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Eric Harrison: “Be interested, not interesting”

Clearly, in my opinion, a highly successful coach is created from how well they connect with and serve their clients. My experience, education, and accomplishments mean very little to a prospective client. The most important thing they want to know is can I trust you and can you help me? Sure, lots of people can […]

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Clearly, in my opinion, a highly successful coach is created from how well they connect with and serve their clients. My experience, education, and accomplishments mean very little to a prospective client. The most important thing they want to know is can I trust you and can you help me? Sure, lots of people can give advice but as a highly successful coach you must set yourself aside and let the client be the main attraction.


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 Eric Harrison

Eric spent his entire career working in, managing, and owning his family’s women’s wholesale shoe business. In 2019, after a 33-year career, he decided to pursue opportunities to make a positive powerful difference in the world through writing, speaking and coaching and sold his interest in his business to his brother, who was also his business partner. In February 2020, Eric self-published his first book Mustard Seed Faith and began writing a weekly blog and launched a YoTube channel. Eric also uses his lifelong skills learned as a small business owner to lead and encourage small to mid-sized business owners and leaders to build legacies that they will be proud to pass on to future generations.


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 literally grew up in my family’s business. From the time I was ten years old I would work with and help my father in his role of running the business, sales, and customer service side of our company. I learned from an early age the importance of building relationships and giving my absolute best on behalf of the customer. By teaching, and especially watching my father, he taught me the importance of winning the hearts and minds of the customer.

This mindset and attitude propelled me throughout my career and led me to build relationships not only with my customers but also my suppliers, vendors, and employees as well. I like to say that I am a people person, and I am proud that I have many, many relationships in my life that have spanned not only my entire business career but even go back to my early childhood.

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?

The first and most important one to me is hard to define in terms of a character trait but it’s focusing on others first. So many times, in business we’re focused on our own financial and fiscal needs but I have found so many times in my career that you have to give to get. I have innumerable examples where I might have taken a short-term sales or financial loss in order to preserve a long-term business partnership. The lifetime value of any customer is always worth more than any short-term loss you might have to accept to preserve the relationship.

Next, for me is humility. I always want to consider other people as just as, if not more, deserving of respect and grace than I am. I never use any accolades or financial gains solely for my own benefit. I have been and always will be committed to serving other people and in our company, we always did several charitable company-wide events every year. Some were things we supported for decades and others were one offs. Either way, my mission was always to humbly serve and share with everyone.

Finally, there is nothing more attractive in any person than someone who is friendly and approachable. I cannot tell you how many times throughout my career that a relationship that I built years, if not decades before came back and benefitted me. The industry I worked in was very close knit and you never, ever burned a bridge because you never knew where someone might turn up. I am very proud to have heard over and over again from people I met for the first time how friendly they heard I was before meeting them.

How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?

Habits have always played a huge role in my success. I say all the time that I am a creature of habit. That can be a blessing and a curse. The blessing is, I am very disciplined and regimented. I always strive to be a man of my word. If I commit to something, not only am I going to try to do it, but I hope to deliver early and more than expected. The curse part is that I have to push myself or ask a few close friends to hold me accountable to always seek new areas of growth and to not let good become the enemy of great. If I let a habit become a routine, I may miss out on the growth I need to continue to achieve success and significance in my life.

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?

The thing I have learned about habits is that they are simple. That usually means they are not easy at the same time but often we and I tend to think that the answers are more complicated than they really are. For example, if by preparing my clothes the night before makes getting up and going to the gym easier, there is a less likely chance I will have an excuse to not go when my alarm goes off. Obviously, there are dozens of other benefits to going to the gym 4–5 times a week but if I develop a habit that makes it easier for me to say “yes” every day, why wouldn’t I? It’s a simple habit with exponential results.

Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?

I recently learned a method from my friend Tom Ziglar that I coach people to use all of the time. Once again, it is simple, but it’s not easy. Identify one bad habit that you want to eliminate. It could be anything. Watching too much TV, eating too much unhealthy foods, not being engaged in conversations, etc. All of us can easily identify several bad habits we would like to eliminate.

Then the question to ask yourself is to identify the one good habit you want to replace it with. It’s easy, right? For example, instead of watching 1 hour of TV each night this week, I’m going to only watch 30 minutes and read for the other 30 minutes. Then maybe the next week it goes to 15 minutes of TV and so on until you eliminate the bad habit and replace it with a good one. They key is daily consistency and commitment to improve each day.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

Zig Ziglar’s famous quote that says, “You can have everything in life you want if you’re just willing to help enough other people get what they want.” This is not only my favorite quote but it’s a personal manifesto for me. It has always been my driving force and especially now in my new career, it drives me every day.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

Well, writing is something I have enjoyed doing my whole life but now the more I write, the more clarity I get. Recently my coach encouraged me to start journaling every day. My first thought was, that’s the last thing I need to do, but it has been life changing and I encourage all of my followers and clients to do the same. There is something about taking the time to write down (yes, with a pen on paper) your thoughts every day that brings a clarity and a peace that I cannot explain it except to tell you that you must experience it for yourself to understand.

The other “project” I have been working on since the beginning of the year is to become a better coach myself by hiring someone to coach me. This is the best decision I have made in a long time. Obviously, I think I did an outstanding job of hiring the right coach for me, but the growth I have experienced both personally and professionally already is immeasurable. Life-long learning has always been a passion but this has taken it to a new level for me.

I am also spending a lot of time working in and on charitable causes within a couple of organizations I belong to and have leadership roles in. There is not a better way to get to know other people and to deepen your relationship with them than serving side-by-side with them to benefit others.

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, let me simply state the Five Things, and then I can expand on each. If you want to be a HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL Coach you must:

Define success from your client’s perspective

Be interested, not interesting

Ask great, thought provoking questions, and become a level 3 listener

Have an abundance mindset and be able to transfer your beliefs in your clients to them

Help clients identify and get complete clarity and commitment to their big Why

Clearly, in my opinion, a highly successful coach is created from how well they connect with and serve their clients. My experience, education, and accomplishments mean very little to a prospective client. The most important thing they want to know is can I trust you and can you help me? Sure, lots of people can give advice but as a highly successful coach you must set yourself aside and let the client be the main attraction.

One of the first things I want to know from any of my clients or prospects is, what does success look like for you? This answer is as unique and individual as each person. Therefore, I don’t have a system to help them define my version of success. I ask enough questions to make sure that they can concisely communicate to me what it means to them. Then we have a place to start. Where we go, how we get there, and how long it takes is completely up to them.

The other thing I work on at the outset is helping them determine what their big Why is. I use Simon Sinek’s books and YouTube video as a backdrop to help clients to think from the inside out instead of the other way around. Change is hard. Oftentimes we are working to change behaviors or circumstances that have existed for decades, if not years. To persevere when the difficult situations come, they must have an overarching Why that leads them to make the changes they need to make.

The rest of my tips are based on my mindset. All of us have egos and must have some level of self-confidence to be a coach. To truly be a successful coach, from my experience, the key is to take on the role of a servant leader and put all my attention, thoughts, and resources to work focusing on the other person. There was a time in my early career when it was important to be an interesting person, but as a coach my highest, best calling is to be solely interested in the other person.

I exemplify this behavior and mindset by how I engage with them. I study and apply great questions and techniques to improve my ability to draw information out of other people. Whether I am coaching someone, or simply having a one-on-one conversation, I practice every day to become a more curious person by asking deep, thought provoking questions. But that’s only half of the story. To become great at asking questions you first must become an astute listener.

Much has been written about this, but it involves way more than just listening with your eyes and ears. You must listen for emotions and heart issues. You must learn to perceive eye movements, body language, and many other non-verbal cues. This is something that in my opinion you continue to grow into. You never fully finish. None of this can be accomplished, however, unless you are laser focused on the other person and you set your own agendas aside.

Finally, an abundance mindset is an absolute necessity in my opinion. Currently, we have innumerable opportunities to grow, to learn, and to advance. If you try something and it doesn’t work, you get to try something else. The fear of failure can be debilitating to some people so it’s up to me to show people how to use fear to grow and to get closer and closer to success. I believe that everyone has the capability to change their lives for the better. That is why I got into coaching in the first place. Sometimes, until a person sees the changes they want, I must let my belief in them be enough to carry them through the hard times until they start to believe in themselves. Then the magic starts to happen!

What are the most common mistakes you have seen coaches make when they start their business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

Once they become a coach there is a tendency to call everyone you know and ask if they would like a coach or who they know that should be coached. Big mistake. Most people either don’t know that they need a coach or think that they don’t need a coach. My approach has been to reach out to people to serve them. Do all those people become clients? Of course not. But people can quickly tell you what they want (or don’t want). Your job is to give them what they really need.

The other mistake is not niching down enough. The narrower your focus, the better equipped you are to serve your ideal clients. You will be much better off and better appreciated and paid to become a meaningful specific rather than a wandering generality. To be clear, that is why I am focused on coaching small business leaders and owners. I have been in their shoes; I know their challenges and can relate my own experiences to them. I have never been the CEO of a large, publicly traded corporation. There is someone else out there that can better serve those people than 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.

Whether it is me leading my clients or being led by my own coach, the most powerful sessions are when the coaching client can work out for themselves the answers they need to get unstuck and more forward. It’s easier and more efficient to tell someone what they need than it is to lead them on a journey of self-discovery. From my own experience when I feel like I am the one discovering the answer I am more committed to doing the work to make the changes I need to make.

The other thing that creates a Wow! Customer experience is to ask them what they need and/or what they need in order to create that Wow! Feeling. Praising them and highlighting for them the work they have put in during a session reinforces the reasons why they should feel good about the work they are doing and the progress they are making.

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?

For me personally, it has been tapping into my network. I am not a fan of cold calling and using the “spray and pray” method of marketing on social media or elsewhere in hopes that clients are just going to magically contact me to be their coach. I would much rather connect with people I have established relationships with and ideate around opportunities. These people generally want to and do help me to come up with ideas for how to move forward and who to target to do so. Often, if one of my contacts is not ready or able to engage with a coach, they know someone who is or can make a recommendation of people or organizations to reach out to. I would much rather have a warm lead to follow up with. My time is to valuable to chase people who don’t see the value in hiring a coach.

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?

Certainly, as with any startup business, there are challenges. But I am a huge proponent of balanced success. If I am going to coach others to strive for it, I must do it myself. I have found time blocking to be an invaluable tool to help me do the things I have to do to build my business, but I also purposely schedule in personal time for recharging my batteries. Whether that is through exercise, relaxation, or prayer and journaling, I show up better if I am well balanced. I have also become more diligent about my sleep. I can create much more productive time during the day by going to bed early and getting up early.

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. 🙂

Quite simply, I would take the idea I wrote my book about and encourage everyone to “love your neighbor as yourself.” In our divided society and world, my contention is that we are all much more alike than we are different. Instead of the short-sighted things that cause us to hate others, why not focus on our similarities and find the common good to benefit all people?

I could be accused of Pollyannaism, but I am a glass half-full person and believe that we can change the narrative one act of love and kindness at a time.

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.

For my entire life I have been an avid fan and participant in the game of golf. I was absolutely mesmerized recently by Phil Mickelson’s performance in the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island. I was obviously impressed with his skills as a professional golfer, but as the oldest player to ever win a major championship, I was equally impressed with his mental game.

I have been studying neuroscience a lot lately and just to watch him cautiously and strategically plan each shot, just fascinated me. I would love to buy him lunch and be able to pick his brain about the thoughts that were going through his head and the practices he used to focus himself and calm his nerves. I want to replicate that in my business and on the golf course!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Everything can be accessed through my website, www.eric-harrison.com. My blog, YouTube, channel, other social media outlets and information about my book and coaching practice are all available there.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!

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