The coaching industry is now tremendous. It is a 15 billion dollar industry. Many professionals have left their office jobs to become highly successful coaches. At the same time, not everyone who starts a coaching business sees success. What does someone starting a career as a life coach, wellness coach, or business coach need to know to turn it into a very successful and rewarding career?
In this interview series, called “Five Things You Need To Create a Highly Successful Career As a Life or Business Coach” we are interviewing experienced and successful life coaches, wellness coaches, fitness coaches, business and executive coaches and other forms of coaches who share the strategies you need to create a successful career as a life or business coach.
In this particular interview, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Jamie Gelbtuch.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and what brought you to this particular career path?
After graduating from college, I started my career in the corporate world working for a French company based in NYC, where I was one of the only employees who spoke fluent French and who could serve as a cultural ambassador between the offices across the Atlantic. As a small child, I was passionate about languages and would insist that my mom teach me French at the dinner table. At that time however, I couldn’t imagine how I would one day take my passion for languages and culture and apply it to the business world! After leaving the corporate landscape and completing an MBA, I realized that I wanted to continue to work in international environments, with the goal of making an impact on the quality of people’s global experiences. At that moment that I decided to pursue this passion and founded Cultural Mixology in 2008!
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
I would say being:
- Committed. I’ve never wavered in my passion for my work. Growing a business, however, has involved a lot of trial and error involved over the years! For example, some business development strategies like hiring an external consultant have missed the mark while others like LinkedIn networking have been wins. The success that people see is a result of staying committed despite the disappointments, sacrifices, and fails that may be invisible to outsiders.
- Authentic. I’ve always been clear with myself and my clients about what I can and cannot offer. Culture stands at the intersection of many areas that may sound semantically similar such as cross-cultural, intercultural, multicultural, diversity, equity, and inclusion. It can encompass topics as wide as national culture, organizational culture, generations, race, and gender just to name a few. Although it can be hard to turn down business opportunities, I’ve stayed true to my area of expertise in order to be able to meet, and hopefully exceed, expectations.
- Knowledgeable. Over the years, I’ve seen practitioners in my field transition from consultants to trainers to coaches. One of the keys to my success has been putting ongoing education and training behind my coaching work to demonstrate that I am committed to global coaching standards and excellence in the field.
How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?
Habits are an important part of the commitment that we talked about in the last question.
One habit that has helped me tremendously is breaking large or ongoing tasks down into small chunks of time each day. For example, dedicating 30 minutes per day to specific business development activities. Little by little, a little becomes a lot.
While not exactly a habit per se, developing a close team of colleagues and mentors that I can ask for help has played a big role in the journey. Many coaches work on their own and no one person is good at everything. Whether it’s something small like bouncing an idea off someone or something bigger such as learning more about an assessment tool, teamwork makes the dream work!
This will be intuitive to you but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to create good habits? Can you share a story or give some examples?
Good habits are vital because they support who we want to BE and how we show up in the world. For example, in keeping with the theme of our conversation, a coach might say that they want to build a successful career. This could be defined in terms of impact, revenue, client list, or any other criteria. The instinct is often to start thinking about what they need to DO to achieve that. Perhaps they create habits around attending events, making cold calls, etc. to increase leads and achieve their defined success metrics. What if they start with the BE though? It will certainly be different for everyone, but an example might look something like: “I need to be open, approachable, knowledgeable, and invested in a successful coaching career.” That coach can then ask themselves, “How does a person who is invested in a successful career show up?” and those answers become the habits they want to cultivate. When we start with who we want to BE, the habits will follow naturally.
Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?
Start small! Frequency and repetition matter more than duration. As Lisa Feldman Barrett explains in her book Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain, our brains are not for thinking. They are designed to control our bodies and run a “budget” so we can survive. It’s more efficient for our brains to predict rather than react because it takes less out of this budget. In other words, our brains like things that they know. New habits are unknown, which is why they are initially hard to break or change. Deciding to start going to the gym on January 1st for one hour per day, five days per week, will quickly deplete most people’s body budgets. It’s too much, too big, too fast. We have to train our brain to predict new habits little by little and grow them over time if we want them to be sustainable.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
I have a lot of favorite quotes that I keep as reminders on my desktop and as screenshots in my Photos app. It’s kind of my thing! One of my favorites is, “So far you’ve survived 100% of your worst days. You’re doing great.” In fact, at the end of each year I make a “to-done” list where I reflect on my personal and professional accomplishments; this quote is always the last bullet point on the list. It resonates because it speaks to the resilience in each of us. If we are reading it, then we are literally alive, and no matter what life put in our way, we somehow found it within ourselves to keep going. We’re all perfectly imperfect, yet in some sense, we all begin each day with a perfect track record of strength.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
One of my most recent exciting projects is a short eBook on “The Role of Resiliency in a Global Lifestyle.” Expats are, by definition, starting over in many areas of their lives so the ability to move through this process successfully requires resilience, perhaps more than anything else. The project started as an idea for a handout that would just be used internally with clients. The handout grew and ended up as an eBook on Amazon where I’m thrilled that it can find its way into many more people’s hands. My hope is that it helps people better understand the cycle of ups and downs involved in a global lifestyle, get more comfortable with contradictions, increase self-awareness, and recognize that one of the most amazing features of our brain is its ability to change at any stage of life!
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Many coaches are successful, but some are not very successful. From your experience or perspective, what are the main factors that distinguish successful coaches from unsuccessful ones? What are your “Five Things You Need To Create a Highly Successful Career As a Life or Business Coach”? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.
To create a highly successful career as a life or business coach, aspire to achieve excellence. For me, this means:
- Walking the talk. Successful coaches invest in having a coach too. They experience firsthand the value of the self-discovery process that they want their clients to invest in having with them.
- Committing to lifelong learning. The more coaches learn through courses, events, reading, mentoring, and the like, the more they will enrich client relationships through a finely tuned coaching lens. My mentor coach puts it best when she asks, “Instead of seeing your desire and need for professional development as evidence of not having arrived, can you see how it creates more value?”
- Listening more than talking. Successful coaches know that there is a difference between coaching, training, mentoring, and consulting. Coaches ask questions and do a lot of listening and reflecting back so that clients can arrive at their own insights about how to best solve a problem. This is different than trainers, consultants, and mentors who often talk more than they listen as they educate, diagnose, and share best practices respectively.
- Knowing their worth. The financial investment that clients in make in coaching is more than just the value of a coach’s time in terms of hours. Coaching rates reflect the knowledge that coaches have accumulated through training and experience along with their ability to support committed individuals who want to make positive, sustainable changes in their lives. Successful coaches give their best and fairest rates upfront and negotiate based on the scope of a coaching engagement rather than the value that they bring.
- Showing up consistently. When coaches repeatedly align their values, words, and actions, they show integrity as a person and a professional. It instills trust and confidence in clients as they know what kind of experience they are going to get, which more often than not will lead to repeat business and referrals.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen coaches make when they start their business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
It’s common for coaches who are starting their business to focus a majority of their time on tasks like logo creation, website design, business plans, or endless certifications. They believe that if they can just get it all in place, if they can just review their coaching notes one more time, that they will be confident enough to launch a successful coaching career. Spending the majority of time on tasks like this is a great way to avoid the fear of networking and actually coaching, two of the most important ingredients in building a successful coaching career, not to mention confidence! I’m not denying the need for professional tools or infrastructure. It just can’t be at the expense of networking and coaching. So, coaches need to monitor where their time and energy is being directed at the beginning. Ensure enough is going toward cultivating an extensive network of people who know what they do, understand its value, and will invest in it or refer others.
Based on your experience and success, what are a few of the most important things a coach should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience? Please share a story or an example for each.
For a Wow! customer experience, the coach and client have to first and foremost choose each other, and both deeply understand the client’s current versus desired reality. To find out if we are a good fit, I always spend time on a “chemistry call” with a potential client to find out about their goals, the “goals behind the goals”, the gap between the client’s current reality and the goal they are looking to achieve, and what would be possible if we worked together.
Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business, and particularly in coaching. What are the best ways for a coach to find customers? Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?
This is definitely a critical aspect of building a business! As we talked about in one of the last questions, it’s above all about networking with your target market and knowing where you add value. In my case, that is expatriates, global teams, and global organizations. So, you have to identify where your target market is spending time. This might include professional associations, events, or LinkedIn groups. Secondly, you have to build your credibility. Look for forums where you can demonstrate your expertise such as speaking at an event, writing an article, or joining a podcast. Finally, one of the most powerful tools in my experience has been client testimonials. Sharing client results in their own words has the potential to both expand your network and reinforce your credibility. What all of the above have in common is personalized two-way communication. At the end of the day, people invest with people that they know, like, and trust. It’s repeated so often because it’s true!
Coaches are similar to startup founders who often work extremely long hours and it’s easy to end up burning the candle at both ends. What would you recommend to your fellow coaches about how to best take care of their physical and mental wellness when starting their business?
It’s very true. Coaches may not only wear the “coach” hat, but also that of “business owner” and all the responsibilities that it entails. If a coach, or anyone for that matter, told me they were unhappy about their work-life balance, I would ask them what they wanted their work-life balance to look like instead and what they truly care about. Or about what incongruences they were noticing between the physical (body) and mental (words) because we achieve wellness when they are in sync. I’d get curious about the options available for better matching their workload with their capacity. While all coaches need to find what works for them in terms of balancing stress and rest periods, a successful coaching business does not have to equal long stretches of stress without adequate time for recovery.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’m an avid supporter of mental health awareness. In my work, I have learned that like most things, mental health stigmas and resources vary greatly across cultures. And on a global scale, so few of those affected are able to access the mental health services that they need. Perhaps one of the silver linings of the global Covid-19 experience has been shining a greater public and organizational spotlight on conversations around mental health. I am an ambassador for Athletes Against Anxiety and Depression. Its mission is to provide resources for anyone who suffers from a mental health battle and foster a community where everyone feels comfortable and proud sharing their story. More often than not, we address these life challenges as we come into adulthood. I would love to see a movement toward educational systems providing children with more of the life skills necessary to manage mental health challenges at every age in the same way that we learn progressively complex skills in academic subject areas.
We are blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
I would love to have a private breakfast or lunch (or better yet, a run!) with Coach Chris Bennett, the Global Head Coach at Nike Running. His message to the running community is authentic, inclusive, and inspirational. He encourages people to feel whatever they are feeling, to find the opportunity in every moment, and to never allow failing to lead to failure. And as he often says, it’s about running and it’s not about running at the same time!