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“The key is to be in the flow”, With Douglas Brown and David Couper

The key is to be in the flow. When you have a purpose and set intentions and have faith, and are being the best version of yourself that you can be, things can flow. I find that when I stop worrying, one thing will happen and another, and then the only thing I worry about […]

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The key is to be in the flow. When you have a purpose and set intentions and have faith, and are being the best version of yourself that you can be, things can flow. I find that when I stop worrying, one thing will happen and another, and then the only thing I worry about is that I can handle all this good fortune! But being in the flow is like being in a boat on a river. Sometimes it’s calm, and maybe the boat stops for a while, so you need to paddle. Sometimes the current takes you, sometimes it gets rough, and you need to make sure you have on your life vest. But the water in a river flows down to the ocean, fish get to their breeding grounds, and the snow melts on the mountains and feeds a river so it can feed the land. Being in the flow is about relaxing and enjoying the ride.

When the pandemic hit, because I had many healthcare clients initially, the work dried up because everyone was so busy. But then, when I got over my initial panic, things seemed to change and open up. At the end of the year, we ended up about 70% of what we had planned to do. Not bad for a major crisis! And this year we look like we could double our revenue from last year.


As part of my series called “Five Strategies I Used To Grow My Business To Reach Seven Figures In Revenue”, I had the pleasure of interviewing David Couper who brings over two decades of experience in large-scale organizational restructuring, strategic transformation, performance effectiveness, leadership development, and executive coaching. As a global business pioneer, David’s career spans three continents and includes the development of innovative, award-winning, and culturally sensitive leadership and training programs for Fortune 500 companies in Japan, England, Latin America, and the U.S.

Founder and CEO of David Couper Consulting, David has worked with Fortune 500 clients such as Kaiser Permanente, Cigna Healthcare, Ameritech, Mattel, BBC, Warner Bros., Rolls Royce, Halifax Bank, Ford, Toyota, Accenture, Amoco, Shell Oil, and BP. He is a published author of four business and career books and is regularly quoted talking about business and careers on TV, radio, print and online in outlets such as NPR, Forbes, CBS News and Newsweek Japan.

David Couper helps organizations transform their culture just as he transformed his life. He works with leaders to be more resilient as they grow, become more successful and be happier. His company works with major organizations such as NBC, Kaiser Permanente, USC and LAX.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Twenty-five years ago, when I was in London, I worked for a consulting company and hated it. I started worrying about Monday morning on Sunday night, and eventually, every weekend focused on how to get through the week. At that point, I made a promise that I would find my passion in my work. I was asked to leave and found a new role where I loved my job, team, and clients. And that showed in my work. With advising a shift to be honest, transparent, and having fun, I helped a bank improve their sales by 30%. My whole career has been about individuals finding joy at work.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?

When I was first starting my company, I reconnected with an old client in healthcare. We had a long conversation, and they asked me for a proposal. Before, I had charged them 10–20K dollars. But this work was a lot bigger. I did a budget and then asked my colleague to review it. She looked at it, then said it was way too low. She went through it and doubled it! I was very nervous about presenting it to my client. It seemed like a significant number, and I was worried they would say “no,” and the project would disappear. I presented it to my client, and five minutes later, he said, “that’s fine.” It was good to learn how to value myself and ask for what I was worth!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I am a great believer in getting help. I have worked with many teachers and coaches. One of my most influential teachers was Steve Chandler. He is a coach and trainer. I took a class with him, and I remember two things about him. I had signed up, assuming some money was going to come in. Then I didn’t. When he found out I was dropping out, he contacted me and spent about an hour just talking and listening to me. Never once did he say I should find the money and jump back into the class. He just gave me the space to talk about my fears. The next day I worked out my finances and made it happen to continue my studies. The other critical thing I remember him saying was “to slow down.” This is the opposite of what most “success gurus” preach, with their systems for being more productive, more focused, and just more. Steve meant that he was not trying “to make things happen” but working “to have them happen.” Go with the flow rather than try to swim upstream.

I used this advice with my healthcare client. Usually, I would meet him for lunch, we would chat and talk, and maybe I would spend about ten minutes of the sixty minutes talking about business. Steve advised me to slow down. I booked TWO HOURS with my client to talk about his needs. I was nervous he would say “no” as he was a busy guy. But he didn’t, and we ended up using the full two hours. That was what enabled me to secure the biggest project of my career. So I owe a lot to my coach!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Hand it over.” I am not a traditionally religious person, but I am spiritual. I believe that there is a bigger story to life than the one I know. I am sure that whatever happens is there for me to learn from, and I don’t have to worry, try and work it out, or do mental gymnastics. Of course, I am human, so I will do those things from time to time. But whenever I can’t decide what to do next or how to proceed, I remember to hand it over. What I mean is admit I don’t know and to hand it over to a greater power than mem or what we could call my intuition. If I relax, give myself some time, and turn off the worry machine in my head, then the answers will come forward. Whenever I don’t, I seem to get more and more stuck!

Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. We’d love to learn a bit about your company. What is the pain point that your company is helping to address?

We work with healthcare workers and organizations who want to reduce burnout. We help to develop resilience and build leaders and culture to support that. We work with many organizations, especially hospitals, physicians, and nurses throughout the USA, including Kaiser Permanente and Keck USC. When people are stressed, overwhelmed, and burned out, they are checked out and can’t give patients the care they need. That hits the bottom line — employees take more time off, quit more often, and aren’t as productive as they could be. When people are resilient, they can flex with challenges and learn and grow from them.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We have worked with a rural hospital for about three years. When the CEO first took over, there was a lot of unhappiness, and more than 50% of the staff said they felt burned out. They were doing OK financially, but there was room for improvement. When COVID hit, they were well prepared. Their physicians, nurses, and staff were able to deal with the surges, and now everyone who wants to be is vaccinated. The CEO believes that it is because the hospital had learned how to be resilient. They also have ended up being in much better shape overall financially than they were, having employees more engaged and better productivity and quality.

When you first started the business, what drove you, what was your primary motivation?

I have been very unhappy with the jobs I’ve had. I didn’t know how to be resilient and deal with change. I want to give that gift to others. I learned how to deal with difficult situations and environments. People are the real bottom line for an organization. If your employees are not happy and engaged, they can’t look after your patients or customers.

What drives you now? Is it the same? Did it change? Can you explain what you mean?

I still want people to be happy at work, but I now know that it is vital to have a strong and compassionate culture. I also see that resilience — how we react to issues in life — is key. The individual is important, but it is also essential to look at the group and the whole organization.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Yes, we are! We have been helping organizations working with Covid and with The New Normal. One of our most proud projects is helping nursing and other frontline staff deal with the pandemic. We have offered coaching on-demand. Frontline staff can get advice, support, and tools to help deal with the pandemic. Nurses are delighted that we have offered this, and they feel that they have a place to share some of the pain and suffering they are going through.

The topic of this series is ‘Five Strategies I Used To Grow My Business To Reach Seven Figures In Revenue’. Congratulations! Seven figures is really a huge milestone. In your experience, what was the most difficult part of being able to hit your first million-dollars in sales revenue?

Believing that was possible. For me, that seemed like a huge number. It felt impossible. But it is just a number. What we do at DCC is valuable, so it’s not about how much, but how much value. Getting to a number is all about you believing that you can do it.

Could you share the number one sales strategy that you found helpful to help you reach this milestone?

One of my colleagues said, “focus on the work” to get sales. That sounds strange. Indeed you should focus on sales to get sales? But what she meant was that when you do good work, you get sales. When you look after your customers, then they will look after you. Nearly 100% of my business comes from referrals from happy customers.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you or your team made during a sales process? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

One time I was making a presentation to the oil company Arco. At the time, I was also working for Amoco and Ameritech. I used to joke that I was working through the alphabet. During the presentation, a couple of people looked confused. One person turned to his colleague and said, “Did he just Amoco.” Then, I realized I was using the wrong name, calling Arco Amoco. I apologized, but I learned to be prepared and to slow down.

Does your company have a sales team? If yes, do you have any advice about how companies can create very high performing sales teams?

The key to a fantastic sales team is to work together on a common goal. Many sales teams have individual members compete against each other. Supposedly, this competition is good for business. My experience is that everyone has strengths, and together you can do a lot more than competing against each other.

Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Strategies I Used To Grow My Business To Reach Seven Figures In Revenue.” Please share a story or an example for each.

I call my five-step strategy the Breakthrough Manifesto, and for me, breakthrough often comes through a breakdown. But you don’t have to have a tragedy or a disaster to shock you into a success!

Step 1: PURPOSE

You have to have a purpose. Why are you here? What are you committed to? What is your reason for your business or your work, and how can you serve people? Making money is great, but that’s not necessarily a great purpose.

For me, it was to entertain and educate. I love to help people understand themselves and be more successful through engaging, motivating, and sometimes funny stories!

Step 2: BEING

To have successful results, you have to be successful. It’s essential to do things and to take action, but it just as important if not more important to embody success. If you think this business won’t work or that you are that great at sales, that will become your reality no matter how much you take action, spend on consulting, or invest in technology.

I started a business, and every new client I approached had an excuse why they didn’t want to work with me. I realized that I didn’t believe in myself. I was approaching these successful people not as another successful person but as someone who wasn’t as good as them. Why would they want to work with someone who is being like that? After I realized why I was doing that, I became a great salesperson, and it didn’t matter how successful they were or how much money they made!

Step 3: INTENTIONS

Goals are important, but intentions are bigger and more powerful. When I first moved into a bigger business, I intended to make more money and spend less time at work. A sample goal is to make 100 dollars today; a sample intention is to have money easily flow to meet all my needs. A goal is something you either achieve or not: the more specific, the better. An intention is much broader and opens up to all kinds of possibilities.

I had an intention of having a place at the beach for the summer. A place like that costs thousands of dollars in California. I didn’t know how that could happen, but I wanted to have somewhere that my son and I could enjoy. Soon after setting this intention, a friend told me that she was renting a studio attached to her home. It was one ½ a block from the sea and a beautiful beach, and it was cheap! It was basic but had parking, and it turned out to be perfect. I would never have guessed that inside doesn’t match the outside. Focus on asking for more and receiving.

Chapter 4: FAITH

As I started my business, it was scary. I sometimes didn’t know how I would make it. I didn’t know how I would be successful. But I did see that it was the right thing to do. Having faith to me means that even when things don’t make sense that you know somehow, you will get through this and have the chance to learn from it. Faith is often associated with a religious or spiritual belief, but it doesn’t have to be. If you ever have had the intuition to do something that is part of faith. A friend says something, but you doubt it and then find out later you were right. They were not telling you the truth. Or you have a feeling not to travel that day and later hear about an accident on the same route. Or you don’t think you will be able to pay your bills, and then out of the blue comes a gift. That is faith. Faith is being open, asking questions, and looking for signs. If your mantra is that I’m broke and I don’t have any way of making money, that doesn’t help you break through to money and making more.

When my partner died, I owed 100% of the bills and only had 50% of the income. I struggled with money. One day I had a demand for 1000 dollars and didn’t know how to pay it. The next day, I got a check from a friend who said she had a tax refund and decided I might need it. The same thing has happened in business when I have faith.

Chapter 5: FLOW

The key is to be in the flow. When you have a purpose and set intentions and have faith, and are being the best version of yourself that you can be, things can flow. I find that when I stop worrying, one thing will happen and another, and then the only thing I worry about is that I can handle all this good fortune! But being in the flow is like being in a boat on a river. Sometimes it’s calm, and maybe the boat stops for a while, so you need to paddle. Sometimes the current takes you, sometimes it gets rough, and you need to make sure you have on your life vest. But the water in a river flows down to the ocean, fish get to their breeding grounds, and the snow melts on the mountains and feeds a river so it can feed the land. Being in the flow is about relaxing and enjoying the ride.

When the pandemic hit, because I had many healthcare clients initially, the work dried up because everyone was so busy. But then, when I got over my initial panic, things seemed to change and open up. At the end of the year, we ended up about 70% of what we had planned to do. Not bad for a major crisis! And this year we look like we could double our revenue from last year.

What would you advise to another business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience, do you have any general advice about how to boost growth or sales and “restart their engines”?

To boost growth, you have to change one of the elements in your business model. Do you need new clients because the clients you already have, are already serviced and don’t need your products or services? Do you need to have new products because there isn’t a demand for them? Or have you got comfortable in marketing and sales and need to do it a different way. Getting data from your existing customers about what they like and what they don’t will help you.

In your specific industry, what methods have you found to be most effective in order to find and attract the right customers? Can you share any stories or examples?

In consulting and healthcare, my clients like to meet their peers and learn new things. They also want to take time to get out of the office and be challenged. We have had success with events where we teach specific skills and clients to meet experts and other colleagues. We have a pleasant atmosphere where clients feel comfortable. We also do similar webinars.

Based on your experience, can you share a few strategies to give your customers the best possible user experience and customer service?

We do anonymous surveys to see how the clients are finding our work. We meet once a month to check-in and see how they find our coaching and training. We have metrics that we share. If there are any problems, we work to solve them. We will refund fees, find a new coach, and or recommend a different solution.

As you likely know, this HBR article demonstrates that studies have shown that retaining customers can be far more lucrative than finding new ones. Do you use any specific initiatives to limit customer attrition or customer churn? Can you share some of your advice from your experience about how to limit customer churn?

We don’t have much customer churn. Once we have a client, we work with them usually for 3–4 years or more. We sometimes lose a client if the key decision-maker moves to another organization, then we make sure to connect with them and offer to help them in their new work. We make sure that we have personal emails so that we can continue to communicate when someone leaves.

Wonderful. We are nearly done. Here are the final “meaty” questions of our discussion. You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire 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. 🙂

Help people to be happy at work. I hope to influence leaders to have transparent and powerful conversations with their reports about how to be authentic and how to serve each other and the customers or patients.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders 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 with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I am a massive fan of some healthcare leaders. Carl Amato is a great leader, and I would love to meet him.

Thank you so much for this. This was very inspirational, and we wish you only continued success!

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