One of my friends is also my harshest critic. That’s what you want in a good friend, don’t you think? Not all of ’em, mind. That would be ghastly! But a true friend is one who feels able to tell you her opinions about when she thinks you’ve done good and bad. And, well, her price is beyond rubies. I wish I were so brave and principled.
So I’m lucky to have one of those, even though it doesn’t always feel like that when she lets me know she thinks I’m in the wrong. I’m a tad on the sensitive side, as well she knows. And the good thing about this particular friend is she knows about coaching and about the business of being self-employed so her opinion is not only important to me but relevant to my business.
She surprised me on our last outing by telling me she thought I was one of the few business coaches she knows who could justly lay claim to that title. And what she explained to me that she meant was that I am one of the few who has actually run successful businesses of her own – and others – for a very long time. Four decades to be precise.
At first I was happy and felt flattered. And then I realised she was right. I never want to be thought of as having a big head and often tend to err on the side of modesty. I think modesty is a delightful British quality, probably a universal one actually but my experience of my Brit clients is that we are especially modest, often to our own detriment when it comes to marketing ourselves and we therefore feel a lot of discomfort with blowing our own trumpet.
I think the other factor is also that I’ve been at it so long, this business of business, that I’ve forgotten my own achievements. They are lost in the mists of memory, because I don’t dwell in the past or seek to rest on my own laurels. I want to be continually learning and growing and I love new.
My first foray into self-employment began in 1977 when I accidentally started my own firm of accountants. I built it up to six staff and 250 clients over the next twenty years and sold it in 1997 for a six figure sum. The man who bought it from me still trades it today, and I often drive proudly down that street just to revisit my baby. Next door is the travel agency I also started and ran for a couple of years before moving that on at the same time. I’ve also been involved in a couple of catering businesses and E-Mythed my own cleaning business across 22 branches in London and the South East.
I’ve run my own coaching business for 12 years and been involved in the building of another. Not many people have worked out a way to make a living out of coaching, but I have. I’ve also learned to love sales and marketing and how to market my businesses online, though I would very definitely not call myself an Internet Marketer. I know where I’m strong and where I’m not.
My best experiences and learning about business have also come from outside my own, by which I mean being the finance director of lots of my clients’ businesses all the way up until 2007 and helping my small business clients as their coach and mentor. Those businesses number about 1,000 – give or take – and they are in every walk of life you could possibly think of in the SME and solopreneur work-at-home sectors.
Nothing stays the same. The stuff I learned in the years between 1977 and now has some use as many principles abide and stand the test of time. But I also need and want to keep learning for myself and for my clients by studying what I consider to be the greats, old and new, and passing on that knowledge and the results of my own experiments where I’ve applied that learning in my own businesses.
This experience is what I bring to my work. It’s my cred. And even after all this time my enthusiasm for business doesn’t dim. How I find this helpful when talking to would-be clients is to find out what’s in their CV too and what they are passionate about and how we can bring those two together in ways which are thrilling for them to be working in, and useful for their clients to whom they can offer experience, authenticity and cred.
What’s your cred and how are you applying it, using it, loving it and leveraging it? And how can I help you with that, now that you know what this business coach has been up to for the last forty years?