Kim West of Navigating the Knot: “A successful coach is crystal clear on the identity of their ideal client”

A successful coach is crystal clear on the identity of their ideal client. They know exactly the type of person they love to work with, and they understand the demographics, behaviors, and particular fears of this client, in addition to their hopes, dreams, and goals. The coaching industry is now tremendous. It is a 15 billion […]

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A successful coach is crystal clear on the identity of their ideal client. They know exactly the type of person they love to work with, and they understand the demographics, behaviors, and particular fears of this client, in addition to their hopes, dreams, and goals.


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 Kim West.

Kim West (JD/MBA) is a consultant, certified coach, Certified Divorce Specialist (CDS), and the founder of Navigating the Knot — a company that provides clients nationwide with clarity and guidance on either end of marriage, from educating them on what they should know before getting married to supporting them surrounding the divorce process. As a thought leader in the marriage and divorce space, Kim has authored e-books in addition to many articles, offers online courses, and regularly shares video content across a variety of online platforms. She is passionate about educating and empowering others both pre- and post-marriage.


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 have always been drawn to entrepreneurship, but I initially approached it from a purely academic standpoint. I specialized in entrepreneurial law while earning my law degree at the University of Colorado and similarly chose to focus on entrepreneurship within my MBA program.

After graduate school, I began my career in the corporate world, serving in a range of legal and business roles for companies including Fitbit, Inc., Zayo Group, and Boulder Brands. However, I unexpectedly found myself navigating a painful divorce from my partner of 9 years in my late 20s and going through this experience would ultimately change the course of my life as well as my chosen career path.

That’s because, in going through the divorce process, I discovered firsthand how inadequately we are prepared for marriage as well as how little we are taught about its legal implications upfront. Additionally, I was dismayed to find that there were very few, if any, centralized resources available to those navigating the process.

I was fortunate in getting to work with an amazing coach following my divorce, and I quickly came to see the value that coaching could offer to others both pre- and post-marriage. So, I took a leap and chose to leave the corporate world, get my coaching certification, and launch a coaching and consulting business centered around marriage and divorce (called Navigating the Knot) in order to share my knowledge and address the many needs in this space.

I have been happily serving in this capacity ever since and truly feel I’ve found my calling in life.

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?

I feel that my passion, my unique perspective, and my determination have been most instrumental to my success.

  1. My passion — Even though I came from a legal background, when I found myself navigating my own divorce, I was astounded to discover how little I knew about the laws governing marriage and divorce — a realization that was humbling, to say the least. I strongly feel that we all deserve to have a good understanding of the legal and administrative aspects of marriage going into it, but we are not provided with any education along these lines before getting our marriage license. Consequently, I am incredibly passionate about educating others on this topic so they can feel empowered to set themselves up for success.
  2. My unique perspective — Based on my combined background of having a law degree, being a certified coach as well as a Certified Divorce Specialist, and having gone through a rough divorce myself, I often find myself in the position of not only being able to deeply relate to and empathize with my clients, but also being able to offer helpful perspective shifts and inspiring reframes for them as they look to move forward and get to a place where they are thriving.
  3. My determination — I personally feel that, more than anything else, achieving success as an entrepreneur takes perseverance. After studying entrepreneurship for years, I can confirm that walking the walk and stepping into entrepreneurship is entirely different than merely talking the talk. There are challenging days, weeks, and months, and it can be a very lonely road to travel. I do not regret taking this path in the slightest, but it has not been easy, and I can understand why so many small businesses regrettably fail.

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

I firmly believe that habits are integral to one’s success. When we consistently take small, positive steps toward our goals that align with our values, those micro actions can add up to incredible results over time. (One of my favorite books on this topic is Atomic Habits by James Clear).

Several habits that I feel have contributed to my success include working out and moving my body daily (which helps me think as well as process stress), setting and upholding boundaries, and effectively time-blocking my calendar.

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?

It’s vital to create good habits because doing so enables you to perform at a higher level of efficiency. By creating pre-wired neural patterns in your brain, you can operate on autopilot more frequently and thereby free-up energy for those areas in which it’s really needed, such as critical thinking, decision-making, and so forth.

By way of example, many of us have heard about the dressing habits of famous and successful entrepreneurs such as Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. Jobs was known for his signature black turtleneck-and-jeans look that comprised his daily uniform. This was an intentional choice on his part. By sporting the same outfit every day, Jobs avoided wasting any time, energy, or decision-making power on what to wear. Instead, he could direct that energy toward more important uses, such as innovation or determining the strategic direction of his company.

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

When it comes to the topics of habit formation or habit-breaking, I personally ascribe to the formula that James Clear sets forth in his book, Atomic Habits.

To develop a good habit, Clear suggests that you: 1) make the new desired behavior obvious, 2) make it attractive, 3) make it easy, and 4) make it satisfying.

In contrast, to break a bad habit, you invert these 4 steps and proceed by: 1) making the undesirable behavior invisible, 2) making it unattractive, 3) making it difficult, and 4) making it unsatisfying.

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

I love the following quote by Jen Sincero: “If you want to live a life you’ve never lived, you have to do things you’ve never done.” It resonates especially deeply with me because one of my highest-level needs in life is growth (which probably makes sense, given that I’m a coach). I adore all-things personal growth, and in order to grow, one must get out of one’s comfort zone. Although it’s a simple and obvious concept, I find that our human need for certainty can sometimes keep us stuck in the familiar, safe space of our comfort zone and prevent us from living the life we truly wish to lead.

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

I’m currently finishing an e-book on the topic of how to tell your spouse you’d like a divorce. This is an area in which I often receive questions from prospective clients who know that they would like to move forward in separating from their partner, but do not wish to hurt them or trigger a contentious legal battle. In sharing drafts of this book with past clients of mine, I’ve received a lot of positive feedback to date and been told that it contains a number of helpful considerations, tips, and strategies to make an otherwise difficult conversation as effective as possible.

Another project I’m working on is an online marriage-prep course for individuals and couples. This course will review the legal and administrative aspects of marriage that I feel everyone deserves to know upfront, so they can go into their marriage eyes-wide-open and have a better chance of setting themselves up for success.

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.

In my opinion, the following factors tend to distinguish successful coaches from unsuccessful ones and constitute the 5 things that one needs in order to build a highly successful career as a coach:

1 . Remaining focused on & aligned with one’s personal definition of success (versus falling into the comparison trap)

For some, having a “successful” coaching practice might mean consistently hitting a certain financial level, such as a six or seven-figure income. For others, it might have more to do with the level of impact they are able to make or the number of clients they are able to serve. For yet another contingent of people, success as a coach could be linked to attaining a certain degree of fame or renown. And for others still, it might simply look like having the freedom and flexibility to work from anywhere according to their preferred schedule.

There is no objective definition of success; it’s a subjective standard that will differ from person-to-person.

Despite this fact, coaches can easily lose sight of which definition of success is truly most important to them as an individual and instead fall into the trap of comparing themselves to other coaches that they perceive to be more successful than themselves. By allowing their insecurity to get the best of them in this way and putting other coaches or other standards of success on pedestals, some coaches can lose focus or sight of what matters most to them and instead head down paths that ultimately prove to be unfulfilling for them since they are out of alignment.

2. Having clarity on one’s target market

A successful coach is crystal clear on the identity of their ideal client. They know exactly the type of person they love to work with, and they understand the demographics, behaviors, and particular fears of this client, in addition to their hopes, dreams, and goals.

By contrast, unsuccessful coaches either have the tendency to seek to serve everyone (or at least too broad of a target market), or they repeatedly pivot over time in an effort to find the “right” niche or audience — a strategy that is rarely, if ever, effective in building a sustainable coaching practice.

3. Knowing one’s zone of genius

To truly have success as a coach, it’s important to know and embrace your zone of genius — whatever it is that you’re uniquely great at that sets you apart from everyone else.

Coaches that are unclear on their particular zone of genius will often be scattered in their offerings or allow the strategic direction of their business to be dictated by random client requests as opposed to directing it consciously and intentionally based on their personal skills, interests, talents, passions, or vision.

4. Possessing perseverance

Coaching can be a difficult industry within which to achieve success. While there is a low barrier to entry (in that coaching is an unregulated field in which literally anyone can suddenly decide to hold themselves out as a “coach”), it is not particularly easy to be successful at aspects of the business such as ongoing lead generation, determining the most effective way to allocate your time, or regularly providing clients with the breakthroughs or transformations they might be seeking.

To achieve sustainable success over time, one must be determined to keep going at all costs — to continue learning and growing, to figure out what works versus what doesn’t, and to never give up.

5. Surrounding oneself with the right people

As Jim Rohn said, “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” In other words, the people that you choose to surround yourself with shape who you are — for better or worse. It’s critical to find mentors and/or peers who will serve you on your path of moving toward your goals — by challenging you, inspiring you, supporting you, and so forth.

The most successful coaches tend to surround themselves with other successful people whom they can model and learn from along the way.

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 of the biggest mistakes I see coaches repeatedly make is being too broad or wishy-washy about the target clientele they are looking to serve. Early-on, many new coaches feel a sense of scarcity around selecting a narrow niche for their ideal target market. They worry that not enough of those prospective clients exist or that their scope will be too narrow for them to build a successful coaching practice. As a result, these coaches often broaden the scope of the types of people they are looking to help, and this tends to render their marketing messaging far less clear and effective.

Another mistake I commonly see newer coaches make is repeatedly pivoting to serve new or different types of clients over time. Typically, the coach will start out looking to serve a certain segment of clients, but over time they often become impatient with how long it’s taking or how effortful it is to grow and establish their business within that niche. Consequently, they figure that they just haven’t found the right niche market to serve and decide to pivot and attempt to serve a different niche instead. Unfortunately, engaging in this repeated pivoting over time ends up reflecting poorly on the coach, causing them to seem wishy-washy, scattered, insecure, and uncertain of the value they truly have to offer clients.

To avoid making these errors, I would first suggest that a new coach starts out by getting clear on the niche they are seeking to serve and that they keep it narrow and focused. I would then encourage the coach to persist and stick with that niche over time.

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.

In my opinion, the most important thing a coach should get clarity around in order to create the best possible customer experience for a given client is the transformation that the client is seeking to receive by way of working with them. While results can be important to achieve, it’s often the underlying feeling and change of state associated with making certain changes that the client is really desiring to have as a result of working with a coach.

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?

Coaches take a variety of approaches to lead generation. For instance, many opt to create elaborate funnels and automated systems in an effort to continually bring in new clients. However, personally, my greatest source of referrals has always come via word-of-mouth. As a result, I’ve found the most success from (1) carefully crafting my messaging to target and attract the right clients, (2) networking with groups or organizations that align with my offerings, and (3) setting up a good system for pre-qualifying prospective clients.

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?

It’s critical to be a positive role model for your clients by practicing what you preach. As coaches, we know just how important healthy routines and self-care can be when it comes to our well-being. No one can effectively pour from an empty cup. You need to take care of yourself first and foremost, or else you’ll be an ineffective coach to those you seek to serve.

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 am not interested in getting into politics; however, I would love to play an influential role in helping to reform our nation’s laws surrounding marriage and divorce. With respect to marriage, I feel that there should be more education provided upfront before a given couple can receive their marriage license. (We must take a driver’s education course or pass a driver’s education test before receiving our driver’s license, so why isn’t there a class or test to take prior to getting a marriage license?). On the divorce front, I would love to see the laws become more standardized from state-to-state and the process be made less onerous to navigate.

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 private brunch with Sara Blakely (founder of SPANX). Not only is she an incredibly successful entrepreneur who built her company from the absolute ground up, but she’s a philanthropist, an incredible mom to four kids, maintains a strong marriage, and — perhaps best of all — she seems so fun and down-to-earth! What an amazing role model she is.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Readers are welcome to follow or connect with me in any of the following ways:

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/navigating_the_knot

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/navigatingtheknot

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/kimberlyawest

Current Website: http://www.whenitsknotforever.com

New Website (coming soon): http://www.navigatingtheknot.com

Email: [email protected]

Free Consultation Booking Link: http://www.calendly.com/navigatingtheknot/freeconsultation

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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