You Can’t Grow Your Business Without Growing Yourself
I’ve had the distinct pleasure of working with hundreds of entrepreneurs over the past 20 years. While every entrepreneur is different, there are some similarities among the most successful ones. As I reflect on the key qualities and behaviors of successful entrepreneurs, a constant drive for and consistent investment in learning/self-development stand out as differentiators. The most successful entrepreneurs I know are always learning.
No one I know exhibits this understanding more than Clate Mask, Co-Founder and CEO of Infusionsoft. I worked closely with Clate for 10 years. He invested heavily in his own growth, because he knew the company’s future success depended on it. In fact, he knew that every team member at Infusionsoft needed to keep up with the growth of the company or they wouldn’t be able to keep their seat. When encouraging new employees to always be learning, Clate would model the right personal-development mindset by saying, “I’m not the CEO Infusionsoft needs me to be 12 months from now, but you can count on the fact that by the time we get there I will be.”
Reading books (or listening to them in the car or on the treadmill), going to conferences, and joining CEO groups are some of the ways many entrepreneurs invest time and energy to learn how to continue growing their businesses. Each of these sources of learning play an important role, but none are as vital as finding a mentor or having a good coach. Clate wrote a blog post on this topic a couple of years ago that I’m including here in its entirety:
Why Every Entrepreneur Needs a Coach
As entrepreneurs we are wired to take on the world by ourselves. We dig in, work hard, and are determined to be self-made. Why would we need someone to tell us what to do? Isn’t that why we started our own business in the first place, to avoid that?
I’m a firm believer in business coaches and mentors. In fact, I have multiple mentors and a longtime personal coach to help guide me through my own business and life challenges. These knowledge-building experts provide layers of value to the small business owner. They can spot your weak points, give objective outside counsel, and hold you accountable to your goals.
Experienced coaches have seen businesses grow throughout every stage and know the challenges that come with every step. Some entrepreneurs will never consider one because they feel either they know their business better than anyone else or they think they “should” know everything about their business. It can be difficult to swallow some pride and reaching out for help. However, a good deal of small business owners are seeing the value of coaches and are taking advantage of one of the greatest resources at their disposal.
Coaching and Education
A recent study done by Infusionsoft and Emergent Research, “Defining and Achieving Small Business Success,” discovered that small business owners are increasingly using paid coaches for overcoming challenges. The survey had 402 U.S. respondents from businesses with 2-25 employees. In addition to that survey, 26 in-depth interviews were conducted with new small business owners/executives who self-identified as running successful small businesses. Almost all of those interviewed reported using one or more of these resources in overcoming business and personal challenges.
Several factors are driving the use of coaches and training. Business has gotten more complex and changes more rapidly. Businesses are turning to expert coaches and training that they’re willing to pay for to provide guidance on working through complex problems quickly. There simply is no longer the time to “learn while doing” or the margin of error to “learn by making mistakes” as in the past.
The growing use and importance of technology is also leading to greater use of coaches and training. Keeping up with technological change is extremely hard for any business. Having the skills required to successfully deploy new technology is beyond the ability for most small businesses. Because of this, almost all the interviewed small business owners said they used paid technology coaches, consultants and training programs to help them.
Masterminds, Mentoring and Metrics
Most of the successful small business owners we interviewed also said they used coaches and unpaid mentors to improve their management and leadership skills, help them set and achieve goals and work through difficult business problems and decisions.
They also mentioned they often turned to unpaid mentors and coaches for emotional support, especially when faced with difficult decisions.
Several of those interviewed specifically mentioned a coach or mentor helping them to get over their fear of hiring their first employee. Interestingly enough, the larger firms surveyed also report using coaches and mentors to help their managers improve their skillsets and assist in decision-making. These firms clearly see the value of mentors and coaches and are expanding their use. The interviewed small business owners warned that not all coaches or mentors were effective or worth their fees. But they felt the Internet made it easier to find qualified coaches who add value to their firms. They also said good coaching was extremely valuable and more than worth their investments in these areas.
Three Reasons Why You Need a Coach
- Personal Growth: Take advantage of those who’ve walked the path before you. There’s much to be learned from those who’ve been there and done it before us. Sure, times have changed over the years in how we do business, but there are fundamental and enduring principles involved with running a successful business and dealing with people, especially the one you see in the mirror every day. There is no shame in getting help. Work smarter, not harder.
- Save Time: You simply don’t have the time to stay on top of the latest changes in Facebook ads, PPC, SEO and so on. As business gets more complex and the pace of change increases, leverage an experienced coach or mentor to save you and your team time and money.
- Leverage Technology: There’s more technology offerings designed for small businesses today than ever before, and these solutions can really transform your business and life. The problem is most small business owners don’t have the time or knowhow to implement these tools. So leverage an expert resource to help guide you on the journey to success.
Don’t be afraid to get help. Successful small business owners look to coaches, mentors, education and training for themselves and their employees to help overcome challenges, learn new skills and deal with complexity. They see help as a way to improve themselves and their business’s competitiveness.
As I learned from my good friend, Clate Mask, the best entrepreneurs understand that the growth of their business is ultimately constrained by their own leadership. In fact, no business can outgrow the collective ability of the people in the company, starting with the leadership team.
What will you do to become the CEO your business needs you to become? Who will you turn to for guidance? In 2011, Clate and I packaged up everything Infusionsoft did to grow to $10M and beyond and began sharing it with entrepreneurs who were trying to grow their 7-figure business. We now offer that package here at Elite Entrepreneurs. Since then, we’ve taught hundreds of entrepreneurs how to become capable leaders of 8-figure businesses. We’ve been where you are trying to go and can share the proven methods, processes and tools you’ll need to grow to $10M and beyond.
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