I have been angst-ing over a report / article that I am writing for almost two weeks. The nagging perfectionist in me (her name is Perpetua and she also has the title of Inner Critic/Judge) was on the loose giving me a run for my money. This little message is precisely what this perfectionist needed. Perpetua is now back where she belongs…taking a break from it all, probably hob-nobbing with Cruela Deville.
I also realized that this advice of emptying oneself was exactly what I did when finally embarking on the subject of this post.
Yes, there is a subject. Here’s the story:
Living the life of a peregrinator has its challenges at times. One challenge presented itself in the form of a class assignment for a post grad business coaching class I’m taking for my coaching credential. The assignment itself was a joy. I was to interview business owners who I did not know personally and include 3 specific questions in the course of the interview. I did not know where to begin. My S.O. and I had just landed in Idaho (our home base between his jobs) and I have no contacts here, yet.
I called a friend on the east coast and told her about my assignment. She just so happened to be working with a business owner/landscape architect on his web presence. She said she would ask him. I was grateful.
Soon after, it dawned on me that I might be able to get some help from one of the groups I had recently joined on LinkedIn. If the interview my friend told me she would set up came together, I would only need one more person to interview. The teacher said to interview a couple of business owners.
to the one group (out of seven groups I have joined) that I thought might be the most willing to help.
I need some willing volunteers to help me with an assignment I have for an advanced coaching class.
Those who clicked on that “headline”, read that I had a class assignment to conduct a 20-30 minute simple interview with business owners about their businesses. The group I chose was definitely the “right” group.
After such a great response, I realized what a shame it would be to interview only two people, so I decided to tweak the assignment ever so slightly for my own edification. I thought if I could interview 10 people (a nice number), I might find some interesting patterns among these entrepreneurs and at the very least, meet some successful and interesting business owners.
Due to time constraints and schedules, I ended up interviewing nine people. They ranged from people who had been their own bosses from three years to twenty-five years and the businesses were: landscape architect, resume writing/career transition counselor, etiquette school, virtual assistants, video producer, a corporate coach, a personal facilitator of women in leadership roles, contractor in the finance/banking industry and a greeting card marketing company. One of the interviewees runs two businesses simultaneously.
The interview questions I was assigned were:
1. Tell me about your business. (i.e.: How did you start? How long have you had the business?, etc.)
2. What non-financial challenges are you currently dealing with?
3. If you could hire a coach, what would you want to address?
The conversations were primarily around these three questions with some variances depending on where the conversation went and how much time each person had to give. After interviewing 2 or 3 people, it became evident to me that some business owners were the genuine article and possessed what I felt was true inner happiness …so I added this question for some of the remaining interviewees (wishing I had asked everyone).
And….after the interviews were all over I wished I had asked a 5th question:
So, I put this after-thought question #5 out on the same discussion board after the interviews were over. An interesting thing happened. I realized within hours of posting question #5 that those that I sensed were the most successful (aka: happy) were the ones who were at the ready with their very clear visions within hours of the request.
– All interviewed were curious about the class and the purpose of the interview and was excited to be of assistance.
– Most wanted to know what I would be “doing” with this information. Aside from reporting aloud to my class, I had not made any formal plans, until I got so many questions I thought it would only be right to write this for them. After all, they were kind enough to volunteer.
– More than half interviewed were very driven by wanting to help their clients be 100% successful. This was evident in their volunteering to help me as well as the responses received for question #5.
– At least half of those I had interviewed had been in the “corporate world” and each one said, unsolicited:
I will make the assumption, however, that the corporate world may have given them the foundation and wherewithal to go solo.
– Many of them said they like variety in their career and flexibility with their schedules. This did not come as a surprise to me. Many entrepreneurs have these traits/preferences in common. I remember one business owner saying that it took 18 months of working 24/7, but she has finally tailored her work life to suit her whole life and, to top it off, is happy, no thrilled, with her income. I could feel her beaming through the telephone. She is also the one who, when asked question #3: If you could hire a coach, what would you want coaching on?, responded with:
– Two were already moving their businesses into a new phase of offering the teaching of others to do what they do….teaching their methodology….passing the torch to future generations
– One was getting an MBA to broaden his/her skills base and put new systems into place so that he/she could be more of a manager/overseer vs. exclusive “doer”.
The responses to the question “what would you hire a coach for?” varied the most. After my first interview, I felt it necessary to let everyone know I was not soliciting for my coaching business. This was very important to me as I honestly was just completing an assignment and wanted the most truthful answer without anyone feeling they were being “sold” to. Here are the responses:
– Develop and implement systems for the next phase of business.
– Learn more about marketing using the latest social media to enhance the business and reach goals
– Challenge his/her assumptions
– Guide them to set milestones and keep focused
– Hold him/her accountable to the least enjoyable tasks
– Coach him/her to become more at ease with net-working and being visible, followed up with getting the jobs they want.
– The response: Build self-confidence with some “atta girl” reinforcement coaching was heart-felt and I remember thinking to myself: “atta girl” for being so honest!
– A couple of these business owners said they would not hire a coach because they are comfortable coaching themselves, have good support (peers) in place and/or utilize good reading material. If they were to hire anyone it would be an administrative assistant. Business is good!
If it isn’t obvious, the whole experience for me was positive all the way around. Per my teacher’s suggestion, I DID have fun. I was able to identify where everyone was in their stage of business, I met some wonderful people (which is a bonus in and of itself) and learned some valuable lessons.
The biggest lesson I learned is the importance of being a happy person…especially if you are going to own your own business.
I cannot end this post without bringing up the tea bag quote one more time. This zen advice was just what I needed to get my thoughts flowing. Maybe this would be helpful advice for anyone who feels “stuck”. Sounds like common sense to me.
I have more thoughts about this experience/assignment and will post them here. I invite all of those whom I interviewed to comment, ask more questions or contact me if you would like to expand on our interview (either in private or on this blog site as a guest). And if there is anyone out there who just wants to comment, feel free. Also, if you would like to be a part of any future class assignments, I have a list started.