I’m not the only business coach in the world — no surprise there — but it might surprise you that I am often not my client’s coach.
Let me explain. I provide both business coaching and admin/web/tech support to my clients. I do this because I found that only offering advice (coaching) didn’t help people move forward because the “how” would get in the way, and just offering admin support like a VA didn’t work because the clients didn’t understand the strategy behind what they were doing. Offering both, in combination, seemed to be the best way to support my clients in moving forward.
But that doesn’t mean that every client makes use of this arrangement. Some client’s already have a VA for support, so only need me for coaching. Some come by way of referral from other coaches, or other programs, and already have a coach they are working with. I know that the clients who get the most value out of working with me hire me for both coaching and support, but I’m willing to structure what I provide to work within what the client is already getting (and paying for).
As a result of this flexible way of supporting my clients, I have an opportunity to see close-up what other “business coaches” are recommending to their clients. And, frankly, the advice they are giving is sometimes appalling.
This week, I spoke with a very nice young man about his business. His initial reason for consulting me was only to get some help with his websites. His coach put him in touch with me.
As a result of speaking with me, this young man is now reconsidering the direction he is taking his business.
And he hasn’t yet paid me a single cent.
Since I suspect that he isn’t the only person who has received this advice, I thought I’d share with you a bit of what I told him.
He told me “the coaching program that I’m in, instructed me to find a website model that is doing something that I want to do and then for me to adopt their business model but to put my own spin, flare, and creativity to it.” In speaking with him further, I learned he was instructed to put together his business as an 80% copy of another business, with 20% that came from him (these numbers are important, but we’ll get to that later.)
On the surface, this seems like sage advice: you don’t need to reinvent the wheel, but rather learn from what other people are doing. However, if you look deeper, or know a few things about what success really takes, you’ll see that this is not just bad advice, but actually harmful advice.
Simply directly copying another business is not a success strategy and there are 3 main reasons why:
1. As an outsider, you cannot know what makes that business actually successful.
If you have never made a cake from scratch, but have made one from a mix, you would know that a cake takes dry ingredients, oil, and eggs. Let’s say you eat a super delicious cake at a restaurant and decide to copy it at home. You can tell from the cake itself that it contains almond extract, dried cherries, and nuts, in addition to the oil, eggs, flour, and sugar that you know makes a cake. If you mix ingredients up and bake it, it will likely smell like that restaurant cake, maybe even taste a bit like it, but it won’t look like the cake because you left out an ingredient that you didn’t know was necessary — the leavening. Baking soda is something that you can neither see nor taste but is the secret ingredient that makes cakes rise. Looking just at the outside of a business, you cannot know what that secret ingredient is that makes it all work.
2. What works online changes quickly.
That business that you are trying to copy built that business in a different time and space than you are building yours: the strategies that worked for them may no longer be effective. This is even true when you pay them to learn what they did to build their business and you have access to the same tools, resources, and strategies. Things change so fast that even if this company itself were to turn around and do exactly what they did again, they may not have the same success, even if it had only been a year since they started.
3. You are not them.
A successful business takes three things into consideration: who you are, what your business is, and who your audience is. Any advice you receive — including programs, coaching packages, or systems that you may buy — that doesn’t take this into consideration is a waste of your money. I’ve learned this truth by watching clients try to implement the strategies that they paid really good money for and saw them not be successful. No two businesses are exactly the same — so there is no one-size-fits-all path to success. People will sell you a shortcut, but true success comes from finding your own way.
From my perspective, this young man wasn’t going to be successful no matter what business he copied. But for him, there was another consideration to take into account: who he chose to copy.
I’ll go into why that matters in my next post. You’ll also see the danger inherent in that 80/20 rule he was given.