Meet Barbara Kerr Who Transforms Body and Mind
Rebecca: Barbara, how are you?
Barbara: I’m good, thanks Rebecca. Thanks for having me.
Rebecca: Absolute pleasure. Now my first question is, did you put body before mind in your business title and name on purpose?
Barbara: That’s a really good question and it’s a kind of yes and no answer as most things tend to be. I transitioned the business from being much more about body and so it seemed sensical because people knew me as working much more with the body. But I wanted it to be that it was much more holistic because the way the business is going was about body and mind, but also in terms of what I looked at business names that were available, it was a lot easier to get body and mind and mind and body. So it was a little bit of logistics and practical growth, if you see what I mean.
Rebecca: Yeah, that makes perfect sense. So, okay, you’ve been going for a while. How long has the business been going since it first started?
Barbara: Since I first started in the wellbeing business, it’s 23 years. The transformed body and brand, it’s kind of transitioned over time, so probably in that ethos in about five years now.
Rebecca: Okay, brilliant. And I said before we came on air, one of the reasons I wanted to interview you is because one, you were a pioneer in this space before it was fashionable, and two, you’ve made a real success of this business and there are a lot of coaches in this space under the big wellness type banner that are struggling. And I thought it’d be really useful to find out what your journey has been and what you put the success down to so that others can learn from it. Is that going to be okay with you, Barbara?
Barbara: That’s great. And thank you for that lovely comment.
Rebecca: Yeah, that’s all right. That is pleasure. So way, way back all those 23 years ago, what was the first iteration of the business and where did the spark come from to set it up?
Barbara: At that point in time, I’d actually been working in arts and events management. That’s a very full on business world. It’s hectic. It’s not particularly healthy in that there’s late nights, not the best food, maybe a bit too much alcohol in some aspects of that world. And I’ve been working in there and then had the opportunity to go to America and I was thinking, not quite sure what I’m going to be doing there. I want to keep my options open. And I thought, what am I going to do? I can transition to work anywhere in the world. And fitness was a hobby. I was not sporty one at school. Everyone always thinks somewhere I must have come from a sports background. I wasn’t. I was the the reader, the nose and book. But basically I decided to turn a hobby into my business and so I went off and retrained thinking that good old imposter syndrome, oh, I can’t really do this, I can’t run, how can I be a fitness trainer?
But that’s where it all started. I went off with a basic qualification and fell in love with it. Moved to America, actually did carry on working in the arts, which is still a huge part of how I do creativity in my business. And I even moved that into working into wellbeing treats. But basically it started there and I realized that I could help people who’ve been in the position I’ve been in where you’re working flat out and you need to look at how you look after yourself in that world. And that was where that little nugget came from.
Rebecca: That’s fab. I love the fact that it was something that you weren’t particularly brilliant at school and then you found it later on. Again, people go, I’m looking for a business idea. Dunno what I’m good at. But actually it doesn’t have to be something that you’re good at right now, does it?
Barbara: Absolutely. And we don’t know where we’ll go. I mean I trained my degrees in psychology and social policy, which again came back in later on when I went back into the transformational life coaching diploma. But at the time I thought I wanted to go off and be a clinical psychologist, went to university and went, no, not really. I really prefer singing and dancing and I’d rather work in the arts. And that’s what I did. I went into management in the arts.
Rebecca: Oh, fabulous. Okay, so you’ve got this qualification, you’d be like, okay, we’re at the early stages now. How did you get your first clients way back then? We, I don’t think we had LinkedIn 23 years ago. Did we? I can’t remember. So how did you find people?
Barbara: We definitely didn’t have LinkedIn in my world, that’s for sure. I’ve only really got into LinkedIn fairly recently. So it was very much people and it was what we would now call big networking. But for me it’s just always been about people and talking to people. And that’s probably my biggest takeaway that I still see. It’s about your connections with people and not necessarily online or whatever, but it was started off just by chatting to people and saying, I’m thinking about starting X, Y or Z. You fancy coming along. In the old days it was good old paper advertising. I put some posters up, I would chat to people saying, oh, I’m doing this. And then each project and I still start off on a paper basis. I still think, what do people need to know? And again, I suppose using my background in arts management is like right. For me it was about bums on seats. It became bodies and minds wanting to do something. And it’s about how can we attract people? What is it going to make them want to come along? And again, that was me. What did I feel that was important to me, but what was important to other people? What would make people want to come together? And most of that was about community.
Rebecca: Ah, that’s interesting. Okay, so they’re coming up for the community and were they business leaders? What sort of people were coming back then? In the early days,
Barbara: In my early days it was much more women and it was a mix of women. It was, I deliberately went to women working in business because that was my background. But then I very quickly realized there was a lot of other women out there who didn’t fall into my typical setup because they maybe had families and were at home not being necessarily out at work or they might be trying to juggle, which when I had my family, again, it was an appreciation of ages and stages. And that’s been a fundamental aspect of my business is recognizing the ages and stages. I’ve done that in terms of how I developed my business with my family, but also for my clients, who was I serving and what difference did that require? So for example, I started off a lot with women, but then I’d have women say to me, do you know my husband could really do with X, Y, or Z? And then it becomes word of mouth. And even now I still get lots of my referrals because I work with someone and then they’ll say, oh, I’ve told so-and-so about you, is that okay? Would you mind? Or people give vouchers or I’ll be doing a retreat and they’ll say, I’ve passed your name onto X, Y or Z. And again, it’s all that connection.
Rebecca: Yeah, there’s nothing to beat it. You just can’t beat that. Like you say, having conversations in the real world, making those connections. And when you do a great job, people just simply refer you, they, it’s not rocket science,
Barbara: It’s not. And I say that about my entire work and business. It’s not rocket science, but what I try and do is make it interesting to people when it might be something that’s not of interest or at the bottom of their to-do list. Because
Most of us, the wellbeing does and don’t mean to generalize hugely, but with women it tends to be, especially if you’ve got children that we just kind slip in down there where actually as I try and encourage that, think about put your own face mask on first as we do airplane before we help the others. And it’s just the same if we are not firing on our cylinders, it’s really hard for both in our professional and our personal lives to be what we need to be and to be as good as we want to be.
Rebecca: We can’t, as I was swimming today, I delivered a leadership session this morning and then I went for a swim and I thought Barbara will be proud of me go to tell her. I love it. Okay, so now the clients that you have are corporate as well as individuals, aren’t they?
Barbara: Yes, they are. And again, that grew Initially I always was like, I’m just working with individuals, whether it was in a group or one-to-one. Initially there was a bit more group, then it went to more one-to-one, and then what would happen is I would get asked, oh, can you do something for my team? And so that’s really how that side of the business grew.
And they say, that’s really good. And I said, well, you could incorporate this at work. So for example, I’ve done lots of silly little videos on LinkedIn and it’s me lying on a foam roller going, there you go, everyone office should have one. And yeah, I look a bit ridiculous, but again, it’s really important that people think actually I can do that and I don’t need to be off doing an hour to make myself fit and healthy or I don’t need to be running up and down stairs and get myself sweaty. But actually one of the biggest problems is posture.
Barbara: Lying on a foam roller for a few minutes. Great. So I have a lot of people that do that all around the country.
Rebecca: I now clean my teeth standing on one leg thanks to one of your silly
Barbara: Videos. I love it. What can I say?
Rebecca: It’s like, ooh, okay, so if I just stand on one leg and can you tell everybody why? That’s quite an interesting thing to do.
Barbara: It’s sort of many parts of everything. If we just do things automatically it becomes habit and we don’t really have to think about it as we age, our balance decreases. So it’s a way of making sure that that never happens.. I say, when you start to shuffle, life is going to get worse. So that’s why standing on one leg while you’re brushing your teeth is really good because you keep your balance, it helps your core, but you have more chance your life will be longer. Statistically, and this is proven evidence isn’t just me saying it, that if you do that and you keep your balance up, you’ll live generally longer.
Rebecca: That’s the bit that got me. I was like, I’m going to live longer if I just stand on one leg while I’m clear, I’m just going to do that
Barbara: Less chance of falling. And again, that’s one of the things I try and drive home about is that I talk about mindset, nutrition and fitness, and they don’t all have to be huge things, but it’s that balance of pulling them together. So things like sleep and people say, well, where does that come in? And well, that’s partly into our mindset and in terms of how our mind works, we need that time to sleep to recover. So it’s all these bits that prove together,
Rebecca: It’s wonderful. Typically, how long do you work with an individual for?
Barbara:I used to think it would start off and be, generally it’d be like a four to 10 week depending on what we’re looking at. Everything is bespoke. So when I started off, right, you do four weeks, you do 10 weeks, 12 weeks is generally what we say creates habit, which always sounds quite nice for people because that’s a good block time a month because people are like, well, they can try it if they don’t like it, they don’t feel over committed.
Rebecca: Yeah, yeah, definitely. How do you keep your energy levels up? How do you refill and recharge your batteries?
Barbara: That’s really interesting too because a change, and again, I think that all comes into ages and stages and understanding where we are and being in tune with ourselves. So running has always been since I took up in the fitness world running, which started as a little bit of a hobby at the time. And then I realized that helps me just switch off.
Rebecca: Okay, so I could go off on a massive tangent here because I too, I’m looking, I can see my garden from my office and I have a standup desk, so I record the podcast most of the time standing up. So yeah, I have become not obsessed with the garden, but it’s now a passion of mine. So I completely relate to that. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong in saying, look, I’ve raised the kids, I’m now raising the garden. And also I have two dogs and my oldest two have left home and my son said, are you’re basically replacing us with dogs, aren’t you? I went, yes I am.
Barbara: Yes. Well, I’ll say that we have the dog too. The only problem is we timed badly to have a dog that we’d be the end of life. I can say that in the nicest possible way for your children leaving home. And our dog has got no desire to go anywhere, lots of traveling and going to a lot more adventures. Probably a wee bit more limited than we thought they’d be by then.
Rebecca: Well, we did the same. So our oldest dog is eight and a half and our youngest daughter is 14 and a half. So we thought, oh yeah, about four years he’s probably going to shuffle off this mortal coil, we’ll be free. But when my son and daughter left home at the same time, I had a year or so of going, there’s a gap. There’s gap. I need to fill that gap. And so last year we got a puppy. So that has just scuppered everything really.
Rebecca: So if I was to go on one of your retreats, what would I expect to experience Barbara?
Barbara: So I would say that depends on which one and where
Rebecca: You do several. How exciting.
Barbara: Yeah, so basically there’s UK based ones and then there’s the overseas ones. So I started off doing overseas and that again grew organically just because I had a couple of clients who said, it’d be great to do this every day when we’re talking about things, doing things. And it’s like, can I just come and live with you for a week to make jokes about it? And then I thought, actually there’s a few people that have said this, wouldn’t it be quite nice to put together that people could come and live with me for a week and we could experience that? So that’s how it started. And then we’ve been doing that, got a few people, again, keep it nice and small, we all go off and it starts off literally an early vs. And it was in the Canary islands. That was the first one I ever did.
So off we go, we trott down to the beach, we have a sunrise, we do a little bit of morning meditation as the sun rising. We’ve got the waves lapping at our feet. We then do some movement. We get the bodies waking up and we just have this little flow. Then we go and have some breakfast because by now we’re starting to get a little bit hungry. And then basically it’s a series of workshops. So we’ll either do some movement, we’ll do some mindset workshops. So it’s basically covering everything in mindset, nutrition, and fitness. So we might have a workshop on, say it was nutrition, it might be like, okay, current trends right now there’s this whole thing about should we eating carbs, should we not? So it’s very educational but done in a practical way that takes into consideration who is there and what implications that mean.
So there’s really all kinds of different things. We use art, creative conversations, energy is a real mix depending on what it’s, so for example, the one I’m running in January, it’s very much about if you want to be more than 24, it’s about how are you going to achieve that? Because the January one’s always great because people are thinking, right New Year, what am I going to do? And it’s a lovely boost. Then of course Covid came along and we couldn’t got islands we weren’t really doing. So I did a few online things, but then I got asked to go and do retreats in some hotels. And so I changed the nature. So it might be, there’s a specific theme. So we might be doing an energizing one. I’m about to go down to Yorkshire in October, and we’re doing a day event there in the autumn that will then lead spring event. So the day one is about Autumn Air, it’s an autumn air retreat, and that’s going to be all about our senses and using our senses to again, feel our best. So generally they’ve got that basically as the mall is feeling better,
Rebecca: Where do I sign, Barbara? Where do I sign seriously? How do people find out about these retreats
Barbara: On my website, which is www transform body and mind co uk? Brilliant. And there’s a retreat section there. But generally I say to people, talk to me because there are sometimes retreats that I do that don’t go out on public because I’ll put people together. I also do ones for groups. So I’ve had to had an organization who said, we want to do something for this team, and we put things together. So there’s a lot of bespoke things. And then there are things that just go on the website or my social media.
Rebecca: Sounds fabulous. It sounds absolutely fantastic. Okay, so 23 years very successful. And what occurs to me is that you’ve always developed something that a client has asked you for. You’ve been very client or customer led. And as I go through the world, and I talk to many, many businesses, this theme keeps popping up actually, is that your business has grown because you’ve responded to what your clients are asking you for. And I think many businesses do it the wrong way round and they just go, oh, we’re going to do this. This is what we think people want. But actually when, and this is for the coaches and consultants out there, actually, if you listen to your clients, they tell you what they want and then all you have to do is give it to them.
Barbara: Absolutely. And don’t get me wrong, you say it’s all very successful. Yeah, I mean it depends on what your term of success is, but I feel happy with my business and that’s how I justify it. But it’s been a long, hard 23 years I’ve worked around my family. I’ve had kids until while I’ve been dropping things off, I decided to go and work with five to eight year olds because it fitted in around my kids. And then so everyone, when you run your own business, people will say, oh, it’s all right for you. You keep fit at your work. Oh, you’ve got this, you’ve got that. It’s hard work running a business, you’re jack of all trades. I am at a stage where I enjoy working with other people in collaborations or I have people that I put to do certain projects
Barbara: We’ve met and we gel. And that for me is a lovely way of working. But in terms of definitely listening, I would also say I’ve learned from things where people have approached me and asked me to do something because they had quiet time in their venue and thought, oh, bringing you in will make this busy. And they’ve asked me to come in and do something and then there’s not been the uptake because nobody wants to go to that place in November, cold and wintry, and they might not get there because of snow. So it’s one of the things I then learned was that actually not everything’s going to work,
Barbara: It’s late to try things. But what I put out and do myself are the things I’ve listened to and go, and I’ll try it. I won’t just go, right, huge, massive, let’s try and get 500 people there. I’ll have a pilot project and go, okay, I like the way that went and we’ll do that. And I think that’s what I’m fortunate. Having worked in large scale events before means that I have the experience and I wasn’t scared because that can often hold us back,
Barbara: You know what? What’s the worst can happen? And I’ve been there, I was very fortunate in that many years ago I got to have the Red Arrows an event, and it meant that you have the guys in the sky. At that time, they were all guys, the guys in the sky, and then you had red 10 on the ground and anything happened to Red 10 I was next in command. That’s quite a scary position to be in, very standing there going, okay, police don’t have any birds flying into any engines. And there was another project where I had off a clock tower and these, what are the words for them when you’re a port and you’ve got the big, huge, the cranes basically that take cleaners off? Well, I had an aerial ballet done on those, and I had these things cost a fortune, and I had to persuade the Port authority at the time to allow us to have these dancers come off there. So you can imagine the insurance logistic, but again, that’s where you think, what can you do that you can pull in on your experience that you can think, okay, well if you can do that, you can do that pretty much that can happen.
Rebecca: Yeah, pretty much. I think running a retreat in the UK or the Canary Island sounds pretty straightforward compared to having ballet dancers on grains in port.
Barbara: Maybe it was an age thing. I probably worry more because then you start worrying about, right, well, what if the flights are not on time? What if somebody has an accident and you’ve got all these elements? People think, oh, it’s all very lovely. And my kids go, oh, mom’s off. She’s off to the Canadians. It’s all right. It’s lovely. And I go, guys, I’m up at death o’clock in the morning to prep, and I make sure that everybody and all the teams, everything goes the way it should. So that evening, it’s then back and you go back and you sit and go, right, what was great today? What wasn’t great? What can we do tomorrow and make me different? So you’re constantly analyzing, but I’ll confess, that’s probably one of my favorite.
Rebecca: Yeah, I mean, I run the seven day N L P courses and whilst it’s seven days and I get to go home at night, so I’m not even sharing a space with the people on the course, but it is, you are looking for something, you’ve always got to be planning the next thing. You’ve got to get there early. You leave last and you want to make sure people have the best experience possible. So it’s very giving. And when I’ve done the N L P courses, I usually take a day off and I spend the day at one spa in Edinburgh and just go, I’m really, really chill. And I didn’t do that last time and ended up really just exhausted because of it. So yes, next time definitely doing that. So where’s the business heading? What are you going to do with it?
Barbara: Well, this is interesting as well because my little one is about to leave home. She’s no longer little. So from my point of view, this is really an exciting time. I mean, obviously there’s the emotional, personal side, but we at the stage where everybody’s ready, she’s ready to go. We’re all sad, but it’s a kind of change for me, and I think it’s quite exciting because I want to grow and do different things. I’ve got a couple of new project lines if you like, so I’ll give you a sneak peek. So there’s a new strand, which is called Cracking Living, and literally that’s about again what it says on the 10 Cracking Living. I’ve seen the last three years in August, 2020, I was meant to have a big woo-hoo, this is us 20 years, blah, blah, blah. What were we doing in August, 2020? I was online with everybody.
It was a tough time and I didn’t feel it was right afterwards to go, yay. And life is tough. So I haven’t done that. You know what I made that? Because I’m also very conscious. We’re living in very difficult times. I don’t believe in resting on my laurels. I think I have to work hard all the time. I like coming up with new ideas. And I feel that it’s about tracking living because the last three years have been super hard for a lot of people, and I’ve noticed a massive change in the wellbeing industry. It was interesting you said about it’s a trend. Well, there are things that we are dealing with now in wellbeing that we would never have been dealing with five years ago. The young people I work with, there’s way more anxiety. The older people I work with, it’s things like people being sitting on their backsides way longer.
So you’re talking about brushing your teeth on one leg because mobility changes. So there’s all kinds of things. Addictions are higher than I’ve experienced for a long time. So there’s lots of things that have made me go right, where’s next? What do I want to be doing from my own personal and business side? So Cracking Living is going to be a new strand, and that is just about how to crack living, like the play on the little Irish about track, about having fun, having fun life. How can we make it the best we can? Yeah, that’s
Rebecca: Brilliant. Now, if your business was a person or a character or had a personality, how would you describe it? Barbara, this is my last question.
Barbara: Oh, wow. Well, funny. I was thinking about somebody who put something on LinkedIn nearly about it was if your business was a film, and it’s not so much the business, but it’s more because it’s me, which I guess my business has its own identity, but because I drive the business, it’s Thelma and Louise
Rebecca: Love it.
Barbara: Which a lot of people will probably go What? That’s quite an old film. It’s a great film. And I keep thinking I must go back and revisit it. And there is a weird ending, which I’ll not say to spoil people, but it’s a bit like, yeah, kind of live the life that we just get off in the sports soft top.
Rebecca: Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s a brilliant place to end. The Thelma and Louise of Wellbeing. Fabulous.
Barbara: Actually just seeing it on screen, I reckon we could be quite good. So what do you think?
Rebecca: Well, our coaching program that we train business coaches in is called the Kick Ass Culture Coaching and Consulting program. Because of things like Thelma and Louise and other really strong, powerful women, it’s like they are really kick ass. And I keep getting banned from LinkedIn ads for typing kickass because it’s a bandwidth. We’ve worked our way around it and we’re on a call yesterday and the people in the Middle East are going, Kim, we’re going to have to not use kickass because culturally it’s not acceptable. That’s fine. Just say top culture coach. It’s fine.
Barbara: Yeah, that takes me back to working in America. And it was when we started off training classes and it was all about your butt. And I was like, I don’t have a, but I’ve got thank you.
Rebecca: Terribly, terribly British. Terribly British. Absolutely. That’s amazing. Thank you so much for your time, Barbara. I really appreciate it and I look forward to reading your book when it’s out.
Barbara: Thank you.
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