Reflections On Coaching Call – Start-Ups And First Clients 


As a coach, consultant and mentor there are some conversations that are worth reflecting upon and sharing, albeit anonymised for the person, business, product and circumstances. The aim is not prescriptive (this is what you should do) but instead descriptive (this is what we discussed). The purpose is to freely share some ideas that may be useful to others.

Beware, I will use many metaphors since I find that these can eb the key to unlocking an idea, but you can. Never be sure which one is the key for that particular problem.


Inevitably for many people starting a business or organisation they have passion and enthusiasm but sometimes a degree of frustration. It is like looking at a million stars and seeing each one, but no rocket ship to get there. Or a more down to earth analogy might be seeing all the branches of possibility and fruits of opportunity without yet having established a tree.

In one coaching conversation I shared the following …


If you were going on a fishing trip for salmon you’d take different bait and go to a different location than you would for mackerel or cod. So, despite an interest in fish, you need to be more specific about what you want, because that will help you focus on the right approach. 

The same is true of customers and clients. Think of 5 people you know who would benefit from your product or service

From person no1 – pick their first name
From person no2 – pick their surname name
From person no3 – pick their age
From person no4 – pick their background
From person no5 – pick their job
From person no6 – pick their circumstance 

You now know that person, your ‘ideal client’, they have a name, a job, interests and needs. From now onward write social media and develop products and services for that person: Sam Jones (40) looking to advance their career. This approach will give you focus on what you do and be special for them. 


I find that chatting endlessly can be interesting but sometimes vague and indecisive. However, if you write something down, and read it back, you can crystalise your thinking in words which you can then use as the building blocks for your story. This may take many attempts and it can be a real challenge to fine tune and make succinct but time spent on this can help you gain real clarity in thinking and speaking: What is it you want to say about you, your purpose, your product and the people you want to serve. 


As much as it is important to be clear about your message to the world, success is generally based what people (customers, colleagues, clients) say about you. I think it is really useful to ask “What would a good testimonial say”, this them really helps to focus on what the customer wants, needs, values and will say about you.


If your story says you are fast, efficient and inexpensive and their story says that they value the time, careful consideration and quality then you have potential for being misaligned and perhaps need to think which of these stories needs to change for there to be congruence. If your story talking about what you sell matches exactly what they value, buy and recommend you are probably on the right path for a happy customer and lots of referrals.


It is great having a vision of products and services, but a start-up needs to begin with the basics. You can one day have an orchard with apples, oranges, lemons and limes, but perhaps let’s start with the first tree. So before you launch a book, blog, hotel chain and push all the social media channels what is the first seed we need to sow and grow? 

Understanding and growing your tree is important, how you choose to branch out or prune it can come later, but right now you’re not going to be making cider until you’ve done a lot of thinking, planning and doing.

You might think of your tree as your purpose, a solid foundation with roots. The branches are the processes and procedures that extend from the trunk and can provide foliage or fruit. How you managed your processes and procedures (strategy, culture, values, ethics) can be as important as your fruit (product, services, people) since one will give rise to the other. Don’t rush to harvest before you have done the prerequisites or you’ll be disappointed. 

We may seek 1 million clients, but that’s like putting a hook into the ocean and expecting to haul many fish. Perhaps we are better starting in a pond, with a known fish, some good bait and a strategy.  


Whilst it is good to think about the future (don’t plant a tall Redwood Sequoia in a plot that it too small for it to grow) it is also important to recognise that a small business needs to be nurtured very differently from a medium or large business. Whilst you may be looking at premises, accounting packages and global branding perhaps your seedling really just needs a little water, light and food. 

Unless you have deep pockets or a long runway (time) and plenty of fuel (cash) before take-off your business needs to make money soon. It may be small amounts, just enough to survive and grow. 

Rome was not built in a day, and marketing your product and monetising your process probably best starts with selling tents, sheds, garages and then houses before hotels and residential areas. Each costs progressively more, and yields more profit, but this incremental growth offers a good platform for progress or an opportunity to pause or pivot without having bet the farm on an idea for which you or your customer is not yet ready.


In a future article I will explore how to sell your products and services, starting first with engaging your customer, clients or colleagues. 

Step 1 – they must be aware of you, they must have heard of or seen you.
Step 2 – they must know you, enough to believe you are useful and relevant
Step 3 – they must like or even trust you, that you are credible
Step 4 – they may then be willing to buy from you (when the need arises)

This approach means taking the long-term view and building the relationship from knowing, to acquaintance, to friends and possibly partnership. Or indeed from buyer to customer to advocate and fan. 


Coaching is a process that aims to improve performance and focuses on the ‘here and now’ rather than on the distant past or future. Good coaches believe that the individual always has ideas and opportunities to resolve whatever is holding them back but understands that they may need help to define their goals, set their path, and achieve their success. Coaching is about listening, reflecting, asking questions and unlocking YOUR potential.


Mentoring is to support and encourage people to manage their own learning in order that they may maximise their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance and become the person they want to be.’ Mentoring is development driven, looking not just at the professional’s current job function but beyond, taking a more holistic approach to career development. Mentoring is non-evaluative, while coaching is based on measuring performance change. Due to the personal nature of mentoring, a mentor will more often than not draw on their personal experiences and expertise to help their mentee. This could be in the form of sharing a story that taught them a valuable lesson, or a challenge they overcame in their career. 

Tim HJ Rogers
Ex-Athlete, now Change Practitioner, ICF Coach, IoD Mentor, Mediation Practitioner 
Helping people and organisations achieve their goals.

ICF Trained Coach IoD Business Mentor, Mediator, Management Consultant, Change Practitioner Mob 447797762051

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