The photo above contains more of "me" that most photos of me but, maybe, that's just the way I like to see it. You can pretend that I'm the candle...
"Keep in mind that your role with these athletes is, ultimately, to give them the confidence to stop."
-- Bobby McGee
I learned a lot this past weekend at the Business of Coaching Clinic. That quote above was a salient reminder that often we have the greatest positive impact on clients by giving them the confidence to chose a more positive path than the one that they are on.
Over the last fourteen years, I have used endurance athletics to avoid dealing with important issues in my life.
Some of my greatest successes as an adviser have been helping clients choose an alternative path for their lives.
Bobby challenged us to pick one thing from the clinic and apply it on Monday, noting that "people that go to conferences often collect information without applying it". The same applies with self-help books -- Mike Ricci noted that the most successful people that he sees are the ones that manage to apply 5% of the good ideas they come up with.
What did I apply? I decided to apply Mike's advice about considering, specifically, to whom your company is selling.
Since last year, the target Endurance Corner customer has been shifting in my thinking. This week, I sat down with Alan/Mat and we reviewed what everyone _really_ likes to do. As the lead adviser to the business, I thought about what I really don't
like to do as well as what I do best.
We're still working on it but we've made a decision that we are going to be about selling value-added advice, and services, that are a product of our unique mix of skills (strong technical knowledge mixed with very deep real-world experience and access to the best minds/protocols/facilities in our sport).
Running a coaching business... other people (such as D3, CPC, CF, CTS, Ultrafit, VQ...) are able to do that better than us -- so we'll focus on supporting them, and their athletes, and their potential customers.
We will do a limited amount coaching to make sure that we remain practical in our application of our experience and continue to learn. It's essential that we walk-the-walk and follow our own best protocols.
That's a start.
There was a lot of talk about "what coaching clients buy." Many thought that clients are buying "results." While clients are attracted to results, what I see is people buying...
...access to excellence (exemplified by the coach);
...compassion, listening, understanding (our society subtly tells many people that they have no worth);
...camaraderie (social networking, teams, community, sense of belonging);
...time management assistance (established high performers); and/or
...life skills assistance (young high performers).
Coaching is as an aspirational purchase for many people -- if you aim to position your self (your firm) at the top end of the market then you must ensure that your personal positioning is consistent with your target market.
Why do former Marines make excellent coaches? They have been trained in excellence -- it becomes who they are and apparent to their customers -- honor, ethics, excellence.
As Bobby said, you don't need to be an excellent athlete relative to others -- you need to be an excellent person relative to yourself
Mike challenged us to consider our differentiation as well as the areas where we can be world-leaders.
Two areas came to mind for me:
#1 -- personal transformations using athletics as a catalyst; and
#2 -- critical success factors for ultraendurance athletic competition, specifically Ironman triathlon.
In listening to Mike, I wondered how many of us spend our time on what the client truly values.
Do we know what our clients most value?
How often do I make myself more busy, rather than more successful? Early in my coaching career the answer was... most of the time.
Bobby/Mike/me -- we acknowledged that every single thing
that we do reflects on our brand, ourselves, our company -- every single act is a form of marketing.
We also shared our experience that we under-valued ourselves early in our careers
. Bobby encouraged us to make the case that ours is a legitimate profession.
Linda mentioned that we have 100,000 USAT members // with the correct business structure, a market share of 0.01% is enough to provide most coaches with a satisfactory income. This is a wide open industry. Even the established players have small market shares with clients that are easily persuaded to change.
Mike commented that one of his advisors cautioned against being in a non-scalable business... I highly recommend a copy of The Black Swan to that adviser.
Donovan noted that there are over 1,000 coaches on TrainingPeaks. What that tells me is that running, cycling and triathlon coaching are rapidly growing industries with highly fragmented and inexperienced competition -- ripe for standardization and consolidation // This is an opportunity for someone else -- we have made a strategic decision not to attempt to sort the market out.
There is tremendous value in the coach (or company) that creates a system for generating referrals and client inquiries. There is also value added in the coach (or company) that structures appropriate contracts, payment terms, legal protections and administrative assistance. But... how do you control quality? how do you retain your best performers?
The coaching industry will become more professional -- I expect that companies like TrainingPeaks will grow ever more sophisticated each year. The bottom end of the market will access their systems via web/iPhone. The top end of the market (companies like D3) will sell value-added services that go far beyond building training plans. The (current) middle market will get squeezed.
The key financial metric (to me) is revenue per relationship. This is different than "per client" -- you could have a low revenue client that generates a ton of referral and associate business. That is a high value relationship -- look beyond the dollars when you assess the key people in your network. Also look to the non-monetary benefits that accrue when you take on an assignment.
Bobby challenged us to consider what we want to leave as our coaching legacy. The normal way to do this is to do an exercise where we write down our eulogy.
I don't need to pretend that I am dying to be honest with myself (although it does help). Daily, I consider my legacy as a person up to this point -- my flaws and failings providing fertile ground for self-improvement!
Some explicit tips that I wrote down from Bobby's presentation:
***Do graduate work after you have direct experience in your field;
***Teach kids to learn how to teach anyone;
***Leadership trumps protocol;
***Take formal instruction on your greatest limiters;
***Work only with people that you trust;
***Focus on what you do best;
***Develop passive streams of income;
Bobby noted that he's not sure that training protocol makes much of a difference for Ironman triathlon -- he did this by contrasting with marathoning. Molina/Hellemans have said, essentially, a similar thing.
As a coach (or successful athlete)... if you think that your training protocol is essential for success remember that you are extremely biased by two effects:
(a) survivor bias -- you survived it; and
(b) silent evidence -- we are (mostly) unaware of the athletes that the protocol destroyed along the way.
More on the way we fool ourselves with "evidence" in The Black Swan.
Boil it down...
Talent, motivation, opportunity, direction -- those come from Daniels.
A ton of training -- that comes from Lydiard.
One of the last talks of the weekend was my presentation on Personal Planning. I love giving this talk to groups of people and had been looking forward to giving the talk for WEEKS.
It is my favorite topic in the world because I passionately believe in the method that I have developed over the years
I need to constantly work on my #1 point for 2008 which is listening. In the Q&A, I really struggled to shut myself up enough for us to learn from the other panelists.
During my planning presentation... I was in full flow -- really fired up...
I gave myself the mental combination of contrasting my love for Monica and the disappointment of failing to win IMC. What wasn't apparent, or explained, was the link between IMC and an expression of our love for each other.
Monica gave me total dedication this past year so that I could give 100% towards my goal. IMC is the only thing in my entire life that I have _truly_ worked towards yet failed to achieve (most my other successes are due to a combination of chance and natural ability).
I was wide open and had to pause because I was about to meltdown in front of 40 people (!)... it was a "good room" and they got me back on track. However, it took me days to 'recover' from being that open. Powerful stuff.
Monica likes to tease her Dad because he is known to get fired up; blow his circuit breakers; and cry -- all the while being wide open to the person he's talking with.
She may have married the same sort of guy...
Files for Endurance Corner Radio
Alan's Talk on Zones -- Part One is on Alan's Blog
-- Part Two is the PDF below, look at Page One of the scan... that is how many ways there are to say the same thing... just on Alan's desk!alan_prez_pt2.pdf
Will's Talk on Training -- his test results and my recent lactate test.will_bike_11_07.pdfgb_runlactate_nov_07.pdf
Labels: business, coaching, triathlon