The interview was transcribed and adapted into an article by Jenna Gyorfi
The Lockdown Economy: Interviews by think tank AlterContacts.org with real entrepreneurs sharing insights, challenges and successes during the COVID19 global pandemic to inspire, motivate and encourage other entrepreneurs around the world.
In August 2020, Julia Skupchenko from Lockdown Economy spoke with Amir Carmel, the co-founder of the Inner Workout where people from all over the world can train their skills of listening and compassion. It was a follow-up conversation to the one done in June 2020.
In this interview, we check back with him to see how Inner Workout is doing and to talk about any adjustments or changes he made. Inner Workout is a company that works on personal and social development to make real connections between people. What you will hear from Amir is how he applied the methods of Inner Workout to himself and how he runs the business. Amir gives us an honest look at not only some of the struggles Inner Workout has encountered but also the personal challenges he wrestled with as an entrepreneur. One of the things to learn from Amir is best summarized in his own words, “What I realized recently in the last several weeks, the more honest I am about where I stand with my business, including all the blind spots it stills has, I can move faster and get more help.”
Could you give us an introduction to the Inner Workout. What is it?
The Inner Workout is a gym for personal and social development. There are places where you can practice your way of connecting to yourself and each other. We do that in different sessions. Normally, it takes a 90-minute session where you come and connect to each other by sharing whatever is within you– so questions or challenges you are facing right now. People listen to you and then you switch and practice listening and sharing feedback with other people. In this way, we build very close and intimate connections with strangers.
Establishing connections with people is one of the key challenges in this new environment. Tell me, are you going to only stay online since you said going into in-person training in a physical space might be a bit of a challenge? What happened in the two months since we last spoke?
If I may, I want to share one thing I learned recently, which may help us later frame the conversation. I think as an entrepreneur you don’t know a lot and there is still a lot in your business that you need to develop and learn. On the other hand, you always want to communicate a very successful image of yourself. You are afraid that if you appear afraid or confused no one would want to do business with you.
For me, it was always a challenge about how I could be honest about what I’m doing in my current position and still communicate the relative success of the company. At the Inner Workout, the practice is to be very honest and to show up as you are and appear with whatever challenges you are facing, instead of trying to communicate some very successful image of yourself.
Looking at what is happening in the sessions and seeing how powerful it is just to be honest and to communicate openly about yourself, how much progress it can help you make, how many connections you can make, and how much compassion and willingness to help it generates with others. I looked at myself and how I communicated my business with other people, and I said, “Hey I can use the same principals and things I am preaching and promoting in the world when I communicate about the business.” What I realized recently in the last several weeks, the more honest I am about where I stand with my business, including all the blind spots it stills has, I can move faster and get more help. Instead of trying to be super successful in areas I am not yet.
I admire that approach. You were going to talk about the lockdown and how it affected your business.
It was challenging times. Trying to figure out the transition back to face-to-face and realizing there are so many things happening online already, maybe we had a relative advantage at the beginning launching quite quick, but overtime realizing there were bigger players in the field. On one hand, the online offering was not enough and could have been developed further, and then how to transition back to face-to-face was also difficult. I perceived there was already a threshold. If I invited you to speak about your challenges with complete strangers, it might already be scary plus all the fears from the pandemic, adding these fears makes the threshold higher. It was difficult and took us a long time during the summer to build the momentum. Now we see more and more people joining the physical setting.
How do the regulations of the Netherlands affect you and your business model because they do not recommend more than six people in a group? Are you trying to balance on the edge of six or how does it work?
The only time we had more than six people we were able to be creative and still follow the regulations. We invited everyone to the main room large enough when it was safe and then the actual workouts happened in small groups of three. We just sent people to different rooms in groups of three and then back to the main room to share what they learned. In this sense, it is working. I hope we are able to soon deal with what do we do when twenty people say they want to join a session.
What about your online sessions? You said you had sessions in Dutch, English, and Hebrew and it was quite successful. Did you stop that completely or are you still continuing in a hybrid?
We continue in hybrid. One thing we realized is that we branched out in too many different directions very quickly. We realized we needed to start choosing to see where we wanted to focus. For example, for language, we just focused on the English sessions for now because that would be the common ground. The other thing is that we focused a lot on further developing our methods. Also developing and testing live in the sessions created many different workouts. If we look back two months ago, now we have much more developed and beautiful offerings, which I love. This is the part where I do feel confident and happy.
What do you notice in the customers, the general mood, and the atmosphere? How do they react to your offers? How do they react to what is happening?
Those that answer share that it is very stressful before you join. I realized that it could be very stressful to actively share your challenges with other people and be out there without any protection or mask. Before the session, they are scared or stressed out. At the end, there is always a relief. It’s a common process, especially for the first session.
Do people come back for more sessions or are there new people every time?
More than 50% comeback. Those that show the highest levels of stress before are the ones that normally come back. There is some link there.
That’s an excellent rate for any business. What challenges are still remaining for your business model? For you and your cofounders right now?
If I define the area of confidence in the product, I am really happy with it. All the rest, how to turn it into a business, is a big question mark. One challenge is how to build more partnerships instead of just trying to do everything ourselves. Specifically, building partnerships with companies. We are in conversations with a few companies to offer in-house workouts, where you would offer yoga sessions in the office, and also you could offer listening sessions to take a break and really connect with your colleagues. We have a few conversations there, but nothing has matured yet. That would be another area we would want to grow into but not exactly sure how yet.
That’s a promising area for sure. You said in the past two months you have significantly improved the methodology and have participated in the online sessions that you give. I’m curious to hear what you really love about your methodology and offering right now.
I really love the way it creates very strong connections. What I see and experience myself, I can meet a new face online or offline, a random person from the street, and within 90 minutes I feel that I know them more than I know some of my best friends because we have touched the core question this person is holding right now. I was also able to share what I am holding right now. Sometimes people leave the session, after crying or maybe feeling really connected, they say, “What was your name again?” You feel super connected but not in a normal way of going through all the small talk but go directly to where is your pain and how can I support you in that. Then, afterwards, build all the rest around that. I really like to see that impact and the way people are connecting to each other.
That’s beautiful. It is very rare we can go beyond small talk in a normal conversation. What does the future hold for your company? Do you have a contingency plan in case something doesn’t work out? Do you have any ideas for the next few months?
Probably building infrastructure that will allow us to grow. Having more facilitators that can hold sessions, as we want them to be held — really training and bringing in more facilitators and being prepared for that moment. In general, that is the big task for the coming months,
You are not afraid of the second wave of lockdown? Do you have a plan for that? What if you have to completely stop the face-to-face sessions?
Right now, the focus is on 50/50 face-to-face and online sessions. I am not very concerned in this area. Also, the conversations we are having with companies are about holding online sessions with them. Most companies are still working from home. In terms of the channels or medium, we are using, I am not concerned.
What would you like to say to someone that is watching this now or later that might reach out to you for your services?
If you or the company you are working for are interested in building real connections, helping colleagues connect to each other on a personal level, and helping each other in whatever challenges they are facing right now, then I would love to have a conversation with you. I am really good at drinking coffee with people. We could have a pilot with your company so you could really see for yourself the Inner Workout.
You still do some of the sessions for free, right?
Yes, some of the face-to-face ones. We want to meet more clients and individuals so we offer some face-to-face sessions for free.
Thank you to everyone that joined us to listen and watch! Spread the word as we are trying to help entrepreneurs around the world. If you would like an Inner Workout for yourself, reach out to Amir!
About the Guest
Amir Carmel is a coach and facilitator, the co-founder of The Inner Work-out, a regular practice of personal growth and deep connections. He was born and raised in Israel Amir served as a combat team leader in a special force unit for five years. Later he spent a few years as a line chef in Michelin star restaurants until he (re)found his talents and passion in working with groups on collective growth processes. Amir supports individuals facing their life questions and guides coaching circles: group sessions in which individuals help each other to resolve their personal dilemmas while practising active and open listening to each other. Recently Amir initiated and co-founded the Inner Work-out.
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