Great Escape Podcast episode 9 - Floating with Michael Cordova

great escape Jul 06, 2019

- [Stuart] And today I'm talking to Michael Cordova, managing director of The Floating-Point Center, a flotation centre in Reading, in the United Kingdom, and we'll find out all about what floating actually is
'cause that's probably going to be the first question I'll ask. Michael and I met in I think about 2014, just as he was beginning the process of thinking how to leave his corporate life, and go floating. Michael, welcome to the podcast.
- [Michael] Thanks, for having me on to do it.
- [Stuart] You're very welcome. Okay, well I'll ask the question, Tell us what floating is.
- [Michael] Well, floating is is a way to achieve a deep state of meditation. Um, it's a good way to de-stress and relax. Uh, for those of- for many of those I guess who haven't seen a float-tank or float-tub before, the-they're going um, there's more-more of them appearing all over-all over the world. But essentially, they're a giant pod they're about the same size as a family car. So about 7 foot long by about 6 foot wide. Filled with about half a ton of Epsom salt and about 1500 litres of water that's heated to skin temperature. So, essentially, there'll be a point where they won't necessarily feel like there's water around them. So they're completely supported. Uh, gives them a physical break, uh, they can have music at the beginning and end of the session, or they can have music throughout, lights on, lights off the idea is to isolate the senses, um, and to reduce the amount of
- sen- kind of sensory input. So you can't see anything completely, but that then helps and - the- air, the everything just slow right down so people get into states where they kind of miss the big chunk of the session. So they'll, yea, completely zone out. It's a good way to take a break from our-our busy lives. And people use it for very different things, from chronic pain issues, to uh, we have a lot of corporate people that come in, and use it for to-to just to have a greater focus and increase their creativity for any problems or uh, projects they may be working on all the way through to the -the team TV athletes. The- like the rowers, for example, that we're partners with. But, yea, comes quite a wide variety. Essentially it's a tool to help optimise performance um, and just well-being.
- [Stuart] Excellent, and I know the couple of times I've tried it, it's been: Lights out, silence, and just into the zone.
- [Michael] Uh-hm.
- [Stuart] We met as you were beginning your process, what were you doing before you decided that something had to change.
- [Michael] Well, it-I mean, it's interesting My- throughout my kind of career, I guess in terms of life-wise we're talking various, kind of, many different kinds of roles. Everything from hospitality through to music, through to the corporate, like, like marketing, um, and I ended up, well I - I need to find the education. Uh, so, I was previously working at the another college in Reading, in the UK, uh, and I was in charge of like- higher education area, in terms of managing students, applications, and doing the kind of, part admin side, and part of processing side of things, and then I felt that my time there had uh, sort of come to an end, and I sow options at Reading University which I then applied for, and then got the position there uh, so I thought I'd carry over all my skills, and apply that and have that better position. Which I did, but, at the time as well, there were a lot of things that were slightly different, and I felt that my position had in some ways gone backwards because essentially even though I had all the skills, I was still starting at the bottom. Uh, and, and then once I was there for a short period of time I - I was- I started to, I guess like a lot of people when they are in certain jobs, they're not it-it becomes a bit repetitive I-uh-I didn't feel like I was going kinda anywhere. And, I was just, on upon reflection, it was a specific sort of pattern that I was kind of repeating, basically. Uh, I might be staying in jobs for maybe uh, a year, maybe a year and a half, like two years maximum. I think the Reading thing was probably the longest one I had. And it just, I would think I was one of those people that come to likes to learn new things and wants to change, develop and progress. But I've never felt like I had the opportunity to do that while I was still there. I mean, previously, like a number of years before I think, 2011, we- that's when me and my wife Tina, we both decided to float start floating and landed probably working in education. Um, I knew there was always something in the back of my head, thinking,
"Well I know one day I want to do something" and I kind of always known deep down that you know, but, I've always wanted to run or have my own business or be in charge of you know, my sort of destiny. And my life, so to speak. But I don't, I think over that time I didn't have the confidence. But I-uh, doing all the different jobs I've done, and working in so many different areas, meeting so many different people, from like, all over the place, has given me the kind of skills that has allowed me to develop, to become a successful-successful business and make that- that transition. From sitting behind a desk to working in a you know, working in a kind of a more administrative role, to then being a company director and giving Ted-X talks, and I know how to play my trumpet, so to speak, but quite uh, quite sort of pivot toward I guess the kind of person in the float industry in-in the UK, in the moment, so I mean, it-it's just always been about forward thinking and trying to push thing forward. Um, and I think, in some- sometimes, in certain roles, it's not necessarily the job itself that holds people back, it's the relationships with, you know, with bosses, and with your colleagues and it can sometimes can be th-the biggest issue. And- and of course, the biggest amount of stress for people in life, and, it's just going through, having to go through that process and obviously meeting you and speaking with you, uh, as well then that sort of getting me a bit more of the, the confidence to go. Okay, you gave me a good contact, to looking at funding, which took me about 6 months to get, but without that kind of funding, and uh, you know, having that belief to say,
"Yeah, you know, we can do this." Then, you know, then I wouldn't obviously be doing what I'm doing now.
- [Stuart] We'll come back to the belief in a moment, but what was there that for you both,
'cause I know Tina was heavily involved in the decision, what was the point of which you decided,
"Life is going to change"?
- [Michael] Was because we were in quite a big office, there were about 40 of us in the office, and there were, we had other different- uh, we started with a group that was about 8 of us that were all joined at the same time, And a few people, kind of from the group, kind of left, and I- I wouldn't say that the environment was that positive, like most people got along, but it was cer-certain relationships that weren't that positive. Um, and in terms of-
- [Stuart] Okay
- [Michael] (Unintelligible) I mean, um, so, you know, you get pushed to a point where it's just go, okay, you've kind of had enough. And then, because I'd gone from working in a college environment and managing most of the higher education, um, aspects in terms of the programs, for example, and going up to university, so, essentially. And the, the other part, which is kind of important one was, that we were all on, kind of, fixed-term contracts at the time. So I - I think in my head anyway I, from when we started we had two year, essentially two year fixed-term, so I- I think in my head I started to think kind of, "okay, well what am I gonna do next? Because this may not be permanent." And then, by the time I made my decision, go "okay" it's gone, "I'm not getting any younger" and I thought, "well, now's the time to, you know, what I'm doing now, I'm never gonna do it." And afterwards we had two years we had to work very strong and good together and we-we'd saved up, uh, saved up some money, as well, so we-we came to the decision to go, "Well, you know, this is our future, we've got to decide what we want to do with it, and then, do we -do we want to continue working for somebody else? Or do we wanna be able to take back that control into our own hands?" You know, do what, the things that we love and we're passionate about. And you know, and help other people the same way they kind of helped us originally, speaking.
- [Stuart] So there was a decision made
- [Michael] Uh-hm.
- [Stuart] At this point you're still working out exactly what that's gonna look like, and-and uh, even then it's still probably hasn't ended up how you thought it might. This is the difference between making that decision and as you just mentioned, the word "belief". What was it that lead you to believe that you could actually do it?
- [Michael] Well, we had a couple meetings with the guys at Float Works in London, uh, so they- they had about- they had about 20 years experience within the float industry, but anyway, so, their sister company made the, the pods that we have. So we, I mean, we spoke to them, we spoke to a few other centers, we visited a few other different places as well, so we went to Brighton, uh I think we went up to Manchester, then Flo-Float Works, and the members there, for, over, like a couple years, and we went to Floating Amsterdam, so we went to various different places just to sort of test out and see, see how they all worked. Uh, I think the biggest thing was just to, because we had been floating for a while, I think we had a good knowledge and understanding of how, how it worked. And mm-most, most things in terms of business-wise are all a, if you can get the systems in place then, then you have a good understanding of your product, have your passion about it, it is possible to be successful. I mean, we haven't spent that much money in terms of marketing-wise or have been, you know, we've grown year on year for the last, you know, four years, tomorrow is our fourth birthday, but um, ha. But yeah, it's-it's-it's been an interesting journey. I know that and yet, um, there's plenty more. Plenty more to come.
- [Stuart] Yeah, absolutely. And I, I suppose, in there's a sense in which you had already decided what it was that needed to change. You just needed to set off down that road. You'd, you knew you were interested in floating, and-and, you wanted to be running a business together, rather than being employed by other people.
- [Michael] Mhm-hm.
- [Stuart] And obviously then, the idea of running a float center between the two of you, seemed like a, almost like a logical conclusion.
- [Michael] You think so, it's-it's it's quite crazy one, because the-the floating was. When we started, in 2015, there were probably half the amount of centers than there are now, you know, in the last two years, since we've opened, that the amount of centers pretty much doubled, really, in the UK. It's still a niche, still a very niche market, the thing is I quite, well both of us, quite enjoy a challenge. And it's always about learning new I mean, it's about learning new things. And I'm, you know, I I think because of the skills I have, and having worked in, kind of, high-end hospitality working uh, in the admin side of things, I- I did a degree in marketing, and I been, I worked in - worked in marketing, and uh, I think it's just a combination of doing various different things, you know, all the, all the skills I've pooled over the years and I worked as a DJ, and I've been playing over 500 people every week for like a year, and then, so knowing how to, to interact with people and uh, how to -I'm very- I'm very one of those people who look very at the small details. So the small details probably one of the most important things for me. And that-that's just goes the same for my personal life as well as obviously with business, as well. So, if you can get the small, little things right, they all obviously add up to the big things, and hence why, (Laughs) Why I should do it. It-it, I-I-I don't, I wouldn't get into the business of doing floating for making a lot of money for that way. But, um, I mean, we- we're doing it to, obviously to help, to help people and just, you know, try and change people's lives basically, and to make a difference.
- [Stuart] Yeah, on that subject, are you making enough to live?
- [Michael] Yes. Yeah, no, we don't, yeah, yeah, we definitely, uh I'd say, we-we've grown significantly since we opened. Um, I mean, one we come up to our next, year 5 next year, we'll be in a even stronger position. Uh, but, yeah, I mean, we're, we're doing fine at the moment. Um, and obviously we've got some new additions on the way. And th-then, and then in the, the near future. Uh, so, we've got all these other things to consider, as well. But, hence why we're both very focused on, you know, on the business and uh, and uh, in just helping it to grow. Because, obviously, that's going to provide, that's gonna provide, our, our kind of income and stability, and hopefully set some sort of legacy in the future.
- [Stuart] Absolutely. When you and I met, as you were beginning the, kind of the planning process, for this, and- and it's always been a joy of mine to see how that has all turned out, to a a business that's worked. How long did that planning process take? You just mentioned that you were a detail-oriented person. Were you diving down into lots and lots of detail, or did you start with a relatively high-level plan?
- [Michael] Uh, I, when the whole process, I guess, from the beginning to when we opened completely throughout. I'd say about, a year and a half to two years maximum. So I've probably met, I'd probably gotten contact, and met you, probably, during that first year. I think, because, I remember
'cause obviously, you were there as well, at the university, and uh, yeah, I uh, (Chuckles) I saw you digging in entrepreneurship and I thought, "ah, maybe I should get in contact with him". So, that's what I thought,
"Okay, I'll contact you", and have to chase you down, and like every time I went to your office, you would- you something- you'd gone. Like you had just left, or you-you weren't there And, then it's like, you- you were never there. So, I'd, I'd yeah, I'd say, hang around work until about
6 o'clock in the evening and grab you on the way out, going to the car but, it's like
- [Stuart] It's the only way to go
- [Michael] Which, it yeah, Whi-whi-which, was probably one of the best things of that, to be fair. Um, I mean, without, without your kind of, like guidance, and then your support, and point me in the right direction, and, um, we wouldn't have got, like, half, I'd say half the amount of money we needed to, to be able to, approach the bank, and get the rest of, you know, and get the-the rest of the amount that we needed to actually start the process. But in terms of detail, um, yeah, I mean, I mean, I-I with the business plan, Uh, I-I did a lot of research and contacted a lot of different centers, um, and in terms of the financials, that was I think I did like a 5, like a 5 year cash flow forecast for that as well. Um, I know I-
- [Stuart] How's that worked out?
- [Michael] How's it, how's it compare? To what I-
- [Stuart] Yeah
- [Michael] Well, I think, (Chuckle) um, Hmm. I think it was, I think it was, It was more or less. I think the further you can kind of be a bit more, I think, slight over-confident for the first year. To be fair. Uh, but, When I should have been a bit, kind of pull it back a little bit, but I mean the first, the first year was hard. Uh... and I think by year two, end of year two, we were more or less on track in terms of what I had imagined. Or what I put down in our cash flow forecast. Mostly it's, I think, it, um, it changes and things are seasonal and other things come up, that cost th-th-th-the be more or less on track in terms of what what we're making per month. It's yeah, it's more or less what I what I put it down as. But yeah.
- [Stuart] I'm always intrigued about people's 5 year business plans,
'cause you may remember me setting up some of the lectures you came to, anything more than
6 months and you're actually crystal ball gazing.
- [Michael] Yeah, yeah, no, 100 percent. Th-there's so many things that sort of come up and and little things that we didn't sort of think about, or um, like we had plumbers that flooded the, our ground floor. So we had, you know. There's always extra expenses and things, that you know, are that, you know, with the extra, extra stuff marked in your uh, you know, in terms of equipment and what have you. So we've, you know, we tweaked stuff as we've gone along. Uh, but it's, at the end of the day it's it is an organic kind, kind of document. It has to sort of change, and you know, when you look at it, pretty regularly, you got a few times a year, and there's other things we wanna add, and consistently looking for and, trying to progress and, um, yeah, just do more steps of research and, yeah. Just continue to try and push things forward really. Just to happen again.
- [Stuart] Yeah, absolutely. And I think one of the, things I found really exciting about what the way you guys have pushed the business forwards is, you've not just focused on being a floating center, but you've gone out and built relationships with other people, like th-the UK-Athletics and, and sort of. I suppose in some ways they are obvious groups to get in touch with, but you've actually built those relationships. And to a degree, that's then driven business back to, back to the business.
- [Michael] Yeah, yeah, no, 100 percent. I mean, we-we've worked, we've worked, um, pretty hard. I think the biggest, well, the biggest thing for me, one-one of the things that I-I thinks really important in, especially any-any business and or-or I guess, entrepreneur, or anybody going into business, is to, um, is t-t-to look for what, not necessarily identify opportunities,
'cause they have opportunities present themselves, is to, yeah, just take them. And you know, you can-
- [Stuart] Yeah, grab them
- [Michael] You know, it's like I've got, 'cause I had to, um, we-we were in the, um, Small Business 100, la-last year, so I had one of my quotes put in telegraph about that. And it was, basically saying the same thing, it's just, uh. You know if you see an opportunity, you can grab it with both hands, take it, and if you don't know what to do, that's fine, to learn how to do it after you've
(laughs) after you've taken it. So it's kinda like, yeah, so you kinda have to wing it a little bit, but then, most of the time, you can learn things once you've take, you know, what's got's into you. If you don't know half it, I guarantee you know someone else who can help you to achieve that. Um, and without these opportunities, and, you know, we'd never have grown the business, basically. Um, and it-it's a good way to be able to connect, you know, connect with people like the British Rowing, and uh, aspects as well as we've had a few of the, um, couple UK Athletics. And UK Track and Field athletes as well, kind of ambassadors as well, but, it's, yeah, I mean, the rowing stuff's been interesting because that-that one took about a year for us to get into a position where we could get, like have a contract with them. Initially, we had an opportunity that we sponsored them. Another, ice hockey, for the local ice hockey team, Um, so we did that for a year, and that, that was good fun. Um, so we used to go and watch the ice hockey every Sunday for free, which was, which was great. Was good for a little bit, bit, bit of fun shot. But I'd say very insane. If we ever get to go ice hockey, go. But yeah, that was kind of, that was in our first year. Uh, and we thought it'd be a good idea just because they're a smaller, smaller team to get the experience of managing and working with that as a contract sort of thing. And then from then on, I just keep an eye on opportunities on social media. So, in terms of Instagram, or, or Twitter, for example. That's how we, I got linked to one of the other GB-wearing, um, Alex Gregory, and for Alex Gregory, invite him to float before his pre-rio trial. He had a great float session, yeah, and then he was hooked. Started turning all the rest of them started coming over. And then it took like a year and by the end of, I think it was 2017 December, we then ended some, we signed like a, a contract. So we have, as far as I'm aware, we're the only center in UK to have like a, like actual proper contracts with, with ol-Olympic athletes. And that's and now we're now second year with them. So, yeah. Interesting opportunity, grab it. (chuckles) Honestly.
- [Stuart] Yeah, absolutely. And now that you've made this change, I mean, your lives are completely transformed, and we'll talk about the new baby on the way in a minute,
'cause that's just gonna completely mess your life up, as well. New baby on the way not withstanding, would you, do you regret having made this change?
- [Michael] No. It-it's literally like, the the best thing that I could've, I could've ever done, to be fair. Um, it's, what it's done, is not only has it um, provided me with an income, and uh, helped me support other people, but what it's actually done is actually help me, help me grow and develop and build confidence as a person. Because I was never- before, before the business, I-I-I was, but there was, like, I lacked that confidence aspect. And I think, I think I had that for a lot a big part of my life. I didn't have that, have that kind of self belief. And I used to get a lot of stress, and anxiety, and um, yeah, Suf-ff-ffed with depression for a while, and, um, yeah, I think I think meeting Tina and then the business aspects and having that, having someone there to support you as well as having, you know, giving that self belief, and thinking
"oh, I should, you know, yeah, I've got all these skills, and I- and I can do this." It's gonna be like, a shit-load of hard work, and it's gonna be tough, and there's gonna be long hours, and, you know, there's so much stuff to learn. But to be fair, you know, you don't apply yourself and you don't put yourself out there and step out of your comfort zone, you're not gonna learn and by putting myself out my comfort zone, like,
(chuckles) like with the, the Ted-X bit, and you know, you're not gonna learn anything about anything about, you know, learn that much about yourself. Um, and how far you can go. And what, you know, what you need to work on, basically. Yeah, no, I wouldn't, wouldn't change it. I'd do exactly the same thing. Everything I've done up to this point, I'd do exactly the same again.
- [Stuart] There's always a couple of little tweaks you'd do differently, but overall.
- [Michael] Yeah, more or less. (clears throat) I wouldn't say anything too major, but there's, um, yeah, there's, I mean, yeah I could look back and think to say, well, yeah, decisions I've made. But I wouldn't necessarily, h-have made necessary changes. Because if I change them then e-each thing leads onto the next thing.
- [Stuart] Michael also runs his own podcast. On floating and other things. It's called Pod Perspectives and there'll be a link to that in the show notes. Michael, that's really fascinating and, of course, we'll put contact details for Floating Point in the show notes at And if people want to come and have a float, I know that you're offering a 10 percent discount on people's first float at Floating Point at the moment. If they go to the website.
- [Michael] Yep, correct, yep. If they, if they quote, if they quote your show, uh, Great Escape, and they put that in the, in the notes, then yeah. They'll get 10 percent off.
- [Stuart] They'll get the discount. Lovely. We always like offering listeners a bonus.
- [Michael] Uh-hm.
- [Stuart] Michael, thank you so much, and we wish you and Tina, well with the pregnancy. Hope she's doing okay so far.
- [Michael] Doing fantastic. She's having some rest.
- [Michael] She'll be floating the next two weeks, actually.
- [Stuart] Yeah, that's actually a random question to ask. Is floating safe all the way through pregnancy?
- [Michael] Yes. I'd say not in the, well, not in the first trimester. Same with most massage treatments, or any anything like that. But, yeah, um, yeah. We've had we've had ladies float up until they, maybe about a week before they were, due. So, yeah.
- [Stuart] Okay. Fair enough.
- [Michael] Not a problem.
- [Stuart] Yeah, 'cause all that floating, uh, the baby must love it.
- [Michael] Uh-hm.
- [Stuart] Michael, you've been a great guest, thank you so much, and, uh, we will keep in touch.
- [Michael] Yes. Definitely, definitely.
- [Stuart] Michael and Tina have succeeded in building a life that supports their physical and mental health that will support their family as it grows, as they anticipate the arrival of their baby. And they've done it with hard work, and planning. It's not all been plain sailing. But they've built a proper, sustainable business. And it's really exciting and interesting to have watched this story from beginnings, when, as you've heard, as Michael cornered me in the park, which was the only way he could think of to actually grab some time with me. And one of the quotes that he said early on in the interview which, will stay with me for a long time,
"if you don't know what to do with an opportunity, take it anyway, and learn." If you've enjoyed this episode, please do leave us a review, like and subscribe to the podcast, and get in touch. Pretty much everything: Either @stuartlmorris or [email protected] Drop me an email and let me know what you think of the podcast, what subjects you'd like me to cover in the future, and if you know somebody who has a great story of escape then do let me know.

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The Great Escape titles music was created by Darren Reddick

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