Inspired by her own healing journey recovering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia, Chris entered the world of integrative and holistic health. She now helps others struggling with insomnia and daytime fatigue through her business, Chris Carruthers PhD Health Consulting. Her interview inspires us to seek mentorship when we begin our businesses and to remember to acknowledge even our smallest wins and achievements.
What inspired you to become a holistic entrepreneur?
Originally I trained as an exercise physiologist and worked in cardiac rehabilitation, but at age 38 I became ill with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia. In the seven plus years it took me to recover, I began exploring and researching integrative and complementary therapies.
I began to practice meditation and expressive writing and slowly recovered with enough energy to complete my PhD. Now, I feel a responsibility to share my story and what I have learned.
Tell us about your business or practice.
I help people improve their sleep using simple approaches and cognitive behavioral therapy, which is a technique that helps improve awareness of habitual thoughts and behaviors. With even small changes in thoughts and behaviors, people can improve the quality, quantity and timing of their sleep!
What is your current business model?
I help people who are struggling with insomnia and daytime fatigue through online webinars and consultations, and I am a professional speaker working with medical, academic, corporate and health support groups. I also focus on public health education about the value of sleep, and help people with complex illness such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), and Fibromyalgia (FM) improve their symptoms by improving their sleep.
What has been one of your favorite moments as a business owner thus far?
One of my favourite moments was hearing that I won a Hay House Publishers competition to deliver an online radio event, Sacred Sleep, to help people learn to value sleep and improve sleep quality.
What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced in running your business or practice?
In Canada, people don’t expect to pay for health care services, so I had to learn to communicate very clearly about the value of my services, and help clients understand the benefits they will receive from their investment in their health.
How have you overcome those challenges?
I needed to find a lower cost way to serve more people who needed me. So, I packaged my two key programs into online courses where people who aren’t feeling well (or who are sleepy!), can access from anywhere on the globe and they can receive the information and support that helps them feel better.
How do you find new clients?
Many new clients come to me through word-of-mouth from past clients. Plus, we focus on creating great content and providing great value in free resources on our website and through online events.
What have you found to be most effective in securing new clients to sign up for your services?
Keep providing great value through evidence-based, high quality programs that deliver results. We use specific targeting to reach out to our ideal clients who we know can succeed, and make a plan to exceed their expectations.
What do you do to keep your existing clients engaged in the long term?
As above, especially exceeding expectations! It’s important to keep in touch and continue to share great content. Also, it’s important to take their feedback and adapt our programs and offerings to meet the changing needs of our clients.
As your own boss, what is your best strategy for staying focused and productive during your workday?
It’s a challenge for me to stay focused because I can get easily distracted, especially when the sun is shining. I am always trying to figure out how to carve out some time for a walk or a tennis match! I work and recover, oscillating back and forth, and know that I need to put on some salsa music and shift onto my rebounder (beside my desk), when I get stuck. I have to remind myself to block priority time in my calendar to focus on important tasks that directly move me closer to my goals.
If you could start your business over again from the beginning, what would you do differently?
I would pay attention to progress and watch for small wins and achievements, notice the momentum, roll with it, and let that energize me. Sometimes we work really hard and forget that the satisfaction is in the small moments.
Also I think that if I was starting again, I would get an MD degree instead of a PhD, but I would still be doing the same work! When I began, integrative health wasn’t mainstream, so maybe I needed to allow more time to build credibility through my high quality work, my unique approach, and my compassion. I care deeply about the people I work with because I have had CFS and understand their pain.
What were some of the first mistakes you made that you would tell a new holistic entrepreneur to avoid?
Find some mentors that can give you solid business advice. My challenge was that I had in depth training and experience in health care, but not in business. So I needed to learn about it, or hire and consult with business experts.
What are the top three business tools or resources you couldn’t live without?
My best resources are my colleagues and the people I serve, so I listen well from their wealth of information. I also know where to look to get the most credible health information online (PubMed and Medline), and I stay involved regularly with my professional associations (American Academy of Sleep Medicine, Canadian Association of Professional Speakers, National Speakers Federation, Global Speakers Association, Canadian Society for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy).
What has been your most effective method for growing your business?
The best thing I did recently was to work with a business development expert. She helps me see opportunities that I wouldn’t recognize, and it really works to have someone to brainstorm with, help expand ideas, and allow innovative ideas to show up and be considered. So, grow your team to fill the gaps that you have.
What is the craziest thing you’ve ever for done for your business?
I am now 59, and I recently gave up my job with a huge respected health organization. I needed to unearth a lot of courage to leave the status and money behind, but I am much happier (and healthier too), trusting my true passion which sleep health education.
What is your favorite indulgence?
Traveling to beautiful places with patios overlooking water where I can kayak and enjoy nature.
Most exotic thing you’ve ever eaten?
I am a very conservative eater, and actually don’t enjoy trying new tastes.
Most memorable place you’ve ever visited?
I absolutely loved New Zealand and can’t wait to go back there.
Last book you read?
Right now I have several books on the go but I am really enjoying Stephen King’s On Writing.
If you could only have one kind of food for the rest of your life, it would be…
Lemon meringue pie!
What is your go-to breakfast?
Blueberries, almond milk and shredded wheat with bran flakes.
What do you find most fascinating about the human body?
Absolutely everything!! Our incredible ability to heal and adapt.
What do you love most about being an entrepreneur?
Free time, sunshine, playing tennis mid-day and feeling great about it!
Chris Carruthers is a Sleep Health Consultant based out of Alberta Canada. You can find out more about Chris and her business, Chris Carruthers PhD Health Consulting, by visiting www.chriscarruthers.com.