Does this sound like you?
You sit down at your computer and give yourself a little reality check. Is your business where you thought it would be by now?
RNFor many entrepreneurs, the answer is no.
As a savvy entrepreneur, you are constantly on the hunt for knowledge, information and tips to build your business. When the time is right, you might even consider hiring a coach to help you bring your company to the next level.
That’s exactly how my story began.
As a solopreneur, things can get lonely. Doubt sets in on a daily basis. No matter how passionate you and I are about our businesses, we struggle from time to time to know if we’re doing things the way we should.
As a smart business owner, I tried to find someone to help me with the areas of my business that I struggled with.
This is that story. It’s embarrassing and somewhat disheartening to write, but it’s honest.
It’s a long story, so let’s jump right in.
Lesson 1: Personality matters.
I’m a people pleaser to a fault. Even though I’m an introvert, I love connecting with folks in my neighborhood, local Chamber of Commerce, on Facebook and Twitter, and wherever my travels take me.
No matter whom I connect with, I hope they like me.
My business coaches seemed pretty wild about me from the first time we spoke. Not surprising since they were trying to win my business. The schmoozing worked and I fell for the flattery.
What I failed to see was that behind the remarks like, “you’re amazing!” and “I’ve been there and can help you get to a new level” were two personalities that did not mesh with mine.
Don’t get me wrong. Both guys were great people. But their idea of marketing (hard, aggressive sales and content that “YELLED” at the reader) was just not “me.”
It worked wonders for them. But to hire someone who wanted to position me as the same, overly aggressive type was not a good decision.
Lesson learned: Always get to know the person you’re going to work with. Learn what makes them tick, how they operate, and the little nuances that separate them from the rest. There are plenty of business coaches out there. These two were just not a great fit with my personality. If I had waited just a little bit longer to make the decision, I would have realized that…. Which brings me to lesson number two.
Lesson 2: Hard selling sucks.
What I hadn’t realized was that I was the victim of a hard sale. I saw what these two men were doing, but pushed it out of my mind because I trusted them and what they were telling me.
Here’s how it went down.
At the end of our first call, they told me that I had to put down a certain amount of money. They said this was because so many people did not commit at first. They also said that I was going to get an extraordinary amount of value. For that reason, I had to commit right away so that they knew that they were spending time working with someone as committed as they were to my success.
Who is more committed to my success than me? How could I say no?
And right then I said yes. They preyed on my emotions and tugged at the heart strings knowing I wouldn’t refuse the proposition they were offering to me.
The only problem was, they didn’t outline the solutions. I fell for the hard sale hook, line, and sinker.
As time went on, I grew more and more frustrated at my naivety. Right before we parted ways, the hard sale crept back into my world.
Toward the end of our up and down professional relationship one of the coaches offered to help me on a sales call. When I worked in the corporate world, I won plenty of sales contests in my day but he wanted to show me the way.
Not being someone to turn down an opportunity to learn, I accepted the offer.
I started the call and got to know the woman who had reached out to me. I learned about her business, her goals, her struggles, and what she hoped to gain out of working with me. We had a great conversation… and then my business coach (posing as my “marketing strategist”) chimed in.
He started assuming things that simply were not true. I didn’t quite know where he got these ideas from but he said them with such confidence that I was surprised that I didn’t catch on.
Then she corrected him.
He misread her struggles. When he got it right things settled down for a bit. We finished out the call with a planned (and totally unnatural) hard sale. This poor gal had only 24 hours to make a big time investment in her business’s future.
Not surprisingly, I got an email the next day from the woman we’d pressed so hard. She told me that she admired me and was thrilled to work with another female entrepreneur, but hated the hard sale. It made her uncomfortable. It made her nervous. And she smartly decided not to work with me.
Fortunately, I reassured her that the “marketing strategist” was out of the picture. I was able to repair her trust and fix the agreement. I extended my offer with a much longer time frame. We ended up working together but I should have known…
Lesson learned: Hard sales suck!
Lesson 3: Set an end goal before you begin.
As we continued to work together, I grew frustrated that the timeline I had in mind (a matter of a few months) was not happening. I was meeting my goals and deadlines that they put up for me, but they weren’t following through.
A few times they forgot to call me for our regularly scheduled call. I found out later that higher paying clients had signed on so they had to prioritize them. Still, having a note to explain that I was being pushed back would have been nice.
$5,000 is a big investment. It wasn’t one that helped me sleep better at night. Worse yet, my husband (the cautious one in our marriage) had warned me about the risks before I purchased the coaching services.
I hated to admit that he was right. I pushed forward with the business coaches knowing that I was going in the wrong direction. I continued to churn out work that wasn’t up to my standards of quality.
I spoke at a marketing conference about the concept the business coaches dreamt up for me to use. It fell flat and I looked like an idiot on stage.
Things weren’t going well and it was my brand that suffered. All the while, the business coaches were encouraging me to press forward with strategies I knew weren’t right for me. They pushed me to spend more – more money on advertising that wasn’t getting the type of results they’d promised (and that they wouldn’t help me with), and more time on marketing projects that still didn’t sit right with me.
By now you’re probably cringing as much as I was. I wanted to stop – I did! I even tried a few times. But they promised to keep trying new things and trying harder. I knew I’d paid a good chunk of change for their help and was desperate to see results so I continued.
Lesson learned: Outline timelines and outcomes with business coaches at the front of the project. This way, you won’t be left scrambling in the dark after wasting thousands of dollars at the back end.
Lesson 4: What you learn probably won’t be what you expected to learn.
I finally broke away from the business coaches and I breathed a sigh of relief.
I felt empowered and I felt like I had found my-marketing-self.
Looking back, I realized I hadn’t learned the lessons I thought I would. I didn’t learn how to organize my business to scale. I didn’t learn who I needed in my camp and who could wait. I didn’t learn how to structure agreements with clients.
Instead, what I learned is the type of professional I didn’t want to be.
I never want to be the kind of professional that pushes a sale just for the sake of pushing a sale.
I never want to be the type of professional that demands large amounts of money and commitment in a ridiculously short time frame.
It might not be what I planned to learn, but I still walked away from the relationship with a few lessons learned and under my belt. Was it worth the money? Not at all. Do I regret it? Absolutely. But I’ve learned from it and am happy to be moving forward confident and happy with how I conduct my business.
Have you ever worked with a business coach? Let me hear your story!