Helen Robinson ACC Coach

Navigating Success: Insights from my First Year running a Coaching Business

On this episode, Helen Wheeler ACC (soon to be Robinson!), founder of Destinations Coaching shares her experiences, challenges, and triumphs from her first year in business. 

Learn more about Helen and contact her on LinkedIn, Instagram or Facebook.

Together with Joseph Grech, Helen explores her motivation for starting a coaching business, the strategies she employed to attract clients, and the importance of building credibility in a competitive coaching landscape. 

Join us as we discuss practical tips for time management, financial considerations, and the delicate balance between working on the business and working in the business. Whether you’re a seasoned coach or considering stepping into the coaching arena, you’re sure to find inspiration and valuable takeaways in this conversation.


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[00:05] Introduction to the Episode and Helen

[01:40] Helen talks about why Coaching and how she became a Professional Coach

[03:40] Challenges when starting up a Coaching Business

[06:00] Having a Support Network to share the Highs & Lows

[08:00] The work Helen does as an ICF Accredited Coach

[15:10] Setting a blueprint for your business to enable your vision

[17:00] Tools that support Online Coaches

[19:01] Setting up a pricing structure

[23:30] Not being too engrossed in your niche but being a flexible coach

[24:45] Advice for new Coaching Business owners

[26:30] Final Thoughts

[00:00:00] Joseph: Hi everyone, and a very warm welcome on today’s episode of Coaching in Focus. I’m your host, Joseph Grech, and on today’s episode, I’m delighted to be joined by Helen. A little bit about Helen, so Helen Wheeler, who’s soon starting to use her married name of Robinson. Thank you. Congratulations, Helen, as well.

So Helen, you’re a personal and professional development coach. You’re based in the Northwest of England and you’ve also completed the [00:00:30] diploma in integrative coaching and obtained your ACC. So double congratulations as well. Um, we are celebrating because last August. Helen founded her coaching business, your coaching business, Destinations Coaching.

And Destinations Coaching is really driven by your passion for empowering people. As a coach, you bring in a lot of expertise and wealth of knowledge in relation to supporting people focus authentically on their lives as well. This belief that growth and achievement [00:01:00] as human beings. Really happens when we align those values and aspirations to what we want to do and the different destinations that our lives might Take us as well and we’re reflecting back.

We’re celebrating with you We also are reflecting back on your first year in your coaching business So welcome, Helen. How

[00:01:19] Helen: are you feeling? Thank you very much for having me, Joseph. I’m feeling excited. Yeah. Great, me too. I’m up to a year, um, and it’s flown by, but yeah,

[00:01:29] Joseph: all good. [00:01:30] Thank you for spending a bit of time to share your experience from your first year of, you know, your coaching business.

So maybe let’s start from there. What was your motivation for starting a business?

[00:01:39] Helen: Um, and I’ve asked myself that quite, quite a few times over the years. I guess there were three main reasons that come to mind. I’ve always had a genuine passion for helping people reach their, their full potential. And coaching gives me that platform that The enthusiasm [00:02:00] I’ve got, the knowledge I’ve got, and I can put that into practice to really, really help people, um, reach their goals and, and with their transformations.

That kind of was, that was the first motivation. Secondly, I’ve got a bit of an entrepreneurial spirit. The idea of being able to set my own schedule, um, shape my own business from the ground up was something that I’ve played with for, you know, for many years. And what was that going to look like? So starting having my own business.

Kind of really ticked that box [00:02:30] and, and that’s, that was a true motivator. And then thirdly, I’d worked in the public sector and the private sector for over 20 years in, in management roles, in director roles. And the bit that I really loved about the roles was, was helping develop people, but I wanted to, I guess, engage in work that had more.

Deeper meaning was more purposeful to me, um, than the roles I’d had, um, working with people on a one to one basis or in a [00:03:00] group basis really, um, allows me to, to do that through the coaching. So that, I guess they, yeah, they were the three reasons.

[00:03:08] Joseph: I can see your energy as well as you telling me that, you know, the excitement.

I could feel it as well. It’s one of the reasons why I started a business, that kind of control in a way, in a nice way over your branding, the creative decisions that you get to make, the type of people you want to work with. It’s really nice. It’s a good motivator, right? Thinking about some of the challenges, I mean, starting up a business.[00:03:30]

It’s a complex thing. So what were some of the challenges that you initially faced?

[00:03:34] Helen: The main first challenge was, was getting clients, attracting clients, finding clients, that, that had to be the, the first challenge that I have to admit, I was quite naive about how difficult that was going to be. I felt I had a, a big network and therefore.

That I was going to get the clients from that existing pool. So I guess the, the way I kind of looked at that challenge was to use social [00:04:00] media platforms, um, build the website and have a real online presence doing regular posts. Videos that were a little bit out of my comfort zone at the start and then offering some complimentary, some, some free or heavily discounted coaching sessions or great workshops within corporate environments to really showcase what I did so that, you know, prospective clients could really see firsthand what I did.

I think to, to many people, coaching is still a little [00:04:30] bit of an unknown. And so to spend some time with me directly, seeing what coach he was, but also seeing my, my style, because every coach is different, that definitely, definitely helped to get some of those prospective clients. But also when I was offering the free sessions, I also asked those clients.

To give me testimonials, to give me feedback, trust pilots, things like that. So then I was really starting to build that brand awareness, um, through, through the feedback I was

[00:04:59] Joseph: getting. It’s a [00:05:00] tricky one, right at the beginning. It’s about wanting to really. Develop the business, find clients. At the same time, you are exploring your niche, what type of coach you mentioned, your style, you’re building all of that.

I really like that. I love the idea of kind of coaching, self coaching in a way. Once people get to understand what it is and how it works and how supportive it can be of somebody, then that’s when they get the buy in. Another

[00:05:28] Helen: challenge was…[00:05:30]

Um, at the start, it was so exciting and, you know, as you said before, choosing your brand name, choosing your logo, all these exciting things, but then perhaps you don’t get enough sales. You don’t get any sales even, or you, you know, you, you spend ages.

And, you know, another challenge was actually those moments when I thought, gosh, am I doing the right thing? And I think having the right support network around you being [00:06:00] that, um, you know, family and friends or reaching out to, to all the coaches or the other professionals that really, really helped. And I think what’s.

Struck me is that what coming from the corporate sector, it was a very competitive market where, um, you didn’t necessarily share best practice. Um, you didn’t give away your trade secrets, but actually in the coaching industry, there’s plenty of work to go around. There’s a, there’s a huge market out there, so it is okay to kind of share the highs and lows with, with all the coaches and [00:06:30] kind of.

reach out for help, reach out for support, because the, you know, by large, the industry want to help each other and encourage each other rather than kind of win business from each other. So that was a totally different, um, experience to other areas of my life and sort of the pressure I’ve been in previously, but it, it did help when I was feeling like this, is this the right, right decision.

[00:06:53] Joseph: Yeah. So having a network of great people to have around you, supportive people is [00:07:00] important. And you’re right. You know, this idea like coaches tend to be like most of us kind of quite abundant in the way that we give back to other people, similar to what you’re doing now. You know, you’re sharing back some of your reflections over, over the last year, supporting other coaches as well.

So one of the challenges was about finding clients. a little bit of self doubt that we all have, right? I, I also, I mean, 10 years, it’s our 10 year anniversary. I still have a moment of self doubt after 10 years. And I think, Oh, you [00:07:30] know, where’s the business going? And it’s 10 years along the line. So I think part of it in a way for me.

That self doubt stays, but it’s a good thing because if you become too cocky about it, then you become quite complacent as well. You don’t innovate, you don’t change. So a little bit of self doubt I think is important. It’s humbling, right, for me. So I was going to ask then, in terms of credibility, how did you start building that credibility then with businesses, with individuals?

Tell us a bit more about the work that you do as well. [00:08:00]

[00:08:00] Helen: Um, as you very well know, Joseph, it’s, it’s an unregulated industry. Anybody can tag the word coach onto whatever product or service that they offer. For me, getting an established training and accreditation was, was really important. So, you know, the, the ICF is seen internationally to be the gold standard of coaching.

So I wanted something that was not just aligned with their values, but gave me those accreditations. So, you know, did my [00:08:30] research online, getting the right training and certification was important. And it also makes you then kind of stand out a little bit. If you, if you, you know, if people are going to do their research about which coach to choose, people are telling me that actually they want to know that somebody has had the training, has got the qualifications.

And I guess also getting references and testimonials, getting, getting feedback, getting case studies and, and sharing those, you know, that, that’s another way of building that credibility because [00:09:00] people want to hear it, not, not just from me. Um, they, they want to hear real life experiences, what, what, what worked for other people, what, what didn’t work.

[00:09:09] Joseph: And having the courage to share it. I think sometimes I feel like I don’t want to be seen as Not only boasting, but just, you know, blowing your own trumpet, you know, is that, is that the saying? Absolutely, absolutely, yeah.

[00:09:24] Helen: Yeah, we don’t kind of naturally go, yeah, look, I’m really good.

[00:09:28] Joseph: Yeah, yeah,

[00:09:29] Helen: exactly. [00:09:30] It gets, I find it, it got easier, you know, yeah, sharing those, those first couple of, of testimonials or, or just taking perhaps a, One sentence or two sentences, you know, from an email that somebody said, um, obviously getting their permission first is, is it okay if I share this?

And by large people were like, yeah, absolutely. But then once I did start to share the case studies or the testimonials, I was getting really good feedback about that or really, really positive comments. So that, that helped me be more confident in [00:10:00] sharing them going forward. It’s like

[00:10:02] Joseph: reinforcing, right?

Um, it’s like a reinforcing behavior. And I’m, I’m, I’m also guessing through your strategy of showing people what coaching is, it also builds your credibility because people see you doing your work, what you’re actually offering to those individuals and the organization. How about some of the practical things like managing time?

You know, what kind of finances, there’s a, there’s a aspect of building a business through finding clients, but [00:10:30] also there’s the admin aspect. How did that work out for you?

[00:10:34] Helen: That was the bit that I probably didn’t plan for taking as much time as it did. So I kind of look at it now as working on the business and working in the business.

So working in the business is, is doing the coaching, it’s, it’s working with the clients. But that only happens once I’ve worked on the business, when I’ve done the marketing, when I’ve done the sales, when I’ve, I’ve done the, the finance, you [00:11:00] know, the budgeting, et cetera. I’ve learned as I went along, but the way I kind of do it now, which, which works best for me is to have blocks of time for doing one or the other.

So I know that, you know, on these days, on these times I can work in the business and I can have clients book slots in those times, but actually these times I’m going to be working on the business and there are always elements of working on the business that people don’t love. Um, so for me, I [00:11:30] hate Excel spreadsheets.

They hate me as much as I hate them, but actually it’s, it’s the right thing for me to, to do my finances, to do, to do my budgeting, to do my forecasts, et cetera. Now if I don’t block out the time, I’ll always find an excuse to do something different. Um, so yeah, blocking out the time, also prioritizing the tasks in as much as actually what’s.

The impact of me doing this to the success of the business and that, and that [00:12:00] can change, you know, one month it might be actually, I really need to get some more money and I need to really look at my, my sales and how I’m going to market it this month. Another time. And actually that, that was, this was last month.

Actually, it was a case of, I need to now budget for next, do a full budget for next year. What am I going to look at next year? Prioritizing and blocking out those bits of time.

[00:12:23] Joseph: You know what I do as well, which has been really helpful. I have a, uh, a buddy, like another [00:12:30] business owner, and, um, we tend to meet up for an hour, once a week, and we, in the hour, we do the thing that we don’t want to do.

So we kind of, there’s an accountability measure. So things like, yeah, that spreadsheet work that I don’t usually like doing, I leave it for the hour because then there’s somebody else. You don’t, you’re doing it with, so that kind of helps as well, because it’s, it feels like it’s a shared thing, this idea of spreadsheets and admin, but, but it, [00:13:00] it is important.

Like it is, I think it is key. Like we can’t develop our businesses unless we’ve got a strong foundation of these administrative tasks and finding ways to embed processes. I think once you’ve, or when somebody’s established what those tasks are, it’s important to think about how can some of these be automated.

As well to free up a bit more time to be working actually doing the coaching as well. Can I check about something you just said now around the business plan? Is that how you tend [00:13:30] to work? Are you quite structured in terms of your business plan? Do you let things emerge? Do you have a strategy?

[00:13:35] Helen: I have a strategy, whether I keep to it, years and years, um, so, so yes, I, I, I absolutely had a business plan, you know, before I went live.

I find with a business plan, there are certain things that you then. Uh, forced to think about, so, you know, part of it would be setting your prices, [00:14:00] but it, because I was doing the business plan before I was live in the business. If you like, I have the time to then kind of think, right, in terms of setting my prices, let’s, let’s look at.

What else is out there in, in, in my local market? He’s offering similar services. What are they charging? So I could start to, to set some products at some prices without the emotional feeling of, Oh, I’ve got to actually now sell this to somebody. I’ve got to say it. How am I going to feel about pitching it at that price?

Et cetera. So, so doing it as a [00:14:30] paper based exercise without time pressures, without the emotion. really helped me to, to have a strong foundation. It, it also is great to then look, to have, to have something to look back to and kind of say, wow, I forgot, I forgot I was going to do this. Um, or well, actually it didn’t, it didn’t go down that route, but that’s okay.

So comparing to, you know, what, what actually happens. Three months, six months down the line to what I set out to do is [00:15:00] useful. And then, then I can either kind of rein myself back in and say, no, that is actually where I’m wanting to, to focus or actually no, I’m, I’m okay. The fact that it’s, it’s deviated from whatever that, that plan was.

[00:15:12] Joseph: I love the idea of, of doing it, you know, as a paper based activity, but with a bit of distance. It seems that you’re not, you’re involved, but you’re also not as kind of engulfed in it that you can’t see. You can actually take a step back and, [00:15:30] uh, I really liked the idea. And that’s actually a good tip for people who are thinking about starting, uh, new businesses is to think early on around the plan.

Before you’re ready to launch.

[00:15:42] Helen: And I mean, it can be quite a scary thing saying to somebody, have you got a business plan, but there are so many free templates out there now that it can take you through which areas that you would need to do. And the questions in the business plans and the guides that are out there, um, would really [00:16:00] help somebody, you know, go, go through it step by step.

Um, so it’s, it’s not as scary. Not as daunting

[00:16:07] Joseph: as it sounds. Did you know that at Become we offer a number of different coach training programs to people just like you? If you’re new to coaching, there is a level one diploma in integrative coaching. If you’ve been coaching for a while, or perhaps you’re already an ACC coach, then we have the advanced diploma in integrative coaching, which leads all the way to the PCC [00:16:30] credential by the ICF.

We also have a number of CPD programs and certificates, including mentoring and supervision. To find out more, go to to become. org or just check the show notes.

Are there any other tools or platforms that have helped you out or helping you in your business?

[00:16:51] Helen: So I, I use zoom quite a lot, but that’s kind of my, my preferred platform or the brands are available. [00:17:00] I don’t know if we’re allowed to, um,

[00:17:03] Joseph: you know, zoom or other webinar type.

[00:17:08] Helen: Yeah. So, so I use zoom quite a lot.

I think when I started out, I expected most of the, the co the one to one coaching I did to be on a face to face basis, but actually. Using zoom in the, um, the very early stages with, with become when we were doing some practice coaching and realizing that I could get just the same results as I could [00:17:30] sat in a room with somebody as I, as I could over a video gave me the confidence to say, no, I’m going to offer these services.

And what that then meant was I had a much greater market to be able to, to offer the services to. I’ve had clients in Canada, two clients in Canada, um, which, you know, there’s, there’s no way I’d have been able to do that if, if it was only face to face. So yeah, Zoom’s been an important platform. I’ve also registered with ARC.

and with the life coach directory. And [00:18:00] both of those platforms from the research I did beforehand, they were very, very mixed messages. For some people it was successful and some people it wasn’t. Quite often these places have start, starter offers, either the free or, you know, Free first months, reduced rates for the first month.

So I’d say definitely try the platforms that are out there, you know, whether they’re, they’re right for you. With Bark, I don’t know if that’s one you’re familiar with, but what I find with that one is [00:18:30] pick up the phone and contact people, you know, as soon as they’re, um, registering their interest in, in some coaching, because it’s so easy to send a standard email.

But if somebody phones you up when you’re in the moment, you’ve just said, actually I’m interested in a coach. So you’ve already, you’re already as a client thinking about what you need and somebody phones you up and starts talking about. What you want as opposed to what they offer then that’s that has actually worked for me.

So that [00:19:00] that’s been really successful

[00:19:01] Joseph: And they can hear you connect with you. There’s more of a human element to it than an email response. Yeah Great, great. How did you come up with the pricing structure as well? And the products, was there also, were they in the business plan? They were in the business

[00:19:18] Helen: plan.

So, I mean, there’s two very different answers of that, I guess, there with prices and with products. So, with prices, um, as I said earlier, you know, When I was doing the business plan, I looked around [00:19:30] at other coaches, what they were charging and you know, were they actually qualified as well? Because I felt if I have a diploma, if I have, you know, an ICF accreditation, then actually I can charge a little bit more than perhaps somebody who didn’t.

So I set my prices and was quite clear about my prices before I started. Talking to real life clients about them. And then I had this panic moment that I was too expensive and it all kind of went out of the, everything I’d set [00:20:00] just went out of the window and I went through it. Luckily only a short time.

I went through a dip where I almost. On the phone or, or on the screen charge, whatever I thought I could get away with. And I didn’t actually have that much success with people taking up those offers. But then in fact, it was, it was possibly on a mentoring session with, um, Richard from Become, we were talking about it.

And actually I [00:20:30] realized that this was the same prices.

So I went back to the drawing board, was happy with the original prices I set and I decided to publish them on my website so that once they were there, then in black and white, I wasn’t going to be tempted to kind of just, just come out with some figure that felt right on the day. And then the more I started to have this set pricing, actually the easier it [00:21:00] became.

So yeah, that, that was my journey with pricing. Because I guess

[00:21:03] Joseph: people know what the price is. So there isn’t an element of selling. You’re going to be contacted by individuals who are already aware of your pricing structure. In that case, go ahead with talking about products

[00:21:14] Helen: as well. Yeah, the journey with products has been quite different.

So Exactly the same as I was saying the pricing to start off with. I kind of did the research, decided what products I wanted to offer and had my heart absolutely set on executive coaching. That was [00:21:30] because I’d come from a corporate world. Um, and it was the executive coaching side that I really wanted to push.

And the business plan was all based on executive coaching, one to one coaching and group coaching. But then what I started to realize is that. When you’re doing what you class as executive coaching, actually quite often what comes out is, well, probably more akin to life coaching. People panicking about, they’re having to cook a roast turkey dinner for the [00:22:00] family and they’ve never, they’ve never done a roast dinner before.

You know, it can be absolutely anything that comes to mind that’s really… a blocker for them moving forward or, or, you know, with their life. Um, I also did some, some life coaching, not, not sort of more to, to get the hours in, in those very early days, actually, and found that I really enjoyed it. Um, I found it really, really satisfying and I know it should be about the client.[00:22:30]

It’s not, not all about me.

[00:22:33] Joseph: There is a little bit about you as well, isn’t it? does have to

[00:22:36] Helen: be to, you know, to, to keep you going, but you know, we talked about motivation earlier and actually it is motivating when you see people get those results, you know, that, that kind of. Transformation that people go through over the coaching journey makes you feel that actually it’s a, it’s really, really worthwhile what you’re doing.

And yes, there is a, you know, we’ve got to pay bills, but we’re charging people [00:23:00] for this. It is a business, but actually it’s something that I get real fulfillment out

[00:23:07] Joseph: of. I’m just thinking that what you mentioned around the executive coaching, that’s why I feel. You know, sometimes people come on to the diploma saying, I really want to focus on career coaching or this.

And I kind of say, see what happens because things will change. Reflecting on my own career. Yeah. I started doing executive coaching and then I moved [00:23:30] into career coaching. And then I think I call myself personal development coach. And because your interests get peaked in different areas. And ultimately what you’re doing is more or less the same, you’re coaching, you’re working with somebody.

[00:23:44] Helen: Absolutely. I mean, there are so many, and again, maybe this is partly because it’s unregulated, but there are so many, um, ways people describe themselves as, as a coach. And actually, you know, it can be exactly the same style or content [00:24:00] almost irrespective of, of the type of coach, you know, whether it’s a life coach, executive coach.

Personal development coach, leadership coach, it’s bespoke to that person and what that, what that client is wanting to achieve or wanting to overcome at that, that point in their lives is. achieved through the coaching, not necessarily by the title that the coach

[00:24:19] Joseph: has got. You’ve said it so well, it resonates so much with me when you say that, you know, coaching is coaching.

It’s not the title that you’re giving yourself, that what actually happens in that relationship. It reminds me,

[00:24:29] Helen: just [00:24:30] talking now reminds me of the amount of time through deciding what, how was I going to describe myself as a coach? Um, and looking around and some people were founders, some people were MDs of their, their coaching organization.

Actually, it really doesn’t matter.

[00:24:48] Joseph: Really doesn’t. So that could be a piece of advice for new business owners who are thinking about embarking on a coaching business. Don’t worry so much about your niche. It will change and develop. Focus on your coaching. [00:25:00] Is there anything else? Is there any other advice as we’re reaching the end of our podcast episode that would be helpful?

[00:25:05] Helen: I mean, we’ve covered so much today. I mean, some of the things that I think are really important, and I think you said it, is be open to change. You know, as I said, I was, I had my heart set on being an executive coach, and actually I do as much life coaching as I do executive coaching now. Um, so, so be open to change, get and use those testimonials and references, case studies.

But I guess the one [00:25:30] real thing is actually get the right training. And get the right accreditation, do the research, what’s right for you, what you feel is right for you. Because in, in the long run, if you, you do have those qualifications, you do have those training behind you. You know, that’s, that’s the first thing that people are going to, to see about you.

It’s not going to be the coaching itself. They’re going to have to choose a coach. And if you’ve got that credibility, then I think that’s. It’s really, really key.

[00:25:58] Joseph: Yeah. Yeah. I [00:26:00] know we’re biased as a training provider, but it is important to choose content in that in that program that resonates with you, that you feel that you can learn from, that will help you achieve the accreditation that it’s, it’s fully accredited.

It’s not a CPD program. Do your research, uh, in terms of the. Different coaching programs are out there. Okay, great Helen. Well, thank you. Thank you for spending a bit of time talking about this I really appreciate it. I know a lot of our viewers will get a lot from this. Thank you for having me [00:26:30] Because it is a pleasure.

You’re very welcome. You’re very welcome. And um, I wish you even many more years Of success as well in your business. Thank you

[00:26:38] Helen: very much. Thank you joseph You

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