On the Path: Life Coaching for Small Business Owners

Jaya Schillinger

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One of the distinctions that sets coaching apart from other types of consulting is that coaching specifically addresses the client’s sense of who they are in the world, and helps the client make life choices that are aligned with their personal values. In my opinion, there tends to be a split in the psyche of America between personal and career development. If you look in the index of your local telephone company’s Yellow Pages ™ you can easily find “Business Services” and “Counseling Services. ” In my local directory, I notice that the business advertisements use a lot of words like, “strategies, ” “leadership, ” and “business planning. ” The counseling listings include, “addictions, ” “crisis, ” and “mental health. ” All of those services are valuable, but where does the over-worked owner of an independent business, who is getting burnt out, and rarely gets time with loved ones, go for support? What about the sole-proprietor in a specialized service industry, like an alternative health practitioner, who is just starting to grow their business and wants to do so in a way that honors their belief system? What kind of support is going to best suit them?

It seems that many of the business consultants are geared towards the needs of larger, more corporate companies. In general, consultants are the resource one might use to learn how to set up and run a business or to delegate specific tasks to, such as webmasters, accountants, and the like. Counselors on the other hand, are the resource one might use for changing behaviors and healing personal issues. The small business owner may not need help managing a large executive staff, nor have terribly difficult personal problems for which they need to receive therapy. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t need personal support as they go about making the changes necessary to have a successful and profitable business. One of the beautiful things about coaching is that it addresses the client as whole and complete person. Life coaching may include the development of practical business skills, but it also includes the development of the person who is creating the business. Coaching is not just concerned with what a person does, but coaching enhances who a person is being while they’re going about the tasks of daily life. It’s personal empowerment in action.

According to the Small Business Bureau’s report, Small Business Economic Indicators for 2002 “Small firms represent about 99 percent of employers, employ about half of the private sector workforce and are responsible for about two thirds to three quarters of the net new jobs. ” They are the creative pulse of America. Ignited by the spark of wanting to make a difference in the world, and the desire to live a life of freedom, entrepreneurs start off passionately. However, the creativity that motivates a small business owner to go into business in the first place often gets dampened as the daily administration of the business takes over. There is so much to do: formulating the business, structuring the business plan, implementing the plan, and still trying to maintain a life. What started as a quest for freedom and the ability to control one’s destiny, has now become a chore of monotonous practicalities and financial struggle, leaving the business owner with even less freedom then before they started. At what point does the business fail? Maybe the business owner just finally gives up and quits. Is it that the owner didn’t have a viable idea? Did they not try hard enough? Tough times? It would be presumptuous to second guess why so many new businesses close, but the small business owner would be wise to gather as much personal support as they can to keep themselves energized and on-target. The American Dream is possible, but it doesn’t come easy.

As a coach, I love to work with entrepreneurs. There is a special magic in the creativity that inspires someone to begin their own business. A business can truly become a “calling, ” as the owner walks a path that leads to spiritual growth and provides benefit to the community. I admire people who create meaningful lives, and are willing to face the challenges that come with following their inspiration. Some challenges however, can intensify to the level that they become “spiritual wake-up calls. ” When a business has gone flat, profits are non-existent, and the business owner’s personal life has diminished, I believe it’s time to stop and revaluate before the business goes into a fatal downward spiral. At this point I think it’s imperative to work with the business owner directly. If the owner isn’t happy, if their energy is low, they’re not going to be in a creative solution-oriented state of mind. This is going to have a negative effect on everyone around them, both at work and at home. Albert Einstein said that solutions to problems cannot be found at the same level of energy that created them. Simply “trying harder, ” or “doing more” may not only be impossible, it may be ineffective as well. For the most positive results, it is essential for the business owner to revitalize their health, relationships, and to feel inspired again.

Inspiration, “in spirit, ” is the revitalizing flow of new energy, awareness, and ideas. Like a breath of fresh air, inspiration allows us to feel alive. When I am coaching a client, I inquire deeply into what is most inspiring to them. Through a process of questions, self-inquiry, and sometimes professional assessments, my clients begin to remember who they really are and to get their priorities back in order. We might discuss their values, life purpose, or simply what it is that they want to create. What I find is that people respond more creatively and productively in business when they are first taking care of themselves. Inspiration and motivation go hand in hand. There is a natural tendency to want to take action when one has the rush of creative renewal. That is the perfect time to set business and personal goals, especially within the context of the client’s stated priorities, and who they want to be in the world, beyond any experience of what they have done (or not done) thus far.

Having a renewed sense of purpose and commitment is vital to moving forward again, but that does not mean it will go unchallenged. Here is where coaching is especially valuable. For new results to occur there has to be a well-conceived plan and follow-through on implementing the plan. There is a natural tendency to repeat old patterns. Change does not usually come from insight alone. In my opinion, that’s why a lot of self-help techniques and seminars don’t work. Lasting change is an internal process that results from direct experience, and really “getting it” for one’s self. There are slow and fast ways to integrate transformative learning, but the change must be internalized for it to work. As a coach, I walk my clients through the process of implementing the changes they want to make. And although it doesn’t make challenges any less likely to occur, coaching increases the self-mastery of the client and helps them align their decisions and actions to their stated goals. Over time, things get smoother. Choices become clearer. The small business owner is supported and empowered to make professionally savvy decisions, sourced from an intuitive knowing about what is right for them, instead of acting and reacting unconsciously to circumstances. Immediately, the client is living from their values on a daily basis, resulting in personal satisfaction at the end of the day. The split between personal and career development begins to mend.

Since I’m a coach, I will end with a question: What would the world be like if everyone felt personally fulfilled in their work, satisfied from being recognized for their gifts and talents, and also had abundant quality time with their loved ones? Do you think the world would be different? Would your life be different? If anyone has the power to create a paradigm shift in the balance between personal life and work, it’s America’s small business owners—and that change needs to begin with the owners themselves. A professional coach can help you keep your sense of self while you journey on the path that leads to your success.

Jaya Schillinger “The Turnaround Queen” at http://www.InspirationInc.com is a certified life coach & small business consultant with over 20 years of business ownership & management experience in the fields of personal development, health, and beauty.


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