Franchisee Spotlight: Nikki Taylor
August 2, 2022
An Interview With Pirie Jones Grossman
Many successful people reinvented themselves at a later period in their lives. Jeff Bezos worked on Wall Street before he reinvented himself and started Amazon. Sara Blakely sold office supplies before she started Spanx. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a WWE wrestler before he became a successful actor and filmmaker. Arnold Schwarzenegger went from a bodybuilder, to an actor to a Governor. McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc was a milkshake-device salesman before starting the Mcdonald's franchise in his 50's.
How does one reinvent themselves? What hurdles have to be overcome to take life in a new direction? How do you overcome those challenges? How do you ignore the naysayers? How do you push through the paralyzing fear?
In this series called “Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life “ we are interviewing successful people who reinvented themselves in a second chapter in life, to share their stories and help empower others.
As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nikki Taylor.
Nikki Taylor is the owner and operator of British Swim School Flatirons. Being in business for five years, she just opened her fifth location in April of 2022. Residing in Boulder, Colorado, Nikki and her husband also operate a short-term rental company and a Doggie Daycare business in the area. Nikki attended Missouri State University, majoring in marketing and sales. She moved to Colorado in 2003 to pursue her dream of living close to the Rocky Mountains to enjoy her love of snowboarding, hiking, camping, and exploring the beautiful state. She and her husband also share a passion for travel and music.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
Thank you so much for the opportunity to tell my story. I’m grateful for this journey, which has not been an easy one by any means. It was a challenge that took perseverance and bravery not to be defeated but rather to turn my business from surviving to thriving.
I grew up in Missouri — a small-town girl. It was a wonderful childhood filled with camping, boating, and horseback riding with my dad, who I am heartbroken to say I lost this year. I am a Daddy’s girl through and through and have followed in his footsteps throughout my life.
My father was a very hard-working and driven individual, successful in business yet generous and kind to anyone who knew him. He was always by my side cheering me on, and I attribute my determination to never give up to his influence and genuine character. I strive to measure up to the man who raised me, a true saint.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“I was taught a month ago
To bide my time and take it slow
But then I learned just yesterday
To rush and never waste the day
Now I’m convinced the whole day long
That all I learn is always wrong
And things are true that I forget
But no one taught that to me yet.”
This quote has always inspired me in many ways. It holds various deep and profound meanings. These are some bullet points on how I interpret this:
- Take your time, think about decisions, respect everyone, and enjoy life because it goes fast, so don’t rush through it.
- Have a strong work ethic and work hard for your dreams. Everything in this world takes a lot of hard work to be successful.
- Not everything you know is always right or perfect. Always be willing to change your opinion or view based on new information you learn.
- Some things you learn become less important over time, which is okay. There is so much I don’t know because I have not been educated about it yet.
- Be humble and open-minded.
I thought I knew a lot until I bought this business, and then quickly realized I had much to learn and new skill sets to develop.
I learned to think with a 360-degree view. I feel like it was only 180 degrees previously. This involved thinking about my decisions in a broader scope. Understanding how these decisions would impact other people and processes within my company is incredibly important. No one is perfect, including myself, so I always strive to know more and continue to grow.
You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
It’s funny you should ask this, as my husband (and business partner) asked me this very question recently. Initially, I was perplexed to answer. He then answered it for me with the word “grit.” To have grit, you have passion and perseverance toward your goals. Having a goal, you care about it so much that it gives meaning to almost everything you do. Grit is about powering through to that vision over time, even when you fall and mess up… many, many times.
Along with grit, I am a team player. I have done every role in this company, from teaching swim lessons to working customer service. Having the ability and knowledge to do every role gives me the confidence in knowing I can handle anything that comes my way. It also shows my staff that I would never ask them to do something I’m not willing to do myself.
Lastly, I am compassionate. Running a service-based business, I am only as successful as the people I surround myself with. I’ve learned over the years that I can’t do it on my own. The best leaders are master delegators. I treat my staff as I want to be treated, with respect and empathy. I care for every individual on my staff like family, a characteristic I got from my father. This goes a long way when it comes to staff retention. I’ve worked very hard to create a culture they are excited to be a part of. I have employees that have been with me for years. Even some part-time roles have long tenures. I have built relationships with many members of my team that I’d even call friends.
An example of how I’ve created an environment that my staff has come to appreciate is a robust medical healthcare and retirement package (even for part-time staff)! In addition, we offer PTO to everyone, as well as a health and wellness plan to support their mental and physical well-being. Everyone especially enjoys our frequent staff events, taking them out of the pool environment to connect in the community while doing something fun.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about “Second Chapters.” Can you tell our readers about your career experience before your Second Chapter? And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?
I was in sales my whole life, and I worked in advertising and marketing as my last role prior to retiring from corporate America in 2017 to start this business venture. Although a lucrative career for five years, I was not happy and did not feel rewarded. At the same time, my husband and I were looking for an investment opportunity when we discovered British Swim School. It provided a sound investment while fulfilling a professional need I had been missing. I knew nothing about running a business or managing a staff, weaknesses I discovered quite quickly. Fortunately, the franchisor’s support and my relationships with many of the other owners have proven extremely valuable. This has helped me improve business processes and apply that knowledge over time.
Can you tell us about the specific trigger that made you decide that you were going to “take the plunge” and make your huge transition?
I decided to leave my advertising job at ABC Denver7 to pursue this opportunity for several reasons. Having the freedom to make my own schedule to do something on my own while leaving the corporate grind was very appealing to me. I was good at what I was doing in sales and marketing but was making money for other people. It is extremely rewarding to be able to be fully independent, working for myself and dictating my own destiny and dream come true.
What did you do to discover that you had a new skill set inside of you that you haven’t been maximizing?
When I started my business, I oversaw pretty much everything! I have done every role in this business. I was operations manager, ensuring daily operations were running smoothly. I recruited and onboarded all the staff as the Human Resources Manager. I trained, mentored, and led a team of swim instructors in the British Swim School methods as the Aquatics Manager. I managed inbound and outbound customer calls and emails to increase enrollments and revenue as the Customer Service Manager. When we were short-staffed, I even taught the swim lessons as a Swim Instructor. These roles have given me the ability to walk in the shoes of every individual who works for me. A deep understanding of how to successfully operate a business from the ground up.
How did you find that, and how did you ultimately overcome the barriers to help manifest those powers? Managing day-to-day operations and performing those skills consistently?
At first, it was extremely challenging. I had no idea how to do most of the roles I just mentioned, so I had to experience many ups and downs of the business. I failed many times. I pressed forward. I would get back up, dust myself off, and get back on the horse again. I learned from every mistake, putting new systems in place each time. Over time, this began to build my confidence in my abilities to run a successful and profitable business.
How are things going with this new initiative? We would love to hear some specific examples or stories.
Capacity Benchmarks: We are hosting over 3,000 lessons per month across our five locations.
2019–2021 is up 175%, and we expect to see this type of growth for the next 24 months.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful toward who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I attribute much of my success, personal growth, and development to my husband and business partner, Rob. He provided a support system for me that would challenge me to want to be better. He coached and mentored me through every hurdle I encountered, no matter how long it took. Upon opening the British Swim School business, he was instrumental in helping me become a better business manager. He is quite successful in his own right, so he guided me along the way in so many different areas of running a business. From hiring staff to communicating more effectively, he has been my greatest advocate. He believed in me from day one, having no doubt I could turn this business into a profitable one. He’s a brilliant business consultant and life partner. I’m blessed to have him by my side.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
COVID! We were thrown for a loop, as so many other businesses were. We had to close our three locations for a significant amount of time at the height of the pandemic. Looking back on it now, the entire experience was a blessing in disguise.
Being able to close our various locations that were floundering and hit the reset button in June of 2020 was just what we needed. When we re-opened, we took it slow to ensure everything was done in the safest way possible, which was crucial to our success.
We were able to focus on one location, and we reached our goal of 75% capacity within six weeks of re-opening. Three months after opening our first location, we opened our second location, and today we have five locations. I am so grateful for the time I had to reevaluate what wasn’t working and change it for the better.
Did you ever struggle with believing in yourself? If so, how did you overcome that limiting belief about yourself? Can you share a story or example?
I think we all doubt ourselves at one point or another in our lives. After gaining the courage to leave my stable job at a large network, I certainly had my doubts if it was the right decision. Especially embarking on a new journey in a completely different field. Having a network of friends and family I could confide in was so important. Sharing the struggles of owning a small business with like-minded people with similar difficulties helped me realize I wasn’t alone. It felt like we were all in this together.
In my own work, I usually encourage my clients to ask for support before they embark on something new. How did you create your support system before you moved to your new chapter?
I was fortunate enough to have had a built-in support system with The British Swim School team. They helped educate me on the industry, how to run a franchise effectively, and how to become competitive in our market. I was thrilled to see so many other franchisees willing to offer words of advice to a new owner. It truly feels like a family. One I can count on for years to come.
Starting a new chapter usually means getting out of your comfort zone, how did you do that? Can you share a story or example of that?
As I mentioned, working at the same company for so many years I was most definitely comfortable. But I knew something was missing. I had a passion and drive to start something of my own. I took a leap of faith and handed in my resignation. It felt great to finally dive into something with passion and purpose.
Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Tips” you wish someone told you before you embarked on your new chapter?
Five tips I wish someone told me before launching my own business are:
- Set a work-life balance. For me, this was a goal I set for myself early on and is very important to me, not only for myself but for my staff as well. I recruit and develop talented individuals within the organization who are trusted to make decisions on their own. I do not micro-manage. Every manager has been promoted from within, and the staff sees this as an opportunity for anyone to become successful as our company grows. This staff empowerment has resulted in an overall feeling of well-being and accomplishment throughout the organization!
- Recognize the growth potential of the program, build a business plan, and stick to it.
- Lean on other successful owners who have walked in these shoes before and learn from them.
- Learn from your mistakes. I have learned to embrace mistakes when they happen because this is an opportunity for personal growth and self-reflection.
- Willingness to be coached. This is a BIG one. Working with my husband was extremely challenging over the years. Initially, I was very defensive with feedback. It was very difficult to be critiqued by my partner. Separating our personal life and business relationship was key. Being open to feedback from him as a business consultant helped me see my imperfections, own them, and always be growing and developing.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in business, VC funding, sports, and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the U.S., with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. :-)
Of course! Role models are so important, and I especially respect those who overcame great challenges in business, much like myself. If I could have a private sit down with Elon Musk, that would be incredible. I respect him because everything he has ever done he has been told he couldn’t achieve. He proved them wrong time and time again. I think it would be fascinating to have a conversation with him. People are saying he can’t get to Mars, but I’ll be curious to see if he proves them wrong again.
To read the full article, click here.