Why I Will Never Join Another Coaching Program

by Dana Detrick-Clark

Note: This is adapted from a blog post I wrote in 2011 entitled, “An Employee in an Entrepreneur’s Body.” I realized I wanted to be more transparent in the update, and frankly, more blunt. But some of this may be familiar to my long-time readers.

Why I Will Never Join Another Coaching Program

Maybe I should have called this, “Are YOU an Employee in an Entrepreneur’s Body?”, but really, don’t we question ourselves enough?

Sometimes I do things the right way, sometimes I’m way off, but most of the time I’m in the gray area, and I have to decide for myself whether something is right or wrong, then live with that decision, or change it. Getting business coaching was definitely a shade of battleship silver that I’m still trying to pick a side on.

In 2007, long before recessions and all of the economic drama that defined the turn of the decade, I was at one of those crossroads where I’d built up a healthy amount of return studio clients to the point that I no longer felt like a ‘dabbler’ in the field of corporate and commercial audio. I wasn’t a musician-turned-anything; I was a pro!  My work was consistent, my clients were happy, and I was making good, predictable money.

Then, in the springtime, I hit a few snags. One big job fell through, with little fanfare. A barter went sour. One great client became awful, in an, “OMG-yes-that-was-a-chargeback-and-they-already-have-the-files” kind of awful way. Litigation was being considered. Loopholes were being jumped through. The kind of stuff we all dread as business owners, that make us really want to find a boss to hide behind.

So my spirit took a hit. None of these things were my fault, or reflected on my abilities. The big job decided to go with a past vendor instead. The sour barter resulted from delays that were inconvenient for me. The bad client was the bad client’s fault – he chose to be an ass (to more people than just me). But still, I used to be the kind of person that internalized these sorts of things, because my business is my baby. Learning not to do that would come much later in life, and after much harder lessons in misplaced trust.

So on my worst day, I (and my then business partner, who I had been trying to bring full time into the business for many years) agreed to sign up for a coaching program/business network to get us there, because I felt I must be doing something wrong.  At the very least, there must have been some big secret about business that I didn’t know that was causing me to attract or contact only these sorts of bad experiences (despite the fact that I still had my kickass regular clients. It’s hard to remember that when you’re wallowing).

To our credit, we’d done our research, and picked the one we felt was the best match, both in criteria covered, and in cost. There were several others that courted us, but were ridiculous. When they ask you up front how much credit you have available before they give you their rate…yeah, run. I call that the Detractor Factor, if that gives you a hint at the culprit.

Our time with the now bankrupt and defunct OneCoach lasted two years. Without going through an entire timeline, let me just say that it was helpful at times, and it was not helpful at times, and the depth of those differences was a giant cavern. Here’s what it taught me about programs:

1. If you’re going to do it, it doesn’t matter if it’s cheaper to pay a year in advance. Go month-to-month.

Why? Because you won’t use it every month for a year. You have to work sometimes, too (in fact, that’s the point – more on that in #3). And if you get in a pinch, you can drop it. And if there’s nothing going on with it, you can drop it. And if it’s not working out, you can drop it.

Pay upfront, and you’re locked in. If you’re like me, you’ll take time away from your work to use it just to make sure you get your money’s worth. And that’s dumb.

2. Don’t put more into it than you get out of it.

One of the things I committed to was that I was going to be completely open to approaching my business a different way, which was also dumb.  Why?  Because remember, I’d had a decent amount of success on my own, so I must have known what I was doing to some extent. They’re not going to tell me that! I’m in the “funnel”, and in order to keep shelling out the dough, I’m going to have to feel like I can’t handle it on my own. Thus started my proverbial “tail chasing”. Trust yourself, and this won’t happen.

So, in being open, I became the “super member”. I mean, I’m an overachiever anyway, and this just gave me another area to overdeliver in. I posted on the forums the most, I gave the most critiques to other members, I called in to the expert calls the most. And what I have to show for it is a short list of contacts that have rarely turned into paying work, and a bunch of recordings and postings from me, helping other people with what I needed to hear for myself. If ever I needed proof that I was ok…

3. Don’t let “mindset” work replace “skillset” work.

Having a confident mindset is a very good thing in business. There are tons of business moguls who have become celebrities based on the larger-than-life egos that seem to turn every new venture into a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. But this sort of personal development cannot alone fuel business success, and shouldn’t short our businesses’ billable hours. All the confidence in the world won’t put a sandwich on your plate.

Having spent so much time “retraining my brain” from where it apparently had lacked in belief and positivity, imagine my surprise when I later started taking marketing and business courses for no or low cost from places like Lynda.com and Coursera which told me that over-optimism can be business plan poison, because it doesn’t allow you to change course or see relevant risks that all businesses deal with. No, that gut feeling I had about leaping with no net was NOT due to some faulty negative affirmation I got in first grade when I colored outside the lines! It was the kind of natural business sense that I should have trusted in the first place.

4. Build your own community.

If you need feedback from a community, start one! Or find free networking events in your locale through your library, online event boards, or memberships worth investing in like your city’s Chamber of Commerce. For a little more of an investment, co-working spaces are another way to meet people who are in the trenches just like you, and it can get you out of the home office on a regular basis while still maintaining a work life.

Some of these programs like to divide and conquer you away from those closest to you (who might dare tell you to stop throwing your money at a program!). Even if you don’t come from a family of business owners or your friends think you’re weird, you don’t live in a total vacuum of John Hughes-like entrepreneurial angst, and it’s easier than you think to find a no to low cost way to connect with kindred spirits so you don’t all go crazy working alone.

5. Just read books.

With the exception of my short list of contacts, I could have gained what I needed from just reading books. I’m a self-starter, and these programs really aren’t for our kind. If you need to rely on other people, or you need a boss, by all means, program your heart out, because these things are made for you! You can be in them forever, and pay to have a great “family” support you. Or, you can read books, get up every morning, and let your desire to feed your cat something other than kleenex be the driving force to get you the money you need from your business.

You hustle. You just will, if you make yourself. And that sounds so easy, but I’m not making light of it. It’s especially hard in those inevitable times when it feels like you’re running in sand, and you have to be your own motivator to change.

But this is what we do. If we get far enough running in sand, we get to stop and build a few castles. We get to enjoy the sun on our faces before the tide comes in and washes it away again, so we have to start over, running to the next dry spot, hoping to build a bigger, better castle, or bury ourselves for a few minutes and smile. Accepting this saves a lot of capital.

Unless, that is, you’re an employee in an entrepreneur’s body, and that motivation and protection isn’t something you’re going to commit to do for yourself. Then, by all means, let someone else take you by the hand, and eventually, take credit for any success you have. They’ll deserve it.

Either way, on your ‘worst day’, if you just feel it completely necessary to break out the checkbook, go get some high quality chocolate instead. I know now it would have worked just as well for me.

And this isn’t an “anti-coach” manifesto, believe it or not. I still enjoy following several on social media and mailing lists, and using their various resources or reading their books and blogs. Rarely are the ones that appeal to me now fluffy, though; I view most as being more consultative in their style, knowing that if they’re going to turn a contact into a client, they’re going to be showing them some tangible results in that process, not just opting them into the sales shoot. 100% certain, though, that their next prospect to client conversion won’t be me.

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Dana Detrick-Clark has made it her mission to help creatives and small businesses like you broaden their reach in less time and with less effort. How does she do that? By providing premium content, creative consulting, and marketing confidence. Contact her today at http://www.seriousvanity.com.

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  1. […] will suddenly manifest our goals. Too many times, through pop culture phenoms like The Secret or snake-oil salesmen that want to make a quick buck selling over-optimism to people in need, we’re convinced that […]

  2. […] with several professionals who promised me the moon in barter for my work, and never came through. One in particular went bankrupt with many contractors and barter partners left empty handed. Had I done a little more […]

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