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The Declaration Stage: Commit to Creating the Success You Dream About

by: Melinda Cohan

This article is the second in our The Success Path series. In the first article, we explained that The Success Path is a five-stage path coach-preneurs journey, as they go from coach, to startup business owner, to CEO.  To navigate the journey successfully, it’s important to complete each stage before moving on to the next. In the exercise at the end of the first article, we helped you identify where you are now on The Success Path, and what you need to do to continue on this journey to whichever stage you consider your final destination. We recommend reading the first article here before reading the article below: The Start-Up Entrepreneur’s Success Path: The Critical Process of Mapping Your Route to Success


 

Have you ever jumped off a cliff, or even a diving board, into the water? There’s that moment, when you’re standing there, looking down, hesitating … and then you just do it: you commit. You commit to making that jump.

When it comes to The Success Path we outlined in our last article, that’s what the first stage, the Declaration Stage, is all about: making the deep, soul-level commitment to do whatever it takes to create the success of which you dream, even if, at this time, it seems counter-intuitive or counter-logical (I mean, who jumps off a cliff?!).

If you’re in the Declaration Stage, your focus is to gather what’s necessary to make the move from full-time job to full-time business. That includes having a financial cushion, so you’re able to make the transition without that feeling of desperation that it has to work RIGHT NOW, or you might go under water.

Many coach-preneurs in the Declaration Stage try to go it alone – to figure it all out by themselves. When they begin to get overwhelmed, gremlins creep in and stop any forward momentum.

With guidance, support, and a mentor to show you the way, you can lean in and “borrow” their courage until you locate your own. We’d like to share some of our guidance, here.

What you may be experiencing if you’re in the Declaration Stage:

As startup coaches traverse the Declaration Stage, they may feel nervousness, self-doubt, and trepidation. And it’s understandable! Starting a new business is a huge step out of your comfort zone.

To illustrate those feelings, I’d like to share a few snippets from actual conversations I recently had with startup coaches.

“Melinda, you told me, ‘No brand, no business, no problem,’ but I’m starting to think this isn’t possible and I’m just not ready for this yet. I think I need to figure out a lot more stuff before I’m ready to get going.”

“Melinda, I am scared to death! Like literally, it feels paralyzing to think about moving forward with my business. I don’t think I have what it takes to do this. What if it doesn’t work? What if I go for it, and it fails?”

“I don’t have any money. I need to make some fast, and I want to start my business. Can you tell me how to create a business when I don’t have any money?”

What you should know:

Most startup entrepreneurs, who begin in the Declaration Stage, simply don’t know what they don’t know. And that’s okay—you’re not supposed to know what’s involved to start and launch a business.

All you’re supposed to do at the beginning is make that commitment to learn what you need to know, and to do what you need to do, to build a successful business.

If you’re telling yourself you should know everything, right away, you’re going to feel stressed out and overwhelmed.

It’s natural to feel nervous, so be kind to yourself as you start this journey.

A mentor once told me, “Melinda, you must get profoundly comfortable with the discomfort of being an entrepreneur.”

By being the very thing we are, we naturally live outside our comfort levels all the time! It’s just the nature of being an entrepreneur.

This very nature, which drives our passion, is the very thing that can cripple us if we leave it isolated.

That’s why it’s so important to declare that we’re entrepreneurs at heart, and to dare to live outside our comfort zones … because that’s where our greatest passion and impact lies. And the best way to get comfortable constantly living outside our comfort zones is to surround ourselves with like-minded community, invest in a great mentor who can lead us along the way, and have massive compassion for ourselves. Oh, and make FUN a #1 priority in how we do everything!

So, make the declaration! Make the commitment! Breathe deeply, be present, and get the support and guidance you need to lean into the discomfort of being an entrepreneur. Give yourself permission to keep moving forward.

Now, we’re going to walk, step-by-step, through the three things you should do in the Declaration Stage.

Here we go!


 

How to move through the Declaration Stage effectively:

You may believe that the first thing you need to do as a coach-preneur is to get clients. This is actually backwards thinking! This may sound counter-logical, but getting clients is actually one of the last things you should think about. (Stay tuned for more on this – an upcoming article in this series will delve into this topic more deeply.)

As a coach, it’s important to be and look professional. If you hit the streets and start looking for clients before you’re truly ready, you won’t look professional at all—you’ll feel overwhelmed, nervous, and full of doubt. That’s why we want to make sure you have all the knowledge you need to move through the Declaration Stage effectively! Keep reading to discover the three things you must do during this stage.

 

Get clear on your WHY statement.

Why are you making this jump? Why are you starting a business rather than coaching as a hobby, or working for someone else? What is truly driving you to start a business doing what you love?

Dig deep!

Embarking on the entrepreneurial journey is a giant leap out of your comfort zone and into a cold pool of water! Because you are moving continuously farther outside your comfort zone, it’s easy for gremlins, doubts, and uncertainties to get the best of you. They try to push you back toward your comfort zone.

You WHY statement is like a lighthouse beacon! It gives you direction, as you swat away those gremlins, doubts, and uncertainties … like the very ones I’m getting right now, as I write this post, even though I’ve been in business for 14 years:

  • “What if no one likes this?”
  • “I shouldn’t put this information out there, no one will read it; everyone is too busy anyway.”
  • “This really isn’t going to help anyone get clients; just forget it.”

And then I picture Dahalia or Deni, or Margarita, or Tony and the very thought of the people I’m helping reminds me of my WHY statement, which compels me to keep moving forward.

Your WHY statement carries you through with focus, determination, and consistency as you move forward.

Exercise.

Create your WHY statement. Then frame it and hang it on the wall where you work, so you see it every day. For 14 years, my napkin with my vision and WHY statement has hung on my office wall. I refer to it often as my fuel when I hit doubt and uncertainty.

Then, post your WHY statement in the comments below – I’d LOVE to read it.

 

Get prepared, financially.

Most entrepreneurs operate in the creative, intuitive, nurturing side of their brain, and they often believe structure is limiting. However, in the case of starting your business, organization, structure, and preparation bring about the greatest amount of freedom, and the quickest results.

It’s simple, right?

When you don’t have things organized, and processes defined (and by “processes,” I mean a series of steps you take to get a certain result) in advance, it’s like you’re “shootin’ blind.” I might as well ask you to put on a blindfold, wad up a piece of paper, and hit that goal. You can’t see it – you have no idea where it is – so how in the world will you hit it?

Sure, there’s a chance you might get lucky, and hit the mark.  But why leave it to chance?

When you have a bit of organization, and defined processes and steps already in place, you can clearly see your target goal, you know what it takes to reach it, and you simply repeat those defined steps over and over, to consistently reach your goal.

When it comes to your finances, it would be ideal if you could set aside a cash reserve of three to six months’ worth of your required, necessary, vital expenses (not the nice-to-haves, but the absolutely need-to-haves, like a roof over your head, food on the table, and clothes on your back).

Many entrepreneurs are hoping to leave a full-time J-O-B to start a full-time business, but without a financial cushion, you’ll likely feel desperate, or stuck and filled with trepidation, which may stop you from taking the action necessary to make your business dreams a reality. You’ll quickly run out of time, energy, passion, and money before you realize your goals

So, for a short time, commit to living carefully, when it comes to finances—be diligent in your expenses, protective of your spending and savings—so that you can eventually experience money freedom and momentum.

What if you don’t have this cushion and you can’t create it from your existing situation?

I recommend choosing one of two options:

Option One. Get a bridge job to help you create this cushion. A bridge job is a short-term, often part-time gig that is simple, requires little effort, and allows you to leave work at work. Its sole purpose is to allow you to save up enough money to create the cushion.

Option Two. Talk to your current boss about the possibility of creating a situation in which you go part-time for him or her, so you still receive a consistent income while freeing up some of your time to begin creating your new business.

Either way, looking at your job as a means to an end is liberating, and your situation will no longer feel like it’s strangling you!

Exercise.

Determine your absolute, necessary, fixed expenses each month, and then save $1,000 fast! Then, create and set aside 3-6 months’ financial cushion into a savings account. This may require a simple, part-time bridge job in the interim. This doesn’t delay your pursuits (rather, it catapults you toward them faster).

 

Get prepared, organizationally.

As I mentioned above, many startup coach-preneurs believe they must rush out and get clients, first thing. Taking that a step further, these same coach-preneurs believe that if they’re going to get clients, they need to have an official business—which means they need a business name, a logo, and a website.

Hold it right there.

This, too, is backwards thinking. Yes, creating a website, a logo, and a company name creates a strong business identity. But there are other things you must do before you complete these tasks.

Exercise.

Follow these steps to create a solid foundation for your business identity and brand to stand on:

  • Set up an LLC, S-Corp, or some type of business entity to provide protection for you personally and your personal assets.
  • Open a business checking account. Deposit $25 at a time until you save $1,000.
  • Obtain a P.O. Box for your business.
  • Create a dedicated office space, even if you’re working from home.
  • Schedule intended office hours.
  • Write a business plan that includes your goals for number of clients, revenue, and initial marketing plan.
  • Learn the best coaching business practices necessary to locate prospects, convert them, engage them, support them, and get paid by them.

Again, make the declaration! Make the commitment! Breathe deeply, be present, and get the support and guidance you need to lean into the discomfort of being an entrepreneur. Give yourself permission to keep moving forward, to believe in your dream, and do whatever it takes to pursue your dreams.


 

Declaration Stage Mantra.

As you go through your day, think these thoughts to continue to create magic, strengthen your courage, and keep moving forward.

My timing is perfect! Otherwise I’d be doing it differently.

I’ve never done this business thing. I am not supposed to know what to do, but I can align myself with those who do; and with their support, I am creating big magic and big success, fast!

I am profoundly comfortable with the discomfort of being an entrepreneur.

I am living like no one else so I can live like no one else.

And please share! Post your preferred mantra (from above or one of your own) in the comments below.

Go out there, and create magic!

Complete the exercises in this post, and then move on to the next stage, The Transition Stage. (You won’t want to miss this, because we’re talkin’ list growing, baby!) 😉

Watch your inbox for the next article in this series, which gives you everything you need to know about navigating The Transition Stage.

 

Posted in: StartUp Coach

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The Start-Up Entrepreneur’s Success Path: The Critical Process of Mapping Your Route to Success

by: Melinda Cohan

Every start up coach or service-based practitioner must go through the same five steps to reach the point where she or he is running a thriving business.

These steps reflect the 50,000-foot perspective: what your entire journey looks like.

Each of them is a building block on your journey to running a thriving business. So you also can’t “half-ass” them. You can’t ignore them. And you can’t skip any of them! Skipping them to reach the destination more quickly doesn’t equal success. In fact, if you do skip ahead, I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll have to go back and revisit the earlier stages.

A quick note: you know you’re off-roading if you haven’t yet created consistent results from the beginning stages and are already incorporating intermediate or advanced strategies. That is what ultimately creates overwhelm!

Because we love you, and because we love making things easy breezy for you, we’ve put the content we’re covering today into an awesome, beautiful, downloadable chart you can get for free, below.

It’s our hope that by reading the rest of this post, answering the questions at the end, and studying the chart, you’ll be able to see where you are now on a clearly defined path to success, and the journey to where you want to be. This is a visual representation of the idea that you’re moving through a process.

Side benefit: your world will feel less overwhelming or chaotic, because you won’t be spreading yourself too thin, trying to accomplish too much from too many stages, all at the same time. This approach takes enlightened discipline and a diligent commitment to yourself and your dreams (and it’s so worth it!).

So go ahead! Download your chart here, and then come back and keep reading (we’ll wait for you):

Where Are YOU On The Success Path? <<< Download Your Chart Now

Now, let’s get to the nitty gritty!

First, we’ll describe The Success Path and each of its Five Stages, and then we’ll give you an exercise to help you determine where you are now on the path, so that you know what to do to continue moving toward your dream business as quickly as possible.


The Success Path

As a new business owner, it’s helpful to see the path you’re taking to build your biz. Think about when you use your smartphone to map out your route to a particular destination. You enter your current location, and then your desired destination. Then, your mapping app calculates your route, and shows it to you.

Clear. Easy breezy. Right?

Why is it then, that many startup coaches or practitioners blindly pursue their passions without knowing, in advance, the route they’re going to follow, or the path that lies ahead?

When they do, they end up feeling lost and scattered, unsure of how far they’ve traveled, or how far they have left to go.

The Success Path solves that problem by showing startup coaches and practitioners the route they’ll be taking.

Let’s go over each of the Stages of The Success Path now, and then look at how they relate to the learning process.

Declaration Stage

Goal: To make the deep, soul-level commitment to do whatever it takes to create the success of which you dream, even if, at this time, it seems counter-intuitive or counter-logical.

Focus: Gather what’s necessary to make the move from full-time job to full-time business.

Blind Spot: Not creating a financial cushion to bridge the gap from J-O-B to business results. Your cushion should cover three to five months’ worth of essential, fixed costs necessary for survival. This way, you can proceed on the Success Path without that horrible feeling of desperation to make money immediately, like RIGHT NOW. If you can’t set aside the cushion in advance, consider getting a “bridge job”—a part- or full-time, low-stress gig—to help with these expenses as you get clear in your commitment, vision, and goals.

Transition Stage

Goal: To build your list.

Focus: Create the components to identify, find, attract, and engage prospects, and implement the funnels, strategies, and best practices to grow your list.

Blind Spot: Pursuing your business—specifically, trying to go out and get clients—without knowing, in advance, all the pieces and best practices you’ll need in it, which results they drive, and why they’re important; for example, what it takes to find, engage, and convert prospects into clients (Stage 2 is where a coach should focus on collecting names and building a list). Knowing these things brings order to the otherwise chaotic, overwhelming task of running a business. Take time, up front, to know what needs to happen, when. Otherwise, everything feels urgent, and you feel pressured and fearful.

Attraction Stage

Goal: To get paying clients.

Focus: Create and implement the tools, resources, and materials necessary to enroll and onboard new clients.

Blind Spot: Neglecting to prepare for enrollment conversations. Here, “prepared” means having your client agreement and onboarding process in place BEFORE you show up for the enrollment conversation, so you’re able to leverage the “yes” when someone decides to work with you. If you don’t have these things ready to go, a new client may have to wait hours or even days until they’re officially onboarded. That means you risk creating a time gap that allows their gremlins creep in, causing them to get cold feet. On the other hand, when your client agreement, autoresponders, and client portal are in place, everything is seamless, and your new client experiences immediate engagement … and you can leverage his or her, “yes.”

Evolution Stage

Goal: To leverage and grow your business.

Focus: Create and implement the tools, resources, and materials necessary to bring automation to your business, add additional revenue streams, and work fewer hours while working with more clients and earning more money.

Blind Spot: Not getting help and support. As you begin to leverage your time, you need to bring on support in implementing and orchestrating everything in your business, including groups, programs, and events. This support comes in the form of team members: a certified VA, a bookkeeper, and so on. If you want to continue to grow, you can’t do it alone. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day.

Expansion Stage

Goal: To scale your business.

Focus: Build your team, expand into new markets, and work minimal hours, while making more money and a broader impact.

Blind Spot: Attempting to do things in the same way you always have. What got you here won’t get you there. This stage requires you to evolve your internal systems and processes in order to manage the new ways you work with clients, and run your business and team.

Now, let’s look at how these stages relate to the learning process.


The Four Quadrants of Learning

We want to share with you the four Quadrants of Learning; in other words, the process you go through from the moment you launch your business to the moment when you’ve mastered it!

This is important to know because as you move yourself through The Success Path, you’ll go through a learning process—an evolution as a coach-preneur. In addition to knowing how to move along The Success Path, we want you to understand that learning process and evolution, because it will require you to step out of your comfort zone and into the next greatest version of yourself (and as you know, “out of your comfort zone” can feel uncomfortable … which is why we wanted to give you a heads up about what to expect).

These quadrants represent the emotional, behavioral and energetic journey you’ll experience as you move through the stages of The Success path.

Quadrant 1: Unconscious Incompetence. You don’t know what you don’t know, right?  You’re just going through your day, nice and easy. Ignorance is bliss!

Quadrant 2: Conscious Incompetence. You encounter something (an experience, a desire, a dream) that sets you on a new path. You now know what you didn’t know before, but you aren’t sure what to do about it. This is where overwhelm begins.

Quadrant 3: Conscious Competence. This is where you bring understanding and order to the chaos. Because you’re still learning new concepts or strategies, mastery requires discipline and effort. With concentrated focus, you get the results for which you’re working.  Things can be uncomfortable here. Most that are not cut out for the journey of starting and running a business often retreat back to their comfort zones here.  In this stage this is where you become profoundly comfortable with the discomfort of being an entrepreneur. As we mentioned earlier, growth as a coach-preneur will constantly require you to step out of your comfort zone—and that’s actually a great thing as you step into better and better versions of yourself. So it’s time to get comfortable with being uncomfortable (we say this with love!).

Quadrant 4: Unconscious Competence: Habits are formed! What was once confusing or overwhelming is now second nature.


How It All Ties Together

When an entrepreneur first starts down The Success Path, her commitment to starting a business, pursuing her passion, and going for her dreams catapults her out of Quadrant 1 and into Quadrant 2. As she gets guidance and support, she sorts through Quadrant 2 and finds herself in Quadrant 3. And as she continues on The Success Path with continued guidance, support, and accountability (and connected to community), and moves forward toward her dreams and goals, she turns her new actions into habits, moving into Quadrant 4.

The Exercise: Where Are YOU on The Success Path?

Choose one answer – yes or no – to each of the following questions.

1. Are you still in a full-time job?

2. Do you have cash reserves set aside?

3. Have you created your WHY statement?

4. Are your contacts organized into one place?

5. Are you clear in describing your ideal client’s urgent challenges and desired results?

6. Do you have a free gift and lead generation system in place, that consistently grows your list each month?

7. Are you using a New Client Agreement as part of your enrollment conversations?

8. Is your onboarding process in place and automated?

9. Is it easy for you to get paid and track your finances?

10. Do you offer group coaching programs, teleclasses, mastermind groups, etc.?

11. Do you have a team?

Scoring

If you’ve left your existing job and/or have confidently answered yes, with confidence, to questions two and three, you have completed this stage and are ready for the Transition Stage.

Questions four, five, and six relate to the transition stage. If you answered yes, with confidence, you’ve completed this stage and are ready for the Attraction Stage.

Questions seven, eight, and nine relate to the Attraction stage. If you answered yes, with confidence, you’ve completed this stage and are ready for the Evolution Stage, if you want to keep growing.

Questions ten and eleven relate to the Evolution stage. If you answered yes, with confidence, you’ve completed Evolution and are ready for Expansion!


Whew! That is a lot of information, right?

We know it’s a lot to take in, and that’s why this is the first post in a series of posts about The Success Path.

Next, we’ll take a deep dive into each Stage (Declaration, Transition, Attraction, Evolution, and Expansion), so you can learn more about where you are now and what you need to do to move toward Expansion!

This information will be most valuable if you know where you are on The Success Path, so be sure to complete the exercise above before we move on! And meanwhile, don’t forget to download your The Success Path graphic, here, if you haven’t already:

Locate Your Stage, Visualize Your Path <<< Get Your Graphic

 

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“Oh, Crap, Now What?”: How to Avoid Overwhelm, Exhaustion and Feeling like a Fraud When Your Business Takes off Without You and the You-Know- What Hits the Fan!

by: Melinda Cohan

“She said, ‘yes!”

Kate Steinbacher, Co-founder of The Coaches Console, had just landed her first coaching client.

She was excited … and shocked. She’d just started her coaching business, and thanks to being a natural-born networker and a charming extrovert, she already had people lined up, excited to work with her.

Only, she didn’t have any systems in place for supporting her new client … or the clients she hoped would follow.

So Kate did what any typical coach would do. After she got her first, “yes”, she picked up the phone, called her mentor coach and said …

“Oh, crap! Now what?”

Like many coaches, Kate operates primarily from her right brain, creativity taking the lead.

Operating a business is more of a left-brain activity, requiring logic and organization.

(Ah yes … I’m betting you know where this is going!)

For the first year of her business, Kate let her creativity and her passion for coaching run her business. She loved coaching! She felt lucky she was getting paid to do it. In that way, she operated from the mindset of a Hobbyist. But she had the goals of a Business Owner – to make a big impact and great money.

Rather than putting systems in place (like a Business Owner would), her “official plan” was to call her mentor coach every time she ran into another part of her business with which she needed help and say, “Oh, crap! Now what?” (Sounds like a Hobbyist, right?)

From all outward appearances, this plan was working well for Kate. She was getting and supporting more clients, and she was having fun. She was professional, credible, and thriving.

But from Kate’s perspective, things looked quite different.

Her approach was costing her time and money. She was so disorganized (her own words!) that it took 3 months for her to receive money from her clients. In one situation, she was so embarrassed about her lack of organization that she waived her client’s invoice all together! (If Kate were here, she’d tell you the same story, herself.)

She struggled to manage her time, and soon became very overwhelmed and stressed trying to juggle everything herself.

This is typical for most coaches and “start-up, service-based entrepreneurs” (those who have a set of skills and/or services they offer to a group of clients).

They discover they have a passion that is really a calling. They bravely venture into entrepreneurship. They work with mentors and teachers who begin to educate them on everything, the hundreds of necessary tasks they need to start and run a business.

Then, overwhelm sets in.

There is so much to do and so much to learn, and without a system, running a business can feel incredibly stressful.

(One of our Coaches Console members described her start-up experience before she began using TCC as “holding everything together with spitballs and duct tape”!)

Seriously – combine these things …

  • Learning the hundreds of details necessary for running a business
  • The desire to appear professional and organized
  • The urgent need to make money
  • The fear of failure and fear of success

… and you’ve got the recipe for overwhelm.

Everything feels urgent and important.

Fortunately, although we can’t decrease the number of details involved in running a business, or the desire to appear professional, the need to make money, or the fear of failure, we can offer you a solution to this overwhelm!

The cure to overwhelm is to prepare for clients before you get them.

Yes, you read that right: before you have any clients, you should set up effective systems for attracting, converting, and supporting them.

Your fear-based ego may be jumping in right now, exclaiming,”But wait! What if you never get any clients? Why would you waste time and resources creating these systems if you fail?!” Or, “You need money – just go out and get clients!” Or, “You’re smart. You’ll figure this out later.”

Let that go.

Take a bit of time up front, as the CEO of your business, to learn and understand the best practices necessary for laying that foundation. Be proactive, rather than reactive.

And find a mentor who can show you the way.

Kate had a great mentor, but she was in reactionary mode. She did not take the time to become proactive, and therefore she spent her first 3 years of business stressed, overwhelmed, and feeling scattered.

We would LOVE to help you avoid those “Oh crap!” moments!

To help you become more proactive, we want to share the 5 Critical Keys to Your Thriving Coaching Business. Later, we’ll go into more depth, but for now, you can begin thinking about whether you have these keys in place.

Critical Key #1: Attract. The first step is to attract your ideal clients, so they know who you are and what you have to offer.

Critical Key #2: Engage. Once you’ve found those leads, it’s time to engage them and give them a taste of the transformation they can experience by working with you.

Critical Key #3: Convert. When you’re looking for leads, you plan to turn them into clients, right? This is where you do just that, so you can make your impact and grow your business.

Critical Key #4: Support. Once the ink is dry, it’s time to ensure your clients enjoy working with you and feel supported.

Critical Key #5: Refer. You’ve heard it before and we’ll say it again: word of mouth is, hands down, the fastest way to grow your business. Make it easy for your clients to refer their friends to you.

Consider this your homework! Take a few moments now to jot down some notes about these 5 Keys as they relate to your business.

Finally, be on the lookout later this month for additional resources to help you flush out these 5 Keys, identify the best practices for each, and discover how to organize and implement them in your business.

Posted in: Professional Development

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