This Founder Shares How to Tailor Your Schedule to Fit Your Brain
Editor’s Note: Entrepreneur’s “20 Questions" series features both established and up-and-coming entrepreneurs and asks them a number of questions about what makes them tick, their everyday success strategies and advice for aspiring founders.
Carrie Dorr is on a mission to help everyone find physical and mental balance.
In 2001, Dorr opened her first fitness studio. It was a 600-square-foot space that had been the home to the building’s cleaning supplies. To teach her first class, she needed to ask the landlord to move the mops and she taught six clients at a time on the only equipment in the room: a ballet barre.
But 16 years later, her idea, Pure Barre has grown into an international franchise with more than 450 studios in North America, with plans to open 75 new studios in 2017.
Dorr stepped away from the company in 2015 to launch a nonprofit called the Soul Day Foundation, which focuses on helping women and children in need. But recently Dorr returned to the business as Pure Barre’s Chief Barre Officer, a role that will allow her to develop new exercise techniques and classes for her customers.
As a parent of three, a former lawyer and dancer and working in both the philanthropic and business worlds, Dorr has and does wear a lot of hats. She says that one of her biggest goals is to change the perception of work-life balance.
“It requires us to accept that there is usually not a day where you get an A-plus in every category,” says Dorr. “It’s just looking at it as a whole rather than trying to make your day look so perfectly categorized. Otherwise I think that’s a recipe for disaster.”
We caught up with Dorr and asked her 20 questions to figure out what makes her tick.
1. How do you start your day?
I start my day by meditating, I’ve been meditating daily for a few years now. I have read a lot about meditating, and I just find that paying attention to my breath in the morning -- I do about 10, 15 minutes a day -- really helps stabilize and create space in my mind. I think you can train your brain to see the world from a bigger perspective by meditating.
2. How do you end your day?
I have three small kids. My evening starts with putting them to bed. I struggle to turn off my brain, so I have a shutdown protocol in the evenings. No electronics or bright lights after 8:00 pm. I take a bath, and I read.
3. What’s a book that changed your mind and why?
The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks. It talks about how we all have internal limits and how operating in what they call your zone of genius helps you go beyond those limits. I believe we all have a calling and that books supports that theory.
4. What’s a book you always recommend and why?
The Grain Brain by David Perlmutter, and Eat Dirt by Josh Axe. They both talk about how food is medicine. I think we all had common knowledge about how what we eat affects our body, and these books talk about how what we eat affects our brains and what is correlated to disease and other issues that you wouldn’t think to tie to food.
5. What’s a strategy to keep focused?
I always think of the analogy of a racehorse. I like to keep blinders on. You should be aware of the competition and who's in the field, but those blinders help me stay focused on what I’m working on and constantly keep me moving forward to where I’m headed.
6. When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be Janet Jackson’s choreographer and one of her backup dancers. I started dancing when I was three. I taught dance and fitness classes through law school and after [I graduated], my second chapter, I wanted to save every woman and child on the planet who needed help. Two very different desires that ended up crossing paths later in life.
7. What did you learn from the worst boss you ever had?
I became an entrepreneur at a young age. I haven’t had many bosses, but what I've learned about myself being a boss is that there is a huge difference between someone who leads people and someone who manages people. I’m not good at managing people.
Good managers help people achieve their goals, have an open-door policy, work collaboratively. But I think that other types of people don't have those strengths. I’ve always been the captain of a team. I feel like I’m good at leading, but I’m more in my head than someone who is a manager. I think that one is not right or wrong -- knowing where you’re skillset lies is important.
8. Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?
I was fortunate to have Russell Lewis enter my life. He’s the founder of Rhino Linings; they spray truck bed liners and army tankers. Before I turned Pure Barre into a franchise, I learned so much about franchising and licensing from him. You can know your company, but understanding franchising, navigating the emotional side of franchising is complicated, and I’m very grateful to have him.
9. What’s a trip that changed you?
I remember being on a plane to some Pure Barre studio. I do remember having this “a ha” moment, and thinking that I’m seeing this whole country, because I’m doing what I love doing. It was at the company’s growth stage and the whole reason behind me seeing all these places was because I was spreading Pure Barre throughout the country.
10. What inspires you?
People who possess great intelligence and depth with an equal amount of humility. That combination is hard to come by. I find it very inspiring to be around people who are trying to live their best lives and evolve mentally and physically.
11. What was your first business idea and what did you do with it?
Pure Barre in some form. In 2001 I opened my first studio, it was a pilates reformer studio. Boutique fitness didn’t really exist. I had done pilates through my dance training and there were private sessions only. I could only afford to go once a week, when you should be going three to four times a week to see the benefits. So I bought six reformers and charged $20 bucks per person in metro Detroit. Then I threw up a ballet barre that held six people and that was how it started.
12. What was an early job that taught you something important or useful?
I had every dance and group fitness job under the sun to grow creatively, and then practicing law encouraged me to be mentally creative. I think both of those tracks taught me about creativity. Being an attorney, you learn to become very resourceful and figure things out ,and I think that played into my business career because as an entrepreneur you’re forced to figure out everything.
13. What’s the best advice you ever took?
I worked with CEO life coach Kaley Klemp. She said you get to create your own life. Which might seem basic, but I feel like a lot of times we get trapped and don’t see that.
14. What's the worst piece of advice you ever got?
My very first space that I leased was a 600-square-foot janitor's closet, I had to convince them to rent it to me and take the mops out. The landlord said there just wasn’t a market for adult dance. This is not adult dance, this is something different.
Once I started franchising, I was growing organically and selling franchises to the people that were right for the company. In franchising there is a theory that that you should grow your business regionally. I never followed that. I’m a firm believer that it is better to have the right people than to grow regionally.
15. What’s a productivity tip you swear by?
I swear by organizing my day based on how my brain functions. I know what time of day my brain is most creative and during those hours I turn off the electronics and turn on the music. I know when my brain is most operative, and I’m good to handle operations work and answering emails. So I plan my day accordingly. I also turn off all sounds on my technology, so I’m using it to enhance rather than control my life. If I get a text it’s not dinging or an email isn’t swishing, because they pull from my focus.
16. Is there an app or tool you use in a surprising way to get things done or stay on track?
Evernote I use for everything, Shazam for music. I use Think Dirty to find toxin-free products because I’m really into that. And Amazon Prime and Instacart too, I love that you can get things delivered during the hours that work for you. I don’t know what I would do without those five.
17. What does work-life balance mean to you?
I don’t believe work-life balance exists the way society has been describing it. I’d love to help shift how we describe it, because it puts an unrealistic burden and expectation on women. I want to redefine what it looks like. I believe in quality time, not quantity. So I’m fully present with my kids, with my husband, my friends, and the same when I’m at work. It requires us to accept that there is usually not a day where you get an A-plus in every category. It’s just looking at it as a whole rather than trying to make your day look so perfectly categorized. Otherwise I think that’s a recipe for disaster.
18. How do you prevent burnout?
I get outside. I’m fortunate enough to live in Colorado so that makes that easy. Also it’s accepting that it can be done in an hour. You don’t need a week away or a plane ride. I love the saying happiness is an inside job. I don’t like to rely on outside factors to make that happen.
19. When you’re faced with a creativity block, what’s your strategy to get innovating?
Creativity is directly correlated to energy. If I’m blocked I take a hard look around at what’s negating my energy. Sometimes the things that are negating it can’t be fixed, so I have to figure out how can I insulate myself against it. What works for me is getting outside with headphones on, and movement and rhythm. If there is a trail or mountain near by, all the better.
20. What are you learning now?
I’m learning more about the cognitive benefits of exercise. For a long time we've been focused on the physical benefits of exercise but the neurological benefits are really fascinating. It kind of ties in with aging gracefully. How can you live your best life into your 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond.