Let Your Conscience (or Business Coach) Be Your Guide

CharityLaceyThis is a guest post by Charity Lacey, the creative and strategic principal of Virtue Integrated Marketing Communications – a San Diego-based full service marketing communications agency specializing in mom-/family-centered products and services.

In January 2008, I was laid off from my corporate gig and that was the birth of my solo career. I am really good at what I do – I know how to pitch like champ, maintain phenomenal relationships with contacts (media especially) and can write press materials that are usually used as is (as many of us do) – but I knew nothing about the business-side of running an agency. I love the creative, the strategy, the big ideas. I never liked getting weighed down with the minutia of running it (there was always someone else to do it).

I spent all of my internships in-house – so I never had the chance to learn to “go get business”. There was no need to hunt down business – it was always there. Business development was a new beast that I hadn’t tamed. How do I take what I do and sell it to the market that I know needs it? These were not things that my mentors in the corporate environment taught me.

My first few clients fell into my lap. I set my fees arbitrarily not knowing what was “appropriate” for the market. I didn’t know how to invoice clients; I’d never done the accounts payable/receivable. I didn’t know how to address what I would and wouldn’t do for a client, I had no contracts and I didn’t know how to set terms. I’d never set a budget; I had run campaign budgets but I’d never been responsible for developing them. I had done campaign timelines, but had never done annual planning for myself.

At one point, one of my small business clients suggested that she had been successful using a business coach. My queries about the coach abounded. What did the coach do for her? When did she come to the realization that she needed a coach? How did she come to find this particular coach? How would a business coach help me?

So with all those questions and more, I sat down with Terry Harris of TG Harris Consulting to see what he could do to help me truly run my business. He made me look at my business objectively – asked me some hard questions that I was afraid to ask myself (like should I really be doing this or should I just go back to looking for a J-O-B?).

Since our first meeting, he has redirected me, reigned me in when I got too big and generally kept me on task. He is the right coach for me – not pulling punches and calling a spade a spade. He helps direct me on the day to day aspects of running my business – things like getting an EIN (Employer ID Number) and outsourcing to other professionals things that I don’t have the knowledge or time to undertake. Terry doesn’t like the analogy but it is the most fitting – I call him my Jiminy Cricket. He is my conscience – he keeps me on the straight and narrow. Without a business coach like him, I would not have grown my business.

I’ve been with Terry for just over a year – each week he challenges me to grow my business and pushes me past my comfort zone so that I can. Just like back in college, I have homework. He sets expectations and holds me to them. As my coach, he is there to push me out of the nest when I’m feeling too comfortable. Many times the things he says are common sense, other times it’s a bit of “doctor heal thyself” – telling me to use the techniques that I craft for my clients for my own business. (Usually that conversation is filled with a lot of “yeah, yeah I KNOW that… not sure why I didn’t think to implement it for my business.”)

As one communications professional to another, you do not have to go it alone. There are professional coaches available to help you. There are warm, fuzzy, touchy-feely coaches and there are tough love coaches. Find the one that best suites your needs: find your Jiminy Cricket.

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