Around the web: Coaching and costs

by Jason on August 9, 2012 · 0 comments

A few links with commentary for today:

Chris Brogan: What do Coaches Do?

I’m letting the video play in the background while I write this, so this link was more of a prompting to get me talking about coaching rather than commentary about Chris’ post itself.  I’ve used a variety of coaches over the past few years, and I’ve always found it a good value, though in some cases I’m finding increasing value from old sessions as I get more experienced.  Maybe I’m a slow learner, but I’m discovering that fundamentals have value at different levels. Same concepts applied at the 101, 201, 301 levels etc.

This year my coaching has been physical, and it’s probably my best recommendation to people in business who want to dip their toe into coaching.  I started with a personal trainer in January and have been working hard three days a week ever since (I think I missed 3 sessions due to illness, and one due to a client emergency.)  I thought this was just an investment in stress relief, but I’ve found my business has skyrocketed this year.  Some of that might have been the result of lots of hard work lining up at last, but I think the real value was the environment of continual goal achievement – hitting a new personal record on a lift pretty much every week, if not every session has reframed my sense of ability to produce.

I’m also in a group coaching program for business right now, but it’s harder for me to engage – I typically skip the calls and grab the recordings (which I’ll listen to someday) and don’t ask questions. Previously I was doing one on one coaching with scheduled calls, and I made more use of that, so I’ll probably seek out a new coach once my goals are better defined.

What’s interesting to me is that the accountability aspect of coaching is so necessary for me, based on the results I just outlined above, but it’s such a minor part of the value.  “Making sure I show up” is just a fundamental part of coaching, at least the kind of coaching that works for me, but the benefits I’ve gotten are so much more than that that.

Rae Hoffman-Dolan: The Cost of Entrepreneurship

This is a great intro for non-entrepreneurs about the realities of our lives, but I don’t think it’ll help.  The idea of missing a wedding (without judging that particular decision) is a great framer to give a concrete example of the kinds of decisions and sacrifices that get made, and might take people from the “oh yeah, you work hard and there’s no guarantee of a reward, sure, I get it, but anyway, let me tell you about these TPS reports” phase of understanding. I’d share it with some friends and family, but I think the end conclusion would either be more nodding, or at best/worst, “are you sure it’s worth it?”

And the reality is, no, it’s not worth it for a lot of people, and yes, there are times where I question it too.  But I’ve learned to see things how I think they should be, and I’m in a position where I can work towards that, so for me, right now, un-seeing that isn’t an option.

The true price of sales training

by Jason on September 28, 2011 · 0 comments


Studying sales and marketing is expensive.

It’s not the courses, seminars, conferences and other sales training that gets me; it’s the “live research” where I actively pay attention to the marketing around me.  Take yesterday for example.

The Art Gallery of Ontario called around dinnertime, where Kevin brought me up to date with some of the upcoming exhibitions.  And of course, the whole time, I’m waiting for the pitch for a donation to kick in, not because I’m cynical about telemarketing, but because that’s the natural flow to these kinds of things, or at least, to my mind, it should be (plus I’m on their donor list.)

Now, if he’d just hung up, the truth is that I would have been offended, or at least felt something was wrong.

So we ended up talking for about ten minutes in total, and on a lower level throughout the call I’m doing the math of how many connected calls they could do per hour without getting answering machines or hangups, and how much these ten minutes were costing them for staff and infrastructure, measured against my best guess of the average donation size.

And I’m also acutely aware of the fact that the longer you can keep a prospect engaged, the more likely you are to close a deal (fun fact: many marketers, online ones include, employ a bunch of psychological tricks to make you feel like more time has passed and your relationship is therefore deeper than it is.)

Which is how it happened that instead of outright turning Kevin down, I asked him to get back in touch before the end of the fundraising campaign, which wraps up early next year. Of course, I can rationalize that as more “free” training as I dissect the AGO’s methods further.  Seriously, Kevin did a great job, and the organization struck me as really polished and I’m proud of the work they do. See how I’m already talking myself into a yes?

I say all this not to make myself look like a generous patron of the arts, but to point out a side effect I’ve found after a several years of extensive sales training and research into the fields of marketing and persuasion: I’m incredibly susceptible to a well-delivered pitch.

Apparently I’m not alone: I can’t remember who said it, but I was watching a talk where someone pointed out that to reject good marketing is to tell yourself subconsciously that it doesn’t work, which in turn holds you back in your own efforts.

And yes, he was selling something at the end of the talk, but damned if it didn’t make for a great justification.

Photo by rejon

hourly ratesOne of the key lessons I’ve learned this year as head of my own service-based company is to figure out my hourly costs to better gauge my hourly rates.  Take all the company expenses (rent, staff, training, hosting, telecom, etc) for the month, add on some level of actual income, divide it by 20 for the daily target, and divide that by 8 for your hourly rates.

So many caveats apply to that formula.  Whatever you pick for the income component, it’s not high enough.  Dividing the month by 20 days means you’re not working weekends.  Oh, and dividing it into an 8 hour day, at least for our purposes, means you simply break even if you actually spend 8 hours a day on billable stuff.

But it’s a start.  And you know what happens?  You find out a baseline number, that’s unrealistically low while possibly seeming impossibly high, but yet it’s the hourly rate below which you simply can’t work without giving your money away.  If the number works out to $45 and you find yourself offered a $35/hour gig (numbers picked out of a hat to serve a variety of industries,) you now know that you simply can’t afford to take the job unless there’s something in it that you’re willing to pay $10/hour for the privilege, or you’re going to work overtime to make up the difference.

From there, magic things can happen.  And lots of things can’t happen, which, if you’re the kind of person who has trouble saying no, is a magic all to itself.

This is also an accelerator to moving into alternate revenue models.  Once you start to think about the value of an hour, if you can come up with products or services that don’t take direct work, or that leverage your time through groups or other mechanisms, all with the goal of covering some of those hours so you don’t have to, so you can spend the time doing transformational things that’ll bring in even more business.

Whether you’ve gt a job or a company, figure out your hourly rates.  Your real costs, that you have to cover in a 40 hour week.  The decisions you make after that might surprise you.

Photo by mcbarnicle