Mentors or coaches are necessary, especially when you are still scaling your business, because they focus on helping you deeply understand things you already knew. But what does it mean to be a business coach, and do you need to be an expert to be one? Today, Nathan Hirsch talks to Dov Gordon about his answers to these questions. As President of Alchemist Entrepreneur Ltd., Dov helps consultants and experts get ideal clients consistently and has done so through his manual, How To Systematically and Consistently Attract First-Rate Clients. He offers some tips on how you can break through your business faster, figure out your ideal clients, and the common hiring mistakes. If you want to be a great business coach and become a successful entrepreneur, too, don’t miss this episode with Dov.
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I am with the one and only Dov Gordon. Dov, how are you doing?
I’m great. It’s good to be here.
I’m excited to talk to you. You’re one of the people I respect in the industry. I know we’ve been working together on different things. For those of you that don’t know, Dov helps consultants and experts get ideal clients consistently. For the millions who are not the charismatic guru-type, Dov helps them get great projects with great clients, earning a great income. After years of selling his manual, How To Systematically and Consistently Attract First-Rate Clients, he’s helped hundreds of business owners around the world. We’re excited to talk all about that. First, let’s take a gigantic step back. What were you like as a kid growing up? Are you a Straight-A student? Were you a rebel? Did you always know that you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I was a straight-A student when I was interested. Other times, I wasn’t necessarily a straight-A but I did pretty well. I probably did, although I discovered the business section in the library at thirteen or so and started reading there. I did the thing of selling candy bars in school. It was against the rules so we had to keep it under the radar. There were some other things I did. I did magic as a kid and I did some shows. I made money that way. It was always looking for something to do to bring in some extra money. Over time, I educated myself and then early twenties, I got married and need to figure out what I was going to do with my life. I started a coaching and consulting business. I have no idea what I was doing other than I knew I had some talent and some smarts, but it took me a good 7, 8 years to figure out how to turn it into a business.
Talk to me about what that first year looked like. I’m always curious about how entrepreneurs go about it. Were you doing it yourself? Do you have other people? Did you create this huge plan or did you just go for it? Walk us through that a little bit.
I was in Jerusalem, Israel at the time. My plan was to find English speaking business people so that I could find potential clients. Dale Carnegie started up again in Jerusalem after being away for many years out of Israel. They were running their first course at the King David Hotel. I joined that twelve-week course and it’s four hours once a week. You get to know people. As I recall, that’s where I got my first clients. That was my plan and 14% of the class became my first clients. It was a class of 41 or so. I don’t remember what that means. I remember the number 14%. That’s where I got my first clients. I was not charging very much at all but that was fine. I was learning. As I said, I didn’t know what I was doing. I heard about this thing called business coaching. I had a sense that I should be able to do this. I dove in and started.
What does a business coach mean to you? I feel it means a lot of different things to different people. How do you approach it?
It means a lot of different things for a lot of different people. There is a whole coaching industry and they spend a lot of time and effort drawing distinctions between coaching, consulting, certification and all that nonsense, which is irrelevant. I completely do not buy into the idea that in order to be a coach, you do not need to be an expert. The way I see it is you could be a coach without being an expert, but if you also want clients, you do need to have some expertise. To me, it’s about being able to help certain kinds of people in certain situations to get rid of a certain problem or to enable a certain result. Sometimes it’s shorter and very focused on something very specific. Sometimes it could stretch over several years, as long as you’re continuously identifying what’s the next mountain to climb. I found many years ago that open-ended coaching very quickly starts feeling like it’s not going anywhere. It always ends on a down note. I like things to have very clear goals every 90 days or so. You’ve got to know exactly what the client is aiming for and so on. That comes to mind for me. What does it mean to you?
I’m not a coach, so it’s tough. I do agree that everyone has a different mentality of what it is. Some people are more hands-on or more hands-off. They specialize in certain things where other people are trying to give overall generic advice. Some of the best coaches are the ones that when they enter an area where they’re not an expert in, instead of blindly giving generic advice or pointing someone in the right direction, they have maybe a team of experts or people that they know in the space that they can bring in to make sure that that particular thing is handled at a high level. Would you agree?
The idea that you need to be good at everything or that anybody expects you to be good at everything is an illusion but it’s out there.
There’s a certain accountability part to it too. Certain entrepreneurs need that accountability partner. They need someone who’s been there before who can be like, “You haven’t gotten this project done. If you’re not hitting deadlines, you’re not going to hit the goal,” or whatever that looks like to motivate and get people to accomplish things. Without that person, they can procrastinate and fall into different distractions.
If you have a strong relationship with a coach who you respect, there’s that little bit of extra aspect where I don’t want to let my coach down. I don’t want to look like a doozy to this person who I’m trusting. There is something to that. It’s certainly not enough, but there’s an element to that. I don’t sell myself as a coach. I don’t think of myself as a coach. I think of myself as I do coaching or consulting but for us, it’s much more about the result. We’re focused on helping experts and businesses that are based on some expertise, consultants and so on to create a consistent flow of clients.
For us, it’s much more about focusing on a result, then what are the pieces you need to build on and the skills you need to develop in order to get to that place. It’s about simplifying because many business owners are running in many different directions. They’re overwhelmed. They’re getting advice from everywhere and online. There is no end to the advice available. It’s information that we’re missing. We’re not missing information. What we’re missing is a deeper understanding of a lot of the things that we already know. It’s about mastery. What happens is you wake up in the morning and you think to yourself, “I’m good at X,” or whatever it is, “How do I get more clients?”
There are endless people who want to give you advice like getting on Facebook, do LinkedIn, public speaking, webinars, podcasting, everything. Every single one of these can work and every single one of these can fail. That’s something I realized many years ago. As I was getting lost in the endless tactic, distraction and overwhelm, I took a step back and I said, “Every single one of these could work and every single one of these can fail.” It’s not about what should I do. There’s got to be a deeper question and I realize the question you have to ask is, “When it works, why does it work? When it fails, why does it fail?” When you understand that, then you start to get to a point where you can build a simple system that works for you.
To me, it’s about mastery. The job of the coaches, what usually happens is we’re overwhelmed. We say, “This guy says I should be doing Facebook ads to an automated Evergreen webinar funnel.” We start doing that. We hit a wall and then we’ve bounced off. We think, “I must not know enough because it’s not working.” We then go like that Roomba vacuum cleaner where it hits the wall, bounces off, goes to another direction until it hits the chair leg or whatever that might be and you keep bouncing off. What you need is someone to look at what you’re doing and say, “Here’s what you’re doing. This is the plan that makes sense for you, your goals, your personality and your business. Now go.” You go and make some progress and then you hit the wall.
At that point, you fall into three doubts. You start to wonder, “Am I doing the right thing? Am I doing it right? Why isn’t it working for me?” That’s where you need a coach, a mentor or somebody to look at what you’re doing and say, “This is good. You’re doing the right thing here. Fix this and tweak that. Okay, good. Now hit the wall again. Take a chip out of it.” Having that clarity is key because when we don’t have that clarity behind us, you bounce off and run off to something else. You think, “I don’t know enough.” It’s not that you don’t know enough. Hit the wall again and then you make some progress, then again it’s not going. You’re not getting any further for whatever reason.
You then start to wonder, “Am I doing it right?” You need that mentor or a coach to come in and look at what you’re doing and say, “You’re doing the right thing. You’re doing this right. You’re not doing that right. Fix this, adjust that. Okay, good. Now keep hitting that wall.” You do that and then you start to wonder, “I made more progress but now I’m stuck again. Why isn’t it working for me?” That’s the third doubt. “Will it ever work for me.” “You’re doing the right thing. You’re doing it right, hit the wall, keep moving.” That’s what you need in order to get to the point where one day you come in and you hit the wall and the wall crumbles. Now you step through and you’re looking around. You’re dusting yourself off and you have this incredible feeling. What happens is you finally came to deeply understand all those things you already knew. It wasn’t that you needed to know more. You knew enough. That’s true for almost all of us. What you needed was an experience to help you deeply understand things you already knew. That’s what a coach or consultant is about for most people.
What tips do you have for people that are trying to break through that wall faster? What’s normally holding people back from breaking through it fast?
Often the fastest way is to slow down. That’s a general answer. You’ve got to step back. If we’re just doing and doing, that’s often not going to bring us a different result. Step back and reflect, “What am I doing that’s working? What am I doing that’s not?” Get some input, some feedback and then pursue it with focus and tenacity. The way I see it is there’s a difference between rushing and a sense of urgency. We need to approach everything we do with a sense of urgency but not rushing. Rushing is when you’re trying to make things happen faster, then they’re naturally able to move. A sense of urgency is where you’re not allowing things to move more slowly than you are naturally able to move. We need to have a healthy sense of urgency but not try to rush.
Let’s talk about coaching in general. I feel a lot of coaches struggle to hire. They struggle to build a team around them. I don’t know if it’s because they’re so used to that one-on-one feeling or they think it will hurt the client experience. They don’t know exactly what tasks they shouldn’t be doing and what they should be doing as a coach. How have you personally either struggle with that or figure that out over the years?
I have a small team. I have a support coach that has been working with me for a few years and another person does some background, magic marketing with a lot of the setup and running our systems and also some writing. Over the years, it’s evolved. We have had another couple of people come through. It didn’t work out. I feel like I’m growing as it like a boss. I never thought of myself as a boss. I still don’t think of myself as the boss. I’m a very creative type of person. I need my time to study, to reflect, to work, to develop and then to come back. I know that sometimes my coming in and going out could be frustrating for them. What I definitely have learned is systems.
We document everything we do. It’s written down so we can repeat it. We’re not constantly reinventing things. I give them the freedom to try things even if it’s going to fail. It might fail. I can’t know for sure, but sometimes I’m pretty sure. They need that and I need that because that’s how we all learn. That’s how I get to refine, determine and clarify what are our objectives, what’s most important and what’s less important. It also gives them the chance to learn and grow. I heard this somewhere else, but I forgot where. He said that he learned that when someone else could do something 70% as well as you, it’s time to let them do it. Only once you let them do it are they going to get up to 80%, 99%. That letting go is hard.
There are times I’ve been better at it and times that are worse. There are areas where I’ve been better at it and areas where I haven’t been as good. It took time. I’ve been Shena’s support coach. Over time, I’m continuously training her. It’s an ongoing thing and her skill has improved at the various pieces of what we do to the point where over time, I’ve been comfortable stepping back and letting her deal with the clients in certain aspects of the work we’re doing with them. I know that she’ll do a great job. She may not do it exactly the way I would have, but that’s okay. For me, the client experience and the clients’ feeling that they’re growing is the most important thing for us.
When you’re hiring people, are you teaching them your way or your process? Are you hiring specialists or experts that already bring something to the table that you don’t do or is it a combination of both?
When I’m hiring someone for our team, I came to understand that there’s a big difference between like for example, I’m involved with helping our clients with marketing and sales. Quite a number of people have come to me after they’ve struggled with people they’ve hired, whether it’s an outside marketing agency or people they hired to do sales. What they really want is someone to come in and save me. If I hire this salesperson, they’ll come in and do what I can’t do. That is going to fail because there are two types of people when it comes to let’s say sales. There’s somebody who has the ability to create a system for you and then to run it or perhaps not to run it, but to create the system because they had that experience.
A good salesperson might come in and they’re assuming that you’re going to have some processes in place and if not, they won’t be able to do a very good job. That’s what happens. That’s a mistake. You need to have processes that you have figured out how to make work. If you’re not good at marketing and sales, then you are looking for somebody to help you build the sales system, not just to do sales for you. I don’t think it makes a lot of sense to completely outsource marketing and sales. To me, that’s the most important part of the business. Sometimes you see people do that. They need to be educated as to why do people buy. I’m not a natural marketer. I’m not a natural salesperson. I had to learn it my way and come to understand it. That’s something that a lot of people need to do because then they become much better to be able to hire somebody. They can tell if this person is just repeating things that they learned somewhere else or they have mastery over this area that I’m hiring them for.
Sales is probably one of the last things you should outsource. If you can’t figure out how to sell your own product and you’re looking for someone to save you, you’re going to struggle. Usually, that doesn’t work out. I’m a big fan of figuring out what you’re good at and identifying those 1 or 2 things at hiring everything else. If those initial things are sales and marketing, you’re going to struggle nine times out of ten as an entrepreneur.
Having said that, there is an industry that outsource sales and everything has its place. There are people who sometimes when they are running events, it makes sense for them to bring in somebody to do backroom sales or whatever it might be. Since you asked me about coaches, there are coaches who are generating leads online and then having people close for them. I don’t do that, at least not at this point and not in the near future because I’m running a small boutique. I like to work with the right people and we have to connect. The whole idea of outsourcing sales doesn’t seem like a great idea to me.
What are some common hiring mistakes that you see from your own clients or other entrepreneurs?
Something that I know has come up on your show before, which is hiring and then expecting they’re going to do the job. It’s similar to sales, they are hiring people and they assume that they’re going to do the job. You’ve got to develop and document the systems. You’ve got to be able to bring them in. You’re hiring them either to create the systems or run the systems. You need to know what it is. If you’re hiring someone to run a system, there has to be a system in place. You’ve got to do the training. You’ve got to do the coaching. Something that I’ve had to learn over time is I have to take the time to continuously coach and train my people. They need it and I need it. It’s not the first thing I get very excited about. There are certain things that we need to do anyway and that’s one of them. I heard the idea a number of years ago that the things to spend time on are the things that create time. These are the things that create time for you. If you put in the time to develop these systems and processes, it creates untold hours of time for you because other people can now do what you previously thought only you could do.
I want to talk about the ideal client. I’m doing an activity with my business partner Connor. I’m figuring out our customer avatar, which for us is pretty wide. We’re trying to narrow down some key ones. I feel a lot of people that don’t know what their ideal client looks like, it’s very hard to get them. This is the activity we’ve done before and we continue to do over again. What advice can you give someone who’s struggling to figure out who their ideal client is and then attract that person?
This is one of the things that I take pride in. Here’s what I think. There’s that avatar exercise that is commonly recommended, but I found that at least it usually ends up taking you down a long trail to almost nowhere where you collect a lot of information that isn’t necessarily useful. I had a client who once spent $10,000 with somebody to take them through an avatar exercise over two days and you got nothing useful. For the most part, you don’t need to know what car they drive and if they’re between 35 and 55 and all that stuff. There is a place for that. Maybe the size of the business you’re running, it does make sense.
At the very root, you need a deeper and more nuanced understanding of two things. What is the problem they have and don’t want? What is the result they want and don’t have? Let me expand it a bit. When I teach our clients, we take them through three basic questions. Let me take one step back. What’s the reason to get clear on the ideal client? The only reason to get clear is that you can talk to them and they hear you, with a message that resonates and gets their attention and interest and that you can focus your activities because none of us could be everywhere doing everything. You need a focused message and you need focused activity. Other than that, I don’t know other reasons why you need to have a niche or an ideal client.
If that’s what we do, what kind of message gets their attention and interest? I realized many years ago, and this is a foundation of what we do, is that there are only two things that get the attention and the interest of your ideal client. That is if you talk about a problem they have and don’t want and/or a result they want and have. This is a light bulb moment for tens of thousands of people, maybe hundreds by now. If you talk about your methodology and your experience, nobody cares. If you talk about these two things, a problem they have and don’t want, and the results they want and don’t have, if you talk about it at the level that they’re thinking about it, you’ll get the attention and interest of your ideal client.
You’re solving a range of problems and results with people. For example, some of the people might be coming to FreeeUp, to begin with. That’s their first experience. They haven’t gone to the others or whatever else is. There are a lot of options. We all know that. For other people, the problem that they have and the result they want to have is, “I don’t want to have to do all the recruiting and go through all the frustrating trial and error that could take months and months that I would have to do with the other sites. The result I want is to be quickly hooked up with somebody who I know I could trust to do a good job, gets it and I can work with.”
I haven’t done this with you, but I’m guessing at a high level, that’s the problem you’re helping to solve and results are enabled. The second question is, who has those problems? Who wants those results? You want to group them in any way that you can. The last question is, what are the qualities and characteristics of our ideal client? It’s like a three-circle Venn diagram. If you ask those questions, your focus, your niche, your ideal client is where those three overlap. The first two are about a deeper understanding of them. The last one is about what you prefer. For example, I had a client who is a leadership and management consultant.
She was struggling to get clients because when you say, “I’m a leadership consultant or I’m a management consultant,” you sound like everybody else. I said, “Let’s sit down and let’s get into the mind of the ideal client. What are the problems you help solve? What are the results that you enable?” She made a list and we want specifics. I looked through the list and I said, “There is the thing. You can build a business on that.” What was it? I don’t remember precisely how she worded it, but I reworded it with her into a simple, compelling message. It was, “I help companies solve the problems they have with that contractor who is too valuable to fire.”
Imagine my client, this leadership consultant and a competitor of hers and they’re at some event. They’re introduced to Joe, the CEO of a billion-dollar business who certainly has a need somewhere for leadership consultants. Joe says, “What do you do?” The competitor says, “I’m a leadership consultant.” Joe thinks, “We’ve cycled through your type.” Joe turns to my client and says, “What are you doing?” She says, “I help companies solve the problems they have with that contractor who’s too valuable to fire.” Joe suddenly realizes, “You understand me in a way that others don’t.” Who’s he going to want to talk to? You can hear the difference. You can probably feel a difference. The deeper you can go with understanding what’s the problem they have and what result do they want and don’t have, that’s what gets their attention and interest. That’s the ideal client that you can have a focused message that works and gets your attention interest. That helps you focus on your activities.
I’m going to apply that to my meeting. I think everyone reading this should do it as well. What else should people know about getting ideal clients, about building that relationship and about making it easier for them to grow their revenue and their business?
Don’t try to do everything. You need a simple marketing and selling system that you can work repeatedly, enjoy mastering, and get better and better at. You do not need to be doing everything. You don’t even need to be doing five things or three things and maybe not two things. You’ve got to get one thing working. I take issue with the great Dan Kennedy on this. He said that the worst number in business is one. I would say that there is the worst number in business and that is zero or lots of halves or fractions. What most people have is either zero or lots of fractions. That’s because you have to get that one working first and then you can get the second and then third. That’s my beef with that.
Dov, this has been great. Tell people more about this manual and where they can get it.
This manual is called How to Systematically and Consistently Attract First-Rate Clients. I sold it for five years for $97. I want to give it away for free. We put up a link, DoveGordon.net/nathan, in your honor. I got a message on LinkedIn from somebody who says, “I just want to say thanks. You helped me turn my business around.” I didn’t know the guy’s name. I didn’t remember doing anything. I never talked to him before. I’m like, “How did I turn your business around?” He said, “Let’s talk.” We got on a Zoom call and it turns out he read this manual 4 to 5 times. He got it for free. He’s now running a $2 million service business. At the time, certain things were unclear. He was stuck. This was not written to give away. It’s solid stuff if you take it seriously.
What are you most excited about for the rest of the year? Is there any other way that people can contact you?
They can get me at DovGordon@DovGordon.net. We’re raising the bar for myself for who I’m serving. I’m looking to work with good people running good businesses over several years. I’m working on creating something that’s going to justify that. If I want to work with a client for several years, I need to be able to help them continuously raise the bar and continuously grow in their skills, their mindset and their results. That’s what I’m excited about.
Thank you so much for coming on, Dov.
Dov Gordon helps consultants and experts get ideal clients. Consistently.
For the millions who are not the charismatic guru-type – Dov helps them get great projects, with great clients, earning a great income. After years of selling his manual – How to Systematically and Consistently Attract First-Rate Clients – you can get it free at https://DovGordon.net/nathan
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