Preston True of Pinnacle Business Guides: “The best way to sell yourself is to deliver”

In order to be a successful business coach, you have to combine your passion for helping others with their companies with your ability to sell yourself and your services. If you can’t sell your coaching project, your coaching skills are useless. At the end of the day, you are running a business of your own […]

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In order to be a successful business coach, you have to combine your passion for helping others with their companies with your ability to sell yourself and your services. If you can’t sell your coaching project, your coaching skills are useless. At the end of the day, you are running a business of your own and there’s an expression of commitment when a client compensates you for helping them change their circumstances. The best way to sell yourself is to deliver.

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 Preston True.

For nearly two decades, Preston True, a successful business coach with Pinnacle Business Guides, has helped fellow entrepreneurs go from stuck to unstoppable in their respective careers. He currently works with companies big and small nationwide. As a former entrepreneur himself, Preston knows how to navigate the different facets of building a thriving company and is passionate about helping other entrepreneurs delete chaos, earn more and fall back in love with their businesses.

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?

For the past 25 years, I’ve spent time in several entrepreneurial companies having great success and heart-wrenching failure, even to the point of bankruptcy.

I also spent seven years in my family’s commercial printing business where we had great top-line success but failed to hire and develop the right leadership team, paid no attention to developing scalable processes and chased every shiny opportunity that crossed our path. When the bottom fell out, we had to make difficult decisions and take uncomfortable action, but we brought the business back to profitability to sell it a few years later.

After all of those experiences, I decided I wanted to help others avoid making the same mistakes I made and become successful faster. I did some research and found out about becoming a business coach, and the rest is history. It’s a perfect fit — I can use my entrepreneurial background, my passion for people and knowledge of various operating systems to help businesses become stronger, smarter and faster.

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?

  1. Being a simplifier. Instead of helping everyone, I’m intentional about who I help. By simplifying, I can identify the target market that I’m helping. In turn, the ability to simplify guides me as I help companies solve major problems. For example, one of my clients was stuck inside the chaos of a complex sales process she inherited from a previous owner. It wasn’t working, as it created too many opportunities for excuses and mismeasurement. I helped my client define three core stages of a sales process, determine one metric for each and draft a checklist with nine steps to follow. The simplified process helped new reps reach their sales goals 90 days sooner than most tenured reps.
  2. Being a strategizer. Harvard Business Professor Michael Porter says the essence of strategy is choosing what not to do. This process makes it very easy to say “no” to things that aren’t beneficial to your end goal. I offered services that were beyond my primary focus for several years. In time, I realized it created more chaos than necessary, so I scaled back to what I know and do best — designing and implementing frameworks. Saying “no” to other services has allowed me to focus on my strength, which helps me as a business coach and, in turn, helps my clients.
  3. Being a challenger. This one can be difficult, but it’s very important. You have to be willing to call teammates out if they’re heading in the wrong direction or if they are speaking more than acting. Accountability is uncomfortable, but it makes for a healthier relationship. At one point, I was working with a client who was keeping a misfit teammate in a leadership role even though he hadn’t met goals for five consecutive quarters. We asked “What one great people move will we commit to making this quarter?” and I simply held the team accountable. After the next quarter, they had an uncomfortable conversation and parted ways with this teammate. They haven’t lost a beat in sales and operations. If we’re playing the game for improvement, we’re playing it for success.

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

Nassim Nicholas Taleb wrote an amazing book in 2012 entitled Antifragile. He describes the value in pursuing a mindset of invitation and adaptation to stressors and challenges. It’s something I’ve adopted since I first read his book. Without this mindset, I’d be victimized with every small failure, leave any learning in the past and be completely devastated should a major detour present itself. Instead, I look at stressors and challenges as opportunities to grow and become stronger. Thank you, Mr. Taleb.

I also work to strengthen the foundations of clarity, commitment and courage daily. I complete a plan every morning outlining the three most important results, confirm my calendar for the day ensuring I’m investing my time in the right activities and do something that scares the heck out of me daily — whether it’s making that uncomfortable call, cleaning up a mess I’ve made or sprinting 25 yards farther on a run.

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?

I heard of an amazing concept years ago called decision fatigue. It posits the greater the number of decisions (quantity) you have to make, the worse the decision or outcome will be (quality). Said simply, we get emotionally and intellectually tired with too many decisions.

When you begin an activity, you have to make a conscious decision to act upon it. Imagine how many of those happen on a daily basis. Phew, I’m already exhausted. But activities repeated over and over become a habit. In other words, you stop thinking about them and just take action. You effectively eliminate the decision-making process.

When you build a habit out of the most important decisions and those decisions become unconscious, you free up enormous energy to invest elsewhere. My daily planner habit is going to sleep at 9 p.m., waking at 4:30 a.m. and exercising every day aside from Sunday. These are all things I no longer make decisions about. Now, they are second nature and just part of my normal routine.

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

I recommend distinguishing four to five life domains. Mine are faith, physical, emotional, financial and relationship. I choose one domain, then build one habit over the quarter as it takes me 40+ days to really cement a new habit.

I also recommend using some form of system or accountability structure that reminds you of the habit you’re working to solidify. I use my daily planner.

Another way of developing and sustaining good habits is to set realistic goals. Don’t commit to taking on too many activities over a 90-day period. When you commit to a realistic number of habits, you are more likely to stick with it. You’ll probably struggle if you try to work out six days a week, drink a gallon of water daily, eat a salad for lunch every day, pray every night before bed, have family dinners five nights a week and call your parents weekly. Instead, try to create habits out of a smaller number of those tasks and then add to them after a few months when you’ve formed those habits.

By the way, the best habit to form first is completing a daily planner!

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

“If you can see your path laid out in front of you, step by step, it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.” — Joseph Campbell

I’ve stopped insisting on “how” I’ll get to where I’m going and focus exclusively on “where” I want to go instead. I’ve learned walking a path, just like an airline flight, is a series of course corrections. If you trust that process, the path becomes your own.

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

I have a few exciting opportunities I’m working on currently. To start, I’ve identified a niche market problem, so I’m building a new product to help. For me, it’s exhilarating to experiment and grapple with possible solutions.

I’ve also been asked to help build an organizing framework and curriculum for coaches, consultants and practitioners with Pinnacle Business Guides. As a group, we reject the status quo and help businesses meet their goals by curating different tools and operating systems versus using a one-size-fits-all approach. Ultimately, we have built a community that’s based around a vast knowledge and a love for helping companies. To me, being part of this group is a joyful experience of teamwork, humility, progress and purpose.

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.

To be a successful business coach, it’s important to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why are you in this business?

If you’re in the industry for a short-term opportunity, it’s not going to work. If you’re doing it because you want to help others, that’s sustainable because the need for help is always going to exist.

  • What problem are you solving?

As a business coach, you’re looking to help companies solve real, expensive problems. You’re helping them pinpoint and target specific needs — whether that’s with hiring the right people, developing a marketing plan, putting important systems in place — and then you’re finding solutions to those problems. A lot of consultants will come up with a nifty solution that’s looking for a problem, but that approach doesn’t last long. You have to be able to identify a viable problem in the marketplace that you can solve.

  • What is your unique capability?

If you want to be everything to everybody, it’s never going to work. It’s critical for you to have a specific skill set that leads you to have valuable solutions to specific problems. You have to be able to say, “I’m the best person to solve that problem.”

  • How uncomfortable are you willing to be?

It’s going to take time to build clients and generate income. You have to be willing to be humbled along the way and face some level of discomfort on a daily basis. You have to be willing to be fired, coached and held to account by clients and colleagues. This can be uncomfortable, but it’s part of your growth and learning.

  • How long do you think it will take to build this business?

Most folks think they’ll generate profit right away, but that’s not the case. Whatever time you think it will take to build your business, be prepared for it to take twice as long. So, if you think it’ll take six months, it’s safe to expect it to take a year. Are you willing to dedicate that time, be patient, work hard and see it through? If so, you can go far.

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

They are undercapitalized or they do not know how to make money and generate cash. Profit is a capability, not a possession. You will not get far with limited capability. That said, when starting out as a business coach, you should have an absolute minimum of six months of expenses saved. This gives you some cushion.

Another common mistake among business coaches is they only see themselves as “coaches” rather than salespeople. In this line of work, it’s inevitable that we will be put on a stage in some form or fashion. Sometimes, coaches get enamored with being on that stage and being admired for their knowledge. But, it’s important they remember that isn’t their job.

In order to be a successful business coach, you have to combine your passion for helping others with their companies with your ability to sell yourself and your services. If you can’t sell your coaching project, your coaching skills are useless. At the end of the day, you are running a business of your own and there’s an expression of commitment when a client compensates you for helping them change their circumstances. The best way to sell yourself is 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.

It’s crucial for you to know how to make money and generate cash. Too many coaches get into this business because they “want to help.” That’s noble, but profitability is capability. Without capability, you cannot (or will not) WOW your clients.

It’s also important for business coaches to be able to help clients solve the problems that are most important to them. As a business coach, you likely have some really cool tools and techniques, but the client does not care about those things. They care about fulfilling their vision, having fun along the way and making a profound difference. If you’re able to help them accomplish those things, you will be referred endlessly.

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?

It’s a process, but it usually starts with friends, family and those who want to see you win. These connections will help you onboard your first clients. Then, you deliver the best experience possible to those clients which means helping them achieve their vision and goals. Ultimately, through their positive experience and proven results, they will end up referring new clients to you.

Ultimately, successful coaching is an intimate relationship between the coach and client. The vast majority of your clients won’t buy coaching services as they do a sandwich at lunch. There’s far more risk involved. As such, be wary of the promises social media and technology make. They may help build awareness, but you must do the work of building trust, establishing value, communicating a simple and clear solution, then never forget to ask a client to hire you.

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?

  • Exercise habit

Coaches help athletes and clients get stronger, smarter and faster. If you don’t exhibit a level of physical stamina, clients will run you over then look for another coach.

  • Nutrition habit

Our current food system is full of simple carbohydrates and tons of sugar. These things will make you slow, tired and irritable. You need to be fast on your feet, energized and gracious.

  • Peer group

You and I have blinds spots we’ll never see on our own. Get a peer group to help point them out. Peer groups are amazing for new ideas and learning, too.

  • Read and learn

You will learn more about how people think, decide and act by reading books than you ever will talking about how much you know. Be insatiable and your clients will reward you for years.

  • “Eat your own dog food”

If I walk a client through developing a strategic plan but don’t have one for my own business, I’m not qualified to help my own client. In order to become stronger and smarter myself, I need to be in a coaching relationship as well. Coaching is the “dog food” — if I’m serving it, I should also be consuming it.

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. 🙂

My goal would be to help every 18-year-old learn how to identify a real problem in the marketplace, design a solution, then launch a business to help solve those problems. Not all will be interested in an entrepreneurial path, but having the understanding, and ideally, the experience of starting a business is more valuable than any theory a classroom may provide.

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.

I would love to have a conversation with Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of Antifragile, Black Swan and Skin in the Game. Mr. Taleb’s books are not just compelling journeys into how we deal with chaos, risk and uncertainty; they provoke the reader to thoroughly reexamine worldviews. These books do more than inform, they enlighten.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can find me at or

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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