HOW DID I GET HERE? A business success story

Posted by Ross Nichols on Monday, February 15, 2021 Under: Business

In early 2020, I had a ‘pinch me, am I dreaming?’ moment: I realised that everything I wanted in my coaching practice had been manifesting for over a year.  This was a surreal experience, seeing ‘success’ in the rear-view mirror without realising that this had become my new normal.  This got me wondering: how did I get here?

What is success anyway?   I’d written a detailed vision statement when I started coaching and it was all now happening, albeit in surprising ways that I had not envisaged.  As Nicola Huelin said at the first Animas Summit in 2016,

‘Success is what it feels like on the inside, not what it looks like on the outside’. 

This is true for me.  I’m a one-man social enterprise: about one third of my clients are pro bono.  I love the variety and I find working with them enriching.  For example, one day I’ll be mentoring a young designer with a new product idea (it’s brilliant) and the next I’ll be leadership coaching the head of a UN agency in a hot country – what an honour!  The day after, I'll be coaching someone with cancer - what a privilege! This provides a lovely counterbalance to my paying clients.  I feel that I am ‘paying it forward’, which is good for my wellbeing.

There are lots of ingredients that have contributed to arriving at my success.  Importantly, I knew my life purpose and how being a coach was aligned to that however this was not enough to get there.  I started my practice (as a business mentor) in late 2011 and gave myself 3 years to make it (and trained as a coach in 2014/15).  This became 4 years and then in the 5th year, with my wife’s patience stretched to near breaking point, I realised I had to figure out what was holding me back.  It was time to make my business work or give up and get a job.  I decided on one more roll of the dice and went on a business accelerator course. 

The business accelerator course was excellent.  I already knew a lot of the content, but I became increasingly frustrated that I was not implementing what I was being taught.  Halfway through the accelerator, the trainer asked if anyone was struggling.  I put my hand up and he asked me some pointy questions that had me squirming in my seat.  I replied,

‘I don’t have an answer however that is such an uncomfortable question that I know it’s the right question’. 

I felt that this was a big clue as to what might be holding me back – this is what I’d been looking for.  I decided to let this soak for a couple of weeks then took myself off for a quiet coffee, determined to figure out what was going on.  As I cleared my mind and observed myself, I noticed almost immediately that my head was really busy with thoughts such as, ‘You need to do this!’, and ‘You must do that!’, and ‘You ought to do this as well!’  I instinctively let these thoughts go and 2 hours later I looked up and discovered that I’d written a brochure for a coaching programme I wanted to run.  Within 2 weeks, I was presenting this to a room full of my target audience.  I didn’t sell a single place on the programme however I gained 4 new clients who wanted me to coach them 1:1. If I could achieve that by clearing my mind, could I use the same approach to figure out how to grow my business? 

When I was ready, I took myself off for another coffee and cleared my mind again.  When I looked up 2 hours later, I discovered that I had written a business plan, which is something I’d been unable to do for the previous 5 years, despite some expertise in this area.  I’d always been the plans guy in my Army days and as a business mentor, I’d scrutinised scores of business plans however I was simply unable to write one for myself.  But this was unlike any business plan I’d ever seen before.  I realised it was an intuitive business plan, which was much more about ‘being’ than ‘doing’.  It comprised a number of coaching exercises and nuggets of wisdom I’d been gathering in a sequence that helped me to figure out who I was, where I wanted to go and how I was going to get there.  My insight was that I didn’t need to write a business plan because I already was the business plan!  This intuitive business plan worked for me and I started using it with my business clients.  Additional versions emerged: the intuitive marketing plan; the intuitive career transition plan; the intuitive wellness plan; and most recently the intuitive leadership plan.  These are the basis of my coaching programmes.  By the end of these programmes, my clients don’t necessarily have a written plan, they simply know how to ‘be’ and the doing takes care of itself.

Reflecting on this later, I came to understand my purpose for being in business.  I’d chosen to be a freelance, self-employed coach.  I was in business, so I needed to focus on making money, right?  This assumption was so wrong for me!  It led me to chase the money when money is simply not what motivates me.  I now understood that my purpose for being in business was to be me and to do it my way.  This liberated me to simply turn up as myself every day, do what I wanted to do rather than what I thought I should be doing and, amazingly, my business has grown steadily ever since.

Here are my tips for achieving success in your coaching practice:

1.     Know what your life purpose is and how you are aligned to it in your coaching practice.   Are you pointing in the right direction for you?

Understand what you want from your coaching practice: what does success mean to you?  
Write a Vision statement of everything you’d love to have in your coaching practice and then put it away - you can check it later when you arrive at your success!

3.     It’s also necessary to understand your purpose in following whatever business model or career model you are using for your coaching practice: how does this serve you?

Working out these key ingredients liberates you to be your best self and get out of your own way.  This is where your power lies and this is when the magic happens ?.  I hope this helps you to achieve the success you want.  Good luck!

(c) Ross Nichols 2020

In : Business 

Tags: coaching "coaching practice" "coaching start up" "coaching business" "self employed coach" "freelance coach"