You finally did it! After years of grinding it out in a full-time job or hustling to build your own business, you decided it was time to start adding value to others, and the best way to do that was to coach, consult and train.
But once you started, you realized things aren’t quite what they appeared to be. And after months or even years in your new advisory business, it’s anything but what you imagined.
You got into coaching it to help others succeed, but your actual experience turned out to be quite different. Somehow all the success in business you’ve enjoyed isn’t translating to success building your new coaching business.
Instead of building a thriving practice helping entrepreneurs grow their business, you got trapped in the “Doom Loop,” and if you don’t get out quickly, you’ll end up hurting yourself and your clients.
The Doom Loop is what happens when a coach or consultant makes one of the following three mistakes.
The three mistakes
Mistake #1: The Master of None
One of the biggest mistakes I see new and even veteran coaches make is coming across as a jack of all trades. For example, they will meet someone out networking who highlights their need for sales training and they’ll respond, “I can help with that.”
Then, a friend will refer a prospect who has issues with staffing and systems. Of course, they can help with that too.
It’s even worse when they are asked what they can help with, often responding with a fire hose of options, overwhelming the prospect, and devaluing each hard-earned skill in the eyes of the listener.
I call this the “everyone coach”.
The truth is, their lifetime of experience and exceptional talents has afforded them the ability to help with so much. The trouble is, without limiting their scope, they’ll get to help very few and even less at the dollars they deserve.
I know it sounds counterintuitive. But the secret to higher rates, more clients, and a far less stressful life as a coach is specializing.
Shelly is an excellent example of this.
She loved business, and she loved people. So, having been taught to follow her passion, she decided to take the leap and go out on her own as a consultant. She created a website, posted on social media, called friends and past colleagues, and attended some local networking events. But landing enough engagements to even break even proved way more difficult than she imagined.
She had to hustle and grind big time. She needed the revenue so badly that she constantly found herself pushing prospects, trying to convince them she could help (no matter what their problem was), and fighting on price again and again.
And once she sold something, the stress climbed even higher. Because most engagements were one-off issues, she was all her spare time planning and writing the curriculum (and not getting paid for any of it).
When we met, she was exhausted and had even started looking at local job listings, wondering how she could give up on her dream and go back to working for someone else.
On our very first call, I helped Shelly see where her heart and skills aligned and focus on just that niche. Only that niche. Every conversation, social media post, and sentence on her website was 100% about the specific set of problems she solved. Within a few days, she landed her first engagement. It was a stunning success. She knocked it out of the park for the client, they got a significant return on their investment, she had a blast, and she got three referrals. It was a major turning point for her business.
Today, she’s leading a thriving consultancy and has even had to hire just to keep up with the demand. Her clients love her, and she loves what she does. The last time we spoke, she told me she has to pinch herself just to make sure she’s not dreaming. After as hard as those early days were, it all feels too good to be true. It is true, and she’s going to be succeeding for a very long time!
Mistake #2: The Improv Act
You would not believe the number of coaches I see making this mistake. They have so much experience, vast knowledge, and great intentions, but they don’t have a plan.
So, They show up to a consultation and ask, “What can I help you with today?” Then, they just make it up as they go pulling random bits and pieces from their own experience or from books they’ve read.
I get it. That is what it takes to be a great leader in an organization. It’s what brought them success in the past.
Here’s the problem.
Improvising on the spot works ok when you are doing it to yourself, but that’s not an approach anyone wants to pay for.
I call this the “what’s up? coach” because that’s how they start just about every session (especially in an engagement that lasts more than six months).
They are left reactively firefighting their clients’ problems (which usually makes things worse), not helping them proactively get to where they knew where they promised the clients. This is especially bad if they already made mistake #1 and have all kinds of clients who all need something different.
This was Matt’s problem. When he first launched his coaching business, he started out with a bang!
Matt found it easy to leverage his resume of past successes and strong corporate relationships to get deals and get paid well. He landed several great clients in his first month as a full-time consultant.
Unfortunately, it was only a few sessions in that the cracks started to show.
See, Matt was a classic “what’s up? coach.” As soon as they sat down, he’d ask the client what challenges they were experiencing. Then, within minutes he saw the solution and mapped out a plan of attack.
While the clients were initially excited to get such direct and actionable help, they soon realized that his help fixed the issue of the day, but he had no plan for moving them forward.
One of his rather candid clients called him on it after a group session.
He said, “Matt, the first three sessions were great. We made real progress as a team. But since then, it feels like we’ve gone off the map, and it’s not working.”
It wasn’t before long that Matt’s best clients started dropping like flies, and Matt, freaking out, picked up the phone and called me.
I helped him see it wasn’t his ability they questioned but his lack of strategic direction. They wanted a man with a plan, not just a man with a solution.
I helped him map out his session plans for his remaining clients and bring them all together into one comprehensive structure, which also meant, like Shelley, putting boundaries on what he could help with and what he wouldn’t help with.
Soon, he started to see a huge change in the engagement and energy of his remaining clients as their companies began growing faster than ever. There was a buzz in the community about what Matt was doing for their businesses, and today Matt is completely booked solid.
Mistake #3: The Death Grip
This mistake breaks my heart because it creates a lose-lose situation for everyone involved.
It’s where many coaches give up. It’s what gives the profession a bad name.
Our coach, who is typically struggling with the first two mistakes, is in a bad spot. They are surviving, with hardly a hope of ever thriving.
And this causes a subtle but devastating change in their relationship with their clients. Instead of being there to serve their clients, their clients are there to pay them.
They overstay their usefulness. But they can’t afford to lose a client. So they hold on too long and will do anything to keep the engagement going.
I call this this “freeloader coach” because they end up taking more than they are giving.
Imposter syndrome kicks in; they feel like a fraud and are afraid that their inadequacy will be uncovered and the whole house of cards will collapse.
There’s good news. The solution is surprisingly simple. You need to structure your engagements to end on a high.
And, to end on a high, you either need to stop your engagements when your plan runs out, or you need to extend your skills and capacity to create a long-term plan.
In either case, ending on a high leaves your clients satisfied and enthusiastic about your services leading to more ideal clients down the road.
Brian learned this the hard way.
His engagements would start strong, everyone would be excited, but then it would just sort of taper off from there. Then, after a few months, he would start showing up for sessions and just repeating the same things. He knew he was overstaying his welcome.
But his customers were “kind” and didn’t say anything. And that made him feel even worse. He felt like an imposter and lived constantly worried that his clients were going to fire him.
When Brian called me, we worked together to structure his engagements to end on a high. I also gave him some additional training and resources that dramatically extended the value he could provide to his clients.
Now, Brian can lose a client at any time and not skip a beat. He’s got a full roster of great clients, who are getting a ton of value from him, and he’s having the time of his life.
Where do we go from here?
Chances are you’re making at least one of these mistakes. Unfortunately, the vast majority of coaches do.
But it’s my mission in life to help coaches realize, by fixing these three problems, they can build a brilliant consultancy where they get work from their zone of genius to help their clients generate incredible results.
When you stop making mistakes, you’ll find you can get paid more by clients who genuinely appreciate the value you bring.
That is why I put together a training video on how to solve these three problems. You can access it for free here.
However, if you’re looking to cut the learning curve and open yourself up to a proven system that will do the heavy lifting for you, then I’d love the opportunity to share with you the Predictable Success model and how it has consistently helped consultants escape the Doom Loop and build the career of their dreams!