Ally Vitale of Bar Method Talks Perseverance, Patience and Why Cliches are (Usually) True

“Good things take time.”

This month at Graymake, we are exploring the idea of patience.

When thinking about who to interview for our CEO spotlight, we knew Ally Vitale—wearer of many hats: mom, business owner and fitness trainer—might be able to shed some light on the importance of enduring difficulties, meeting goals regardless of the time they take to accomplish, and keeping a positive attitude in the meantime.

Anne Hilb: Ally, tell us about you and your work!

Ally Vitale: Hello! I’m a former Texan turned Baltimorean who lives in Fells Point with my husband, our toddler Cora and our two dogs. I own The Bar Method Baltimore-Locust Point, which is a boutique barre fitness studio where I employ an amazing team of 13 women. The Bar Method brand itself has been around for 18 years (!) and we opened this studio in April 2018.

AH: What made you want to become a business owner, and why Bar Method? 

AV: I was a Bar Method client for years, with a background in sports marketing as well as certifications in yoga and pilates.

I always kind of knew that I wanted to open my own studio: It was just a matter of where, when, and what. The perfect storm kind of all came together when my now-husband (then-fiance) and I decided that it was time for us to live in the same time zone … so I moved to Baltimore, where there were no Bar Methods to be found for miles.

Because I have experience in teaching barre, yoga and pilates, I considered opening a studio where I could teach all three varieties. But, at the end of the day, it made more sense to do one thing and do it really well, and that’s what The Bar Method does. We only teach barre, and all instructors go through six months of in- and out-of-studio training so they’re prepared to help all clients from all walks of life. 

AH: How do you describe or define patience? Would you say you are a naturally patient person? 

AV: To me, patience is the willingness to wait or work towards a goal or expectation that is distant future.

As of now, I am absolutely not patient at all, and this is a huge source of life anxiety for me and something I’m actively working through.

AH: As a business owner, how often do you find yourself channeling patience? Do you do anything to cultivate patience in an intentional way?

AV: Because I am not patient—and as a society, I think that’s gotten worse; we can have everything on demand, so why can’t we get life on demand too?—I try to channel patience by focusing on positives.

Rather than focusing on what I want right now—which, for me, is more clients!—and trying to come with a zillion ideas of how to reach said goal, I think about all the good things that are happening around me right now: Getting a maintenance issue fixed; seeing a client’s face light up when something “clicks”; being part of my staff and my clients’ life milestones … things like that.

I try to remember that it’s not about me; it’s about the community and what I get to provide to my staff and clients. 

AH: Do you ever find the pressure of our fast-paced world enhances impatience? How so?

AV: 100 percent! 

You can have almost everything right away—food, groceries, anything in the world is on Amazon. We’ve gotten so used to hitting “order now” and it appearing on our doorstep in 24-48 hours that it’s hard to look at life without that lens.

So, in my business for example, when we opened our doors, instead of the “if you build it, they will come” mentality, it was “I’ve been working for 3 years to open these doors—don’t people know that? Where are they?” And they were there, but I had to go find them; it wasn’t instant. And it wasn’t personal.

As a culture, we are so used to instant everything that the process of working towards a goal is almost getting lost. 

AH: Can you share an example of a time that impatience harmed your business—whether directly or indirectly? 

AV: Because the studio took so long to open, once we were at the tail end of construction, we picked an opening date and ran with it.

It was tight. But, I felt like I owed so many people a date, and, almost more specifically, that date in particular. So it was a mad dash to get our certificate of occupancy, our business license and the studio itself actually set up with furniture and such.

This was of course compounded by the fact that my daughter was born on March 21—as we know, women wear many hats—so I was orchestrating most of this from home with a teeny tiny newborn. This aspect was so stressful because I wasn’t there in-person—meaning more work for my team. I hated not being present at the studio, yet I also felt like I wasn’t able to actually enjoy the time at home with my daughter because I was constantly emailing or yelling at someone. Going down to obtain our certificate of occupancy when my daughter was two weeks old was a wild experience. 

I don’t know that this exactly harmed the business, but this feeling of the opening being a mad dash and cramming so many large life events into such a short time made everyone’s life harder. I wish I could have gone slower and enjoyed the process.

AH: What aspect of business tests your patience most? Has this changed over time? 

AV: Being beholden to other people’s schedules is a giant test of my patience. This might sound trivial, but it’s something that is a lot of work to manage.

For example, dealing with vendors and their shipping timelines can test my patience. Unlike most things, nothing in that world is “fast” or “instant,” so it can take weeks or months. And as much as I try to plan out, sometimes things fall through the cracks, and then it’s a scramble.

Similarly, it’s hard for me when I feel I am waiting on others to do something before I can move forward. That always seems to be the case with construction and maintenance.

And then just the evergreen reminder that we are still growing and we’ll get there. Even if I’m not sure where “there” is, I just feel like we aren’t “there.”

AH: How do you unwind? 

AV: Does sleeping count? As a working mom I feel like I’m never off unless I’m sleeping!

I know that’s silly, but my phone is on me at all times to respond to studio issues, client questions, and so on, so even when I get home and my daughter goes to bed, I’m likely still working. I need to get better at that, but in this go-go-go work environment where the lines between work life and home life continue to blur, I truly struggle to turn “off.” Even when I’m home and not working, I’m still “on” as a mom so there isn’t much time if any where I am just, off. 

AH: What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs or would-be entrepreneurs? -OR- What’s the most helpful advice you’ve ever received as it relates to business? 

AV: Go. For. It. All the cliche sayings are true, but, they are true for a reason.

Get up, go for what you want, and be proud of the fight. 

AH: Anything you want to share about what’s coming up at the Studio? Or anything else you want to share? 

AV: We have lots of fun events happening in September.

The biggest one is our Summer Skin Care with Dr. Emily Clarke-Pearson of Charm City Plastic Surgery event on September 4th!  We’d love to see you there! 


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