Rant post warning. There’s an alarming trend amongst the most vocal segment of the entrepreneur community: Get into coaching or consulting.
For the online, location independent set it’s a no brainer. Build an audience, sell advice. Freedom will be yours!
Yet this business model is chewing up and spitting out coaches and clients alike. As the guy who’s been in this game full time for the last seven years, I think it’s time to be honest about what’s really going on here.
As cynical as I want to be, I have to confess I’m pro coaching industry.
The smartest, highest yielding investments I’ve ever made have been in personal development. The mastermind group I’ve been attending for the past two years not only delivered such indirect benefits as my US residency visa, it also created massive commercial ROI.
That said, I’m a connoisseur. I’m massively blessed by having access to the smartest minds in the psychology, NLP and business world.
The top 1% of the “helping people” industry is held up as the holy grail by endless hordes of me-too self help zombies – all of whom are opening up shop, consulting sessions and mastermind groups in the hopes of enjoying wealth and freedom.
Sounds good right? I can’t argue – I did exactly that and wouldn’t change a thing.
My journey has been a relentless hike up the steepest of learning curves, through three iterations of the business model (psychotherapy practice, corporate consultancy and finally entrepreneur specialist).
I’ve been schooled in more ways than I care to mention. If businesses are human-growing machines, a helping-people business is like bolting a (volatile, unpredictable) jet engine to the whole thing.
All of this is to say: It breaks my heart to see this explosion of half-baked consulting businesses. There is so much potential for good, that it’s particularly painful to witness the vast majority of people creating these wince-worthy practices.
These wannabes don’t survive the curve to enjoy any kind of end-of-rainbow reward. Worse, they leave behind a trail of disillusioned customers whose foray into personal development creates more problems than it solves.
People hire these consultants, who share enough of their naivety to pursue magic bullet fantasies. When things don’t work out, the client will often abandon the whole notion of self improvement. It’s a serious tragedy, born out of the intense bitterness only terrible coaching can create.
There are only two reasons why this industry is screwing the lives of coaches and clients alike:
Reason 1 – No one really knows how to consult/coach
The big mistake people make is believing that being good at something means you’ll be good at teaching it. Bzzzz. Try again. Last I checked, whizkid stockbrokers don’t teach economics classes.
Being good at something certainly helps, especially in the entrepreneur world where real life experience is a trump card. But good coaching is about more than that.
Your coaching business will not pan out if you’re trying to win on experience alone. Why? Because there’s always someone more experienced than you. And chances are, they’ve written a book about it.
Consulting on experience alone means you’ll default to simply handing out instructions to your clients. You’ll find yourself starting a lot of sentences with the words “You should…”
No one actually benefits from receiving high priced instructions. When was the last time you were genuinely stuck because you didn’t know what to do next? Exactly.
It’s the actual doing part that people need help with. Plus figuring out why the doing isn’t happening easily.
Coaches who just deliver instructions quickly find their clients saying things like “I need time to implement all this, let me get back to you in a few months”. The coaching business falls apart because you’re now officially serving the same function as the cliff-notes version of the latest business book.
If you pair your real world experience with a kick ass education in cutting edge coaching modalities (email me for recommendations), you’ll be really cooking. Be warned though, a weekend seminar doth not a fantastic coach make.
Reason 2 – No one has figured out a predictable customer acquisition funnel
This is hands down the biggest reason why no one really lasts in this game. The science of achievement is seldom understood by consultants and coaches enough that they can create sustainable, profitable and lasting businesses.
It hurts the customers too, because there is massive scarcity in the mind of the hungry coach. Prospective buyers get preyed on with sleazy tactics, because needy consultants know they need to do whatever it takes to get the customer in the door.
At it’s worst, this can mean a sliding scale of “I charge what I think I can get away with” – Common practice in the victimless world of corporate consulting, but seriously icky if you’re coaching civilians.
All business models must answer the question: How will strangers find out about your business and decide to become customers?
Most coaches fail so bad at doing this, they never manage to sell to strangers. They have no choice but to sign up their own social community, creating an endless circle jerk of mastermind pyramid groups.
Thing is, there ARE rock solid customer acquisition strategies that top consultants are using. They exist. However, most of them require enormous hard work and commitment to a long term vision. On top of a sophisticated understanding of marketing, PR, networking and more.
It’s not exactly the gold rush most wannabe consultants sign up for.
… Which is why such people don’t figure these dynamics out, ultimately leading them to give up and be consigned to the heap of fly-by-nighters who’ve lightened people’s pockets before leaving the industry behind them.
So, now you know why no one really lasts in the consulting business. If you’re on this path, it’s up to you to be different.
Over and out. All thoughts welcome.