When I coach entrepreneurs and leaders of early-stage companies, the topic often turns to what they need to focus on to create a successful enterprise. It really comes down to a handful of critical things, what I call The Five Creations of a Leader.
First, you have to create a product. A product is a promise. You have to have a real solution to a real problem, and you make a promise to the customer that you will deliver that solution. In investor jargon, you need to be selling pain killers, not vitamins. Everyone will pay money for a pain killer. It helps if you understand the pain better than anyone else, and there’s something unique about your pain killer. But no product, no promise — no business.
Second, you have to create a business. That is, you need a model for how to get paid. A lot of companies fail because they don’t know how to get paid. Sometimes they don’t get paid because they’re selling vitamins (most people will take a free vitamin, but not everyone is willing to pay for them). And sometimes they don’t get paid because…they don’t know how to ask for the money.
Third, you have to create a company. A company is people, policies, processes, structures, systems, even software. It’s everything that makes what you do repeatable and scalable. When you have it, you have operational excellence. When you don’t have it, you have unnecessary, self-made chaos. You can’t execute, and you can’t scale without creating a company.
Fourth, you have to create a culture. There is so much that can be said about culture. Let’s keep it as simple as possible for now: An optimal culture is a space in which people can show up and be their best selves and do their best work.
Finally, you have to create yourself. When I’m talking to entrepreneurs and CEOs, I’m referring to creating themselves as leaders. I’m also referring to creating themselves as human beings.
So. What does this mean for us as coaches?
To be successful, you need to create the same five things, The Five Creations of a Successful Coach.
First, you need to know what your product is. What promise do you make to the clients that work with you? What problems do you solve? This can be a bit abstract or very tangible. When I talk to potential clients about what I do, I often describe it this way:
If you are trying to create something so aspirational that you know success will require a personal transformation, I am an ally on your journey.
Is that a product? Only if they feel the excitement of their aspiration and the slight fear that they may fail without support. If they are confident they can achieve it without an ally, they don’t need a coach. If they work with me, I promise them a personal, as well as professional, transformation, and that they can rely on me as an ally.
Second, we need to create a business. We need a way of packaging the product and getting paid for it. I created a Coaching From Essence course. The course does include an online platform, some Zoom sessions, and a Facebook group. I pay something for that, so I have to charge something that covers my cost and leaves me with something left over. That’s one model.
When I coach CEOs, I charge $10,000 a month retainer. I generally meet with them twice a month for two hours, and they have virtually unlimited access to me outside of our regular sessions (you’ll learn exactly how I created that later in the course). That’s another business model.
You need to know how you’re going to package and charge for your services as a coach. And you need to know how to ask for the money and be paid.
Third, you need to create a company. You may be a company of one, but you’ll still need some minimal people, policies, processes, structures, systems, even software. The people might not be employees, but you’ll need a network of support. You’ll need some way to manage your practice and a software stack to manage your business (email, accounting, etc.).
I try to keep the management of my business as simple as possible. You’ll learn how to manage your practice without onerous contracts, and without expensive accounting packages or scheduling software.
Fourth, you need to create a culture. What does that mean if you’re a company of one? Do you create a space for yourself to show up as your best self and do your best work? When you are meeting with your clients, you are creating culture together. Do you create a space for them to show up as their best self and do their best work?
Finally, you need to create yourself as a coach. You’ll learn a lot of tools and models in the course. It’s powerful stuff — the 20% of what I do as a coach that gets 80% of the results I create — but it’s not nearly as important as you. What kind of coach are you? What kind of human being are you?
If you coach entrepreneurs or executives and you walk them through these five creations, they’ll get it immediately. You don’t have to be a business coach. If you understand it and help them to really understand it, it will help you identify where their pain is. And they might even want you to be their ally.