Is it or isn't it? A recession, I mean? How many thousands of hours of airtime have "pundits" used up analyzing our economy and still we don't know if it's the Big R or not?
All that professional fretting can sure make a new business person nervous! And those of us who've been at it for a while are concerned, too. On the other hand, any time there is a shake up of any sort, new opportunities pop up. The fun of being in business is watching the landscape change and noticing the next big windows of opportunity before everyone else does.
A freaky economy brings plenty of opportunity. So call me perverse, but I'm having fun ;-)
It's a little bit different for a friend of mine, who owns an upscale home-building and design company. His business has definitely been impacted by the real estate/mortgage/credit crisis, although, as any high-quality company can, his is doing nicely compared to his lower-quality competitors.
By comparison, my business seems hardly to have noticed that people apparently are no longer spending like there's no tomorrow. Why? It's international. The weak US Dollar actually makes my services and products a bit of a bargain for my clients in say, the UK. They're paying half what they might have paid a few years ago. (Yay for them!)
In the past year, the percentage of non-US clients and customers in my business (coaching clients, live event participants and buyers of products) has at least doubled. They are filling in spaces that would have been taken by Americans, so it's a wash.
Well that's nice, but what does it mean to you if you're new to coaching? Here's my advice, based on what I observed during the last recession:
Between 2001-2003 there was a well documented recession and the number of coaches seemed to double. Why? Thomas Leonard's "low cost" coach training drove some of it, but a big reason was that thousands of people got laid off from their jobs and interpreted that as a sign that it was time for them to quit the corporate grind and become a coach. They got sold on the myth that anybody can be a professional coach. By 2005, there was quite a bit of pain and misery amongst these coaches and a lot of them dropped out.
The reasons why they quit are diverse, but a lot of them ran out of money before they built up their coaching businesses to a sustainable level. Some of them just weren't cut out to be entrepreneurs and never really "got" the mind set needed to run a small professional service business. And some of them weren't cut out for coaching; it wasn't nearly as easy as they expected.
I suspect that some of the coach-training companies preyed on all those out-of-work hopefuls and painted an overly rosy picture of their prospects, but I really don't know that for a fact.
I'm lucky I wasn't one of those miserable coaches, because I started my training in 2001. Why did I make it when others didn't? One very big reason is that I got in just ahead of the big surge. That meant I had mastered the coaching skills I needed to get and keep paying clients before the number of new coaches pouring into the market doubled. All those late comers had to struggle to get their coaching skills, personal development, sales & marketing (might as well call it S&M, if you don't know how to do it), and business & finance skills up to a level where they could compete at a time when there were way more coaches, but NOT way more clients. Ouch!
The lesson there is that if you're thinking of becoming a coach and you suspect there is going to be a recession, then get into it before mass layoffs send thousands more into the coaching business. In fact, it's smart to get your training while you still have a job that will pay the bills. Coaching is a big learning curve. You can't learn quickly if your worried about money most of the time. And desperate coaches scare away potential clients. (Double ouch.)
One more thing, you remember my friend with the high-quality construction company that's doing okay even though the construction business is terrible? When only a few sales are still being made, it's Quality that still sells.
What does that mean to you?
1. If you're going to be a coach, be the coach with the best skills, who offers the most service. Then you needn't worry about the hoards of new coaches who may or may not flood the industry in coming months. You'll be the coach that clients from around the world will seek out and happily pay. Quality sells itself.
2. Be sure you have a source of additional income for the first few years, just in case you need it. It's much easier to sign on new clients when you don't need the money. (In other words, don't wait 'til you get laid off to get training and start your business.)
3. Find out if you really want to be a coach. If coaching is for you, then you'll be glad you learned everything you could about it, whether you become a successful coach-preneur or you use it in another profession. (Currently, there are at least twice as many coaches who call themselves managers, business owners, teachers, etc., as there are professional coaches.) Coaching skills enhance every profession (and offer job security). Introduction to Positive Psychology Coaching was designed for people like you.
4. Don't be the tail of the dog. It's a lot easier to succeed if you get in before everyone and his cousin joins up. If you're thinking about getting coach training, now is the time to do it. (School of Coaching Mastery isn't for everyone, but we'll be happy to help you find out if it's right for you.)
5. Don't quit. If you do these first 4 Rules on Getting Into Coaching When the Economy is Funky, you odds of succeeding are extremely high. And if you love it, you'll have the time of your life!
Copyright, Julia Stewart, 2008
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