The "Guide" to Coaching

I like to travel and am lucky enough to occasionally make it overseas. I would sometimes splurge and stretch my budget by buying not one, but two guidebooks to help me plan our vacations. I have toured many cities with a book in hand, following recommended itineraries, reading historical descriptions and visiting cultural hot spots. I followed the same path as hundreds of other tourists, mouth agape, eyes wide in wonder, checking off all the must see sites, but connecting only superficially with these cities. 

Last fall we went to Italy and my Mother in Law recommended we make a stop in Ravenna. Ravenna is a little out of the way, and therefore not frequently visited by Americans. Despite trips to Borders, we couldn't find a guidebook, so, at my husband's urging, we decided to hire a guide for half a day.

Vivian, met us at our hotel with a car and driver. After the customary greetings, we climbed in the car and headed out of town. I must say that my first impression of Ravenna was not positive. In the centuries since it was founded, the town has sprawled from its historic center and much of it is slightly grimy, pocked with strip malls, pawn shops, tire stores and other detritus of a working class, down trodden town. I began to doubt my Mother In Law's recommendation as the driver continued to carry us out of town.  After driving nearly thirty minutes we finally stopped at a large, imposing medieval style church and this is where Vivian's skill as a guide began to show.

In the four hours we spent with her we visited Ravenna's eight World Heritage sites scattered throughout the town. Vivian brought Ravenna's famous mosaics to life for us; stunning pictures, made of millions of tile chips, that told stories in brilliant, mesmerizing color. She explained the symbols, and the meaning behind those scenes and we were transported to the time when  petty jealousies, love affairs, outrageous egos and the the perpetual tug of war between church and state shaped Ravenna. And while teaching, she was also learning about us. She  noticed our interests, elaborated on some topics to make the city 's history resonate for us. I know that without her, Ravenna's brilliant, beautiful, complicated past would have remained hidden. Of course we would have seen the mosaics; that's why my Mother in Law recommended the stop, but we would not have understood the stories the mosaics told. That happened because Vivian was an extraordinary guide. She had the gift of making history personal, by listening to our questions and noticing our interests. 


Hiring a guide did cost more. Would I do it again, unequivocally yes. Vivian added a depth of experience that transported us. The incremental cost was minimal and the value was immense. 


I think coaching is like hiring a guide. Sure you can buy books that will lay out what you should do and you can hire consultants who will tell you what your should do. These are great resources and they are relatively inexpensive. But hiring a person trained in coaching is like hiring a guide. A professional business coach will encourage you to explore, will insure you carve out time to reflect, will ask questions to uncover your deep  interests and support you as you chart a path that is unique for you. With a Coach, just like having a guide, you will go where you want to go, find what resonants with you and bring the adventure of owning a business to life. 

Looking Behind the Numbers

Photo by YelenaYemchuk/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by YelenaYemchuk/iStock / Getty Images

All business leaders work hard to avoid mistakes, but if a mistake is made, recovering is possible and can be enlightening.

I'd like to share a real life story involving Mary (not her real name), the owner of a small, specialty store in a small, southern town. Mary has owned her store for over 15 years. Last year she moved into a beautiful, bigger, building that she designed, built and owns. She loves her store because it reflects her open, embracing, encouraging personality and it offers her customers a more pleasant place to shop.

Mary built a larger store because she wants to sell more apparel; in fact, her goal was to double her apparel sales. Mary made this audacious goal with confidence because her store is beautiful, her customers love her, she has great taste and the new products would be wonderful. So in January Mary placed large apparel orders to fill the new store. Well as you might have guessed, sales over the summer were not as robust as Mary expected and now her winter orders have begun to arrive.

Mary had built her goal around some basic assumptions; she believed that her customers wanted more apparel selection, that they would respond to the new store by buying more apparel and that her merchandising would make her apparel irresistible. And her foundational goal was that her loyal customers would resist the new reality in retail and buy her apparel at full price. 

Because apparel sales had not increased in the new store, it was clear that Mary had made a big mistake. And this led Mary to question her fundamental assumptions and her basic business competence.  Maybe she overestimated how loyal her customers really were, maybe she doesn't know how to buy apparel, maybe she isn't merchandising her apparel well, and on and on. In fact, was this mistake tangible evidence that Mary didn't know what she was doing?Mary's confidence was so undermined that she had trouble seeing beyond the full shelves. Yes, she had overestimated her community's appetite for apparel, especially apparel selling at full price. But, by looking at the situation in another way, she saw a different outcome. Mary had created a beautiful store, full of inviting apparel and staffed by wonderful, helpful, knowledgeable employees. She showed that she was fully committed to offering the best to her community, that she wants to showcase great products in an inviting and exciting space, and that she was willing to place a big bet on herself. Her biggest mistake wasn't in buying too much inventory, it was in allowing that to become the measure of her business acumen.

Actually, her store is a perfect reflection of her personality; live the dream, invest in yourself, value beauty and wonderful things and live big. And while she did make a mistake, she can recover. Mary will convert her inventory into cash and she will continue to offer wonderful product, in a beautiful space to loyal happy customers (who like are lucky to buy great inventory on sale this year). Mary may have bought too much inventory, but she sent a strong message to her customers and her employees; live big, take a chance, keep on going and some mistakes can teach you a lot.



Photo by AnikaSalsera/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by AnikaSalsera/iStock / Getty Images