“It’s easier to steer a moving vehicle.” That’s the response I give to questions about how to effectively launch a coaching business.
It may sound trite and even foolish but, truly, my best advice when starting your coaching business is simply to start. Engage people you already know in conversations about how coaching could help them.
No market research study. No comprehensive business plan. No posturing and positioning for just the right, high-visibility entry into the field.
Simply get the word out that you’re a life coach who helps people clarify vision and follow through on goals to make their personal dreams and calling a reality.
I’m not saying that strategy is unimportant, or that you don’t need an outline of a business plan, but their importance is generally overblown — and that keeps you stuck in the garage of contemplation instead of out on the highway of discovery.
Once you have a general plan — and let’s face it, a one-person coaching practice with a caseload of 20 clients is not a complex business to run — the important thing is to get it moving.
You will learn much of what you need to know once you are underway.
How Great Entrepreneurs Think
A feature story in the February 2011 issue of Inc. magazine strongly affirms this basic principle. In “How Great Entrepreneurs Think,” author Leigh Buchanan provides a synopsis of an extensive study conducted at the Darden School of Business on outrageously successful entrepreneurs and how they launch their businesses:
Brilliant improvisers, the entrepreneurs don’t start out with concrete goals. Instead, they constantly assess how to use their personal strengths and whatever resources they have at hand to develop goals on the fly, while creatively reacting to contingencies.
This is not to say entrepreneurs don’t have goals, only that those goals are broad and — like luggage — may shift during flight. Rather than meticulously segment customers according to potential return, they itch to get to market as quickly as possible.
I’ve seen this principle at work over and over in the coaches I’ve mentored and in the business development class I teach, The Accidental Entrepreneur.
As coaches land their first paying clients, they quickly learn what works (and do more of it) while simultaneously learning what doesn’t work (and dumping that).
A subject in the Darden study put it this way:
Ultimately, the best test of any product is to go to your target market and pretend like it’s a real business. You’ll find out soon enough if it is or not. You have to take some risks. You can sit and analyze these different markets forever and ever and ever, and you’d get all these wonderful answers, and they still may be wrong.
Another put it even more bluntly:
I always live by the motto of “Ready, fire, aim.” I think if you spend too much time doing “Ready, aim, aim, aim, “you’re never going to see all the good things that would happen if you actually started doing it. I think business plans are interesting, but they have no real meaning, because you can’t put in all the positive things that will occur…If you know intrinsically that this is possible, you just have to find out how to make it possible, which you can’t do ahead of time.
With a host of marketing opportunities waiting to be discovered, I encourage you to get a basic idea of where you want to go and get moving. You can change course and make adjustments as you go along.
Just remember, it’s a lot easier to steer a moving vehicle.