I became the coach my business needed

Recently I recalled an event in my agency business that was the catalyst to me being on this path of coaching in business. You see, there aren’t two other things I feel more qualified to write about than business ownership and the role of coaching in business. I’ve experienced both of those things from both sides of the fence.

If you’re a business owner, I know your pain at every stage of business. I also understand your skepticism and reluctance to trust anyone who calls themselves a business coach. At this point, I could quote some statistics to highlight the increased recognition of coaching in business and the benefits of it.

I could tell you how coaching in business is not just for Fortune 500 Businesses and according to Forbes, 1 in 6 entrepreneurs turn to coaching to improve performance. There are plenty of stats that show coaching in business is worth your weight in truffles.

The value of coaching in business

However, I know it’s going to take more than a few stats to convince you of the value that coaching in business can bring. Rather than a carefully researched and referenced piece, let me tell you my own story.

Back in the 2000s I owned a digital agency.

We had a neat studio, a team of designers, and developers, a list of happy clients including Blue Chip companies. On the surface, everything seemed to be going swimmingly. Underneath, I was headless chickening from pillar to post, giving up my weekends and losing a lot of sleep, but I seemed to be carrying it off.

Until suddenly I wasn’t.

One month, the work, and the revenue, just dried up like a raisin in the hot Zimbabwean sun. There were no quotes in the pipeline, and we didn't even have enough cash in the bank to pay the team’s wages! If you've ever frantically refreshed the bank feed before running payroll, you'll be familiar with the despair I felt. 

I sent everyone home as there was no work to do. I proceeded to sit on the floor of my empty studio crying into a pizza box. What made it worse was that my husband had just returned from Afghanistan to this mess.

I was so ashamed, and I felt so stupid. How had I let things get to this stage? What had I missed? How could I have let this happen to my own business when I was supposed to be in the business of helping others (classic agency mindset!)?

That period was something of a turning point in my business and in my life. I started to analyse where I went wrong, and I began working my ass off to learn what I needed to do to do things better.

A key point to mention here is that, when this happened, I wasn’t a business newbie. I’d been in the corporate world, I’d started my agency from scratch, and I was studying for an MBA. And yet failure still crept up unnoticed. The problem, I deduced, was that I’d been operating with no real plan. I’d trial-and-errored my way to where I was (sound familiar?). But I had massive blind spots.

The coaching in business journey began

So as I was getting the agency back onto an even keel, I decided to hire a business coach. I needed an experienced ally to take a cold, unemotional view and help me see what I was missing. I also needed someone to set clear processes and goals and hold me accountable when I strayed off course or just phoned it in. These, by the way, are all super reasons for getting a coach.

Unfortunately, the coach I got was none of those things. He was a dick. The only thing he was good at was selling himself. Which I found out too late.

His favourite saying was, ‘You have to work ON your business, not IN it.” I would be like, ‘Ok, tell me what that means and I’ll do it.’ But he never could. Then one day he let slip that his franchise trained its coaches to keep their clients consciously incompetent… so they keep paying for coaching.

I was nothing more than a big fat juicy recurring revenue meal ticket.

When I heard that, I flipped. I also flipped the boardroom table, literally (it was only a crappy Ikea thing, so not that difficult), and kicked his ass out of my business. This was turning point number two.

It’d be some beautiful fairy-tale symmetry if I said this was the moment I decided to become a coach myself. In the moment I was thinking something more along the lines of “screw coaches.” It was without a doubt the tipping point when I decided to go all out and learn everything I had expected that damn business coach to show me.

Investing six figures in getting coached on business mastery by Tony Robbins, meeting Jay Abraham, John Assaraf, Keith Cunningham, and some of the biggest names in the coaching industry. I have no regrets (not even the time I walked on fire).

So fast-forward a couple of years I had (somewhat fanatically) educated myself about business. I’d created, refined, and implemented some critical processes that had got us off the feast-famine rollercoaster that so many business owners find themselves trapped on. I’d even figured out what working ON the business meant.

For the first time in however long, I didn’t feel as though I was constantly behind the eight ball. I put down the fire hydrant which I was carrying from one dumpster fire to the next, and I finally took a vacation. I quit the job I owned.

It’s an incredible feeling when you have that moment of realisation that you’re running the business and not the other way around. And that is most probably the moment I decided to become a business coach. I figured, if I’d cracked the code for my business, I could do it for others. So, skipping to the last page of the book, here I am. Coaching in business!

However, I don’t think the moral of my story is that you should learn to be your own coach. Truth be told, I think I’m more suited to being a coach than I ever was an agency owner. And I believe you should always play to your strengths and not expect to be great at everything.

I think the real lesson here is, that if you spend every day in the trenches of your business (like most owners do), you simply can’t see how different things could be. You know what you know, but not much else. And why should you?

Being great at what you do isn’t the same thing as being a great business. So you need an experienced ally to stand on the hill and guide you towards a better way. Of course, you need to choose your allies carefully. Unfortunately, some coaches are dicks. But not all of us are.

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