that someplace else? Or did it just inevitably point to, 'No, I'm gonna have to set up my own business if I'm going to do it'?
Kourtney Thomas 29:58
Yeah. In the environment that I was in, the community that I was in, I think that would have been tough. I also was confident that I could really shape it and my service and a brand, if you will, to what I had a vision for. And also, there's a certain element of that whole freedom of working for yourself thing. So, when I did start my business, I started it a 50-50 split between in-person, in-home training, so where I drove to a client's home and conducted sessions in their home gym, and online. I started online eight plus years ago, way before it was a thing, way before COVID forced it to be a thing. There was a huge level of freedom in that. I could say, yeah, I'm only gonna take one more client, because I don't want to drive around town anymore. Like, there were no requirements. Or I could say, well, I'm not going to take any more in-person, but I'm going to take more online, and that's a better investment of my time and money, whatever it was, like there was just more freedom in not only what I wanted to do and brand control and choosing clients and stuff like that, but also being able to like, go on a trip whenever I wanted, you know, not have to put in PTO and find subs for my clients and all of these other things.
Jeremy Cline 31:12
How much were you able to draw on your previous experience? So, in hospitality, in real estate. On the business side of things, did a lot of that translate into starting this business?
Kourtney Thomas 31:24
I think so. Yeah. I think just all those general skills that you learn, yeah, in business school, definitely, for me, like I always say I have a degree in customer service. Like, it's fantastic. You don't have to work in a hotel to work with people. My whole job is working with people and creating an excellent client experience. That's all stuff that I absolutely learned about, but then also did in various ways throughout these other jobs that I held. And also, just when you work for other companies and stuff, you do learn that business setup, that background stuff of, okay, what legal and tax boxes do I need to have checked, what's the best way for me to market and find the people that I want to talk to. What forms do I need to be able to have, all of that kind of stuff. That definitely, I feel like I had an advantage with that. It's actually something that is interestingly a challenge in the fitness industry right now, is that a lot of people, they go to kinesiology school, or they have some type of a degree in biology or like whatever it is, they've got all this training in human anatomy background, but they have zero idea how to actually make money at that, run a business, be a part of a business, do marketing, any of that, so. And there's a huge turnover rate in the fitness industry because of that. So, I think I did have a bit of an advantage.
Jeremy Cline 32:41
What doubts did you have when you were looking at starting your own business? Because I'm sure you must have had some, going from this history of basically being an employee to starting your own business, there must have been some fears and doubts going through your head, presumably, there were some discussions between you and your husband as to whether or not you should go with it. And I don't know whether those were him going, 'Yes, go for it', or him going, 'Just be careful about this', and you going, 'Yeah, okay, I'm gonna go for it', or, 'No, I'm going to be careful about this', which way the dynamic was.
Kourtney Thomas 33:09
Well, he was 1,000% supportive and encouraging. In fact, he was one of the, again, I very much credit him with this, because so many times, I just, if I like people, I'm like, okay, cool, I don't notice these other things. But one of the, like, he planted a seed in my head was, I went through a very, very involved, very difficult and very expensive certification in the last six months that I was employed. It cost me personally like $2,500, or something like that, it was a very, it was a big one. And they gave me a quarter raise, 25 cents an hour raise. And he was like, 'Do you know how long that's gonna take you to make back? That's BS, basically.' He was super supportive of me going on my own. He was like, 'We will figure this out. Like, you can totally do this, you can definitely make the same amount that you're making in income, like, we can figure this out, for sure. And we have a little bit of money that we can put toward getting it started.' I would say that my concerns were a little bit, I don't know what I'm doing. I mean, that kind of imposter syndrome feeling of, I know, but I don't know, I have no idea what's happening or how to do this or any of that. And I think initially, too, I just wasn't sure where I was gonna get clients or how or if I was going to get clients, but the first couple came in the door and everything just fell into place there. I'm sure that you and your, you know, listeners have had this experience of, you get some experience, you gain some confidence, it helps you get more, you kind of keep that momentum. So, luckily for me, within my first year, I felt pretty good about how things were going, and I had a pretty nice ramp up to where it was a short time where I was questioning and not so confident that it was going to work out.
Jeremy Cline 35:01
And if there was anything now which you could tell yourself at that point, what would it be?
Kourtney Thomas 35:08
I don't know. That's a good question. I don't know, I don't feel like I had a bad experience or like I had a ton of barriers or any of that. I think I would just cheer myself on, to be totally honest, like yes, just keep going.
Jeremy Cline 35:24
That in itself I think would be pretty valuable.
Kourtney Thomas 35:27
Jeremy Cline 35:28
How has this then evolved into, so, the other kind of coaching, the career coaching and life coaching? How has that come about?
Kourtney Thomas 35:35
Yeah, so I mentioned that I was doing in-person, in-home training with women. So, what that really meant was, I was going into people's homes, anywhere from one to three times a week, I was seeing not only their house, their just environment, I was meeting their kiddos and playing with their kids during sessions, meeting their pets and cats and dogs and whatever, a lot of times, their partners, sometimes other family members, and just really getting to see and understand their world. And I would say that I was still definitely new career, a few years into fitness and coaching. And in the very beginning, this is oftentimes where a lot of trainers and, you know, fitness professionals fall, like where you get your training, you get your certifications, and everything's supposed to be so regimented, like, this is so important, getting your workout in and eating clean and being active, and, like, this is so important. And there's one way to do this and just commit and like consistency is queen, and all this kind of stuff. And what I really started to see was that, that stuff is just such a small part of the picture. It's just such a small piece of the puzzle. It's important, and I truly believe in the power of fitness and movement and exercise, and whatever health looks like for you. But that was a key. It just, it can't be regimented. You have to meet people where they're at. And I just was seeing that, especially for women, like, our bodies do not exist in a vacuum, and how we feel about our bodies does not exist in a vacuum, it affects, again, our relationships, our parenting, our how we show up at work, how we show up just in the world, all of these things are very intertwined. And I really just started to see that there was so much more to this whole, a holistic picture of overall wellbeing. And it started to get reflected back to me, too, that what we were doing in the sessions was also a broader thing. Like, I would get a lot of feedback from clients that was like, 'Listen, I love you coming over and doing a workout, and don't get me wrong, I'm gonna keep doing that. And that's great. But that conversation that we had last week, or that email that you sent me or that book that you recommended or whatever, holy cow, that is blowing my mind, that is totally changing how I'm thinking, and I can't get it out of my head. And that was so helpful.' And so, I just kept getting this feedback that basically was telling me, 'Huh, I'm doing a lot more coaching than just this strictly training piece of it.' And so, I started to lean into that a bit more and dove off into doing some reading and research and stuff on my end of things and also just incorporating my life experience, my client experiences and relationships with them and just leaning a bit more into that and starting to play with offering some different content. And then, it became different services that were more coaching and mindset and kind of career and success-based and stuff like that. And that turned out to be a great direction. And I got a lot of interest there and it's just evolved over time.
Jeremy Cline 38:50
What does your business look like now? Can you compartmentalise it in terms of this amount of coaching, this amount of fitness training? Or is it just one amorphous mass that comes under the heading of coaching and incorporates all this other stuff?
Kourtney Thomas 39:06
It's like the worst business thing to say ever. But yeah, it's more nebulous than it is defined, which again, like all the, I'm sure all of the business coaches out there would say, 'Oh, that's terrible'. Everybody's different, and it works for me. So, I will say this, that I can, at this point, I can separate into sort of two buckets, the coaching that I do. One being what I do call Choose Your Own Adventure coaching, and that kind of is this space of, like I mentioned earlier, women who are, 'I just need to figure this stuff out. And it's some mindset, it's some confidence. I think there might be some career element in here, but I need support. I need a partner to get me out of my own head, because I'm too up in my own head. I need somebody to help me sort through this.' And I'm really good at that. What that ends up being is, pretty much every client, whether they're struggling with something career, or it's more general life or whatever, we start with about the same five to six guided journaling reflection worksheets. That's the really bulk of how I work with clients. And it is stuff like we talked about. It's like the values identification. It's working through some identity stuff. It's working through some conditioning and stories. And if they're career focused, it's going to be, what do things look like now, what does ideal look like, some of those things. So, we start with this foundation. And then from there, we again, choose your own adventure. And if they're like, 'Oh my gosh, this one piece of things, I really want to go further into that', like, great, we go in that direction then and keep sorting through in that area. And what inevitably happens, no matter where people are starting, we kind of go through that foundational stuff, we dig a little bit deeper into things. And then typically, toward the end of our engagement, we're able to really find a focus and determine some clear priorities and really put some shape around that, of what are the next best steps that are going to get you moving toward your vision, toward what you're wanting to move toward, basically. And then, the other side of things has been that marriage of the coaching stuff, and also the fitness background. So, I'm no longer doing fitness programming, like taking personal training clients, basically. I'm not doing that anymore. But that work has essentially morphed into kind of this body image and body acceptance programming. So, I do have a, it's a curriculum-based programme, actually. So, it's pretty, it's fairly structured and it's definitely, it goes deep as well. It is a, it is challenging work, for sure. But it's more around, rather than telling people what to do with their bodies, which is mostly what fitness and diet culture does, it is backing off of that, getting out of this mindset of, 'My body is a problem and I need to fix it, there's something wrong with me, and if I just do XYZ, then I will feel better', backing out of that mindset into, okay, what does this look like, how do I want to feel, how can I just come to not necessarily all the way to this place of body positivity or any of that, because that can be really overwhelming, just how can I get to a place of, this is me today, and now what do I want to do, how do I want to do it? There's a lot of encouragement of experimentation with, what kind of exercise do you like? Do you even know what kind of exercise do you like, are you just forcing yourself to do whatever kind of class or gym workout or running or whatever? But if you hate it, maybe let's try to find something that you like and figure out how to fit that into your life. And so, it's taking all that expertise of how I've helped clients in the past through that process, and putting a bit more shape around that. So, it's like, those two buckets right now of whatever you need in coaching with support, and also, then the body image side of things.
Jeremy Cline 42:42
And if the past 12 to 18 months has taught us anything, it's that long-term plans can very quickly go out the window. But leaving that aside, what are your plans for the business? Where do you hope your business will be in say, five years' time, 10 years' time?
Kourtney Thomas 42:57
I have done, as you said, in the last 12 to 18 months or so, a lot of reflection on this for sure. And right now, anyway, you're asking me today, my answer is more of the same. I really, I've been doing this for eight years. And as I mentioned, it's been very much an evolution to where it was all the personal training, and then it was some more coaching together, and then there was one point when I stepped completely away from even thinking about fitness, and I went all into career and mindset coaching, and then I swung the pendulum back, and now I've led – so I've been through all these different iterations of how that looks and how I was packaging services and offerings and all this different kind of stuff. And I really feel like, last year I did arrive at this place of, I think this is the best, this is what I want to do. I'm really loving it. My clients are having incredible transformations and experiences, we're really connecting, the people who are my imaginary ideal clients or whatever, they're finding me, we're connecting, I like the way that I'm incorporating fitness and body image work and disrupting on that side of my industry. I like the offerings I have, so more of the same. One-on-one is really my jam. I do a very small group once a year, but I'm okay with that. I've also identified very much what my enough is, as far as how much I want to work and how much financially that looks like for me. And I don't need to scale to a billion people or turn everything into passive income or whatever. The passion of what I do and my vision and my meaning definitely comes from that, from more of the one-on-one client relationships. I like where I'm at, and I have capacity for a bit of growth. And I'm fine with that. If I could get to that place and maintain it, I think I would be very happy and still have that freedom that I mentioned of why I started the business in the first place.
Jeremy Cline 44:51
I'm sure that you have a ton of resources to which you refer your clients and you mentioned that you've done that and also that have helped you. Do any one or two particularly come to mind that you think is worth sharing?
Kourtney Thomas 45:01
It's funny because I actually, even though I'm like sort of in this field or adjacent to it, or whatever, I am like not a big personal development, self-help, whatever reader or any of that stuff. So, I would say my biggest things that I always recommend to people, and that have been total life changers for me in all of the ways is definitely investing in going to conferences. Whether that's industry stuff, or trainings, or it's more general, like leadership, or if you want to go to a spiritual retreat, whatever it is, going to things like that, which again, as you mentioned, these days might look a little bit different, but when that's available to us, that has, I've consistently done that throughout the period of owning my business, and it has been huge, because you're connecting with people, you're in a learning environment. I've learned more from that stuff than I ever have from a million books. I also have been a part of a Mastermind for many years. And there were like five women business owners in total different areas and different industries and all of that, that's been huge, having people that, like, they get it, but they're also not too close to you. I find that there are a lot of, there's certainly a ton of paid masterminds, you know, out there these days, but we just created one that it was like group of acquaintances, and one of the women organised it and we put some parameters around it. And it's been fantastic. And I would say that something that I recommend to a lot of clients is the book Mindset by Carol Dweck. I don't know if you've read that one. It's fantastic. That to me was, it was less of like a book you'd refer back to or any of that, but more of like hugely insightful for myself, and then really changed how I was able to approach some of the things that maybe weren't my strong suits. I definitely was a fixed mindset person for my whole life. And it opened up like, oh, okay, here's the perspective, here's my fixed mindset talking, I can go into growth mode. And other than that, my favourite resources, I know I'm babbling a lot of things here, but are actually email lists. I have a few people that I regularly read their weekly emails, and they're always really helpful. James Clear, I don't know if you're familiar with him. So, his book Atomic Habits is huge. I actually, okay, going back to talking about conferences, I actually met James at a conference several years ago. He's fantastic. This was way before Atomic Habits was a thing. Great guy, signed up for his email list way back then, before the book, before he was an international superstar. And it was just like a guy from Indiana, or Ohio, I think. Anyway, I've been on his email list forever. And it is so useful. He's transitioned it over the last year or so to, it's called like a 3-2-1 newsletter. And so, he gives you three thoughts from himself that he has shared on Twitter or whatever, two quotes and one question. And it's so useful, like he, and he's often sharing quotes or something from a book. So, you're getting a book recommendation, or that kind of a thing. And I also really love, there's a blog called Raptitude. David Cain is the writer. And it's just, talk about mindset and mindfulness. He does like a mindfulness bootcamp thing, like a couple of times a year, it just always makes me think. It's often one of those emails to where I actually hit reply, and I'm like, 'This, I needed this so much.' So, actually, some of these email lists are the ones that I'm like, 'Oh, yes, I can't wait. Here it is.' That's really good. And that's an ongoing thing, versus you read a book and you set it aside on your shelf forever.
Jeremy Cline 48:44
That's fantastic. That's really encouraging, actually, because you wonder about email lists. A lot of people will say, 'No, I don't need any more email.' But it's good to know that there is stuff out there which is really useful, and which we're finding helpful. So, I'll put links to all of that in the show notes. Where can people find you? Where can they get hold of you?
Kourtney Thomas 49:00
I am pretty easy, directly on my website is definitely the best way to get me, it's kourtneythomas.com, Kourtney with a K. Talking about email, that's really big, definitely. My email list is like my heart on the web. I am very consistent with once-a-week emails, and just sharing a lot of really good stuff, you can sign up for my email list. Alternatively, on my website, you can get to me directly too, and I don't even have an assistant or any of that stuff. If you want to email me or set up a call or whatever, like, I will be the one to respond. I'm not on social media anymore. So, that's really the biggest thing. I am on LinkedIn, because I feel like that kind of doesn't count. That's like your resume on the internet. But yeah, no longer on social. So, it's pretty much just direct on my website.
Jeremy Cline 49:44
Fantastic. I'll also put that link in the show notes.
Kourtney Thomas 49:47
Jeremy Cline 49:48
Kourtney, fascinating to hear about your story. A lot to take in. Thank you so much for coming on.
Kourtney Thomas 49:53
Thanks for having me.
Jeremy Cline 49:55
Okay, hope you enjoyed that interview with Kourtney Thomas. Kourtney is such a bundle of infectious enthusiasm, I can see how just through sheer force of personality, she may have ended up landing jobs where you'd have thought, well, she doesn't have the qualifications or the experience. But I don't think that necessarily means you have to have the same personality as Kourtney in order to land these sorts of jobs. You've just got to have the right personality. As Kourtney said, there's something to be said for really wanting a job. And if you can identify what they're looking for, and if you can identify the type of personality that they want, and you personally have that type of personality, then you don't necessarily need to be held back by a lack of experience or qualifications.
Jeremy Cline 50:40
Kourtney mentioned quite a few resources at the end there, and I'll put links to all of those in the show notes for this episode, as well as details where you can find Kourtney and the usual transcript and summary of everything we talked about. And they will be at changeworklife.com/90, nine zero. We've got a really interesting interview next week. I've spoken to a lot of people who have moved from being an employee to starting their own business. But next week's guest has actually gone the other way. He had his own business, he was a fully-fledged entrepreneur, but he then sold out of that and went back to being an employee. It's a perspective that we haven't covered before and I think you'll get a lot of interest and a lot of value out of that interview. So, do make sure you subscribe, so you don't miss it. And I can't wait to see you then. Cheers. Bye.
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