Jen Hogan of Sakura Consulting & Development: Five Things You Need To Create a Highly Successful Career As a Life or Business Coach

Authority Magazine
May 20 · 14 min read

My biggest advice is: even if you think you could do more to prepare, just go ahead do it, take the leap. You are going to learn as you go any way, so get started now. Take whatever step you need to feel official so you can start telling people. For me, it was launching my website. That felt like I was telling the world — this is me now!

The coaching industry is now tremendous. It is a 15 billion dollar industry. Many professionals have left their office jobs to become highly successful coaches. At the same time, not everyone who starts a coaching business sees success. What does someone starting a career as a life coach, wellness coach, or business coach need to know to turn it into a very successful and rewarding career?

In this interview series, called “Five Things You Need To Create a Highly Successful Career As a Life or Business Coach” we are interviewing experienced and successful life coaches, wellness coaches, fitness coaches, business and executive coaches and other forms of coaches who share the strategies you need to create a successful career as a life or business coach.

In this particular interview, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Jen Hogan.

Jen Hogan started her career in the UK, has lived across Asia, but now calls North Carolina home. After a 20+ year career as a corporate executive, she now uses that experience in her business as an executive coach, specializing in leadership development and career coaching. Nothing makes her happier than seeing her clients grow the confidence to reach their full potential, safe in the knowledge that, in her, they always have someone on their side.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and what brought you to this particular career path?

It’s my pleasure! I have worked in corporate jobs since I graduated twenty (cough) years ago. Corporate has been good to me: as a Brit, how else would I have the opportunity to live and work in Thailand, Singapore, China and the US?! The functional area of my job, be it my assignments in finance, strategy or marketing, was always something I liked, as long as I was still learning. But the part of my job that gave me joy and fulfilment was leading people and helping them grow. I often wondered how to have a job that was more about that and less about decks and proposals and analysis…?

At the end of 2019 I started a position on the SkyMiles loyalty program at Delta Air Lines. It was my dream job. An amazing team, at a place with the best working culture I’d ever come across… But COVID-19 had other ideas. When airlines ground to a halt overnight, we all took a pay cut and voluntary severance packages appeared. And it started to feel like the universe was telling me something; all those benefits of corporate, like steady income, weren’t to be relied on. And more importantly, I’d had the back of my mind for a while being ready for something new.

Coincidentally while I was mulling over what to do, I talked to a friend who’d just hired an executive coach. We looked at this woman’s website and it was like everything clicked into place. I COULD DO THAT!! I signed up for coach school the next day, and set up my LLC the next week. 6 weeks after that conversation with my friend, I was in business, and I got my first client that same day.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Look for the opportunity in everything. When the pandemic I could have said, it’s so unfair that I just got my dream job at my dream company with the best people and all the free flights I could ever want. But instead, I said, I can use this is an opportunity for something even better. And it was. When life gives you lemons, don’t just make lemonade, make limoncello.

Be humble and look to learn from everyone. Three years ago, I had a role leading a 100-person team in digital marketing and marketing communications. I had no experience in either, but was blessed with a team of people who were excellent teachers. I never pretended to know what I didn’t, I asked questions and was grateful for their expertise. What I gave them in return was leadership, direction, and the decisions they needed. You don’t have to know it all. Nobody does. So why do so many of us feel like we have to pretend?

Show people you care. I cared about my team members and I care about my clients, and I constantly find ways to show them. That’s all any of us want, to know that there’s someone out there that’s on their side. If you have a boss who thinks about you instead of just themselves, and shows it, you will pay them back a thousand fold.

How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?

Habits mean that you don’t have to engage the actively thinking part of your brain. And you need that when you first launch a business! So try to create as many regular activities or practices as you can, so that they become second nature.

For example, I always follow up. So many people send off a proposal and then don’t hear back and assume that it’s a “no”. In fact, it’s more likely that the person has a thousand other things on, or just hasn’t decided yet. I have allotted follow up times every week for the open leads I have, which means that I don’t let potential clients fall through the cracks. But also that I don’t have to wonder the last time I spoke to them.

This will be intuitive to you but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to create good habits? Can you share a story or give some examples?

Whether it’s weight lifting, eating healthy, a relationship with another human being, or getting a fledgling business off the ground, it’s consistency that builds results. Periods of intense activity may get you some immediate results, but, as anyone who has trained for a marathon will tell you, it’s the day-in, day-out that delivers the outcome you’re looking for.

Habits also help to delineate your work life from your personal life, which is something all self-employed people can struggle with. I have created a habit of switching off my work email at 9pm. My mind appreciates the break, and there is nothing in the coaching world that can’t wait until the next morning.

Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?

This may sound dumb but, choose something you actually want to create a habit around. Let’s say you’re creating a new habit around working out. If, say, you hate running, you are not going to create a habit running every morning before breakfast, it’s just not going to stick. And really don’t try and create a habit around the word “should” — that’s another red flag that it’s not something you’re committed to.

The best way to create a habit is to know what your motivation is, what is the positive outcome that you will get as a result of the habit? To explain, a positive outcome is not something about being less, like “lose weight” it’s more like “I will feel stronger and healthier.” But my favorite tip is to be able to draw on that motivation at a moment’s notice when you really need it, to get that boost we all need. In the case of working out, I visualize the flexing arm emoji, and that instantly reminds me why I decided to commit to regular exercise. If it sounds silly to you, that’s OK! I use a lot of emojis when I text, so it makes my motivation accessible in a way that’s super relevant to me.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

“There is no passion to be had in playing small. In living a life that is less than the one that you’re capable of living.”

Nelson Mandela

There are times in your life that you read words that take your breath away, and seeing this for the first time was one of those for me. I had never seen my thoughts so well-articulated by another person, it was like looking into my soul. I have always believed that we get one life, it’s a precious gift, and we owe it to ourselves to live it to our fullest potential. Take every opportunity we can, be all that we can be. I would hate to look back at my time and think I’d lived a small life.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I’m working with a corporate client on a coaching group for women managers. For a long time, I thought that my gender was irrelevant in the workplace, because I had plenty of opportunity, and I felt respected regardless of my chromosomes. Then I started to realize that not only was that not true for plenty of other women, it wasn’t even true for me. There were behaviors around me that I had never realized before until a series of events made me start to really pay attention. I hope that by coaching women at the earlier stages of their career I can use my experience to help prepare them for the realities of life in corporate, find strategies to be successful, and h form a group of supportive women they can rely on for encouragement and ideas. I have benefited from coaching circles with amazing mentors myself in the past, and really hope that I can make a similar difference to the next generation of women leaders.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Many coaches are successful, but some are not very successful. From your experience or perspective, what are the main factors that distinguish successful coaches from unsuccessful ones? What are your “Five Things You Need To Create a Highly Successful Career As a Life or Business Coach”? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.

GET QUALIFIED

There are so many people out there calling themselves coaches because it’s an unregulated industry. Plus side, as a coach it’s an easy market to enter. Downside, as a coach there’s a lot of competition out there. And as a client, it’s deeply confusing and uncertain what you’re going to get. Getting qualified helps doubly: you get the skills and confidence to do your job, and do it well, to the standard that will really help your clients. And it gives your clients who are trusting you with their success the confidence that you have been through rigorous training; it makes all the difference when it comes to making a choice of coach, especially in executive coaching. I qualified with IPEC, the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching and it was the best decision I could have made.

KNOW WHAT PROBLEM YOU SOLVE AND BE ABLE TO ARTICULATE IT

The problem I solve is not “I want an executive coach.” It’s “I want to be a good leader but I don’t know how” or “I have made it to the top and I feel like a fraud” or ”I’m really good at my job but for some reason I’m not moving forward”. Hearing their thoughts articulated by someone else is what resonates with human beings.

REFERRALS ARE EVERYTHING

Anyone can have a fancy website, or be found on SEO. What makes the biggest difference is personal referrals, especially in the sea of coaches out there. Every single one of my clients is a referral, either or an existing client, or a member of my network. Talk to the people you know. Tell them what you’re doing. Tell them why you love it. Tell them what difference you make to your clients. It doesn’t feel like self-publicity when it’s true!

DON’T GET CAUGHT UP ON LABELS. STICK TO THAT PROBLEM THAT YOU CAN SOLVE

Some people call me a mentor. Some people call me a career coach. Others a leadership coach. A business coach… An executive coach…You get the idea. Because there are no “real” definitions to these things, there’s a lot of confusion out there. Don’t restrict yourself in conversations to to what YOU think the definition of what you do is; I almost turned down a request for a career coach because to me that meant editing CVs. But to the client it meant developing the leadership skills to progress. Which is totally my wheelhouse!

Stick to the problem you can solve, and the experience that you have that makes you qualified to do it.

NOT EVERY POTENTIAL CLIENT IS GOING TO WORK OUT. DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY

I have a favorite line from a former therapist who said that choosing a person to help you out in personal development is like choosing a pair of shoes. It’s not going to work out if you’re a kitten heel and the client needs a hiking boot. Even if you are the best kitten heel in the world. You will meet potential clients who it turns out don’t need what you can do. You will meet clients who think they want to do the work, but then even talking to you will make them realize that they’re actually not ready. You will have great conversations and then never hear from them again. All normal. If you’re a good fit, it will work out. If the circumstances aren’t right, it won’t.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen coaches make when they start their business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

Coaches tend to be deeply caring people who want to do their absolute best for their clients, so they often wait to be “ready” before launching. What I have learned is, you will never be 100% ready. There’s always another qualification you can take, a tweak to make to your website…My biggest advice is: even if you think you could do more to prepare, just go ahead do it, take the leap. You are going to learn as you go any way, so get started now. Take whatever step you need to feel official so you can start telling people. For me, it was launching my website. That felt like I was telling the world — this is me now!

Based on your experience and success, what are a few of the most important things a coach should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience? Please share a story or an example for each.

Be clear with your potential clients about what coaching is and isn’t. Once you’ve been coaching for a while, you take for granted that everyone understands how the process works, how a session works, how packages are sold. Potential clients really appreciate a 101.

Say no if you can’t help, but have contacts you can use for referrals. I am not a life coach, so if someone came to me with relationship or family issues, I wouldn’t be the best person to help. And I would tell them that rather than pretending that I was just to get a new client. I would never leave someone hanging though, through my coach training I have a network of tremendous coaches in different niches that I can call on .

Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business, and particularly in coaching. What are the best ways for a coach to find customers? Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?

Especially when you’re just starting out, a good proportion of your clients will be people you know, or one step removed. Which makes sense, because there are lots of coaches out there and people are more likely to go with a recommendation of someone they trust if the alternative is interviewing dozens of options. So tell everyone you know what you’re doing, and most importantly, that problem that you can solve that we talked about. People don’t necessarily talk to their connections about “needing a coach” but they may mention something like “being stuck in a rut” and that can start the wheels turning.

As an executive coach, a good way for me to connect with my network and their networks beyond is LinkedIn. I’m pretty disciplined about what I share — my own blog content and articles I think will be of interest to my potential clients. I find that works better than heavy selling. You have to be prepared to plant the seed in people’s minds by growing awareness before you reach the consideration phase.

Coaches are similar to startup founders who often work extremely long hours and it’s easy to end up burning the candle at both ends. What would you recommend to your fellow coaches about how to best take care of their physical and mental wellness when starting their business?

Meal prep has been a game changer for me. I love to cook, but I also don’t feel my best self when I live off hastily grabbed food and don’t get my veggies. Recognizing that my hours are going to be irregular and figuring out ways to prepare for it has helped me feel less like I’m living by the seat of my pants!

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

My vision isn’t lofty, but feels far from where we have been in the last few years. We should all remember that we’re just human beings doing our best, and we all deserve respect and consideration. Especially in the workplace, we can create dividing lines and office politics that are all about: we’re right, they’re wrong. And I’m sure I don’t have to draw the parallels to the world at large. How about we all remember that there is seldom right and wrong, just different perspectives? And treat people like we would want to be treated ourselves?

We are blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Oh my. This is easy. Tina Tchen, CEO of Times Up. I attended a fireside chat that she was a panelist on last year, and what she had to say made me stop my multitasking and pay full attention to Zoom. Which I’m sure is as rare for anyone else part of the pandemic work from home as it is for me! The power of her messages about the responsibility we all have to create the world we want to see made me want to go out and vote. But I’m not a US citizen so I can’t. So immediately joined Times Up instead.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

My blog is here

www.sakurapro.com/blog

And I’m often to be found on LinkedIn sharing my thoughts

https://www.linkedin.com/in/jen-hogan-sakura/

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

Authority Magazine

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Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.