Barbara Chancey

You only get one shot at every season of life. Whether or not you learned anything becomes evident in the seasons that follow.


You only get one shot at every season of life. Whether or not you learn anything becomes evident in the seasons that follow.

As a respected leader, innovator and pioneer in the boutique fitness industry, Barbara consults with more than 200 studio owners worldwide who have put their trust and reputation in her hands.

Internationally, Barbara has launched cutting-edge cycling and fitness studios in Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Brunei, Bahrain, Lebanon, the Cayman Islands and Kuwait. Each unique project is design-led and inspired by the local culture. With meticulous attention to detail, Indoor Cycle Design combines form and function to eliminate costly mistakes and bring each client’s vision to life.

Offering two decades of real-world experience, Barbara’s energy and vision are contagious. She provides all aspects of a thriving studio including turnkey services, business plans, architectural drawings, branding and operations to deliver a successful, extraordinary fitness destination.

Where did the idea for your company come from?

Criticism was the driving force which launched Indoor Cycle Design, and three life-changing moments helped create a competitive edge.

The first moment came in 1996 when a tennis coach lambasted my speed and endurance. He suggested Spinning classes could improve fitness, and from the first pedal stroke I was addicted. A year later I began teaching indoor cycling at a local health club where the manager’s brutally negative feedback challenged me to acquire multiple certifications and study under the world’s best instructors.

The second moment occured when I realized that the poor condition of the cycling studio was affecting the riders’ experience. I offered the health club owner a win-win proposition to remodel the studio at my expense, and if membership did not increase by 30%, no reimbursement was expected. Armed with a nail gun, a table saw and gallons of donated paint and supplies, I worked every night after the gym closed and created a mind-boggling transformation. Within six months, every bike in every class was booked and membership doubled.

The third and most critical moment came after I launched a website offering consulting and design services for indoor cycling studios. After meeting a potential client to pitch my services, his words to me became a catalyst for change: “Your knowledge is incredible and creativity unparalleled, but your website is unprofessional and does not represent the person I just met. Is this a hobby or a business? Call me in three months when you know the difference.”

I accepted the criticism of others as a much-needed gift that motivated me to exceed the potential they saw in me.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Unlike those who exercise in the morning, I prefer an hour of fitness midday to stay clear-headed, positive and productive. With international clients in different time zones, my schedule is erratic and video meetings at 9 p.m. or 2 a.m. are not unusual. Coffee and replying to the most urgent emails start the day, followed by calls to my team and clients.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Because each studio is unique, I present new ideas to avoid cookie-cutter design and help clients rise above the competition. This also prevents my team’s stagnation and expands the horizon of possibilities. Forward-thinking owners are eager to weave these innovative ideas into their studio design.

What’s one trend that excites you?

The growing awareness that addiction to cell phones is preventing innovation. The art of human interaction is returning, and when phones are turned off and out of sight in meetings and restaurants, amazing ideas surface.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I’m in a constant state of evolution and always thinking ahead. Innovation doesn’t just come from technology. It also comes from places like art, food and music, and is linked to human experiences.

What advice would you give your younger self?

You only get one shot at every season of life. Whether or not you learn anything becomes evident in the seasons that follow. If you’re stuck in a meaningless job, be hungry and learn everything possible to prepare yourself for what lies ahead.

During my season working for a large corporation in a boring job, I should have taken the initiative to learn from the accounting, marketing and purchasing departments. From the mail room to the executive floor, I regret not meeting everyone in the organization and understanding their role in the overall success of the company.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Stop attending seminars and reading too many books on how to become an entrepreneur. Hustle cannot be taught or bought, and it’s the one common trait of successful startups.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I evaluate my performance against my potential. Because annual performance reviews and bonuses are not part of an entrepreneur’s world, I create imaginary goals and reward myself when achieved. As both the boss and employee, it’s a little game I play to keep momentum strong.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

I bartered studio design and donated consulting services to establish a client base and hone my skills. Writing articles and providing guest posts without payment was a strategy to gain credibility. I even offered to be a contributing columnist for an equestrian magazine (I’m terrified of horses!) providing tips on rider fitness – simply to get published. Other outlets then accepted my submissions, and these stepping-stones led to speaking requests and workshops on boutique fitness design.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

My naïve assumption that all people pay their bills caused financial setbacks. A few clients wiggled out of the balance due because my consulting agreement was poorly written. I hired a business attorney to add appropriate language which solved the problem.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Please invent a magic wand to wave over food to indicate if spoilage exists. Anyone who travels frequently has experienced stomach woes from improper food storage, and this device would be most appreciated!

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I recently paid a proofreader $100 to review a press release. Professional eyes will catch grammatical mistakes, and redundant, unclear copy is not acceptable when trying to compete with larger firms.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

Upwork. Because I don’t have a full time staff and need a variety of project deliverables quickly, this freelance service has proven invaluable.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

As Walmart founder Sam Walton said, “There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”

Your entire organization should read:The Nordstrom Way: The Inside Story of America’s #1 Customer Service Company,by Robert Spector and Patrick D. McCarthy.

What is your favorite quote?

“Your smile is your logo, your personality is your business card, but how you leave others feeling after an experience with you becomes your trademark.”

—Jay Danzie

Key learnings:

  • It’s better to be kind than to be right. While winning the argument may prove your point, a true entrepreneur focuses on relationships — not pride or knowledge or success.
  • Success doesn’t make anything easier. Success just raises the stakes and brings the pressure of maintaining success. There is far more pressure at the top of an organization than you might imagine.
  • The questions that you ask over and over reveal what’s most important to you.
  • Break the habit of writing a long email to say you’re too busy to respond to a short question. Change the email subject line when the message changes. Avoid overusing the word “I” and eliminate all unnecessary words and rambling.
  • Inconsistency and a “hit or miss” attitude can undermine your success. Policies important in the beginning, such as sending a handwritten thank you note to new clients, are part of your brand and should not be optional. Never forget the little things. Ever.