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I launched my business as a sports coach


Once upon a time in a far away land… Oh wait! This is a story happening here and now… It’s the story of Olivier Delrieu who started his own business as a sports coach in Luxembourg in 2020. Let’s meet him!

 In a nutshell…

For you, being an entrepreneur is above all… An adventure!
The main advantage of being an entrepreneur? Fulfillment.
The main disadvantage of being an entrepreneur? The constant need for rigour. But that’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s even what I’m proud of when I go to sleep at night.

Olivier, how would your friends and family describe you?

They say I’m a character! I readily admit that I am always active. Every morning, we are given a fresh start to life. You have to be ready to seize it. Diligence is a quality that I value enormously: never giving up, knowing how to bounce back, being consistent, disciplined... It all works together!

I am also the father of two young girls. Besides, my lilting accent and the big smile that rarely leaves me are proof of my joie de vivre. It took me more than 40 years to understand that life is to be savoured at all times...

So what exactly do you do for a living?

Since January 2020, I’m a sports coach! I am a sports and fitness instructor, mainly for individuals. I also accompany groups from companies or public institutions. In particular, I work with the City of Luxembourg as a freelance for the "Sport pour tous" programme. I have the chance to run courses for seniors' groups and multi-sports for children from different backgrounds. What's great here is the balance between sports and education: supervising children, building their confidence, teaching them that there are rights and duties... Finally, I organise parent/child workshops from the age of 3. In this context, I work on transmitting an understanding of gestures and touch. It also encourages communication between parents.

Where can we find you?

Not having my own premises, which I thought was a pragmatic and natural choice at the beginning, has turned out to be one of my added values! People love that I come to them and sort them out. I go to their home or workplace. And I choose a place in the area to do the workout session in the way that best suits my client. And as I always tell them, "There's no such thing as bad weather, you just have to wear the right clothes!”

I'm a bit like a human billboard! (And that makes him laugh!) I work outside, with my logo on my sportswear, so I'm easy to spot!

Of course, I can also be found on my website and social networks such as Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

What made you choose this profession?

When I was a kid, I had two passions, and I ended up putting sports on hold. As I approached fifty, life offered me the opportunity to finally explore this passion! This present was hidden in a wrapping that was far from attractive: a business cessation in 2018. It was the love of sports that allowed me to get up, to embrace this new challenge, and to find a new balance, both in my professional and family development.

Two passions… Can you explain?

I started working when I was 14. I was very good at sports, but gastronomy caught my eye. My parents persuaded me to pursue a career in gastronomic cooking. I worked in this field for 20 years, mainly for gourmet restaurants. My last job in this sector was as sous-chef at the Jules Vernes restaurant on top of the Eiffel Tower. In 2001, I accepted the opportunity to open several restaurants in Luxembourg. I found myself doing things I had never done in my life, like project management. Everything apart from cooking! I enjoyed it but my family life suffered. That's when I decided to go into the agri-food industry, where I worked for 10 years before my big change of career!

In sports as in gastronomy, passion is an ingredient without which I cannot perform well. Besides, in the kitchen, you have to be rigorous, you have to rehearse your steps and when it's time, you have to perform! It's the same in sport! I find the same challenge in sports as in gastronomy.

"Isn't desire by definition, under certain circumstances, the need to satisfy a longing? To grasp a thought or a reality in order to achieve a particular task, in order to reassure oneself of an emotion prompted by an impulse?"

How did this change of career unfold?

I started with passion and volunteering. Then, when I realised that I had to pass on knowledge to children, I decided to structure it all by passing certificates. I first obtained the category "C" license issued by ENEPS, with a specialisation in athletics, and I continue to train continuously. Mind you! Even though I have a state coaching certificate, I still take my ethical responsibility very seriously: it is my duty to ensure the safety of the individual, in all circumstances. I refuse to coach in areas in which I am not specialised. A paper is not everything! You need real expertise. I am very committed to this. It is a guarantee of reliability, especially as this sector is somewhat vague. In fact, the training by ENEPS was well structured, but when I set up my business, I was not asked for any qualifications.

You chose to get support when you launched your business?

Yes, I participated in Fit4Entrepreneurship (ed. note: now called StartYourBusiness), a programme organised by ADEM and dedicated to people who are retraining or unemployed. This programme includes coaching with nyuko coaches. In parallel to this support with Lucile, Anne Panichi, the mentor who was assigned to me - who is also passionate about sport! - gave me a lot of support.

Then I got nyuko's support. With them you are not told what to do, you are made to think! They make sure that you've fully grasped your project, and they help you test your project on a small scale to see if you haven't made any mistakes. In short, you are taught to take measured risks in order to be able to make the big decisions independently.

You are challenged! And always brought back to the basics. For example: you can have the best project in the world, but if you don't have any clients, what's the point? When you are in the thick of it, you don't see all that... And it's better to have learned how to brake before you start going downhill!

How did this help the project evolve?

In nine months, I went from being a project holder to an established entrepreneur. Things that are very time-consuming for novices were explained to me. I learned how to find the right information at the right time for myself.

At first, I didn't understand what the point was. I was full of preconceptions. Then I realised that there are two main questions: "Do you have the customers?” and "Do you have the right people to help you do your job well?”. For example, I found it difficult at first to work with a fiduciary because I was still thinking like an employee, I thought I was "giving away money", but in the end it helped me earn money!

What is the financial model of your business?

I work on a per unit basis, with a fixed hourly rate. Why do I do this? To be able to meet demand while maintaining quality. At the beginning, my business plan foresaw a year with no income and I am happy with that. Apart from the state aid against COVID, I had to manage. It wasn't easy.

At the start, I fumbled around a bit... I did my market study. Then I compared what I had to earn per year (divided into months) with the prices that were on the market. With a little time and experience, I realised that I was offering prices that were too low. So I increased my prices a little, realising that I was not just a sports instructor, but that an hour of sports coaching had to be prepared, debriefed and worked on... I had become a business manager too!

How do you differentiate yourself from your competition?

For me, sport is not just a form of release, it is a source of pleasure. I adapt my coaching to help my clients excel by giving them a taste of diversity. I surprise them to keep them motivated. My experience in the service sector is an asset. I am fundamentally helpful and responsive.

I help them to excel but with a lot of consideration for their current state. I adjust to my client's state of mind. I analyse non-verbal cues a lot. I am extremely attentive to the person's mood and mental state. For example, I sometimes suggest going to the forest if I feel that the person needs to recharge their batteries. I have very loyal clients who tell me that they come back to me because it's me, with my personality and my energy.

Your advice on positioning and communication?

I first made myself known through my network which I have built up over 20 years. With good interpersonal skills, I have developed relationships through my activities, volunteering, etc., and also within companies, in B2B. But word of mouth does not last forever. Prospecting is done on the basis of this foundation and then... You have to keep it going. You have to pay attention to your current and past customers. For example, parent/child courses for children aged 3 and over started 20 years ago in Luxembourg City, at a modest price. Then it spread to the surrounding villages. It turned out to be a great resource! Satisfied with my services, this target group came back to see me afterwards. It's a way of prospecting in the long term and of cross-selling.

Otherwise, I use basic digital tools: my website, with good search engine optimisation, social networks... When you search for "sports coach in Luxembourg" on Google, I regularly appear first. But it's a job in itself. You mustn't spread yourself too thin. In the summer, which is a slower period, I work on my timetable and perfect my digital communication skills.

Since I started, I have something that comes out in the media every three months or so, notably in professional magazines.

One best practice to share?

Not one... Two:

  1. With each new client, I create a dedicated group on WhatsApp. It is distinct from her/his personal conversations because of the way I name it. I call it "First name + run + my logo". I can follow up at any time (within a maximum of three days). I personalise my service and above all, this group is open for life. If my client has a question a year later, I answer it!
  2. I always ask my customers how they found me. Useful information for prospecting!

How do you see your business evolving in the next 5 years?

I have always proceeded in stages. In order to make my business sustainable and profitable, I am gradually learning to structure my work and my time. This is very difficult when you are alone. My goal, once I'm past the first three years, is to have a well-functioning structure.

After that, since I'm 51 years old and I have to look after myself, my objective is to establish collaborations with other entrepreneurs to increase my visibility and let them benefit from my network and my expertise. And then, why not hire?

How do you manage with so many different roles?

My guiding principles are: anticipation, adaptability and constant discipline.

As far as priority management is concerned: business first! I handle everything that is invoiceable first. Then I take care of scheduling all appointments by phone. I have fixed weekly hours with regular clients and group courses. Only then do I juggle last-minute appointments and back-office work.

As far as time management is concerned, I use the time blocking technique in accordance with my number one priority: to be punctual and never take more than three days to reply to a message from one of my clients. Furthermore, I do physical work. I can't hold classes one after the other. I always leave 30 minutes between two appointments. I also alternate my days to recuperate physically by working on administrative tasks. On another scale, I take care of time-consuming things during holiday periods.

How do you balance your professional and personal life?

Having a job you are passionate about consumes everything in your life! Your time, your family... And if you have time, you sleep!

These are jobs that take a lot out of you. So I set aside time for myself. I book some days, which are blocked in my diary, to rest. I love thermal baths. It refreshes me. I lie down, I don't talk. Which, as anyone who has met me knows, is a feat in itself! It regenerates me physically and mentally. These moments are my very own.

It is often said that being an entrepreneur is isolating. Does this sometimes weigh on you?

I am extremely talkative but I keep it in balance! I perform best when I'm alone and quiet. I'm not afraid of solitude, quite the contrary! During Covid, solitude saved me. It allowed me to get some necessary distance to my business which helped me move forward.

When you're an entrepreneur, you have to keep your things moving. Solitude helps me to make the right decision. You sit down, challenge yourself and then make a choice. And then, of course, you listen to advice... And if you've gone down the wrong path, then you have to be able to go back and change directions.

If you had only one piece of advice to give to a future entrepreneur, it would be...

Just one? No way!

  • You have to be able to adapt. Always find a solution!
  • Take responsibility for your decisions.
  • Being cheerful has a boomerang effect.
  • Have faith in yourself!
  • Get challenged, not lost! No, this is not a new fashionable insult! Haha! That's my best advice!


Interview written by Delphine Anzevui

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