Welcome back, and happy 2020! It’s been a season of rapid, intense growth for me – similar to the butterfly that goes into a cocoon and dissolves into goo before emerging victorious, I stuck my head into my projects for a few months. BIG updates included 🙂
Once in a while I offer a free little coaching brainstorm (or info chat for someone looking to become a coach) to a member of the Don’t Keep Your Day Job FB group. Feel free to reach out to me via that group if you’d like to spitball ideas about small business.
Yesterday I spoke with a woman in Colorado who wants to become a coach in a specific niche and had some questions. When I told her about my path through the coaching world, she was excited and relieved to hear that I’ve been able to navigate an evolving coaching career while learning, growing, and adapting to my clients’ needs. It sounded like she had a fear of choosing a niche and being overly committed to it. She doesn’t want to be stuck – and you probably don’t, either!
So: here’s your permission.
You’re not stuck, and you have all the space to grow. Take it and do whatever you want – but there are a few things to keep in mind so you don’t go completely mad.
Start with something attainable now.
Whatever your industry, I think it’s important to start with something you can do. Choose a ‘product’ that’s a bit of a stretch – you always want to be learning – but make it attainable. In his book Drive, Daniel Pink calls this sort of thing a “Goldilocks task” – neither too easy (boring) or too hard (overwhelming). You should also be sure the product suits you. For example, when I became a coach (in…2011? Has it really been that long?!?) I was aware of a ton of fluff on the market – coaches that wanted to chat with you about manifestation and mindset all day, and give you exercises centered around improving those things. While there’s definitely space for that, it’s not my style to focus on. I want concrete results. So when I started out, I marketed myself as an accountability coach rather than a general life coach.
Always be learning.
This one is self-explanatory, to a degree. I definitely mean active learning – seeking out books, podcasts, mentors, etc. Also, think about how you approach life. Are you curious when you come up against obstacles in your business? Do you explore the rabbit holes you fall into, or avoid them altogether? Constant learning will help you avoid stagnation in your business on an emotional level, and it will also help you adapt to the market as it changes. Keep it up!
Adapt and grow.
About 3 years after I started I had a client who had good results with personal transitions and wanted to switch the focus to professional accountability. I had continued to learn about human motivation and started to niche it down into the professional sphere. For a few years I worked with clients reaching for goals both personally and professionally, providing support and accountability. Then, after learning more and more about business for my own purposes, I was approached by someone who wanted to start a small service business.
Be prepared to jump on opportunity when it arrives.
This was exactly where I wanted to be. As soon as I made the shift it felt entirely natural, and I started marketing more toward this crowd. I threw myself into learning with even more enthusiasm – this is a topic that’s intensely interesting to me. Here’s some woo-hoo-ery: as soon as I committed myself to the shift, I had more small business clients come out of the woodwork, ready to get started. Weird, but it happens. Your customers are waiting for you. Go do the thing.
The time to push yourself will arrive. Get scared – and do it anyway.
So here I am – working with small business owners for several years and now building another side business with the knowledge I’ve picked up from that and my day job. I’ve also been learning more about interpersonal communication and psychology. I apply it to marketing within small business, but all of last year I kept having ideas about how to apply these same marketing/psych ideas within larger organizations to improve employee engagement, workplace communication, and productivity/profitability. I also have experience turning toxic workplaces into good relationships (change yourself and they have to adapt!), and I want to share it because it’s needed in the world.
Get used to talking about your venture!
Then, in December, one of the clients from my day job approached me about helping them with a women’s event at the end of January. They were looking for someone to do a growth-oriented activity with plants, and thought of Oh Happy Plants. Btw, when people ask you what’s up, TALK ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS. Get used to it – you never know what someone else may be able to bring to the table. Sometimes you’ll clarify your ideas when you say them aloud, sometimes others will have something to add, but at the very least you’re going to get over the embarrassment/anxiety/imposter syndrome that comes with every new venture. Tell your coworkers, tell your clients, tell the checker in the grocery store. Don’t be crazy about it, but any time it’s appropriate, mention it. Drop one little bit of info – the other person’s reaction will tell you if you should go into it more.
Keep your creative hat on and your mind open.
So I have this fledgling tutorial business, right? We don’t do events. But I’m asked to do an event – and it dovetails with my other business perfectly (growth/change focus of event = coaching).
Here is the way to combine my businesses.
It’s profitable marketing and a way to be welcomed into a corporate space (bring a plant gift with brochures, give it to the receptionist for their desk – befriend the gatekeeper and they’ll spread the word!). It’s a way to get the Professional Catalyst name out there. And it’s exactly what I’ve been waiting for – I just couldn’t yet see it.
Do that scary thing.
So here I am – after spending a year working toward launch, I’m refocusing on the event space. Interim products for OHP will be house plant consultations, which I’ll farm out to a few of my co-workers. In the meantime, I’ll continue putting out free content and start putting out a ton of free videos, because my goal isn’t tutorial sales anymore – it’s using OHP as an attractant for corporate clients so I can land coaching clients.
What’s scary about that, you ask?
I need to invest in myself. I’ve been bootstrapping all of the learning within my coaching business, which is doable with small business coaching (and many other forms). I read 50+ books a year, listen to hundreds of hours of podcasts, and learn by doing – so every hour of coaching is opportunity for improvement.
That’s the long road, though. The short road is more expensive, but I’m dedicated to doing this the right way. So I’ll be investing in my development this spring and completing an executive coach certification program, and likely an organizational communication training (I’m really interested in the 5 Voices style and would like to be licensed to teach it).
Exciting? For sure. Terrifying? Also.
Time to lean in.
Go do the thing. Get started. And, like I told the woman from Colorado, DON’T QUIT. She mentioned that she’s aware of the masses of coaches who ‘failed’ and never talk about it, and I told her that the only difference between myself and those people is that I never stopped. I’ve changed and grown and adapted, but I’ve kept moving forward. That’s it.
Go get after it 🙂