Monday, August 1, 2011

Key Take-off Points - When Building Your Coaching Practice

Posted on Monday, August 01, 2011 by International Coach Federation

For many coaches, starting your own practice can be a lot like a plane on a runway. You have chosen your course. (I want to be a coach.) You have done careful preparation taking on all the fuel and supplies you think you will need. (Taking great training and setting aside what you think is enough time and money.) You may have even fastened your seat belt in anticipation of a bumpy ride. And there you sit at the start of the runway. (Ready to commit to do whatever it takes to start your own coaching practice.)

With engines blaring, you start to move down the runway. (You commit to get out there and find some clients.) You notice you are moving quite slowly at first but the speed is increasing. It's exciting. (This is the early stage in your practice building where you are full of hope and expectation but you haven't really accomplished anything yet.)

Halfway down the runway, engines still roaring, you notice things are speeding up, there is a lot of activity but you haven't gained any altitude. (This is the stage of your coaching practice when you have been running around telling people about coaching, offering sample sessions to folks that either aren’t interested or can’t afford it. Yet you remain hopeful.)

Three quarters of the way down the runway, you have expended a ton of energy, the engines on the plane continue to roar, you are running faster than ever, and yet, you have still not gained one inch of altitude. (This is the stage in your practice building when you may start to wonder, "Am I ever going to make it? Am I cut out to be a self-employed coach? I have been running around doing everything I can think of but I still have no clients. Maybe this is a really bad idea.")

While the particulars of this experience are as diverse as the individuals involved, this is an incredibly common and problematic moment in the journey into the atmosphere of building a viable coaching practice.

In reality, there are some planes (lovely, well-trained, well-intentioned, deeply committed souls) who, despite their best efforts, will not get off the ground this time.

If this is you, the kindest thing that can happen is for someone to point out that it doesn't look like you are going to make it off the ground this time. (So you can cut your losses, learn your lessons, adjust your plans, get a temporary day job so you can build up new reserves and try again later.)

However, even for the really well-prepared, highly-determined future coach who has done everything right, (taken great training, paid attention to the marketing, found a niche, put in the hours, asked for help along the way, worked past their limiting doubts and fears, etc.,) this is a critical moment in their takeoff. Because if you falter, if you do not fully commit to going the extra mile, putting in the last bit of energy, finding your way past your mounting anxiety - you will not get off the ground.

Making this critical call, whether to cut the engines and lean on the brakes before you crash and burn, or keep your engines blaring and go for broke - is never easy. It is not a decision you ever want to make rashly or simply on your emotions. (Because everyone is scared at this point and if you let your fear make the decision, you will never get off the ground. And if you let pride or blind ambition make the call, you may be risking far too much.)

Pilots call this point on a runway V1, the agonizing point after which you are fully committed to take off because you don't have enough runway to safely slow down. In launching your coaching business, this point when you are three-quarters of the way down your launching runway is definitely the time to check your fuel (how much reserves do you have left), check your speed (what you have learned to date, what is working for you so far, does it look like you are going to make it, etc.). Most importantly, it is a critical time to check in with a few other experienced pilots (fellow coaches) who have been down this runway many times before and can help you make a good call.

It is exceedingly hard when a good coach has to put the brakes on a dream they have to build their own practice. However, if they do it right, they will survive to try again another day and they will be much wiser. (Most successful entrepreneurs have many failure-to-launch stories. Wisdom comes from experience and experience in business is just another word for many past mistakes.)

However, the biggest sadness I encounter is when I see a future coach who definitely has what it takes, who has done enough of the right things and who you just know can succeed - give up on their dream, just because they ran out of faith. (Usually right before they are about to take flight.)

It is only in the last little bit of the runway that you get enough wind under your wings to begin to gain appreciable altitude. And once you are off the ground, the sky is the limit.

Bottom line is, getting a business off the ground is rarely easy. It will usually test everything you have. You don't want to give up prematurely and you also don't want to ride a losing venture right into the ground.

Don't try to be a proud, lonely hero. Reach out and learn from a few others who have come down this runway before. (They are all around you and are usually happy to help.)

Steve Mitten CPCC, MCC
2005 ICF President
President ACOACH4U.COM
http://www.acoach4u.com/

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