Have a vision for your business.: I’m not talking about goals here, but rather a juicy, compelling, play-full-out with your gifts vision.
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 Jane Sagalovich.
Jane Sagalovich, CFA is a business strategist and scaling mentor. As the founder of Scale Your Genius® , she is on a mission to rid the world of Crappy Online CoursesTM and be a conduit of love, wisdom, and abundance.
Jane has helped hundreds of people create their profitable and results-driven online courses and programs with clarity, confidence, and ease. As a result, they get to serve as big as they desire and make a lot more money without sacrificing family time or risking burnout.
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?
As an immigrant to the United States from the former Soviet Union at age 10, I felt a sense of responsibility to build a successful career. What was modeled for me was getting a job at a great company and climbing the ranks and getting relevant degrees in the process.
So that’s what I did.
I got my M.B.A., passed the rigorous CFA exam, and achieved high-impact and high-visibility Director-level roles at prestigious companies.
15 years into my career I had it all. On paper.
But something felt off. I was dreading Mondays, felt uninspired, and promotions and raises were no longer compelling motivators.
I dug in and realized that I was missing two things:
- Making a direct impact on people’s lives through my work
- The ability to do things my way instead of following someone else’s path or rules
So I left. I didn’t have a plan, but I had trust that I’ll figure it out.
Shortly after, Scale Your Genius was born — a venture of my heart and soul that is values-driven and is a true pleasure to run. It is based on the combination of my top three values — efficiency, service, and wealth — the combination of which is a powerhouse of business scaling success.
I now have helped hundreds of in-demand professionals scale their businesses based on those values — making a bigger impact, earning more money, and creating more freedom through efficiency and alignment.
The ripple effect of my work and the smoothness and efficiency with which my business runs help me stay committed and inspired. That entrepreneurial rollercoaster never goes away… but it does feel less scary and way more fun!
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?
Becoming an entrepreneur was more difficult than I expected. Success came easily to me in my corporate career so I assumed it would be the same here. And man was I wrong. The first few years were hard. A partnership unexpectedly imploded and the journey to profitability took years instead of months.
There were weeks I was on the verge of giving up. Returning to my job with my tail between my legs.
And each time, resilience and commitment to my vision kept me going.
I’m proud of how far I’ve come and the obstacles I overcame to get here. I’m stronger because of it and my vision gets to be even grander and more abundant because of the belief I’ve built in my ability to show up and keep on truckin’.
2. Desire to be supported
I didn’t make this journey alone.
Working in the corporate environment and going through business school, I was used to being a part of high-performing teams. I knew that fun and fruitful journeys do not happen solo. Not only are solo journeys lonely, but they’re also not effective.
Sure, early on, investing in a support team can feel scary and uncomfortable. These investments may not be easy to make; but when made thoughtfully, they are worth every penny.
While employing a robust team percolates on my vision board, I have my support team of the best strategists, coaches, and contractors I can afford.
As a result, my strategies are sharper and more efficient, execution is faster and more fun, I make more money, and the whole thing just feels better overall!
This comes naturally to me, but I see many others struggle with it.
Coaches, especially new ones, often fall into what I call Indecision Imposition which causes them to spin in place rather than make progress. This often looks like downloading every freebie, watching every masterclass, and googling until your fingers are numb instead of just doing the thing, moving forward, and figuring it out as they go. They may feel busy, but they aren’t making progress.
The ability to collect and decipher relevant information (topped with a healthy dose of intuition) instead of falling into analysis-paralysis is critical for taking the steps towards our goals. Waiting to have all the information or for it to feel 100% certain is not realistic.
It’s okay to move forward without 100% certainty. It’s okay to reroute if new information comes in that inspires a shift. What’s not helpful is spinning in place unable to make a decision.
How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?
My key daily habits include journaling, reviewing my goals, and connecting to my vision. They help me make strategic and intuitive decisions throughout my day. The foundational layer.
To supplement these habits, I have is what I call my toolbox where I save tools to support a variety of needs, moods, and situations. Regular habits often feel too restrictive to me so this toolbox approach, combined with the habits that sharpen my decision-making, is my way to bring more fluidity while retaining efficiency.
For example, if my day requires a lot of focus time, I may choose tools like Pomodoro blocks, walking breaks, and a focus playlist (Gentle Focus from Spotify is a current favorite).
If I feel stuck, I turn to my toolbox for journaling prompts, guided meditations and visualizations, or going for a walk in nature.
When I feel like there are emotions that need to be processed, my toolbox will guide me to dancing & shaking, emotional release writing, kickboxing class, or a guided practice from a coach.
The habits tune me in to my needs. The toolbox helps me meet those needs without wasting time spinning in indecision or frustration.
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?
As I mentioned, my strategy the three habits that help me tune in to my needs for the day then choose things from my toolbox to support me in showing up in the most useful way.
I find this strategy powerful because it allows me to move towards my goals and vision while honoring the inherent flows of life, energy, moods, and needs of my business.
Here’s an example:
Let’s say this week I’m working on a sales webinar that needs a lot of time and attention from me. My key goal is to create and market this webinar and get x registrants and y new clients. For me to be able to do that, I need to show up in a certain way.
So I reach into my toolkit.
I may start the day with journaling prompts related to the goal and what needs to be done that day, schedule a few focus-time blocks, and plan for energy-boosting activities between the blocks.
I also make sure to schedule plenty of playtime, time in nature, time with loved ones, and other feel-good activities into these higher-demand periods to prevent burnout. Right after the big event when I need to talk to prospects and enroll new clients is a bad time for a slump.
On the flip side, after a big launch or another big effort, I love downtime to reflect, relax, and vision for what’s next. It’s usually a completely and totally unstructured week or two. I pull from my toolbox as needed, with a heavy tilt towards self-care, and playful and inspirational tools rather than high-performance ones.
Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?
I have what a coach of mine refers to as a ‘rebel brain’. Meaning that if you just tell me to follow a rule (or a habit), I’ll rebel. I won’t do it. I’ll find excuses for why not. I know many others can relate.
When there’s a compelling habit or action I want to take, I dig into why I want to do it and connect it to an outcome. It’s the “I get to” vs. the “I have to” mentality and it really works.
I don’t recommend having habits for the sake of having habits or because “the successful people” have them or you read a book about them. Pick a few that you really resonate with, clarify why you want to do them, then do them because you want to not because you have to.
For stopping bad habits, the first step is the same. Why do you want to stop doing the thing? Do you actually want to stop, or do you feel like you should? Shoulds are awful motivators and while you may be able to power through for a bit, it won’t be sustainable. So understand what outcome it’ll get you and decide that you really want the outcome.
The next step is to use substitution rules.
Here’s an example:
I have a tendency to scroll around Instagram when I feel stuck on something (a ‘bad’ habit I want to reduce because I want to be more productive and to use downtime for things that feel good and aren’t just numbing. That’s my why).
I have a rule that when I’m about to start aimlessly scrolling, or catch myself in the act, I pick something quick and easy from my self-care toolbox. It could be a short meditation, a walk, or a breathwork session. Or just sitting in the sun with a glass of sparkling water for a few minutes.
I get the immediate satisfaction of doing something that feels good and recharges me while putting deposits into my overall performance and wellbeing bank.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
“A happy life is just a string of happy moments. But most people don’t allow the happy moments because they’re too busy trying to get a happy life.” Abraham-Hicks
I find this quote especially powerful as a business owner. It can be tempting to use our business to ‘get’ somewhere, but the real magic is in the journey.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
I am in the process of creating our Optimize program which will help people who already created courses and programs optimize their marketing and delivery so that these programs can make a bigger difference and be more fun and easier to deliver.
Given the popularity of group programs and online courses, many experts created their offerings yet they’re not totally happy with the outcome. Maybe marketing feels too effortful, or their clients aren’t getting the intended results.
Or they have reached their limit with the program and are ready for the next level of offerings.
Through this program, we will diagnose the need and prescribe solutions that will enable them to serve more people and make more money without working more and do it in the most fun and efficient way possible.
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”?
- Have a vision for your business.
I’m not talking about goals here, but rather a juicy, compelling, play-full-out with your gifts vision.
Know why you’re doing what you’re doing and where you may want to take it. There’s no right or wrong ‘vision’ as long as it’s in alignment with your values and your desires.
Being clear on your vision will enable you to make strategic and day-to-day decisions, stay committed when things feel precarious, and see and celebrate the progress you make in that direction more easily.
Without clarity on your vision, you will likely feel stuck or unclear — spinning in place or chasing every shiny opportunity but never really making progress in a way that feels good and takes you places you want to go.
I find that having a dual vision to be most compelling. What this means is that you need:
- The vision for your business and what your life looks and feels like as a result of running such an awesome business.
- A vision for how your clients’ lives will change for the better as a result of working with you.
The intersection of these two visions is an extremely powerful and motivating place to build your successful coaching practice from.
Whether you’re on board with Law of Attraction concepts or not, having a compelling vision has never harmed anyone. Your vision will power you through the days you just want to give up, it will keep you inspired and excited to learn new things, and help you show up bigger than you thought possible and play full out.
After all, that’s why you started your practice, isn’t it?
2. Cultivate your love for learning and a beginner’s mindset.
Remember learning to walk? No, you probably don’t, but I’m guessing you’ve seen kids pick up that skill. There’s excitement, they don’t give up, they don’t care if they fumble. Many of us lose that optimism and drive at some point. Being not great at something feels frustrating. It feels wrong.
Did we think we’d hit a point in life where we’d just ‘get it all’? Where we no longer have to expend energy on learning new things and definitely NOT feel discomfort, disappointment, or rejection. That may sound like a nice place to be in theory but that’s not where the magic lies. That’s not where your dream business is. The magic lies in expanding our capacity, our skillset, and the emotional and mental (and likely financial) growth that comes with it.
Whether you need to learn a new skill while outsourcing it is not yet in your budget or it’s a skill that you want to learn to make running your business easier and more enjoyable, there are no shortages of opportunities to practice that beginner’s mindset.
What does this look like in practice? Set a tangible goal for the new thing you’re working on, feel the discomfort, (you can even throw a tantrum if you feel like it!) then do it anyway. Then celebrate every single step you took, no matter how tiny. Just like the parents celebrating their kids wobbling several feet — you get to do that for yourself. Don’t wait until you become proficient to celebrate. Cheer yourself for the wobbles and the tumbles. And keep on truckin’
3. Fall in love with sales.
I had an Uber driver the other day who recently started a consulting company but hated sales. I’m guessing being on the other side of his sales pitch would feel cringe-y and uncomfortable. You’d feel what he’s feeling. You wouldn’t feel inspired to buy. Are you surprised he was driving an Uber to make money?
I strongly believe that not only do you need to ‘not hate’ sales but you actually get to fall in love with the process. You will make more sales. But more importantly, you will also enjoy the journey so much more!
It took me years to figure this out. I saw sales as something I had to do to meet my goals rather than something I would ever enjoy doing. I worked on becoming proficient. I struggled to show up for marketing and sales activities and when I did, the energy did not lie. And the prospects did not buy.
Today, there’s nothing I’d rather do than shout my message off the rooftops and invite people to come work with me. I made peace with feeling discomfort, rejection, and criticism and instead of fearing them, I see them as notches in the bedpost of my success.
And unsurprisingly, the clients followed.
Here are three of my top tips to help you fall in love with sales:
- Feel proud of what you’re selling and know that it’s worth the price you’re charging for it. Maybe you jot down a list of 50 reasons why your coaching program is the best fit for the right person (brag away!). If there’s a deeper issue, either on the mindset or the delivery side, then get the coaching or consulting you need to get there. If you’re not proud of what you’re selling or don’t fully believe in its value, they’ll feel it and they won’t buy. And you definitely won’t enjoy the process.
- Take your ego out of it. It’s important to separate your role as the CEO of your business from the human you whose ego may have an opinion. CEO You wants to make offers to the right people and inspire as many of them to work with you as possible. CEO You knows just how powerful your work is and that it is your duty to share it with as many people as possible. Human you, on the other hand, is afraid of rejection, has bills to pay, and doesn’t like how they look on camera. Guess which you makes more sales? In your sales process, you’re CEO. Other times, you take your CEO hat off and you human. During “human time” I reach into my toolbox for things like journaling, time in nature, and meditation to reground myself and soothe my ego’s hurts that sometimes happen in the process. That doesn’t mean that anything has gone wrong.
- Connect to your vision for them. Before you do any marketing or sales activities, connect to your vision for their life after working with you. I’m guessing it’s a pretty exciting place. Then talk to them from the energy of the excitement of helping them get there.
Pretty easy to fall in love with sales with these tips in mind, isn’t it?
4. Commit to it working & be willing to work for it.
If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. There are many reasons why a high percentage of new businesses fail and the inability to stick it out is one of them.
One of the great things about coaching businesses is that they’re extremely low overhead. Which means that they don’t take a lot of money to run so profitability is closer than for businesses that require higher expenses just to stay in business. Many successful coaches I personally know came to the brink of financial doom on their journey to success. No, I don’t recommend aiming for financial doom, but it’s important to understand that the road may take a while and if you’re serious about your mission, then you may want to buckle down through those bumpy early times.
Maybe you’re still falling in love with sales, maybe you’re learning to feel confident about the services you provide. There are many reasons the journey may be longer than expected. Often with more learning curves, tumbles, and misses.
And if you’re following your intuition, taking feedback from the market, and working with coaches or strategists who can support you on your journey, you will get there.
And it’ll be totally worth it.
5. Get your systems and processes in place early.
Repeatable systems and processes will make your business more efficient, more profitable, and easier to scale. No less importantly, this will enable you to create much better client experiences and results.
In my business, anything that’s repeated becomes a process that can be copied/pasted and easily outsourced.
For example, I love running free webinars and masterclasses to share my mission with as many people as possible. I have a list of what needs to be done each time so I can easily outsource it to my team. The amount of time and effort for me to show up for these events is now pretty minimal.
Similarly, we can create processes and systems around delivery of our services. Automated onboarding is one of my favorite things that coaches can do at any stage of their business. For coaches who’ve had their first few clients see results and are ready to scale, creating digital assets of anything you say over and over is a great way to create efficiency for you and a better experience for your clients.
I believe that most teaching components should be done in a digital (vs. live) delivery so you can dive deep into coaching during the live calls and sessions.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen coaches make when they start their business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
One common mistake I see new coaches make is wanting to jump straight into courses or programs instead of coaching 1–1 for a while. Most of the time, their coaching process needs to be refined and fine-tuned as they see how their coaching impacts clients in real life and what is and isn’t working. So scaling too early becomes a waste of time as they’re scaling something that hasn’t been proven to work yet.
This is especially true for fully automated courses where you get no or minimal feedback from the user, so you won’t have visibility on what is or isn’t working for them.
I typically suggest working with at least 5 clients on a 1–1 basis to completion of the process before scaling that into courses and programs. During that time, make note of things you say over and over and processes you follow with most clients.
After the 1–1 phase, what I see working best for most coaches is transitioning to what I call a Hybrid Online Course. In this model, the process gets translated into digital modules and is supplemented by 1–1 and/or group support.
There is efficiency and scalability, yet the personal touch remains. This personal touch is critical because it helps coaches guide clients towards better results (which also means they can charge much higher fees than for a stand-alone course) and it creates inherent feedback loops so that you know what needs to be improved in your digital modules over time saving you from doing wasteful and often ineffective ‘beta launches’ (where you would sell your course at a major discount or totally free).
Not only does this Hybrid Online Course model work really well in terms of client results and profitability, but it is also fun to deliver!
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.
This is one of my favorite topics! I love a premium experience and I love to teach others how to deliver them.
My top three suggestions would be:
- Wow them from minute one. Have an onboarding process that kicks off the moment payment goes through. Buyer’s remorse may be kicking in so it’s critical to pop in, reassure them, get them excited, and give them a value-filled exercise to do or video to watch. This simple process can eliminate refunds and improve client outcomes.
- Set clear expectations and boundaries. Do they know how to contact you? When you’ll respond? What they can and can’t go to you for? Having clarity for questions like these allows your client to feel confident in how they should approach their relationship with you and what to expect. This results in aligned expectations and a more seamless experience.
- Explain the forest and the trees. You know exactly how the pieces you’re working on with your client fit together. But if they don’t, the experience may feel confusing. Start the relationship by briefly explaining the overarching theory and process so that the pieces of their journey can create a cohesive whole in their mind as they work with you.
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 very first thing coaches need to do is to have clear messaging around their work. They need to be able to articulate whom they help and what they help them achieve. And most importantly, do it in a way that resonates with the buyer. Otherwise, your prospects will just ignore you as they won’t resonate with your offer.
One of the reasons I love packaging services into courses and programs is that because they’re more targeted and contained (a good course solves one problem for one ideal client avatar), they’re much easier to explain than general coaching services.
Once the who and the message are clear, it’s as simple as finding where these people hang out and talking to them in a way that inspires them to take action.
I love having conversion events (such as webinars, masterclasses, challenges) as a way to turn prospects into clients. These work well and are fun to deliver because you get to show off your craft, bring value to the attendees, and let those who resonate take the next step of booking a call to see if your services are right for them.
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?
I started my business so that I didn’t have to work long hours anymore as I had to in my corporate career. I typically work 4 days a week, about 4–6 hours per day. Of course, I’m thinking and talking about my business at other times so the amount of time my business receives is greater than that, but I prefer to keep the actual ‘work’ time low.
One of the reasons many coaches or other new business owners work such long hours is because they’re inefficient. They waste time on things that don’t matter, and they spin in place without making real progress — thinking that more spinning is what’s missing. They’re hoarding their money instead of outsourcing things that can free up time and creativity and are too deep into the day-to-day to be able to be strategic.
So my first recommendation is to see if there’s time they’re wasting in their business on things that don’t actually make a difference or things that can easily be systematized or outsourced.
Now, let’s talk about how to best take care your yourself so you can fill your cup and give from the overflow.
- Schedule your self-care first. When you do your calendar for the week (I love doing that on Sundays), block off time for yourself. This could be gym time, a walk, or time with a loved one. Then treat it as a non-negotiable just like you would a client appointment.
- Fill small free time blocks with self-care. There are times throughout my day when I have small blocks of free time. They’re too short to do anything productive so it can be tempting to jump on Instagram and watch the latest cat video. What I find to be much more powerful is to do a few minutes of self-care instead. For me, this looks like jumping on the rebounder, dancing to a fun song, or basking in the sun for a few minutes. These minutes help you recharge in the moment and add up over time to create meaningful benefits.
- Just because you can work from anywhere and at any time, doesn’t mean that you should. In addition to filling your days with self-care moments, it’s important to fully unplug on a regular basis. This may mean shutting down the computer and turning off all work notifications at 4 pm and on weekends. Or taking fully off-line vacations with friends or family at least quarterly. It can be tempting to work more (you are in this business because of your love for coaching, I get it) but burnout is real and may not be far off if you never choose to unplug.
- Set boundaries on your time. My final recommendation is to have clearly expressed boundaries with clients, partners, contractors, and anyone else you regularly communicate with. I have a stated response time of 48 hours, other than for emergencies. I often respond much quicker than that, but I don’t want to feel expected to do so and I don’t want the other person anxiously waiting by their phone for my response. I also don’t take in-person morning meetings and have several full days of no calls each week. Find a rhythm and cadence that works for you that allows you to keep your relationships healthy without depleting your own cup.
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. 🙂
I wish that everyone who had a gift or wisdom to share with others would confidently march towards making a difference in as many people’s lives as possible.
Yet many are held back by self-sabotaging beliefs, imposter syndrome, and hiding behind ‘who am I to do this?’
It’s time to dust that film off your light and shine brightly!
And the best part is? It’s possible to have a huge impact without it taking up a huge chunk of your time.
You’ve got this!
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.
Tim Ferriss. His books and podcasts have been extremely inspiring and educational for me. I love his no-bs approach and his ability to synthesize information from so many different areas and contexts. I’m especially drawn to his ability to ask powerful questions that get insights that are otherwise missed.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can learn more on our website scaledgenius.com. Make sure to check out our blog for valuable tips, advice, and musings.
If you’re interested in the topic of online courses and programs, I invite you to grab a complimentary copy of my eBook: 7 Critical Rules to Consider for Creating Courses That Don’t Suck
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This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!