Is the Coaching Missing from So-Called Successful Coaching Businesses?

by Pamela on November 3, 2009

Too Many Would-Be Coaches Preying on Their Peers For Profit

When I started my coach training 5 years ago, I was afraid that I was walking into a cult. I was wrong. It was great. But right away, my gut told me that those who were making the really big bucks were getting rich off selling dreams to other coaches. I call them ‘coaching businesses,’ not ‘practices’ because there’s no practicing of coaching going on!

Before I start my tirade, let me say that I’ve taken workshops led by other coaches and I loved them. I’m talking about a different breed today. I constantly get emails from coaches who I don’t even know, trying to convince me to pay them to show me how to be a ‘six-figure coach.’ Last week, one guy wanted me to license his ‘proven system.’ The cost? A mere 10k for the license for 15 months, and then $1500 per year thereafter. Clients manuals and assessment tools will cost extra. What’s a 10 thousand dollar investment when I’m going to be making that and more in just one month? Sounds logical, right? Yeah. Oh, and did I mention that if I get other coaches to join, I’d get a commission-oops, I mean referral fee?

Anyone who knows me, knows that I have a healthy skepticism about, well, pretty much everything. I only endorse products and people that I believe in and I’m very happy to do it. Conversely, I like to investigate things before I decide to turn my nose up or write a scathing blog post, and of course, I won’t mention names. The poor fellow who’s the subject of this post is only one of many that I could mention. Their stories are all similar. He simply chose the wrong day to cross my path. Ask anyone who follows me on Twitter!

His email was so outrageous in it’s claims that I just had to be on his teleconference because I was dying to hear him back up his promises. I listened politely on the call as the snake oil salesman and his associate told me and my fellow coaches that “they were just finishing up their content and it will be killer.” Did that quote hit any of you the way it hit me? I couldn’t contain myself any longer so I piped up and said “You mean you want me to pay you 10k for your ‘proven system’ and you’re still WRITING IT?” Silence. Crickets were chirping.

I must have hit a nerve because after a long pause, my self-proclaimed, six-figure coach shot back at me that I need to accept that almost every successful business coach he knows is selling a system, writing a book, selling products, doing speaking engagements, etc, AND that he makes most of his money by selling stuff to other coaches! He said “Six-figure coaches don’t coach. That’s trading time for money and it’s for suckers.” So, successful coaches don’t actually coach? That’s rich. And trading time for money? Isn’t that what we all do in one way or another?

He’s not a certified coach, so I suggested that he stop misrepresenting himself and call himself a salesman or an internet marketer. There’s no shame in that, buddy, so be proud and call yourself what you are. Don’t lie to me and tell me that you’re some great coach who “only wants to help the rest of you be as successful as I am.” Right- out of the goodness of his heart, he wants to share the wealth. That’s popular these days. He then proceeded to email me again because he knew that I had a successful program called “Coaches United for Success in America,” and wanted my list of over 100 coaches and was willing to pay for it! If he wants access to my network of coaches he can find them the same way he found me. I am not going to sell out the coaches who did a wonderful thing out of the goodness of their hearts. We all gave out time pro bono, I might add, so we must be major suckers!

Maybe someday I’ll write a book or sell a product that I think would be beneficial to my clients. But mark my words: I am a business coach, first and foremost, and the day that I no longer desire to log in coaching hours is the day that I’ll close up shop. I became a coach because I like to help my clients to create success in their businesses and their lives. I love it when my clients make a breakthrough- it fulfills me. I can’t understand what makes someone go into this profession and then strive to avoid working with clients. Obviously, I’m very passionate about the topic because I love what I do and I am quite bored with those who keep trying make money with promises that they can’t keep and they can’t back up. And I’m not interested in exploiting my fellow coaches who are just as passionate as I am about being a life and business coach. If any of my readers have taken these courses and would like to tell the other side of the story, I’d love to hear it.

If you’re a good coach, people will recommend you to their friends. If you’re not a good coach, don’t come sniffing around me with your ‘get rich quick’ schemes, because I’m not interested. What’s that phrase? Those who can’t do……sell ‘proven systems.’

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Grant November 3, 2009 at 8:23 pm

I agree with your article. Many coaches out there who don’t know what they’re doing. Its a big job that shouldn’t be taken lightly as you are messing with people’s lives and livelihoods. I’m also tired of coaches selling to other coaches. We have a private and a public practice through educational institutions in our area.

I’m licensed as a Social Media Expert. You would do well to remove the required tags (*) on the name and e-mail text fields for comments. You will probably get more responses. If nothing else, I would recommend you remove it from the email text field.

Enjoying your blog.

Thanks,

Grant

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Pamela November 4, 2009 at 8:34 pm

Thanks for your feedback, Grant.
I did some research today as a result of your advice. I’m on the fence about the required email issue. I like to send a personal message to people who are kind enough to leave a comment, and I think if you’re going to leave a comment on a blog, you should identify yourself. At the same time, I understand that some people are hesitant to give their email addresses.
I used to coach for an internet marketing company called StomperNet and they would say “test, test, test,” so that’s what I’m going to do. I’ll take the required email off for 30 days and see if my comments increase.
Thanks so much for reading and I hope you visit again!
Pamela

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Mehrzad November 5, 2009 at 6:21 pm

Thanks for the dose of wisdom and wit, Pamela! I always enjoy your writing. I agree — as a coach or advocate, feeling I’ve served someone well is rewarding, and I couldn’t do this work if it wasn’t. If that makes me a “sucker,” I’ll wear that badge. Where are they giving them out?

Save one for me,
Mehrzad

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Pamela November 5, 2009 at 6:31 pm

Thanks, Mehrzad!
We can start our own ‘sucker club.’
Thanks for visiting!
Pamela

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stephanie November 5, 2009 at 6:52 pm

I love your spirit Pamela!
But I am curious…..what really gets you upset about this?
Sorry, I had to ask a coaching question. : )

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Pamela November 5, 2009 at 9:06 pm

Thanks, Stephanie.
Great question with no easy answer. I believe the coaching term is ‘button pushing.’ Why does this push my buttons? Because I don’t like frauds, whether they come from within the coaching community or outside of it.
Glad you came to visit!
Please come again, as most of my posts are ‘sans vitriol.’
Pamela

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stephanie November 5, 2009 at 9:16 pm

Hmmm…Button Pushing. Then I suppose you have to asked the question- What else might be going on for this kind of ‘coach’?

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Pamela November 5, 2009 at 9:28 pm

Maybe I’ll call him and ask him. After all, he does want my mailing list of over 100 coaches!

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stephanie November 5, 2009 at 9:18 pm

and one other thing….what ‘s up with the faces on each person’s comment?

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Pamela November 5, 2009 at 9:31 pm

I hate to admit it, but I don’t know. I’ll have to ask the fabulous woman who designed my blog. I notice that your avatar has tape on it’s mouth. What’s up with that??

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stephanie November 5, 2009 at 9:38 pm

I know! very clearly they do not know me very well
S

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Marcy November 6, 2009 at 12:52 am

Pamela,

The sad truth is there will always be people who will find ways to take advantage of others. And until someone, like you, calls them on it, this practice will continue on. I’m sure you encouraged coaches on that call to rethink what coaching means to them. In doing so you opened up a window for discussion.

When I began my journey into the coaching community I was not prepared for the amount of unauthentic people calling themselves coaches. Maybe I was naive. My passion to “help” others to see their greatness was my only goal.

When you’re starting out no one tells you you’ll need multiple streams of income to make those quick 6 figures. But as soon as you step into the industry you are bombarded with information full of positive words that are really illusions. This is the reason so many coaches get sucked into the belief that money will only come when you deter from actual coaching and proceed in the direction of selling.

A true coach understands the connection between living life according to values. A true coach understands how being authentic and walking the talk creates opportunity. A true coach writes books, articles and teaches seminars with the goal of sharing how to be better. A true coach doesn’t prey on others desires with the goal of personal financial gain. We do need to make money, but not at the expense of our peers.

Your obvious frustration is completely understandable. My in-box is constantly filling up with empty promises of quick wealth schemes. I try to support my fellow coaches by signing up for their newsletters only to end up receiving the never ending flow of ridiculous self help companies preaching how they can make me rich if I follow their proven system.

As a fellow coach I have set high expectations for my peers. You have clearly pointed out that this company’s intent was not to “coach” me into my own greatness, but to “tell” me how to get there. I give you credit for holding your tongue for as long as you did. I may have jumped in with my opinion sooner. I can guarantee if I was on that call with you they would have been up against a force of persistence.

Maybe we need to reiterate the code of ethics; let’s blast them back an email. I do feel badly for the coaches that get sucked in to the vortex of these useless forms of additional income. As with everything sometimes the quick fix and a great sales pitch sounds too tempting.

I have been silently getting more and more annoyed with all the crap that has become associated with the coaching profession. It’s hard enough for someone like myself to get started without the abundance of misinformation spewed at me.

Like you, I could go on and on. But what’s best for me is to take all the negativity and turn the energy into a positive solution. How to accomplish this solution, I’m not sure.

Thanks for sharing your frustration and bringing awareness to an issue that needs to be addressed. It will be interesting to hear from other coaches.

~Be Well~
Marcy

Recovery & Transitions Coach
for the Bipolar Community

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Pamela November 9, 2009 at 10:35 am

Marcy-
I thank you for your passionate comment. I think you hit the nail on the head when you mentioned people who aren’t authentic. Authenticity is a key element to a successful coaching relationship on both the side of the coach and the client. And, when we, as coaches, come across so many people who are willing to sell us a bridge to nowhere, it infects the profession as a whole.
Thanks again for visiting!
Pamela

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Dave Kanegis November 7, 2009 at 3:42 pm

Hi Pamela,

I am in total agreement with you… and have been pushing for a different approach in certain quarters of the industry.

I’ve been a marketing consultant for over 20 years, but I don’t go after the “coaching market,” to help coaches grow their practices. I probably should.

I am convinced there is a cottage industry (particularly in Life Coaching) where there are more schools, individuals and companies that are making their living “helping coaches build their practices,” than there are actual Life Coaches making a full time living.

If you analyze the post graduation course offerings at certain coaching schools, you will find far more programs geared towards building your practice as opposed to becoming a better coach. This is more than a pet peeve with me. I feel it detracts from the profession.

On more than one occasion, I have taken exception to the way coaching services are being marketed, but more on that another day.

Pamela, I think there are many dynamics at work. Of course, I can only speak with direct experience to my training and the peers I study with. Virtually all were very special people with a variety of talents. However, (and this has changed somewhat since 2005) most had no real idea about what it would take to make a successful practice. I say this because most did not have a business background.

So, while they had the ability and expertise to become effective coaches, they didn’t really crunch the numbers. I went in with my eyes open. If you do the math, and are strictly talking one-on-one coaching, the number of clients you would need on a regular basis is mind boggling.

Since that time, even the school we graduated from has suggested that you need to do more than just individual coaching. However, many coaches don’t feel comfortable or qualified working with groups or doing teleclasses. So, it creates a real quandry.

At the same time, coaches find it terribly difficult to find what they consider their niche. I found this to be so obvious, that for my final paper I wrote on the topic Pre-Niche Marketing. It was a paper written to help my peers figure out what niche(s) might bring them the most satisfaction while at the same time being realistically marketable.

Probably 5 people have read the paper:)

In any event, I would like to see a movement that is geared more towards post graduation coach training.

The bottom line is that the more effective a coach you are, the easier it becomes to market yourself. You end up more confident and more willing to put yourself “out-there.”

That being said, I think we have a long way to go to “professionalize” our field.

Pamela, the kind of thing you did with Coaches United for Success in America is just what our profession needs. It gives coaches an opportunity to both perfect their abilities as well as give solid help to those in need. At the same time, many more people are being coached and they in turn spread the word.

So kudos once again to you for creating the program.

Take care.

Dave

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Pamela November 9, 2009 at 11:21 am

Hi Dave-
Thanks for your great input.
It’s a complicated matter and I hope I haven’t oversimplified it in my post. I think I’ll have to write a second one on this topic.
I do believe that practice building needs to be included in coach training programs because I, like you, have found that a lot of life coaches have no business background and that puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to marketing themselves.
Before entering into coach training, people need to understand all that goes into being a coach and that starting any business takes a lot of work. I agree with you that most coach training programs fall short in this area.
Thanks, as always, for your insightful comments.
Pamela

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Pat November 7, 2009 at 5:35 pm

Pamela,
I have taken some courses with good content given by successful coaches and incorporated what I learned in my work with my clients. Luckily, I have avoided taking any of the “6 figure income – get rich quick” courses because I see them for what they are. They are as transparent as an invitation from a cannibal to relax and enjoy the nice warm bath!

Thank you for creating Coaches United for Success in America that gave us the opportunity to give of ourselves to the those who are less fortunate. And double thanks for protecting your e-mail list.

Stay well.

Pat

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Pamela November 9, 2009 at 11:24 am

Thanks, Pat.
I’ve never heard the cannibal analogy, but that pretty much sums it up!
Take Care,
Pamela

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Phil Bolton November 10, 2009 at 10:52 am

Pamela –

What a great post – thank you. I’ve been coaching professionally for a few years now and got into it because of my desire to inspire others to fulfill their personal and professional potential. I started my own practice a year ago and have slowly built up a great client base.

I am amazed by how many “coaches” have built businesses that target training and coaching other coaches. Creating a successful and sustainable coaching practice is not a simple matter and it takes some real thought and dedication to do so. Many coaches get stuck in undervaluing their services or not identifying a clear niche and marketing effectively. I can see that for these coaches, having been told that every coach should have a coach, reaching out for support is natural. Yet there are so many sharks out there who are simply peddling trite and valueless programs that should be common sense, or creating horrible pyramid selling schemes. It is cheapening our great profession.

My perspective one year into my practice is that it is possible to build a reasonably successful coaching practice with one-on-one and group coaching. To do this you need to be 1) serving a clearly identified niche, 2) valuing your time as a premium service (i.e. charging a proper, effective hourly rate) and 3) marketing like crazy for the first few years. At least 70% of a coach’s time needs to focus on marketing, lead generation and learning to sell properly. Over time, good coaches will develop a loyal fanbase, have long term client engagements, get enough referrals to fuel the business and be able to make $50k to $100k per year (to do this you’ll probably coach 500 hours a year at $200/hour, or similar maths).

I love one-on-one coaching and I want to make sure I give my clients full value and energy in every session. For that reason, I’m looking at expanding my business beyond simply providing services. A lot of the value of coaching is providing the right intervention at the right time for clients. This doesn’t have to involve the coach physically doing this. I’m starting to explore how to help the clients in my niche in other ways – by providing the information they need when they need it. Putting coaching ideas into products that help my clients to grow and develop is consistent with my overall objective as a coach. So for me, I’d like to develop a passive income business from such products as a baseline for my services business. This model allows me to be authentic, but also to make a sensible living from my passion.

Get rich quick schemes always suck – that is why they attract suckers. I chose to set up a coaching business to live authentically and help others make the most of their lives. I don’t dream of getting rich – just making a fair living from my skills. I just wish that the sharks mentioned in this article could follow that same model.

Thanks again,

Phil

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Ed Drozda November 11, 2009 at 1:20 pm

Pamela you and I have had this conversation and you know my synapses are firing as actively as yours are. Before I started in coaching (1997) a colleague told me I’d make a great coach and suggested I merely hang up a shingle. Needless to say I did not stop there but I do realize that much of what we do is inherent in the nature of some of us. That said, I can see why (though I hardly agree with it) some folks do “call” themselves coaches. No matter how I look at it I believe that a “real coach” a “successful coach” actually coaches people successfully. For those folks who suggest otherwise, they are not, in my opinion fulfilling the ethical tenets that coaches are asked to uphold. These ancillary services and products can and do have a place in a succesful coaching practice but they are not a substitute for our professional intentions.
.-= Ed Drozda┬┤s last blog ..Introduction =-.

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