I am completely focused on my client. I am constantly analyzing them, taking notes, processing their responses to my questions, and giving them targeted feedback. It’s mentally taxing work. And it should be. But it’s rewarding and stimulating if you’re in your zone of expertise.
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 Justin Aquino.
Justin is Founder and Head Coach of Cool Communicator LLC, a company that provides training and coaching on public speaking, presentation skills and professional communication skills. He has been coaching professionally since 2012. He’s helped hundreds of clients and students from over 20 countries to overcome stage fright, present at TEDx and industry conferences, build assertiveness in the workplace, and develop charisma.
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?
I’m happy to be here! I started coaching when I realized two things: first, that my advice was useful to friends trying to make changes in their life, and second, that lots of coaches in the industry were charging a LOT of money for pretty lame advice.
I started reading about personal growth and self-improvement in high school. After college, I managed huge events in New York, where I was in charge of 100+ workers during events with thousands of attendees. In 2012 I started coaching people on personal growth, dating and social skills.
So I brought all of that personal and professional experience together in my current company, which provides one-on-one coaching and classes on communication skills, public speaking and assertiveness in the workplace.
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?
First: superior listening skills. As a coach, your job is to help your client achieve success. That requires you to understand them and their challenges on a deep level. You must listen to them closely and identify what is really holding them back, even if they can’t articulate it themselves.
Second: being willing to take risks. When I started my first business in 2012, I didn’t have a ton of money lying around. A friend of mine was shocked when I told him I was giving up my “steady job” to pursue a risky venture. But risk-taking is part of the game of entrepreneurship. Have some margin for safety, and take the plunge.
Third: learning from your mistakes. Taking risks means you will fail. Learn from those mistakes. I first had an idea to offer “sales coaching to small business owners.” There was only one problem — the kinds of small business owners that need sales coaching usually don’t have any money! After months with zero income, I learned from my mistake, and pivoted to a different concept.
How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?
Journaling is a huge one. I have written thousands of pages in my business journal. I put everything in there: random product ideas; analyzing why I won this deal, or lost that deal; hiring/ recruiting plans. Getting my thoughts and ideas out on paper in visual form is critical for me.
Another is working every single day. Some days are full of client sessions, others are for writing blogs. The other day I spent the entire afternoon and evening on a photoshoot for the website and social media. But there are no real “days off.” Just different days, with different tasks. I work on some aspect of the business every day, with plenty of time for rest, of course.
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?
Habits produce outcomes. Great habits produce great outcomes, consistently.
In 2017 I was ready to throw in the towel. My pipeline was dry. I was a few weeks away from the first of the month, and I didn’t know how I was going to pay my rent. Then I got an inquiry. Not all inquiries pan out into paying clients. But I followed up, and maintained professionalism. It was a wealthy married couple who were business owners and wanted public speaking coaching for both of them. I met them at their office downtown in NYC. I gave the first session, and pitched my higher-tier packages. I walked out of their office with a $2500 check. That was the biggest single transaction I had had to that point.
That big transaction didn’t just happen out of thin air. It was the culmination of months of work: blog posts; giving free sessions to friends in exchange for testimonials; website SEO; building a credible profile on different platforms.
That is the power of habits. But it took some time to pay off. Patience is important. That married couple became some of my best clients, and I loved working with them and helping them succeed at public speaking.
Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?
Look at people who already have the kind of success you want. And then look at their habits when they were building their business. DON’T look at their current habits.
I always find it funny when people talk about Bill Gates’ current daily routine or “10 things Jeff Bezos does every morning.” It’s like — you know they’re already rich right? I want to know what they were doing BEFORE they were rich! Because that’s where I’m at right now.
Also, identify your personal stumbling blocks and time wasters. It could be the YouTube rabbit hole, Netflix bingeing, or maybe certain people in your life that just drain your time and energy. Start to work those out of your schedule.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
The title of Marie Forleo’s book comes to mind: “Everything is Figureoutable.” Which I truly believe. In business, you’re constantly faced with new challenges and puzzles. You have to believe that you can figure things out and find a system that works.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
We’re growing our offerings of courses around communication skills. And our focus is on transformative, interactive experiences. There are plenty of lecture-based classes out there. But the way you improve your communication skills is through practice. Passive, self-paced video courses can only take you so far. So we want to offer something really different and powerful.
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.
First: A total focus on client success. You become a coach to help people achieve their goals. Full stop. If you’re not ready to take ownership of that process, and confidently lead someone who needs guidance, go do something else. In my coaching sessions, I am completely focused on my client. I am constantly analyzing them, taking notes, processing their responses to my questions, and giving them targeted feedback. It’s mentally taxing work. And it should be. But it’s rewarding and stimulating if you’re in your zone of expertise.
Second: Being reasonable on pricing. If you’re Tony Robbins, then by all means, charge whatever you want. But if I’ve never heard of you, and you have a grand total of two testimonials, zero blog content, and one video on your website, I’m not paying you $3800 for six 45-minute phone calls (plus a 15-minute “strategy session”) over the next 8 months. Sorry, not sorry.
When you’re starting out, be very reasonable about pricing. We’re living through a coaching glut right now. There’s probably more supply than demand. That means prices go down. You can still win in that environment, but not if you’re charging exorbitant fees out of step with your value and experience. Don’t nickel-and-dime your clients. Make it easy for people to give you money.
Third: Creative product offerings. In my last coaching business (dating and personal growth), I realized that to make the income I really wanted, I would need to charge clients in the range of $2000–4000. But what kind of a program would warrant that price tag? I gave it a lot of thought. And I put together some really creative packages. Not only would a client get coaching sessions in person, they would also get regular assignments and a journal to track their progress in g-drive. They would get unlimited access to me over phone and email. And I would hire models and actresses to do flirting practice with them. For the guys struggling with flirting skills or just confidence around beautiful women, this was perfect. We would do mock dates and I and the actress would give them feedback on their conversation skills. It was a reasonable expense for me, a ton of value for the clients, and a creative and original way for me to stand out as a coach.
Fourth: Picking the right audience to serve. This is absolutely crucial. Your perfect audience could be individuals or businesses. You need to think hard about who you can really help and add value. They must also have the money to hire you. If they don’t have any money, you can’t build a business.
Seth Godin had a great piece of advice: serve the smallest audience that you can live off of. Find your niche or your “tribe.” You need customers that have a need that you are uniquely positioned to help satisfy, and which have the ability and desire to invest in coaching. If you get it right, you can dominate your niche and basically remove competition from the equation.
Fifth: Innovating. Markets change. Tech changes. Consumer tastes change. In my world, communication coaching, AI and VR are important developments. Am I going to leverage those tools and incorporate them into my work with clients to add more value? Or am I going to be stuck in my old methods while clients move on and look for a different kind of service?
There are timeless principles of personal growth. But we also have to stay current. Covid-19 and Zoom is a very easy example of this. Most coaches have been able to convert their client work to Zoom. Those that did not, were left behind. At the moment, 99% of my client work is over Zoom.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen coaches make when they start their business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Not creating enough content. You can do Instagram photos, blogs, YouTube videos, email newsletters, or many other content strategies. But you need to let people see your philosophy and ideas as a coach. I’ve lost count of the number of clients that mentioned my blogs and videos as the key reason they reached out to me.
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.
Always ere on the side of giving “a little bit more.” For example, I often do one-hour coaching sessions. But if the session is going great and the client is learning a lot, am I willing to go over by 10 or 15 minutes? Absolutely. I can hear some people screaming “but my time is valuable!!” And that’s why they lose. Because they focus on counting pennies and nickel-and-diming their clients, whereas I am focused on helping them as much as I reasonably can. That’s the heart of an amazing customer experience.
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?
The vast majority of my customers have come, ultimately, from online searches. Those searchers might have landed on my website, or on a marketplace where I had a profile. Or they may have found my Linkedin profile. Either way, I would recommend you create great content and optimize your website and profiles to be easily discoverable to those seeking coaching or guidance.
As you grow your business and give great service, referrals will also start coming in.
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?
Create specific times in your day and week for rest and recharging. Gary Vaynerchuk has talked about doing what you love as an antidote to exhaustion. Which I totally agree with. If you’re doing amazing work that inspires you, you will maintain your energy and enthusiasm, even with a rigorous working schedule.
Remember, this is about the sustainability of your workflow. You will simply crash and burn if you don’t set realistic boundaries for yourself. And make sure you are on your purpose. I have found myself getting burned out many times in the past. When that happens, I know it’s time for a change — either in my day-to-day workflow, in the kinds of clients I’m serving, or possibly in the structure of my business entirely.
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. 🙂
This is a fascinating question. Probably something around communication skills. Communication is central to human nature. And it touches every aspect of our lives. Listening skills, empathy, open-mindedness, expressing oneself effectively, understanding others to speak to them in a way that resonates with them. If more people could learn these skills, there would be a lot less conflict and misunderstanding, for sure.
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.
That’s easy: Arianna Huffington!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Check out https://coolcommunicator.com and you can see our articles, upcoming classes and webinars.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!