Can you afford to start your own business?

It’s that time of year when people start thinking about living the life they have dreamed of. We receive several calls a week from coaches wanting to start their own business (or who have started a business without thinking it through). Although not in the profession of running business start-up courses we have offered coaching and mentoring around this issue and in this article we share our musings.

It seems to us that many coaches, NLPers, and trainers get involved in the self help, talking therapies and personal development movement by attending training themselves. They then tell us ‘I have found my calling or purpose’, ‘I want to make a difference’ or even ‘I want to escape from the corporate world’.

Our challenge is to ask whether you really understand and accept who you are. Are you a great entrepreneur? Do you understand the interplay between financial management, marketing, sales, social media, time management, self management, IT, company law, trades descriptions and data protection legislation as well as being a great and professional coach? Do you understand professional etiquette and ethics? Are you collaborative? Can you work alone (often from a spare bedroom), can you work for days on the business – often without speaking to anyone else? You have to promote yourself, speak up for yourself, and chase your own debts.  If you want to be successful, you cannot hide, go off sick, make excuses or even delegate. Have you got the motivation to succeed?  Can you really work as a sole trader?

All successful businesses start with a dream. We are all entitled to our dreams however when they become a way of life, the critic and the realist must be given voices to ask; is this really, really what you want and can you live on the proceeds? What is the impact on your friends and family and how will you build a credible and professional reputation?

Have you got the mind set to become self-employed or will you still think like an employee?  Running your own business means you do the little jobs (admin, filing and cleaning the toilet!) If you are running away from stress inducing situations, long travel, long working hours or political people please know that having your own business will continue to bring you stress, travel long hours and difficult people with no sick pay, no paid attendance at courses and conferences and no paid holidays. You will not be working 9 to 5, with more holidays and days off if you really want to be successful.

Be realistic about your own strengths and listen to others – what do you truly have to offer? What is your competitive edge? What are your values? Will they form the nugget of a compelling brand?

Owning your own coaching business isn’t a walk in the park. 30% of coaching businesses fail in the first two years. You can be fabulous at helping people with your coaching or mentoring, but if you don’t have the fundamentals of marketing and sales at the very least, you’re not going to have many people to help. You’ll either have no clients, or clients that make you want to tear your hair out! Can you afford to sack clients that don’t work for you? What is your ethical stance?

The first year is fun. It often works well. New entrepreneurs have a passion and energy to get going, they have savings from their previous work and they have contacts and old friends who want to help them out and give them work as a favour. These things don’t last! You spend the first year delivering all this good work which then dries up and the cupboard is empty – now the real business starts. It’s too common to start your journey as a coach, trainer, NLPer or mentor and think that because you can transform the lives and businesses of your clients, it will be easy to start making money and live a life of freedom.

We often see people struggling. We sometimes stand back and watch as colleagues become competitors. We experience people who undercut others and do the profession a disservice. We have people stalking our social media accounts and contacting our contacts – this is unethical and desperate behaviour.

How to succeed;

Please don’t quit your day job and jump into coaching. It will take time to build your new business, so make it a sideline if you must enter one of the most over-supplied and transient professions. Can you start from within your current employment?

Put money aside for certifications. We often get asked; ‘Do I really need to take qualifications to be a coach?’ The answer is YES,  get qualified to the highest level in the area in which you want to deliver. Would you go to an unqualified Doctor or Dentist? Put aside funds for your own personal development plan. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater – what current skills, qualifications and talents can you take into your new business? E.g. from my previous profession of organisation development and human resources I bring change facilitation, organisational consulting, systemic thinking, psychometric testing, high level recruitment, employment legislation, employee engagement, cross cultural and international working, academic and vocational training and assessment, counselling, teaching and training, to add to my qualifications in coaching, mentoring and NLP. This is what makes me who I am – an international organisational development specialist and change facilitator. Take time to do a stock check on what value you have to offer clients.

Decide on your niche – what is your specialist area of practice?  What is the market demand for that niche? If there isn’t one – choose another niche while you take time to educate the market that they need your original idea.

Get help – yes some weeks your help will earn more than you. Think about who answers the phone (or not) when you are out coaching. What is the professional face you are trying to present? Are you trying to bath the baby, cook the dinner, walk the dog or deal with postman when you answer the phone – really not very professional!

Build your network. Make contact with competitors, learn from and collaborate with them – there is nothing worse than bright eyed new entrants to the field who break the unwritten rules, undercut prices, play political games and make themselves unpopular.

Behave professionally. Your brand is your ‘self’. Think about how you dress, what you do (actions speak louder than words). Develop a business plan which is integrated with your personal plan. This is about you, your future, your success and your happiness. You cannot afford to short change yourself.

For more information about individual mentoring and coaching with a focus on developing your business idea contact our office

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