Ep 6 – Four Mistakes I Made in Coaching Business Startup

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Show Notes

This episode covers 4 big mistakes I made during the start up of my coaching business. Maybe you can relate.

Yes, I made all of these mistakes and more and I lived to tell the tale.

But I’ve experienced multiple magical turning points in my business as well. Wonderful things I never could have imagined came my way because I did not let my mistakes stop me.

And that’s the key, right?

My guess is that, as I talk about these pitfalls, you’ll recognize yourself in some but also realize that you’re much more savvy than I was at startup. Coaches seem to get smarter every year.

Mistakes are still the best way to learn. It’s a time honored tradition. And growing a coaching business, like any business, is a total experiment. It’s a long term gamble.

When I was able to see my business in that light it became easier to power through mistakes by making small adjustments instead of over reacting.

If you can teach yourself to think like a scientist or an innovator and play the long game, you’ll be golden. That gumption and grit will pay you back many fold.

Okay … enough preamble … now to dish the dirt.

Mistake #1 — Holding High Expectations

There are schools of thought about expectations.

Me? I’m with Shakespeare who purportedly said: “Expectation is the root of all heartache.”

That’s wisdom similar to the Buddhist belief that craving is what causes suffering. Sounds right to me.

See, I expected:

  • to replace my income before I quit my job.
  • to immediately get dozens of referrals from friends and family.
  • for everyone to get the value of coaching with a single free session.

The weight of those expectations and others crushed me. Because when things didn’t work exactly as I’d hoped, disappointment set in. I was certain that it meant I wasn’t good enough.

It didn’t mean that. It never means that. It only meant that the experiment was still alive. And, I needed to chill out emotionally while still taking action on behalf of my business.

Then, I realized pretty quickly that exchanging high expectations for low expectations was just another type of self sabotage. It’s totally de-motivating.

So it’s best to check expectations entirely. The winning attitude turns out to be another buddhist principle. Live in the present moment. Let love drive you in your business and show up as a professional. More about that in a minute …

I know now that for my first 2 years of coaching, I had been holding my breath until I arrived at an imagined destination.

Where did my high expectations come from? Well some was arrogance. Some was ignorance. And the rest was because …

Mistake #2 — I Drank the KoolAid

At the time, when I launched my coaching business there was a lot of hyperbolic messaging about coaches earning high 6 or 7 figures coming from rock star coaches.

As if that was the norm.

I’m glad to see that rhetoric has toned down. And several people who are earning high revenues these days are more transparent about the significant investment of time, sweat and seed money it takes to get there.

I was just listening to Natalie Eckdahl of Biz Chix, one of my favorite podcasts. She generously admitted that her first whole year of business, she had zero profit.

Four years later though, she is one of those phenoms. And I can tell she works very hard for it.

I appreciate her transparency so I’m going to pass that forward now.

My first year in my coaching business I grossed a whopping $10,000. Not enough to pay for my coach training, equipment and mentoring.

My second year I grossed $35,000. My third year — which was the year I figured out the right way to niche, brand and connect to a unique target audience with a specific problem — that year I made $75,000. And from there I took off.

I truly believe you will move faster than that if you thoughtfully design your business rather than just stumble into it like I did.

Six years into my business I started pushing hard for those big numbers.

Eight years into that race I found that the costs of doing business at that level were too high for me. But that’s me. You may have the stamina for it.

Now, if YOU have big number goals, you absolutely have a chance at it.

Consider though, before you climb the highest mountain, get strong on the smaller ones. Be strategic and patient with yourself or you’ll burn yourself out fast.

If you’re feeling like a loser because you’re not at the 6 figure place yet …

Don’t treat yourself that way.

That “American Dream” thing or the equivalent in other nations keeps us in a scarcity thrall — always looking for easy money. And feeling unlucky if it doesn’t happen.

That’s the real cause of suffering. True prosperity is about feeling the blessing of what you have while you still grow.

The healthiest approach I’ve found is to aim for stretch revenue goals that are appropriate for your phase of business.

Then, strategize each step you will take to reach that goal. Do the work. Evaluate how you’re doing from time to time and make incremental adjustments based on what your audience wants and what’s best for you.

In other words, experiment!

Mistake #3 — Staying Too Long in Student Coach Mode

While I both held absurd expectations and drank the KoolAid on the one hand, on the other hand I clung to student mode for nearly a year after coach training.

I was in perpetual student mode with my coaching business.

I kept giving free coaching. Or, I charged pitifully low fees.

I kept taking more coach training. I also spent a lot of money on programs that were teaching tactical approaches that I wasn’t developmentally ready for.

Have you ever enrolled in a program and finishes having nothing to show for it. Chances are the information was just too advanced for where you were in your business them.

That was the case for me. I hadn’t narrowed my niche enough or learned the psychographics of my audience. I didn’t know how to market without being salesy.

It’s part of the reason why I serve coaches in the start up phase to help them believe in their experiment and set themselves up well for the journey.

I have a lot of compassion for myself in that perpetual student mode. It’s a big deal to launch a business. I guess I needed that year to get ready for it mentally.

In the meantime I made …

Mistake #4 — Blindly Following Other Coaches

… down a rocky, barren road.

Yep. I pretty much did what I saw other coaches doing. I didn’t consider whether what they were doing was actually working for them. It looked cool. It sounded cool. So I was inspired.

I admired someone’s website and rushed to put one up that was equally pretty and honestly pretty vapid. It addressed everyone, prosthelytized about the wonders of coaching and had no conversion process.

My third website was the charm. I also spent a lot of money on a logo and a business card. I abandoned that logo long ago and never really needed the business cards for my almost entirely online style of marketing.

Basically, I invested in the trappings of my business without considering my overall strategy.

I think I’ve made all of the mistakes I possibly could have made in the start up phase.

My saving grace is that I’m tenacious. When I say I’m going to do something I don’t stop until I make it happen.

The silver lining of my impetuousness is that when I fall flat on my face I get up with curiosity and study the right way to do something until I can teach someone else how to do it.

So I hope that you’ve enjoyed me roasting myself today.

If you’ve gotten caught in a start up pitfall and want a hand to get back to ground level, I offer a Strategy Session. Scroll to the bottom of this page and click the button STRATEGY SESSION.

Mentioned in this Episode:

Natalie Eckdahl of the Biz Chix podcast.

My next episode is called Why is Coaching a Hard Sell?