And I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that a lot of it has been incredibly difficult and challenging, both personally and professionally. I started a publishing business at a time when publishing, as an industry, had peaked. And when it began to decline, it did so very quickly and dramatically.
There’s one expression that I believe holds true for just about every business out there – if you don’t adapt, your business will die. Luckily for me, I get bored easily, I HATE routine and I’m always looking to improve on what I’ve done before. It’s an inbuilt driver that I can’t seem to turn off, even if I want to at times.
So while we produced our journals, in order to make ends meet, my team also ran courses and conferences, I developed technology for several membership associations, contract published for a couple more, and we licensed our patient information content to much bigger organisations like the UK charities, the British Heart Foundation and Walking the Way to Health. Both were business life-savers.
These were significant milestones that helped my business to survive financially. It always felt like luck found me, just in the nick of time. But in reality, luck is a combination of preparation and opportunity, and that really is true.
Then about 5 years ago, I hit a wall. I thought I’d got to the end of the road. I’d worked long, long hours to keep the business going. I’d sacrificed countless holidays and I’d worked pretty much every weekend since I’d started the business (I’m still very rarely away from the computer for more than 12 hours at a time).
Unfortunately, I had very little to show for it, and I was ready to chuck it all in. Every penny I’d made in profit, I invested back into the business. I was living on income from other work and worst of all I didn’t feel like I was making a difference.
All my life, all I’ve ever wanted was to make a difference to people’s lives. When I started my professional life, it was as a physio, solving problems for my patients. Then it became about finding ways to help you solve problems for your patients.
But I was doing it through a journal that had basically been superseded, like so many other publications in those 15 years, by the plethora of freely available content on the internet. I couldn’t see a future. I’d ploughed 15 years of life and love into this business, but I was running on empty, both in terms of energy and passion, but also money.
So I decided to try one last thing, and see where that took me. And if it didn’t lead somewhere I wanted to go, I resolved to call it quits.
I put myself in your hands. I asked more than a 1,000 of you a single, simple question, the answer to which would turn my life around. I asked, “What is the one thing about your business, that keeps you awake at night?”
I couldn’t believe how obvious the answer was and more importantly, how many of you gave me exactly the same answer (albeit in a variety of different words). It was simple, “finding new clients”.
For 15 years of sportEX, I’d convinced myself I was solving a pain. I was giving you a journal that digested clinical research into practical application, and I was giving you as many tools as I could come up with to help you do that. But the reality was, that wasn’t a real pain, and my journal was a nice-to-have resource, but it wasn’t a MUST HAVE resource.
My journal might have helped you do your job a bit better and/or more quickly, but it didn’t fundamentally change your business, or your life, or the lives of the people around you. And if I was going to move forward with passion and commitment for my business, then that was the ONLY thing I was interested in doing.
The exciting thing for me, is that I love marketing. After I left physio, but before I started sportEX, I had a job in marketing. I loved the combination of analysis and strategy with creativity. I loved science but I also did Art A-level. And guess what, marketing is a perfect blend of art and science.
I also shared the dread, that it turns out a large number of you share (in no doubt related to the fact I also started out life as a healthcare professional), of coming across as being salesy while promoting my business.
So for the previous 3 years, I’d been using a strategy called content marketing, to help me promote sportEX. For those who are unfamiliar with the term content marketing, it’s a way of using educational content, to promote you, your business and your services, without resorting to any kind of sales pitch.
The answer was suddenly so obvious. I would direct the 15 years of experience I’d gained in publishing a high-quality peer-reviewed clinical journal, into producing educational content for patients, that you could use to promote your own businesses.
I could have just developed social media content and built a viable subscription out of that, but as I said before, the only future for me in this business, was to build a solution that could genuinely change your business and, through that, change lives.
So I took it a stage further and built a whole strategy that enabled you to collect new leads at the top of the marketing funnel and take them all the way through to converting them into paying clients, in the very least salesy way possible. I turned it into an interactive Blueprint so I could share it with everyone, whether they subscribed to Co-Kinetic or not. You can find it at this link.
I then created the content and built the technology that would allow even the most technophobic person to execute the Blueprint.
At last, I had a proper problem to solve, and I already had all the skills, experience and team in place that I needed to deliver a solution to that problem. And in a nutshell, turning that into reality has been the focus of the last 5 years.
It is working? Well let’s put it this way, 61% of my turnover now comes from my marketing and business growth subscriptions, the first of which I launched just 18 months ago. Only 39% of my turnover comes from subscriptions I’ve been building for 20 years.
Even more importantly, and I don’t even know how to put this into words without it sounding naff … I’m filled with more energy and passion for what I do now, than I was when I started out as a 28-year-old, first-time business owner 20 years ago.
That’s what can happen when you open your ears to your customers and find a really genuinely painful problem to solve for them. It took me a long, long time to learn that lesson, but the important thing (or so people keep telling me), is that I got there eventually.
It took me right to the edge of my own personal resilience, and it took my business right to the edge of its life. It’s been a tough old journey, but at last I’ve found the thing I feel I was put on this earth to do, which is help you guys to build the businesses that can support your dreams, in a way that you can be comfortable with.
Thank you for being here with me on this journey. My greatest hope is that the resources I produce and the technology I create, help to transform part of your journey too.
Very warm wishes
Launch of sportEX medicine journal – written for sports medicine doctors and sports physiotherapists, focusing on musculoskeletal injury and exercise medicine. Packed with practical tools like photocopiable patient leaflets to help you do your job more effectively.
Launch of a new title, sportEX health, focusing exercise medicine, exercise prescription and GP referral. We published sportEX health for 10 years from Jan 2001-July 2011.
Following Government funding cuts we took on the management of the Sports Massage Association (SMA) and grew it from 130-900 members in 2 years.
Organised and ran the first ever UK conference on sports massage as a joint initiative between sportEX and the Sports Massage Association.
With the membership of the SMA growing healthily, we launched our third title, sportEX dynamics journal, focusing specifically on sports massage/manual therapy.
Ran our most successful soft-tissue conference to date, featuring Tom Myers, founder of Anatomy Trains and the world-renowned Leon Chaitow. We called it the Myofascial Matrix and had just over 400 delegates.
Ran our biggest and most ambitious sportEX/SMA conference featuring 6 international speakers, and 350 attendees. Sadly this was to be our last conference, as our spectacular conference organizer Katie James, retired to motherhood, and was literally unreplaceable.
Tor coordinated the strategic planning and development of a brand new elearning platform and content strategy for YMCAFit, and their awarding body, Central YMCA Qualifications.
We successfully tendered to become the publisher for the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs) journal which we published from Sept 2009 through to July 2014. During this time the journal circulation nearly doubled from 30,000 to 55,000.
Following on from the success of the YMCA elearning project, we built our own elearning system for sportEX, offering certificated SCORM-compliant quizzes that subscribers could use for their professional development. We also launched an iPad and Android mobile app for the journals.
During 2014, Tor developed a purpose-built content-management system, that was equipped to thrive under the pressures of modern day publishing. We transitioned 16 years of content and 2,500 customers and subscriptions onto this new platform, which went live in Apr 2015.
With the new website live and 16 years of publishing under the sportEX brand, it was time for a new look that reflected the business we’d grown into. Based on the principles of collaboration, a co-operative approach to content creation, and a desire to build a business that worked as a virtuous circle for everyone involved, we developed the Co-Kinetic brand.
We consolidated sportEX medicine and sportEX dynamics into one Co-Kinetic journal and expanded our content range to include advice on marketing and growing a physical therapy business.
In response to results from a 1,000 strong survey seeking to identify the most difficult challenge that our subscribers were facing, we turned our publishing expertise towards creating educational marketing content our subscribers could use to market their businesses and get new clients. We began creating content marketing ‘kits’ around specific clinical topics.
With uptake to the new patient-focused marketing content gathering momentum, it quickly became clear that technology skills (or the lack of) were preventing people from taking full advantage of this content to really grow their businesses. So Tor developed a technophobe-friendly marketing platform built into Co-Kinetic which allowed ANYONE, regardless of their technology skills, to implement a full, client-generating, business-building marketing strategy.
In a bid to help ALL our subscribers to promote themselves more professionally and more widely, we added in the ability to rebrand all our patient-facing content like leaflets and handouts. In just 5 months, more than 20% of our customers have signed up to this upgrade.
After 16 months of testing and improving the bigger marketing platform, we have just launched a simpler, entry level marketing solution designed specifically to help you build engagement on your social networks and use these social networks to build your email list, thereby turning your social networks into a dynamic business growth tool.
Register today to access free content
Tor began her professional life training as a physiotherapist at Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge, UK. She went on to complete a BSc in Sport & Exercise Science at the University of Birmingham whilst also achieving a WTA international tennis ranking.
After graduation she worked for a London marketing agency and then moved into medical journalism where her passion for publishing was born.
At 27 she established sportEX medicine, a quarterly journal for general practitioners focusing on sport and exercise medicine.
sportEX grew into an internationally known journal for all sports medicine practitioners, including physical and manual therapists; articles covered the practical application of evidenced-based research alongside professional development with expert contributors drawn from across the world of medicine and rehabilitation.
With a passion for technology as well as publishing and sport, Tor's leadership grew sportEX into the Co-Kinetic journal and website which included a more collaborative, royalty-based form of publishing as well as a wider content remit. As well as the quarterly magazine Co-Kinetic, offerings now include e-learning opportunities, breaking clinical research infographics, marketing kits for therapists, business growth tools, and a business discount club.
Tor's focus is providing resources to help practitioners and therapists develop their businesses and to work more efficiently and effectively, a topic that she speaks regularly on at global conferences.
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