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Tips: Starting a business

Some advice for the beginner from other entrepreneurs.

workdeskBusiness advice is all over the Internet. There is literally no lack of information on how to start your own business. It’s also often all over the place, meaning, there is often no rhyme or reason to the information.

I attended a webinar recently by three female entrepreneurs. I thought they gave a succinct list of ways to stay both calm and focussed when getting a new business launched. Here are ten tips they shared with the audience:

  1. Know your WHY.
    This was accompanied by a visualization exercise to imagine yourself traveling 5 years into the future and being in the presence of who you will be 5 years from now. What would be surrounding you in your home? What advice would your older self give you? What can you learn from the things you have honored to get yourself to that place 5 years from now?
  2. You don’t have to be in love with your business idea 100% of the time.
    As long as your idea sparks you and keeps you going, it’s not important for your goal to feel amazing all of the time. Sometimes it can feel less than perfect. What is more important is that it feels at least 70% right, rather than 100% perfect.
  3. Say your goals out loud to the right people.
    Surround yourself with supportive people, people you can trust, like-minded people. Learn how different people can support you in different ways.
  4. Don’t spend all your time on social media in the beginning.
    Entrepreneurs think that they need to be on social media all the time when they’re starting their business. Instead, take the actions that will move you towards your 5 year vision. When you find yourself doing “busy work,” back off, take a break, walk around the block, then do the next thing that will move you forward. Even if it’s uncomfortable.
  5. Don’t do what everyone else is doing.
    Find your own secret sauce, your own voice, your own unique drive. Your story, what you offer is unique to you. Trust that showing up as you is your strength, your value. Just be yourself.
  6. Get a site you can update yourself.
    The women all suggested SquareSpace.
  7. Don’t put everything on your site.
    Be strategic about what goes on the home page. Say who you are and what you do. Put on a call to action. One should be a newsletter sign up button.
  8. Nervous + excitement = perfect.
    If you’re just nervous, without the excitement, you won’t take action. If you’re all excitement with no nervousness, it could mean the work is not that important to you. Remember your why, keep your eye on the prize and keep going, even when you’re unsure. Read “The War of Art,” and “Do the Work!,” both books by Steven Pressfield on how to overcome resistance.
  9. Have realistic expectations.
    Know that you won’t be able to replace your existing income right away. Make sure you have a savings or a day job to cover you when you first get started on your business.
  10. Time + experience = confidence.
    When you see results, you can trust what you’re doing is working. Trust what you have built so far. Confidence is fleeting! Learn your strengths and know that you have what it takes to do what you need to when things go wrong.

Coach as Entrepreneur

Taking an entrepreneur approach as a coach

entrepreneurThis week I attended a seminar hosted by my local chapter of the International Coaching Federation (ICF). The ICF is a worldwide organization. Coaches can connect with the ICF through their local chapter for the benefit of engaging with other coaches, continuing their education as coaches, attending discounted events, maintaining credentials, and for business development.

As a coach who is fairly new to running her own coaching practice, I had heard about a seminar on succeeding as a coach from a business perspective, and was curious what I could learn, so I signed up and went.

There are two sides to coaching, or to any business, really. There’s the “product,” and then there’s getting the product into the hands of the people.

I’ve identified two different trains of thought on how to approach these two pieces of coaching/business.

According to one approach, which I identify as the “artist approach,” the key is to be a phenomenal coach, being one of the best out there in the market. The argument is this: there are so many people who think they can coach, but who are not really true coaches. There are also those who don’t take coaching seriously, and who only do it part-time or as a smaller role within their existing job. So, if you stand out as an exceptional coach, and your “product” is seen as highly valuable, the argument is that people will naturally be attracted to it. Treat your craft of coaching as an art form and success will naturally follow.

The “artist approach” focuses primarily on the “product.”

The flaw in this approach is that you could be highly exceptional, gifted even, as a coach. But if no one’s heard of you, your likelihood of having your “product” reach the hands of clients is going to be small. My father was a talented painter, an artist, but was a terrible business person. His art never made it into a gallery and he never got rich from his artwork.

According to the second approach, which I identify as the “entrepreneur approach,” the key is to have a great head for business, marketing, networking and getting yourself in front of your potential clients. If you don’t make some effort to connect with people, you won’t be recognized for what you can offer.

The flaw to this approach is that you can come across as too sales-y and seen as pushing your product in a way that is highly unattractive to those sensitive to authenticity. Clients want to trust you. The quality of your product can suffer due to reputation or your hardball approach to business.

The “entrepreneur approach” focuses primarily on getting the product into the hands of the people.

The truth is that you need to employ both an artist and an entrepreneur’s approach to coaching. You really can’t have one and not the other to be a success.

There is a third thing, however. You could be an amazing coach, and you could talk to your potential clients all day long, but in the end, it really comes down to incentive. What would compel someone who knows you’re good at what you do to become your client?

Business people all talk about this: find out what people want and offer a solution. In the end, the “product” is not the coaching itself. Coaching is just the means to achieve a certain outcome. The outcome of coaching is the actual product you’re offering.

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, depending on how you look at it, the outcome of coaching is often something that is intangible and ethereal, such as the client feeling happier, having confidence, changing their perspective on life, living according to one’s true values, living well, or making a dream come true. Or it could also be more specific, such as a new job, a healthier body, or a more intimate relationship with a partner.

The speaker at the ICF business seminar I attended talked primarily about the “entrepreneur approach,” using elements I had heard many times before from entrepreneurs or business coaches. Articulate your passion. Have a vision. Stand out using a differentiator. Be committed to a certain outcome. Set goals. Remain focussed. Nothing I didn’t already know.

One thing the seminar did provide me with is a way to look at all of the options, of which there are many, for starting a coaching practice and remove the clutter of distracting ideas. If I came away with anything worth while, it was a reiteration of what I’d heard before: just start doing one thing and do it well, with all your effort and make it measurable, so that you can see progress and an outcome.

Conclusion

I have not attended any course, seminar or talk, or read any books, that specifically teaches what turns a potential client into a client, for a coach. That’s probably because it’s a mixture of so many things. Each coach is different, just like each artist is different. Each has their own style, personality, talents, etc. It’s like trying to teach a musician how to write music that people will buy. It’s impossible. It’s a synergy that simply works or doesn’t work.

In the end, the best advice the seminar speaker said came at the very end of her talk: Be true to you. Be authentic. People will pick up on that. That alone is attractive.

Add to that some business sense, a bit of networking, and a great way to talk about what you do, and I think you’d be well on your way to being a coach with clients who value working with you.

Getting started as a coach

Where do you start as a coach?

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This is the first blog post of our new website!

Today I had a coaching session with Gretchen, who has been coaching me for a few months now. I got to know Gretchen through Noomii, one of the largest online directories of coaches. It’s designed to help people to find the right coach for them.

In November of 2016, I signed up to be on the Noomii directory (you can find me here), although I have to say, I have not received any customers from the site so far.

What it has done, however, is help me to think about how I present myself as a coach to the world. Because you make your own profile, it’s helpful to put into words what makes you unique and what a customer gets from working with you.

Signing up for Noomii has the additional privilege of learning about how to work on the business side of being a coach. For the price of membership, you get access to a collection of training materials. The first program is called Coach Marketing Bootcamp. It’s specifically designed for coaches who want to get more clients (who doesn’t?).

The number one thing they tell you: you have to find your clients. More than likely, they aren’t going to find you, especially if you’re new to the field of coaching.

Stew, a very successful coach, who I’ve worked with now for a few years, gets most of his clients through referral. But how do you get those referrals? By networking. So, the number one piece of advice in the Marketing Bootcamp is: call everyone you already know. Offer them a free/introductory coaching session so that they can understand what you do. Then see if it’s something they either 1) want to experience on a regular basis by signing up as your client, or 2) know someone who would be a good fit as a client.

I’ll write more about how you do that later. For now, check out Noomii and see if it’s a right fit for you.

One piece of advice: don’t believe all the hype from Noomii. Creating clients is not going to happen magically as soon as you put your profile online. Many coaches put up websites of their own and still clients are unable to find them. There’s much more to marketing than just putting up a website or a profile onto a directory.

The other warning is: Noomii attracts many of the “wrong” clients as well as a lot of coaches who have no idea what they’re doing. It takes time to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. I  was given a Noomii coach as a client as part of my membership and she dropped off the face of the earth after our first call. If a coach can’t take their coaching seriously, then how serious should you take them?

If you do sign up for Noomii, I would recommend you differentiate yourself by being the coach that takes coaching seriously. A coach who gets back to their clients, and who goes the extra mile to make their clients feel they are dealing with a professional. Otherwise all you’re doing is giving the coaching business a bad name and you most likely won’t be successful as a coach.

Gretchen has been wonderful, however, so I am very glad I did decide to give Noomii a try.