by Karen Kimsey-House, CEO & Co-founder, CTI
Several years ago, Henry and I spent a week traveling delivering one-day courses on new developments in the Co-Active Model. During our trip, a very interesting thing started to happen. At each location, people would come over to introduce themselves. They would say they had been coaching for five or ten years and that they were one of the few (or “rare breed”) who has a successful coaching practice. I was astonished by these comments.
And what was even more astonishing was the way in which each comment was delivered – kind of on the side, as if it was something that should be kept quiet.
As the founder of the largest and oldest coach training school, I have been swimming for years in the conversation about how hard it is to become a successful coach. I’ve heard the profession of coaching called everything from a big lie to a pyramid scheme. I’ve read any number of blog posts about the elephant in the room of the coaching profession.
Over time, a part of me began to buy into this story of a failing profession, studded with gifted, trained coaches who were unable to put to use what they had learned. I wondered where my responsibility lay in the matter, and lost more than one good night’s sleep over it.
After my experience on our trip, I came to a powerful realization: that particular talking point was just ONE perspective on the coaching profession. . . and without even realizing it, I had started to act as if I thought it were true. After that I did what any self-respecting Co-Active coach would do: I got myself some Balance coaching and got re-grounded in where I stand on the profession of coaching.
Being a professional coach has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. It has nourished, grown, and transformed me. It has provided me a structure, a form to contribute to others in a particular way – something I had sought for many years. I also know that building a successful coaching practice can be hard work. But in my experience, that is true about the building of ANY business.
As an entrepreneur for over 30 years, I know firsthand how much time, dedication, patience, and just plain elbow grease it takes to build any going concern. I tell people to plan on it taking a minimum of two years, and it’s likely that it will take longer. Of course people are welcome to be pleasantly surprised when they are successful sooner, and it is a really, really good idea to plan for the long haul.
If it does happen in two years, it’s two years of dedicated and consistent HARD work. The notion that one can just create a web page and wait for the phone to ring is naive whether one is building a business as a coach or any other service provider.
I’ve heard coaches talk about how much they hate marketing, but when you’re building a business as a service provider, marketing is an essential part of the equation. My dentist hands out magnets with his info on it. I get regular mailings from a former nutritionist. An extraordinary body worker wrote a book, taught teleclasses, and is active on LinkedIn. And these are mostly old school examples that don’t take into account new technologies and marketing approaches.
In addition, many people are making great use of coaching in combination with other professions, or inside organizations. I’ve met internal coaches working successfully in major corporations, people who were offering coaching in support of any number of other professional services, and incredible coaches who were designing and delivering coaching inside the healthcare industry and educational institutions.
I also know how challenging an economic recession can be for coaches – it’s been difficult for me, both personally and professionally, and many solo entrepreneurs take a real hit. But what I have also noticed is that hard times call people forth to work smarter and harder. We dig deep and get clear about who we really are and what we really mean.
I’ve been around the coaching profession since before it was a profession. I began coaching in 1988, and there were some major challenges back then. Imagine attempting to market yourself as a coach when no one knew what coaching was. When I mentioned that I was a coach, people tended to get all excited and say “Oh, my Uncle Jerry is a coach too. What’s your sport?”
Thanks to the hard work of a core group of dedicated people, professional coaching is much more established and more widely known. We have a worldwide professional association, The International Coach Federation (ICF), and the industry is filled with seasoned, long-term coaches, dedicated to supporting the profession of coaching and the development of those wishing to enter it.
That said, coaching is still a fledging profession. This can be seen as either a challenge or an opportunity, depending on your perspective. As awareness continues to expand and the value of coaching becomes increasingly validated, more opportunities for employment as a professional coach open up, and they continue to grow.
As life becomes more chaotic and challenging, people will have more need for professional Co-Active coaching. However and wherever our students choose to utilize the model and skills that they learned at CTI, I know that the Co-Active approach will help them forge solid alliances and interact effectively with a wide range of diverse populations – a solid foundation for success in any profession.
For those working to build a successful coaching practice, I share this encouragement: Coaching is an amazing profession and, in my personal experience, well worth the hard work and dedication that it takes to build a successful business.