When people ask you what you do, you tell them you are a life coach. You probably think of yourself as a life coach. But unless you are a life coach for someone else’s company, you’re also an entrepreneur. The problem is that coach’s training programs do not include entrepreneurial training. Yes, they may teach you a few things about marketing, mindset, and sales conversations, but there is an entrepreneurial way of thinking and acting that make some businesses wildly successful. It’s the mindset that created companies like Intel, Apple, Adobe, Google, eBay, PayPal, YouTube, Craigslist, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
One thing that these companies have in common is that they took bold risks to accomplish something outstanding.
The majority of life coaches that I have talked to personally say the same thing to me about their risk tolerance. It usually sounds like, “I’ve spent so much money on this business.” Or, “I’m not going to spend anymore money on this business until it starts making money.” In other words, they have a very low tolerance for risk. What they need to know is that if you’re going to start-up a business, you will need to take on some risk. But it should be calculated, strategic, intelligent risk.
Entrepreneurs go out and create the future they imagined. They survive by taking intelligent, strategic risk. There are no guarantees or safety nets.
One successful coach I know tells her clients that it takes at least three to five years before you start seeing a profit. An example of taking risks, adapting to the market, and becoming successful can be seen in these examples:
1) In 1997 Reed Hastings got fed up with the late fees he was being charged for renting movies and he launched a business that allowed customers to select a movie online, receive it in the mail, and return it when they were done with it. He called it Netflix but it didn’t catch on. Customers complained that it took too long to get the movie in the mail. He tried partnering with Blockbuster and they laughed him out of the room. But he kept going. He perfected his delivery system so that customers would get their movie overnight. He offered monthly subscription plans with unlimited rentals. By 2005 Netflix had 4 million subscribers. In 2010, it’s revenue was $160 million. That was the same year Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy.
2) In 1998 Max Levchin and Peter Thiel created a software program that allowed you to send cash to someone via a Palm Pilot called Confinity. When the PalmPilot didn’t catch on, they created software for online money transfer and renamed the company, PayPal. They struggled for years trying to get people used to the idea of transferring money online even though it wasn’t as fast as via mobile devices. Then they noticed that eBay customers were using their service so they shifted their focus to eBay as their real market and offered its customers a way to pay for auction items. They still struggled financially loosing millions of dollars to fraud. But as they improved their business model and learned form their mistakes, they eventually became a million-dollar company.
3) Mark Victor Hansen and Jack Canfield traveled all over the country specking radio shows to get attention for their book, “Chicken Soup For the Soul.” They approached many, many publishers before they found one who was willing to take a chance on the “iffy” project. They went into debt to the tune of about $600,000 before they started to realize a profit. They took on strategic risk, went into debt, but came out ahead because of their determination.
If the business owners in these above examples, hadn’t taken on a certain degree of risk, they would never have had successful businesses. It’s just a part of starting up a business. So don’t be afraid to invest in your business before you make money. Evaluate opportunities, find a good coach and support team, and be adaptable to what the response is from your market.
Job security is changing. “Safe” jobs with a guaranteed pension are a thing of the past. Owning a business is much more secure, provided you know how to operate one successfully.
Reid Hoffman, Co-founder/CEO of LinkedIn, says that you should think of yourself as a permanent start-up company, or as he calls it, “permanent beta.” Big companies like Apple, Netflix, Google, and Amazon know that they are always in the test phase. Jeff Bezos, founder/CEO of Amazon concludes every annual letter to shareholders by reminding them that “it’s still Day 1.” In other words, great companies are always changing and evolving. And so is your life coaching business.
“Entrepreneurs deal with uncertainties, changes, and constraints head-on. They take stock of their assets, aspirations, and the market realities to develop a competitive advantage. They craft flexible, iterative plans. They build a network of relationships throughout their industry that outlives their start-up. They aggressively seek and create breakout opportunities that involve focused risk and actively manage that risk. They tap their network for the business intelligence to navigate tough challenges.” – from “The Start-up of You” by Reid Hoffman.
This quote brings us to the other important point I want to make about entrepreneurship…that is the importance of networks. You can tap into more opportunities by belonging to groups and associations, because information flows through groups of people. J.P. Morgan was one of the most successful entrepreneurs of his time and at his death he belonged to 24 associations.
For example, LinkedIn is a site that was originally set up mainly for freelancers, contractors, corporate workers, and other professionals who are looking for jobs. Now it has expanded to include people in all professions. Having connections in your field is always helpful. Even having only 25 contacts can put you within reach of over a million potential contacts because of the tiered contact structure.
There are over twelve million small-business people on LinkedIn, which is roughly 20 percent of its total user base. As a coach, you are a small business owner and you can use LinkedIn to promote your business.
Many coaches and potential coaching clients have established a presence on LinkedIn. You need to see if your clients and professional contacts use the site. See if your audience is there by doing a keyword search and see how many people come up. Examples of keywords to search for can be your area of expertise, terms related to your expertise, or descriptions of your ideal client such as divorced parents or cancer recovery patients.
There are plenty of groups online and offline that can supply you with a plethora of ideas, information, education, and opportunities. Be sure to take advantage of these groups, and if you are a life coach, join the International Association of Professional Life Coaches where you can get 5 valuable business tools with your free membership at http://iaplifecoaches.org.