If you want to be of service to others, the first step is seeing the world from their perspective. Today’s guest argues that the most important quality of a coach is the ability to meet your clients where they are and employ empathy as you work together. Only then can you lead your mentees to the kind of creativity and innovation that fosters success.
Yvonne Smyth is a business mentor and life coach who seeks to help people Flourish – to develop empowering mindsets, to align their businesses with their values and beliefs, and to ultimately live lives of joy and fulfillment. Her greatest strength is working with people to create a compelling vision for their future, then supporting them on the journey. She is a certified NLP Practitioner, the Entrepreneur in Residence at Catalyst Inc. HQ as well as the co-founder of The Unlimited Human.
Yvonne had a successful career as a managing director of a hotel and spa, but she didn’t feel like she was doing anything well. She felt guilty that she couldn’t spend more time with her young children, and despite having the career, family, and home she thought would make her happy, she was stressed out of her head. In 2013, she took the leap into self-employment and developed a coaching business with the intention of helping people flourish and thrive. Today, she shares her secrets to landing new clients, advice around pricing your service, and her intuitive approach to onboarding new clients. Listen to understand how empathy serves as the foundation of a strong coaching practice.
The most important quality for a business/life coach
- Empathy (must be able to see the world from a client’s point of view)
Yvonne’s secrets to landing new clients
- Reach out to current contacts
- Provide quality work (leads to long-term working relationships, word-of-mouth)
- Leverage Facebook business page, groups
- Join networking groups
- Look for funded programs
- Secure license for specific curricula
Yvonne’s intuitive approach to working with new clients
- Start with a conversation (what life is like, typical day)
- Observe body language, word choice
- Note what drains/energizes client
Yvonne’s advice around pricing your service
- Start in ‘middle of the road’
- Raise prices as you demonstrate value
How to adapt to clients that don’t fit your program template
- Conduct organization culture assessment
- If resistant to change, slow down
- ‘Speak their language’
- Meet students where they are
Connect with Yvonne Smyth
Yvonne Smyth is a Business Mentor and Success Coach and works with clients all over the world to help them create Flourishing businesses and Flourishing lives. Her mantra is “If you do what you always did, you’ll get what you always got”. Her particular area of expertise is helping people to create a compelling vision for their future; a future without limits, and then supporting them as they navigate the change processes needed to get them there.
Laura Pennington (Host): Hello everybody and welcome to the Better Biz Academy Podcast. It’s my job to bring you interesting and fascinating guests who have found a way to build a career doing something that they love; helping others. And today my guest is phoning in all the way from Northern Ireland, which is extremely exciting. My guest is Yvonne Smyth. She is a business mentor and success coach and works with clients all over the world to help them create flourishing businesses and flourishing lives. Her mantra is ‘if you do what you always did, you’ll get what you always got.’ Her particular area of expertise is helping people to create a compelling vision for their future – a future without limits and then supporting them as they navigate the change processes needed to get there. Welcome to the show.
Yvonne Smyth (Guest): Thank you, Laura. It’s great to be here.
Laura: I would love to hear about how you got into doing what you are doing now. Have you always been a coach? Or did you have a career before this?
Yvonne: No, I had a career before this. I was actually Managing Director of a hotel and spa complex up until about three and a half years ago. I mean, I just got to the stage where my kids were very young at the time. They were just four and three at that time and the job was getting bigger and bigger and my available time to sort of spend time with my family and do a lot of the stuff that I wanted to do was getting smaller and smaller. So, I decided to take that bigger leap into self-employment. Or if I went on my guess, I sort of started initially with the intention of mentoring people in business, may be going a bit of consultancy, a bit of training – and it all evolved from there, really. I started mentoring people; sort of first of all, and doing some training and then I very quickly find that a lot of the people that I was mentoring in a business capacity, the problems that they were having and the challenges they were having in relation to growing their business were actually not to do with the business, but they were to do with what was on the inside, in terms of fear of failure and self-limiting beliefs and all that sort of stuff. So, I sort of strayed onto that path quite naturally, helping people with all of those aspects. And then I qualified as an NLP practitioner in 2015 to sort of add some additional coaching tools to my tool box. And I haven’t really looked back since then.
Laura: That’s such a neat progression and it’s a really common story that I hear a lot of times, especially for women. It’s when they are doing some other type of a career and it begins to sort of erode on the vision that they had for their life in particular; how much time they’d be able to spend with their family and that’s when this idea of looking for something else, whether it’s something that’s more fulfilling or something that’s more flexible, frequently comes out. But a lot of people have trouble making that transition to self-employment. I know for me; it was hard because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to generate enough income to replace what I had been making previously. And I know you talked already about some self-limiting beliefs that a lot of people had. How did you overcome that challenge of may be that financial insecurity?
Yvonne: Well you are so right. It was really a tough decision to make and it actually took me probably over a year to sort of pluck up the courage to leave behind a big salary, a big bonus and very secure income and to go out on my own. But I guess for me it just got to a point where I thought I wasn’t doing anything well. I felt I am not doing my job as well as I can because I am feeling guilty that I should be spending more time with home and then I didn’t feel I was doing my home job well because of I wasn’t there enough. So, it just got to point where I wasn’t happy and it was that typical story that again, I think happens to a lot of people where you have a checkbox of all of the things that you believe that will make you happy and mine were a great career, a husband, kids; I love the home, and then I had all those things and I was stressed out of my head. I wasn’t able to enjoy any of it and the only thing that go in all of that was that I was prepared obviously to let go was the job. So, it sort of got to the point where there was no other sort of choice to make.
Laura: Yes, sometimes we get forced into a corner, perhaps the universe is sort of guiding us towards whatever is most appropriate and it maybe had been an idea you have been turning over in your head for some time, but then there is some event or series of events that pushes you towards that initial decision. Now, I know a lot of people who are coaches and there has been just been so many people coaching and especially with the advent of the internet and it’s so easy to do things from a digital space. Do you believe that there is a certain type of person who gels really well as a coach? Like what are those factors that maybe you or other people bring to the table that are a natural fit for coaching?
Yvonne: I think one of the most important things that you have to be able to have as a coach is empathy; the ability to really get inside somebody else’s perspective and really understand what their life looks like from their perspective given how they have been reared, who the influential people in their lives have been, what culture they have been brought up with, what sort of values and beliefs have been instilled in them, sort of through their life and through their life experiences and as I said, all the influential people that sort of have been in their lives whether that’s parents, grandparents, teachers, employers, colleagues, spouses, all of that. And so for me, empathy is the biggest thing because if you are able to understand what the world looks like from your client’s perspective then you can start to help them from where they are, not from your perspective.
Laura: That’s a really good point because it’s ultimately about that relationship and that ability to communicate with other people and you have to at some core level have that empathy because even though you may be at a different place in your life or in your business, you have to be able to identify with someone who is may be two steps behind you or ten steps behind you. Now when you first started your business, how did you go about finding clients? That’s usually a big challenge for a lot of people entering self-employment for the first time?
Yvonne: Yeah, and again I guess I was quite fortunate and that in the sort of five and half years that I had been in sort of the role I was in, I had a lot of contacts and I basically picked up the phone and called people right before I left to tell people I was leaving, that I was going to be sort of consultancy, mentoring, training. As I said, that was all the initial thing and I called them up and started conversations. I was also very transparently, very honestly, very fortunate to get involved in a funded program. So, I was able to call people that I knew with a mentoring program that had some funding behind it. So, to be honest, that was really quite simple for me. So, I think you talked about the universe conspiring in your favor earlier, and I think that’s what happened. It was a case of “okay I am open here, I am” and this just sort of landed on my plate. And so as I said, I was fortunate in that. So, I picked up a lot of clients in that first year under this funded program and then quite a lot of them kept me on afterwards, because of the quality of the work that I did with them. And actually, there is a couple of them that three and a half years later that I am still working with. So, as I say that was – it was pretty easy. What I also did was, I also went and got myself a license to train a particular training program and delivered that as well. And it was just contacts and then word of mouth and then to be honest, most of the clients that I get now are through word of mouth and also a degree through my Facebook. I am quite active on Facebook, on my business page and then I have a Facebook group and I am quite active in there and I do sort of Facebook lives every week; that’s what I have been doing for the last few weeks and I do some programs on some free things and so on, and that’s where I get quite a lot of my business. I am networking, the usual thing, I am meeting people particular women’s networking groups. I work with mostly women, to be honest.
Laura: So, what I am taking away from that is that there a lot of different things that you do, but it really comes down to this core essence of you deliver a quality experience to people, and that not only makes them more likely to stick around to work with you over the long run, but that leads into that word of mouth marketing. So, when you have a brand new client, I’d love for you to walk me through the process of how you identify what that individual needs to work on and where you go from that initial conversation with somebody?
Yvonne: Oh, that’s an interesting question and because like you said, I do a lot of different things. I work with people on the business mentoring side, I’m helping with their business, but I also work with people on success and life coaching capacity. So, first off, it obviously depends on what their purpose for coming to me is? Whether it is ‘I need help with my business to grow my business’ or it’s ‘no I am suffering from lack of confidence or lack of self-esteem’. And really, I always start my conversations with clients in a very sort of relaxed manner as in, tell me what life is like for you at the moment, tell me what your days consist of. And I am very intuitive and as people are telling me a story, I am watching their body language and I am picking up what parts of their story are draining energy from them and what parts of their story are they getting excited about. I notice where the blocks are in relation to their language that they use. And I sort of take it from there. So, it’s quite an intuitive process for me, to be honest, Laura.
Laura: I actually like that quite a bit because I feel like this idea of intuitive business does not get talked about a lot, especially when I do interviews on other shows, sometimes people just sort of ask how do you make these decisions about the direction you want your business to go or the clients that you choose not to work with, and a lot of times I don’t really have a good answer other than my intuition. I feel like when you can rely on that and it’s an important part of your business either for your own purposes or when you are helping other people, it can be really, really powerful, but it’s not something that I think a lot of people really talk about. So, I actually like that you do that and because what you are doing is such deep work, it almost requires that ability to step back and let the person talk and share so you can learn what’s necessary to go forward. So, when you are working with somebody, and I am sure this has evolved quite a bit over the years, but one challenge that a lot of people have, new in their business, is figuring out how to price their offering. So, how did you – how has that process changed for you is first part of the question, and then if it has, what advice do you have for people who may be starting off with their own self-employed business on pricing their services?
Yvonne: Oh, Laura that’s such a good question and it can be such a can of worms. I remember, oh my goodness, I do know what, I remember at the very beginning somebody asking me what’s your daily rate and I didn’t have a clue what to say and it was in relation to a mentoring program that I was being taken on as a mentor for. And I had no idea – I didn’t know any of the other mentors in the program. I had no idea what they were charging. I didn’t know where to pitch myself, whether it was going to be too high, too low. Oh my goodness, it was torturous. And I remember, I was just honest. That was my first point in that situation. Okay, that wasn’t me asking a client, it was asking a set of people who were setting up this program. I just said look this a ballpark of where I think I should be but you tell me how that sounds and they said well that sounds sort of middle of the road. But actually, I doubled my prices since then in the last three years. So, I guess I started off not being the cheapest doing what I was doing, certainly not being the most expensive; and then what I have done over the three years is to bring my prices up as I have been able to demonstrate the value that I am bringing to people, the testimonials that I have. And now I am charging top end of what people would charge for what I do over here in the UK.
Laura: That’s interesting. Now when you raise your prices, this is something that I feel a lot of people they – first of all, they don’t do it soon enough, and when they do, they really struggle with this decision mentally. So, what is behind for you, the decision to raise prices and do you have any tips for sort of announcing that and transitioning that in your business, particularly if you have kind of – a lot of your business is coming from word of mouth, so people might have some sort of expectation about what it costs to work with you.
Yvonne: Oh that’s an interesting one. I guess I haven’t raised my – it was always with new clients that I raised my prices. I have not had a situation where I have raised my prices with an existing client, so there hasn’t been a transition for an existing client. So, that’s not one that I can really answer. But I guess, I come across this a lot when I am actually mentoring and coaching people, particularly with women. This sort of idea of not being able to feel confident about charging for their worth. It comes down to your confidence and your capabilities, confidence in your worth, confidence in the value that you are delivering. And if you have some clients that are paying what your prices are and are continuing to pay for what your price is, well that gives you more confidence that okay it’s the next people who come along, I can charge them the same or may be a bit more. Now again, I’m being totally honest, I haven’t had a situation where – or at least that I know of that clients or potential clients have spoken about my prices. Again, because I don’t tend to recruit people in a way that means that that would happen if you know what I mean. So, I know that’s may be not the most exciting of answers for you. It’s not that clear, but I haven’t had a situation where I have had to transition a client into a higher price bracket to be honest.
Laura: Well yeah. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I think that’s that sort of a tactic that I sometimes apply as well, where I have got clients that have been working with me for a while and they are at a price point that they are happy with and I am fine with it because usually, at least with my work, I tend to get faster with it over time. So, I don’t really mind if those clients, you know, the exchanges may they are on a one-year contract, but they are paying less than what a new person coming on would be. So, I completely understand that. I’d love to hear about a time when maybe you had a challenge with a client and how you worked around that.
Yvonne: Let me think about a challenge with a client. Well, one challenge that I had with a client was around – I will give you an example. It was a client who is a friend of an acquaintance and when I started working with them, one of the first things that I did was an organization, sort of a cultural assessment with a team and the purpose of me working with this client was to help them transition their vision and to embark on a quite a meaty change process with them. And when I did an organizational culture assessment and one of the things you’re assessing is level of creativity, innovation and openness to change. There was sort of nothing there. So, I remember at that point thinking, oh my goodness, I have to work with these people now to get them to embark on and embrace a huge change process, but it’s very clear that they are very resistant to that at this stage. So, I had that challenge and I just had to dial down. At the beginning a lot of the way that I would approach things and the very sort of open minded and creative way that I deal with clients, and very much pulled myself back into speaking their language, which may be is a slightly different language to somebody who may be comes to you, who is very evolved and is already on the road to high creativity and high innovation. So, that was a lesson for me and I ended up having to change quite a lot of the trainings that I would do with these people and the types of brainstorming and the way I approach things because of where they were at and the language that they preferred to use, and actually I am just thinking aloud here now that it comes back to empathy. So, it came to me having to empathize with where they were, and their journey and with the language that they preferred to speak and the perspective that they have. And some of these people who worked with the business for had been there for 25, 26 years and change was very scary and it was just a case of taking it slower and approaching it quite differently. That is a good answer to your question?
Laura: Yes, absolutely! That makes a lot of sense and I love that it’s kind of this evolution of the way that you approach working with your clients as well. So, to wrap up our interview; has there been a favorite book or favorite resource that you have encountered as an entrepreneur that has really inspired you?
Yvonne: Oh my goodness, Laura. I read so many books. I am like a bookworm. I have been a bookworm since I have been five years old. So, it hasn’t stopped my – my husband actually says to me that I should have a PhD just in reading books because I never stop reading. But who has influenced me; people like Martha Beck, you know her book ‘Finding Your North Star’ that is to me an essential resource for coaching. It has been one of the most influential books that I have ever read in terms of supporting me; which strategies to use with coaching clients and in particular the aspect in that book where she talks about the change process. It’s incredibly enlightening and it’s a really brilliant framework and model to use. And the other book that I absolutely love and I have used not only with clients, but also with my kids, is Carol Dweck’s Mindset book, the book about fixed and growth mindset. And I use that quite a lot to help people who are in training who don’t want to be in training and who may have a fixed mindset to try and sort of help them understand how a growth mindset is much more resourceful for them and in terms of learning and so on. So, those two I have to say are very influential for me.
Laura: Two very important things that all my listeners should check out. Well, I just want to thank you for coming and being on the show today and sharing all of your insight about how you built your business and how you have been able to most effectively help people.
Yvonne: Thank you, Laura. It’s been a pleasure to talk to you today.
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