Ex-Corporate Accountant, Woman Weightlifting Champion and Entrepreneur, Parisa Hayeri, is an inspiration and a force not to be reckoned with! I recently sat down with Parisa in her Sydney based gym, CrossFit 168- Kingsgrove, to talk all things business, weightlifting and future goals!
1. FIRST THINGS FIRST, HOW DID YOU ESTABLISH YOUR BUSINESS? WHAT GAVE YOU THE CONFIDENCE TO START AND HOW DID YOU KNOW THE TIMING WAS RIGHT?
I started my business in 2016. Prior to this I was running a similar business with two partners for three years. When the partnership came to an end I knew I wanted to stay in the industry and was even more certain I didn’t want to work for anyone else. After six months of research and preparation, and with the right people alongside me, I was able to open CrossFit 168 in June 2016.
In the previous business, I had done everything from marketing, to finances, to customer relations, to cleaning, and coaching. I felt confident that I knew enough (not all) about the back-end side of things that I could run my own business. Of course, there were hiccups and obstacles along the way but that’s the nature of business.
2. WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BECOME A WOMAN WEIGHTLIFTER?
I became exposed to weightlifting through CrossFit training and after the initial fears of getting ‘too bulky’ disappeared, I fell in love with the sport. A few people had suggested that I try a competition as my numbers were decent, so I did, and the love and obsession for the sport grew from there. I feel most confident and powerful when I’m lifting, and so I suppose that was the inspiration. I saw each competition as a challenge and a door that led to the next challenge. Competing gave me a goal to focus on and something to work towards. It’s very satisfying being able to work so hard and obsess over something and cross the goals off the list.
3. WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF THE KEY CHALLENGES YOU HAVE FACED BEING A WOMAN IN THE CROSSFIT/ WEIGHTLIFTING INDUSTRY?
To be honest, as an athlete or business owner there haven’t been any major challenges that I’ve faced (as a woman). The only challenges that come to mind have been from a coaching perspective. There have been a few occasions where a male member hasn’t taken me too seriously as a coach and ignored me. In these situations, I tend to demo a movement on a weight that’s heavier than what the member is capable of doing (in a non-patronizing way of course)! and that usually works. From then on, I have their undivided attention.
4. WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR MORNING RITUALS? HOW DO YOU TYPICALLY SPEND THE FIRST 60-90 MINUTES OF YOUR DAY?
This will depend on what day of the week it is. On the mornings that I coach, my alarm goes off at 5:20am. I get up, get ready and go to work for my first class at 6am. These are most productive days as I’m a far better worker first thing in the morning.
On the days where I don’t coach at 6am, I get a bit of a sleep in. I’m up at 7am, have breakfast and plan out my day. Check emails and compile a to-do list and try to stick to that list as closely as possible. I would love to incorporate meditation and reading into my morning routine and get up earlier on the days I don’t coach.
5. HOW DO YOU MANAGE YOUR WORKLOAD AND COMPETING PRIORITIES? HOW DO YOU KNOW WHAT PROJECTS TO TAKE ON?
Between 2015-2017 my goals were centered around competing, with the end goal being to make it to the Commonwealth Games Trials in December 2017. These were the toughest three years in terms of time management, because I had made a conscious decision to put competing first. Anything that was going to help me reach that goal took priority. I trained two hours a day five day a week, some days two sessions a day, and would take one to two nights a week off work so that I could train with my own coach. In the end it all paid off because I made it to Trials, however during this time the business took a back seat and was not able to grow as it would have, had it been my priority.
This year my main focus and priority is my business. I made the decision to have a break from competing so that I could put all my focus and energy into growing my business and can see the different straight away.
The most important thing when it comes to juggling projects, workload and priorities is having a very, very clear understanding of what your goals are. Based on that you can make much better decisions and manage your time and workload better.
6. HOW DO YOU STAY MOTIVATED AND INSPIRED IN YOUR WORK? WHAT DO YOU DO IF YOU ARE IN A SLUMP?
Books and podcasts! The Tim Ferris podcast is a favourite at the moment, and the interview with Joe Gebbia (Co-Founder Airbnb) has by far been the most impactful. These get the creative juices flowing and definitely motivate me.
I also tend to fall into a slump when I’m run down. I think as a business owner it’s so important not to overwork. A big misconception I had was that as a business owner, you have to do everything. Initially this is what I tried to do but quickly realised I would not last. As soon as I was financially able to, I hired a coach and gave myself one night a week off. That turned to two nights, then two nights and a morning. This allows me to recharge, disconnect from the business for a bit (crucial when you’re spending 13-15 hours a day at work) and stay fresh and motivated.
7. WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST HIGHLIGHT TO DATE AS A WOMAN IN BUSINESS?
I can’t pinpoint one particular moment, but if you had asked me 10 years ago if I would be running my own business, I would have laughed. The thought would have never crossed my mind because I would have been way too scared. The 9-5 accounting world was my comfort zone and that’s where I planned on staying.
There is something about sport and weightlifting in particular that gave me confidence I never had. This has resulted in a fearless approach when it comes to business. Everything is a possibility, everything is an option and there is no “it can’t be done”. Challenges are no longer scary but welcomed, and I think that complete change in mindset is my biggest highlight. The business is still a baby and not even two years in yet, so I’m looking forward to many milestones in the future!
8. HOW HAS A FAILURE OR PERCEIVED FAILURE SET YOU UP FOR LATER SUCCESS?
Two occasions come to mind – one in training and one in business, and both lessons crossover into life. In training, I had failed two competitions in a row. The first was a small local comp and the second was a few months later, at the Australian International Open in Brisbane. At both comps I bombed and walked away with a total score of zero next to my name. This was the closest I had come to quitting weightlifting but some wise words from my Coach, Steve Tikkanen and husband Aladdin convinced me otherwise. We knew why I bombed and what my weakness was, and so we worked and worked until the weakness was eventually a strength. We later went on to win gold at the Australian National Championships in 2017 and I haven’t bombed since.
The second perceived failure was just before I was about to open my business. One of my closest friends and former business partner was going to go into business with me. We had done all the research and arranged to meet the Accountant to go through all the formalities. The day before we were due to meet with the Accountant, my business partner pulled out. At the time I thought it was the worst thing that could have happened.
Today I look back and can see that it was the best possible outcome for the both of us. He is hugely successful with his own work and I’m running the second branch of CrossFit 168 in Kingsgrove with my business partner Dean. At the time it seemed like a failure and huge set back, but everything worked out better than I could have imagined, and I would not change a thing.
9. IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help! This is something I’m not very good at because I feel like I will trouble people or inconvenience them, but I’m starting to realise that this is far from the truth. People are more than happy to lend a helping hand, you end up building some great relationships, and more often than not you can return the favour down the track!
10. WHAT IS ONE PIECE OF ADVICE YOU WOULD GIVE TO BUDDING ENTREPRENEURS LOOKING TO START A BUSINESS?
Do your research and get involved! If you’re thinking about starting something, get involved in that industry. If you want to open your own cafe, build a connection with local cafe owners. If you want to open your own gym, connect with gym owners and spend some time with them. Get to know the ins and outs on a first-hand basis from the people that know, because they’ve gone through it. You can read all the books and listen to all the podcasts, but nothing beats first-hand experience.
11. WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MANTRAS YOU LIVE BY? DO YOU HAVE ANY FAVOURITE QUOTES OR SAYINGS?
Anything can be learned if you obsess over it. This is something I learned through weightlifting and I now apply to everyday life. I started competing at the sport at the age of 27 with no prior sporting background, and was able to reach a high level through nothing but hard work, sacrifice and determination. If I could achieve that I can achieve anything as long as I am willing to put in the work and make the necessary sacrifices. Something along the lines of “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right”- Henry Ford.
12. WHERE TO FROM HERE? WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UPCOMING PROJECTS AND GOALS?
Grow CrossFit 168 Kingsgrove. Open a second gym. Learn to play an instrument or a second language (not sure which one yet)!
FOLLOW PARISA HAYERI
Instagram (Personal) @parisahayeri
Instagram (Business) @crossfit168_kingsgrove