Today marks my 8 year anniversary!
I started my coaching business in 2013, 8 years ago today (BROJO was formed about a year later).
It’s been a hell ride, but to be fair the last few years have been a lot easier, stable and successful than the earlier ones.
Especially since Chloe came into our world, I’ve been working much less (probably average about 3 hours per day). That’s the beauty of entrepreneurship that I was always seeking: time freedom.
As per tradition, I reflect at the turning of each year and try to share key lessons I’ve learned on the streets about how to run a business. I’ve already done a bunch of posts about this, so I’ll just summarise some new ideas I’ve had about how to have a life once you’ve already gotten past the start-up phase and now have a stable, successful business.
1) Question the need to “scale up”
I was always feeling pressured to take my business to “the next level” whenever I felt even remotely comfortable or stable. There seemed to be a consensus in the entrepreneurship world that bigger is always better. Yet that never aligned with my values – I think constant growth just means we consume the world.
Eventually, I came to realise that scaling my business up would take me away from doing what I loved. I’ve done this before: I took a promotion to become a Manager when I was a Senior Probation Officer. I preferred being an SPO – being a manager took me away from face-to-face work with offenders, the work I loved.
Scaling up my coaching business would mean focusing on group programs and hiring other coaches to do the work for me. Only a money-obsessed person would think this is a good idea. I love working with clients 1:1, so now that I can do that successfully, I should go deeper (e.g. finding ever more challenging clients) rather than higher.
2) Look to reduce time and expenses rather than increase work and income
There’s no point in making more money if you don’t even have time to spend it, or to enjoy what you bought with it. I’ve seen so many people make a big deal about how much money they have yet they still work too hard to even enjoy life or spend quality time with family, friends and hobbies. What’s the point of that?
Over the last few years, I stopped asking “How can I earn more money?” and started asking “How can I create more free time?” I set myself a goal: make a business that requires only a couple hours per day work (and those hours must be meaningful and enjoyable). That changed my approach completely.
I started cutting tasks that didn’t matter. I used apps to reduce workload. I spent less. I focused on high value clients and stopped wasting time building connections with people who weren’t amazing to work with. Ironically, this approach not only freed up my time but somehow resulted in much more income.
3) Live the ideal way now
I used to work 90+ hours per week… to achieve a goal of only working a few hours per week. It’s incredible that I couldn’t see the contradiction there. It’s like fucking to achieve chastity; a totally backward approach.
So instead of “building up” to something in the future, I started asking myself how to make it happen right now. So if I want more free time, I challenged myself to free up some time today rather than working harder now to somehow work less later. If I wanted to one day work with impressive clients, I need to approach them today rather than work with mediocre people in the hope that they’ll somehow upgrade over time spontaneously. And so on.
4) Essentialism – only do what matters
I’ve been doing something from the very beginning that has proven to be the most important admin task I do: every 3 months I review all my clients and – with particular focus on my favourites – I assess where they came from, how we met, and what we did to build our relationship. I look at the essentials behind creating great clients.
And the evidence is clear. In my case, focusing on putting out great podcasts and videos, while trying my best to give value to my BROJO community and communicating personally with people I’m interested in, are the most important things for me to be doing. Nothing else matters.
Arguing on social media doesn’t help. Building a website didn’t help. Publishing books doesn’t help (though I do this for my own enjoyment). My LinkedIn profile, Instagram page, and Facebook pages don’t help. Even this blog doesn’t really help. All of these activities are non-essential to my business, i.e. I don’t need to do them at all.
When I spend just an hour or two per day making podcasts and videos, personally messaging BROJO members, and taking good care of my clients, my business thrives. I don’t need anything else.
5) Imagine your death-bed
It’s easy to get lost in the noise of business without taking time to ask, “Is this what I should be doing right now?” And I don’t just mean focusing on productivity or essentialism (I am aware I’m kind of repeating myself in this post). I mean zooming out from time to time to reconsider the bigger picture of your life.
This current activity: Does it matter? Will you remember it in a few months or years? Will really bad things happen if you don’t do it? Does it give meaning to your life and work? Is it being done at the cost of something better?
So every now and then I imagine myself in a hospital bed, hooked up to machines, feeling my life drain slowly from my body and reminiscing over my time on this earth and in this job. What will matter then? What will I wish I had done more or less of?
This led me to prioritise my family, take better care of my body, let go of changing the world (i.e. a thinly veiled disguise for a neediness to be famous), stop trying so hard, do less admin, and spend more time just chilling out.
6) Money insecurities aren’t solved by more money
As one of my coaches once told me about making more money: “Same problems, more zeroes”. Of course, like most people, I didn’t believe this until I experienced it. Once my business revenue exceeded 6-figures – a number I expected to provide financial security feelings – nothing changed. Mentally, I was as stressed about income and savings etc as I had ever been. And I could clearly see that a million or a billion dollars couldn’t solve inner insecurities either.
As I discuss in my Financial Freedom course: Money insecurities are solved by resourcefulness: living in a way that you can solve problems with minimal resources available; an ability to make the most of whatever’s available; a cleverness in solving problems with minimum expenditure of time, money and energy.
Instead of trying to make more money, I switched to trying to achieve more with less effort and resources. From simple practical things like spending less and waiting for good deals, through to more complex things like bartering and negotiating, I came to realise that feeling secure with money isn’t about the amount of money or income you have, but your ability to make any amount work well.
7) Master a specific trade
I always teach my coaching proteges: the most important thing in building a coaching business is to Always Be Coaching, ABC.
If you want your business to thrive as the years tick by, you should aim to become the best at what you do. To eliminate the competition, find something that no one else does (or does well) and master that, solving a problem that occurs for your preferred clients that they desperately want solved.
I hate the term “life coach” because it’s so general and grandiose. No one is an expert at life. But there are niches within life that one can master in a lifetime. In my case: confidence, specifically; confidence achieved via living with integrity when you are a people-pleaser or Nice Guy.
I’ve done thousands of hours worth of coaching on this very specific topic with this very specific group of people. I’ve tackled almost every potential problem that comes up in this area, dozens of times each. I’ve heard it told from every possible perspective, from every major culture, country and religion around the world, from men and women, young and old, rich and poor alike. I can say without any sense of grandiosity that I’ve mastered this topic.
And, more importantly, I help my people better than anyone else does. And as long as I keep learning and developing, keeping my ego in check by constantly looking to improve, my “competition” will never catch up, so I’m in a class of my own.
Anyone can achieve this level of mastery. I’m not special; I’m just focused.
8) Your clients matter most (unless you have employees)
Whatever task you’re currently doing, stop and ask yourself: “How, exactly, does this benefit my favourite clients?”
About one third of my income comes from repeat business. My repeat clients are often also my most profitable and most enjoyable to work with. A coaching business is built on a few great clients who keep coming back for more, more than anything else. So they are the priority: serve your best clients first and foremost, and keep their needs in mind with every business decision you make.
I don’t have employees, but I generally agree with Richard Branson: the customer is NOT always right. Protect your employees (in my case it’s my wife who assists me) before serving your customers, because they ARE the business.
9) Consistency beats one-hit wonders
I’ve never had a video or podcast or anything else go “viral”. I’ve never scored a huge, one-time client that provides a year’s worth of income in a single hit. I’ve basically built my business one small brick at a time, with very few “breakthroughs” of any significance. My gains have come in terms of 1-5% increases, nothing more.
And that’s just fine.
Because small gains accumulate nicely over the years, and there is a compound interest effect. My YouTube channel doesn’t have millions of subscribers, neither does my podcast, but they have accumulated a nice little following of die-hard loyalists who watch every video and listen to every episode (and often end up becoming coaching clients). The BROJO family numbers only in the hundreds, and yet some of the veterans have been involved since 2014.
Consistency builds trust and loyalty. Consistency has proved far more important than fanciness or big breaks. Just deliver good value, over and over again, every day, week and month, and have the patience required for those small growth gains to build into something massive.
There’s a reason one-hit wonder pop stars usually disappear after that first big song. They didn’t have any real substance. For the opposite reason, people keep listening to the Stones and the Beatles to this very day. Some of their songs are just ok, some are amazing. Some albums hit, some sort of flopped. But the key is they just kept pumping out the good stuff over and over again.
10) Know which numbers matter
Facebook and Instagram followers don’t mean anything. Likes and dislikes on your YouTube videos or posts mean very little. The amount of people who said No to your offer tells you very little about it’s worth. The number of hours you work per day is a meaningless measurement.
Here’s what actually matters:
- Does your total spending exceed your revenue?
- Have you reached out to build a relationship with at least 5 new people today?
- What percentage of the people you connect with are offered a trial coaching session within a few days of meeting them? Is it 100% yet?
- Out of 10, how would you rate your clients in terms of how enjoyable they are to work with?
- Where do most of your clients come from?
- Which approach to giving value leads directly to the most clients?
- How consistently are you putting out valuable content?
- Financially speaking, what’s the best use of your time? What’s the worst?
Measure these numbers and improve them. Ignore everything else.
And on that note, I’ve completely stopped comparing myself to other coaches or similar practitioners in my field. There’s just no point. If I want to learn something, I hire a coach or mentor, so there’s no educational gains in comparing myself to other coaches.
And I’ve often heard my coach-trainees say they feel intimidated by another coaches outward-facing numbers, e.g. they have a huge number of Facebook followers. What they don’t realise is that these numbers often hide a struggling business. The best coaches in the world are often invisible to the public.
11) Authenticity outlasts marketing tricks
I’ve learned all the marketing bullshit. I know how to create scarcity. I know how to focus on benefits rather than features. I know how to tell a story. I know how to target your pain points and make you feel like they are a problem that needs to be solved as quickly as possible. I know how to strategically place testimonials to counter your objections.
And every time I’ve tried using these tactics I just felt yuck.
Yeah, they sometimes “work”, in that they persuade someone to work with you. But is that what you want: to seduce your clients with psychological traps and guilt-trips? I don’t.
Eventually, my values managed to make me see sense. It’s hard when you’re struggling to put food on the table – the neediness will quickly lead you to do whatever it takes to make a buck. However, this isn’t even the most effective approach.
You know what really works? Having integrity. Being consistently valuable. Being so honest people are surprised by it, and can’t think of anyone else in your field who’s as up front as you are. Respecting people and giving them a no-pressure offer that they can easily say No to. Being direct about your pricing and willing to discuss it in detail. Taking your time and letting people arrive at a Yes when they’re ready, but never being ashamed to offer something you know they’ll benefit from.
Most of all: treating people like human fucking beings that you actually fucking like, rather than like bank vaults that you’re trying to crack open.
12) You don’t need to defend yourself
YouTube comments section: I want my 5 years back.
I’ve wasted so much time arguing and defending my beliefs and approach. Why? Because people who would never work with me have challenged what I say. Is that a good reason to neglect my family, friends and clients? By spending hours in the comments section debating with a guy who uses a picture of a furry as his avatar and only communicates in all CAPS?
Only a small niche of the world is going to find your shit helpful. No one else actually matters (to your business). Providing you keep up to date with the latest in scientific research and logical reasoning, and keep educating yourself and updating your ideas, you don’t actually need to worry about someone thinking that you’re “wrong”. What they’re really saying is: “I will never be your client so don’t bother communicating with me, find someone else.”
Of course, I’m open to challenge and disagreement… from my clients and community and experts in my field. But Jimbo on Facebook who hates me because I didn’t have nice things to say about his cult can just go ahead and fuck right off.
13) Your business is only as healthy as you are
Especially relevant to coaching: you ARE the product.
If you’re tired, distracted, sick, bored or grieving, so is your coaching. It doesn’t mean that you have to be firing on all cylinders all of the time – having a baby has shown me that I can still coach effectively while sleep deprived – but it can answer questions about how well your business is doing: it’s doing as well as you are.
Neediness is particularly devastating. If you don’t manage your spending and ego effectively to remove your desperation for money and success, it will infect your coaching like poison, and will probably be the main reason you just can’t seem to get new clients even if you’re good at coaching.
Make sure, as best as you can, that you go into every session relaxed, prepared, and willing to lose the client to do what is right.
14) Let go of changing the world
I used to get so stressed about the overall IMPACT of my work. I had egotistical visions of becoming the next Marcus Aurelius – a philosophical king who shaped the world for the better. Except there’s a problem or two with this.
Firstly, Aurelius himself said we all go to dust and are eventually forgotten, and that eventually one day the human race will go extinct… so what exactly is the end-game of becoming a legend? To be remembered for a short time? Why would you want that?
And secondly, despite Aurelius ruling basically the free world with a Stoic philosophy for many decades and being celebrated today, the world is still full of greedy, destructive and harmful people. His work barely made a difference to the human tendency to be a bit cunty. It might not actually be possible to shift the tidal wave momentum of the human race.
I had to stop at some point in the last couple of years and ask myself: Should I be focused on changing the whole world, or just helping a few people a little bit? Turns out the latter is far more realistic, achieveable, enjoyable, meaningful, and worthwhile. Trying to change the world is just a recipe for a headache, nothing more. If Aurelius couldn’t do it, what chances do I have?
15) Always ask: Is this sustainable?
And finally, if you want to be in this game for the long-term, you have to challenge anything you’re doing and regularly ask yourself, “Can I keep this up?”
I couldn’t keep up long hours. I couldn’t keep working with less than ideal clients. I couldn’t keep putting off my health and family to do more work. The end results would have been disastrous.
I must always think sustainable. 3 hours’ work a day is sustainable. Putting health first will keep me going. My family are what matters most now and forever.
Thank you to all of you who have supported me for these 8 years (or have started to more recently). I will endeavour to keep improving, keep it real, and bring value to your lives.
I love you… you know, like a friend. Relax.
Dan’s Top Resources
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