Elevating Your Coaching Business: Practical Wisdom from Donald Miller and Mike Michalowicz

Donald Miller and Mike Michalowicz recently had an insightful conversation about the value of coaching and how coaches can effectively grow their businesses. Mike, a successful coach himself who now trains and certifies business coaches in his methodologies and frameworks, shared his journey from small business owner to respected industry leader, offering valuable perspectives for both new and experienced coaches.

At the heart of the discussion was the fundamental question: why do people hire coaches? Mike believes the answer lies in specialization. By focusing on a specific niche and developing deep expertise, coaches can position themselves as the go-to resource for solving particular problems or serving specific industries.

Interestingly, Mike advises against giving direct advice to clients. Instead, he recommends sharing personal experiences and relatable stories that allow clients to draw their own insights and apply them to their unique situations. This approach fosters a more collaborative and impactful coaching relationship.

Another key aspect of successful coaching is finding your purpose. Mike encourages coaches to reflect on their life experiences, particularly the challenging ones, to uncover the driving force behind their work. When coaches are fueled by a genuine sense of purpose, it enhances their passion and effectiveness in helping others.

From a practical standpoint, the conversation touched on several strategies for growing a coaching business. Creating a menu of coaching products tailored to different needs within your niche can help structure your offerings and make it easier for clients to understand how you can assist them. Implementing a customer relationship management (CRM) system early on is also crucial for effectively managing client information and supporting marketing efforts as your business scales.

To identify the most impactful coaching opportunities, Mike suggests looking at your own experiences or those of your immediate community to pinpoint pressing problems you are uniquely positioned to solve. By focusing on areas where you have confidence and expertise that others may lack, you can create coaching products that bridge the gap between insecurity and confidence for your clients.

Ultimately, the conversation highlighted the significant opportunity coaches have to make a meaningful difference in their clients’ lives. By specializing, sharing relatable experiences, operating with purpose, and strategically developing their businesses, coaches can deliver transformative value and build thriving practices.

If you want to watch the whole interview, click on the video below.

About the Author

Ron Tester is a Certified Executive Coach and Book Yourself® Solid Coach who helps service professionals and solopreneurs grow their businesses without sacrificing their personal lives. With over 20 years of entrepreneurial experience, Ron provides practical guidance on marketing, sales, operations, and work-life balance. Learn more at https://www.rontestercoaching.com/about.

Habits and Practices to Grow Your Business

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Over the weekend, I was thinking about a coaching client of mine who’s skillfully juggling the demands of growing their business while still making time for life’s treasures – family vacations, gym sessions, and those small moments that truly matter. This led me to consider the broader picture: the habits and practices that not only forge a successful business but also contribute to a fulfilling life. These practices might not be part of your daily routine yet, but weaving them into the fabric of your business operations can significantly impact your success. More than just boosting revenue, these habits can enrich your life, offering a blend of professional achievement and personal satisfaction. For entrepreneurs at any stage, adopting these habits can profoundly change how you engage with your work and the people who matter most in your business journey.

  1. Keep Learning: Embrace curiosity and a commitment to lifelong learning. Carve out regular time slots for reading industry-related materials, enrolling in online courses, or attending workshops to expand your skill set and knowledge base.
  2. Connect with Your Audience: Develop a keen understanding of your clients by actively seeking their input and feedback. You can use surveys, social media interactions, and direct conversations to tailor your services to their evolving needs. Personally, I recommend having conversations with your audience as much as possible. You’ll learn things in conversations you’d likely never learn from surveys or social media.
  3. Self-Reflection: Regularly assess your business’s progress, identifying areas of success and those requiring adjustment. Monthly or quarterly reviews can help realign your goals and strategies to the current business landscape.
  4. Prioritize Self-Care: Your well-being is crucial to your business’s success. Incorporate self-care practices like meditation, exercise, and hobbies into your daily routine to maintain high energy levels and effectiveness.
  5. Engage with Peers: Connect with fellow entrepreneurs and industry peers for mutual support, fresh ideas, and potential collaborations. Participate in forums, networking groups, and professional meet-ups to broaden your perspective and knowledge.
  6. Build Efficient Systems: Streamline your operations by establishing standardized procedures for routine tasks. This not only saves time but also ensures consistency and quality in your service delivery.
  7. Use Data to Make Decisions: Let data guide your business decisions. Monitor key performance indicators and client feedback to make informed choices that drive growth and improvement. Everyone’s key performance indicators are different, but I’d recommend tracking number of new clients, sources of new clients, lifetime value of a client, etc.
  8. Grow Your Network: Actively invest in building and nurturing professional relationships. Allocate time for networking activities, social media engagement, and industry events to expand your professional circle. When possible, do this in person. Face to face is often where the magic happens.
  9. Manage Your Finances Wisely: Keep a vigilant eye on your financial health by monitoring income and expenses. Adhere to a budget, track financial transactions, and plan for future needs to ensure stability and growth. I’d recommend at tracking your cash flow, revenues, margins, lifetime value of a client, etc.
  10. Balance Work and Life: Set clear boundaries between work and personal life to prevent burnout. Ensure you’re allocating quality time to both professional responsibilities and personal interests and relationships. This is one of the areas where I work hard with my clients to make the most important things in life the most important things on their calendar. It’s not enough to say you value personal care, family, etc. You have to schedule it and make it happen.
  11. Communicate Clearly: Articulate your services and value proposition in simple, understandable terms. Clear communication fosters better relationships with clients and others that matter. If you’re doing this right, you’ll probably get sick of hearing yourself say the same things over and over. The reality is that almost everyone needs to hear the same truths over and over. I remember reading that business leaders should think of themselves as the “chief reminding officer.” 
  12. Stay Resilient: Cultivate resilience to navigate challenges and setbacks with grace. Embrace strategies like mindfulness and seeking support to bounce back stronger from adversities. This may be hard at first, but with practice you can find the well of resilience within. This reminds me of my favorite quote by Albert Camus: 

    “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.”

  13. Act on Feedback: Be receptive to feedback and use it as a tool for continuous improvement. Encourage clients and peers to share their insights and incorporate their valuable perspectives into your service enhancement efforts. Although the customer is not ALWAYS right, they are the customer, and if you will seek to understand their feedback and avoid becoming defensive, they can teach you so much about your business.

The journey of growing a service-based business is both challenging and rewarding. It requires not just a strategic approach to operations and marketing, but also a commitment to personal growth and resilience. Remember, the path to success is paved with continuous learning, genuine connections, and a balanced lifestyle.

If you’re finding it challenging to incorporate these habits into your daily routine or need guidance on enhancing your business practices, consider seeking professional support. Sometimes, having a coach to guide you through the process can make all the difference. If you’re interested in exploring how I can assist you in achieving your business goals and fostering these essential habits, book a call with me. Let’s discuss how we can work together to bring about the growth and success you envision for your business.

About the Author

Ron Tester is a Certified Executive Coach and Book Yourself® Solid Coach who helps service professionals and solopreneurs grow their businesses without sacrificing their personal lives. With over 20 years of entrepreneurial experience, Ron provides practical guidance on marketing, sales, operations, and work-life balance. Learn more at https://www.rontestercoaching.com/about.

Navigating Business Terrain: Lessons from Hiking in the Mountains

Hiking in the mountains isn’t just a hobby for me; it’s a passion that mirrors my passion for business building. The two activities, in my mind, are deeply interconnected. Imagine the journey of a novice hiker: it’s mostly about taking one careful step after another, with most of your focus on not tripping over the next rock or root. You spend a lot of energy trying to avoid the obvious dangers that lie ahead. Every once in a while, you stop to look around, to appreciate the journey so far and to plan your next moves. It’s a delicate balance, and a lack of attention, even for a moment, can lead to serious consequences.

I was reminded of the parallels between hiking and business this weekend while I was chatting with a new business owner, who’s also just started working with me as a coaching client. I started to think about some of the sneaky ways things can go wrong when navigating the business world. I made all these mistakes in my early days in business. Despite overcoming them eventually, they were hard lessons learned, causing setbacks and a fair share of stress. For any entrepreneur, understanding your business landscape and being mindful of these pitfalls is crucial. It can make all the difference between a successful journey to the top and an arduous climb with an unfulfilled goal. My own experiences have taught me a lot, and I’m here to share these lessons to help you sidestep the challenges that once tripped me up.

Mistake #1. Charisma vs. Competence: The Guide Who Talked a Good Talk

Picture this: you hire a mountain guide based on their charisma and the confidence they exude. It’s not until you’re halfway up the mountain that you come to the startling realization: they lack the real-world experience necessary for such an endeavor. This scenario is all too familiar in the business world. Often, leaders find themselves enchanted by a team member’s charm, neglecting to thoroughly assess their proven abilities and track record. One time I was working with a person I had hired to manage our accounts receivable and found a drawer stuffed with invoices she hadn’t processed because she didn’t know how—about $40,000 was just sitting there uncollected. Ouch. This was a stark reminder of the importance of competence over mere confidence. Just as you need a guide who intimately knows the mountain trails, your business requires team members whose skills have been tested and verified. As Ronald Reagan used to say, “Trust, but verify.”

Mistake #2. Dangerous Assumptions: The Misjudged Weather Forecast

Here’s something to consider: a hiker sees a clear morning sky and thinks it’s the perfect day for a hike, but they don’t bother to check the full weather forecast. Suddenly, they’re caught off-guard by an unexpected storm. This is a lot like what happens in business when we make assumptions without thoroughly checking the facts. In my early business days, I was confident about our success because we were known for excellent service. It seemed logical to me that this would naturally lead to our business thriving. However, reality was more complex. I learned that not everyone prioritizes service quality as their main decision factor. Influential community members and referral partners, for example, were often influenced by other aspects, such as financial incentives to send business to our competitors. This realization was a shock to me and a tough lesson. It showed me that what I value might not align with what others value. The key takeaway for entrepreneurs is to research thoroughly and test every assumption, much like a hiker should review the entire weather forecast, not just the current sky, to avoid unpleasant surprises.

Mistake #3: The Illusion of the Beaten Path – Expecting a Crowd Where None Exists

There’s a common belief among climbers that a well-marked trail always leads to a crowded summit. Entrepreneurs often fall into a similar trap, subscribing to the “build it, and they will come” philosophy. However, just as a climber might reach the top only to find it deserted, business owners can face the stark reality of no market demand for their product. I learned this lesson firsthand in a particularly tough way. Once, acting on feedback from one really good customer, I decided to launch a specialized service line in my business. The idea seemed promising, so I fully committed, investing $125,000 and bringing on two new employees to manage the project. We launched it with high hopes. But the market’s response? Utter silence. The return was dismal – barely $10,000, a fraction of our investment. In the end, we had to shut down the program. It was more than just a financial hit; it was a stark reminder of the importance of thorough market research and validation. Just as climbers scout their route before setting out, entrepreneurs must rigorously test and validate the market demand for their ideas.

Mistake #4. Feature-itis: The Overpacked Backpack

Consider an inexperienced hiker who loads their backpack with every imaginable piece of gear, believing that more equipment means better preparedness. Ironically, this extra weight only makes the journey more challenging. This is akin to what happens in business with the over-accumulation of features, often dubbed ‘feature-itis.’ In pursuit of creating the perfect product or service, there’s a tendency to add more and more features, assuming it enhances value. Yet, this often leads to an overburdened, less appealing offering.

I remember one time when I enthusiastically invested in a new technology for my business. To me and my team, the advantages seemed crystal clear. We were so convinced of its usefulness that we never paused to ask our customers if they needed or even wanted this technology before we committed a substantial amount of money to it. Had we sought their input, we might have discovered a crucial truth: what we found exciting was not necessarily a hit with our customers. The result was an expensive distraction that did little to drive our business growth.

The lesson here is to aim for a ‘light but right’ approach. In business, as in hiking, it’s not about the quantity of what you carry, but the quality and relevance. Focus on essential features that genuinely meet customer needs, rather than an overwhelming array of bells and whistles.

Mistake #5. Vanity vs. Meaningful Metrics: The Misleading Trail Markers

In hiking, just as in business, following the wrong signs can lead you off course. On the trail, it might be misleading markers, but in business, it’s often vanity metrics like social media likes. These can give a false sense of direction. In the early days of my business, I was laser-focused on growth, but I overlooked a critical question: were we growing profitably? I was keen on adding new clients, but I didn’t always stop to consider if it truly benefited our company or if the costs of delivering our promises exceeded the revenue we’d earn.

This realization led me to reevaluate our objectives and retrain our team. We shifted from seeking growth at any cost to aiming for profitable growth. It was about changing our approach to measure what truly matters, much like using a reliable compass and map to navigate a hike. This shift in focus ensures that every business step we take moves us closer to our real goals, not just the ones that look impressive on the surface.

Mistake #6. Blind Optimism: Ignoring the Signs of a Landslide

This was the hardest mistake for me to overcome, especially early on. Blind optimism in the business world is akin to a hiker overlooking warning signs of an impending landslide. It’s essential to balance optimism with a preparedness for potential risks. Just as a prudent hiker evaluates the path ahead for stability, entrepreneurs need to exercise cautious trust, waiting for concrete evidence of reliability before fully committing.

One of my favorite books in my early business journey was Jim Collins’ Good to Great, which introduces the Stockdale Paradox, named after Admiral Jim Stockdale, a Vietnam War POW. His harrowing experience led to a profound realization about enduring adversity.

Here’s a concise summary of the Stockdale Paradox:

  1. Confront the Brutal Facts: This means accepting the tough realities of your situation. It’s not about pessimism; it’s about facing the truth of the challenges and obstacles you encounter.
  2. Maintain Unwavering Faith: Despite these harsh realities, it’s crucial to hold on to the belief that you will ultimately succeed, no matter the hardships.

Stockdale spent years in captivity under harsh conditions, yet he never lost his conviction that he would survive and use his ordeal as a pivotal life experience. At the same time, he was acutely aware of the grimness of his situation.

The essence of the paradox is in balancing realism with optimism. It involves keeping a hopeful outlook towards the future while simultaneously navigating the most challenging aspects of your current circumstances. This principle is not just applicable in extreme scenarios like Stockdale’s but is also relevant in business and personal challenges. Recognizing the hard truths while fostering a firm belief in eventual success is vital for sustained achievement.

Summit Insights

Navigating through the entrepreneurial world really is a lot like planning a very, very long mountain hike. It takes a great deal of diligence, some smart preparation, and a good dose of foresight. Think of it this way: by understanding and steering clear of the common missteps I’ve shared – those I’ve stumbled over myself – you’re setting yourself up for a smoother climb in your business endeavors.

In hiking, as in business, each challenge is more than just an obstacle; it’s a chance to learn something new, to build your strength. It’s about putting together a solid plan and gathering a team that shares your vision and determination. Picture reaching the summit after all that hard work and savvy navigation. That’s what we’re aiming for in business. Keep pushing forward with grit and resilience. Trust me, the view from the top, after all those ups and downs, is going to be worth every step.

About the Author

Ron Tester is a Certified Executive Coach and Book Yourself® Solid Coach who helps service professionals and solopreneurs grow their businesses without sacrificing their personal lives. With over 20 years of entrepreneurial experience, Ron provides practical guidance on marketing, sales, operations, and work-life balance. Learn more at https://www.rontestercoaching.com/about.