When I’m asked about what I do, I often say I help business partners who skipped the
pre-marital counseling before entering a partnership. They then run into challenges with their communication, unequal work loads, lack of alignment and other issues.
Business partnerships can be extraordinary and work amazingly well, but we have all been in, or heard of, a business partnership that was very challenging and unfulfilling, impacting the business success.
1. Create a clear definition of roles and responsibilities. Your day to day role is often different from your partnership role. You may be a partner as well as the CEO or the President, COO, etc. It's important to consider if the roles are equitable as far as each of your contributions to the company. When partners reach out to me for assistance, often there can be resentment between partners when one partner is accountable for more in the company or contributing more to the company's success than the other. Set it up from the beginning so it's an equal business load.
2. Talk through potential breakdowns in the beginning and come up with a plan of what you’ll do if/when it happens. Most business partnerships have some sort of legal document drawn up but I find that it usually doesn’t address the real, day-to-day breakdowns that happen in partnerships. What happens when you disagree on strategy or bringing on another partner? What will you do if your communication starts going off the rails? What might happen if one of you makes a mistake that costs the company? These are issues worth diving into in a very specific, real and honest conversation with each other.
3. Have a regular structure for on-going communication and alignment conversations. These may be regular weekly meetings that discuss business issues, but also always address how you're working together. One partner may ask another: How was it working with me this week? Then listen to understand their answer and encourage honesty.
4. Listen with curiosity. We all have a different view of a situation. If you can listen for the other person's world view, vs. listening for whether you agree or you disagree, you will begin to understand each other. Take for instance two parents--one who is very strict and the other very lenient. They will disagree. They both have valid points. And the solution is somewhere in the middle.
But if you don't listen with curiosity to understand the other person's view of the world, you won't get beyond being right about your position on the matter. You might assess your own ability to communicate non-reactively. How do you communicate when you're upset so you can be heard? Do you avoid confrontation? Are you willing to talk through matters deeply until you're aligned? I promise you will disagree on significant issues. How will you handle that in a way the strengthens the business and your partnership?
5. Be open to coaching and feedback from your partner and be willing to give coaching and feedback. When you own a business, technically there is no one to hold you accountable for your performance. In a business partnership, that's not true. But will you listen to the feedback? Will you argue and defend yourself instead? Will you just not say anything and let your frustration fester? Practicing this skill in real time will strengthen your performance, your relationship and the business.
If your relationship is strong, the business will be more successful. Avoiding issues almost always makes challenges more challenging. Focusing on these key areas to success will set your partnership on the right track.
I've been concerned about the coming winter for a while. My main social activity has been walking and hiking with friends. In Maine, it can start getting dark around 3:45 in the depth of winter (look at a map and you'll see why....we are way out there in the time zone).
These business and pandemic challenges have been challenging for everyone, me included. With all my training and experience in making lemonade out of lemons, it has still been challenging with the isolation and being home oriented all the time. Sometimes I think...I need more structure. Let's put in a schedule! Let's have a daily checklist! Let's have measurables!
But a structure by itself won't change anything.
So here's what I've decided to do.
I'm going to create a purpose for myself for this winter. With a context for winter, the projects I create fit inside that purpose or container.
It's also important to chunk it down. When I start thinking that we're going to be in this another year, it's pretty oppressive. Let me just create a 3-4 month project for the next chunk. By March and April, I'll be planting seedlings and planning my garden. That will be a different planet.
In business we often put in structures without the purpose or context underneath them. That's why they don't sustain themselves or take root. Activities, structures, projects, plans all need to have a purpose that brings them meaning.
I haven't created the purpose of my winter yet -- but I see the possibility of that and the work to do, so the dread lifts.
I'm sure buying snow shoes and dusting off (molding off?) my cross country skis will be an activity inside that project. Along with keep mice at bay in a beach cottage.
Stay well and be gentle with yourselves,
I have a new webinar on helping coaches, consultants and service providers sell through services authentically. Watch it here: here. Feel free to share it with others!
If you're thinking of starting business partnership or alliance, these new videos outline some questions to consider before jumping it. (I call it the pre-marital counseling that most people skip over.) Time spent up front can save a lot of headache and money later! (scroll down the page to the set of 3 new videos
Since I’ve kept myself company for 4 months (along with all my phone and zoom friends), I’ve become acutely aware of the conversations that are going on in my head.
If I’m visiting my community garden spot, I’m thinking:
We don’t often notice that what we’re thinking impacts not only our mood but our actions (or lack of action).
We do this in business and in our personal lives. We make up stuff about other people and their intentions. One book I read years ago called it “intention invention”. We invent other people’s intention and it’s usually a negative intention we make up. Not only that, we are highly inaccurate when we do it. We can even think it’s true, but it’s just something we created in our heads.
I find this to be very true for people selling their services. We make stuff up when we don’t hear back from someone. Usually, what we make up is negative in some way and takes us out of action (ie we don't call them again).
With clients, I’ve found that a lot of what they make up is not accurate (and negative). When someone doesn’t call us back, usually all it means is that they have a lot on their plate and they’re busy. The one project you’re trying to forward with them is just one of a 25 flying at them on a daily basis. It could actually serve them if you followed up, see if they’re interested or not, or if they need more information.
It’s important to stay in action and notice what takes us out of action in order to create what we want in our lives.
For more about how we stop ourselves from taking action, check out my latest video here on LinkedIn (Please comment or share if you find it useful) or on my website here.
This time with ourselves and life in a more isolated way can reap many benefits, even though it’s not what we had planned for our summer.
I’m offering a course Selling Your Services through Authentic Connection beginning September 8th. Find out more details here. Please share this information with those wanting to grow their business in this new world we’re in.
How I’ve spent the last 90 days:
Looking at the prospect of 8 weeks in my house by myself (which I thought sounded like a very long time way back then!), I offered a course to the Maine Coaches Connection on Selling Your Services through Authentic Connection.
I know how I learned to sell my services. It took lots and lots of practice. It was also sitting around a table with my colleagues and learning with and from each other. I saw a lot of coaches and consultants struggling because they avoided sales, but they were good coaches or highly effective at whatever service they provided. I could see a need there.
I want to support people to sell services aligned with their gifts and talents so that the delivery of those services is completely fulfilling to them.
I offered the course for 8 weeks. Ten people showed up and generously engaged with me in my inquiry of how to not suffer in sales, but serve others, and learn to be natural promoting your services.
The experience has been not only healing (having come from an organizational environment where sales targets involved a lot of pressure and fear), but it helped me design a course to address where people get stopped in sales.
Here is what participants have said:
“Today was especially powerful for me. I really like the call to action…to put it out there and hear your experience sprinkled in! Thank you, Kerry. Your class may just be the lifeboat I need.”
“Kerry Walls is a master at helping people transform their often unconscious and unhelpful interpretations around sales. She has personally contributed deeply to my understanding of what service oriented sales really is and how to challenge my old thinking around it. I highly recommend working with Kerry to anyone who struggles with feeing authentic and being able to effectively sell your services.”
I’m exploring how to promote this course in an authentic way. I’m not a fan of how I see courses promoted on line: "earn oodles of money", "build a 7 figure income in two weeks", etc. These offerings set unrealistic expectations and maybe a limited number succeed. Many coaches and consultants, however, just want to get in the 6 figure range, contribute to others and build a successful business.
I’m offering this course beginning September 8th. Find out more details here. Please share this information with those wanting to grow their business in this new world we’re in.
Stay well and stretch yourself into what calls you. Your contribution and gifts are needed now more than ever.
Reporting in on my 6th day alone in my house on an island in Maine.
My only contact with people has been with clients, friends and family on the phone and occasional waves to islanders as I walk (with a 6 foot berth) on “the back side." There definitely could be worse places to walk and probably way harder places to self isolate:
Like most of us even in normal times, I have a lot of conversations going on in my head. The volume increases in abnormal times and isolation.
One of my internal conversations was “OK, if this is 8 weeks, I need to structure this differently. I can’t just listen to news, talk to clients and connect with friends.”
Then I realize – before going to the structure of it, what do I want to make this experience for? I didn’t choose this isolation, this pandemic or the foundational disruption to so much that I have held as givens to daily life.
I can choose how to respond to it.
I was just reading an article in the NYT from a doctor imploring readers not to sit on the couch but to participate and engage – to help get equipment and to generate solutions for hospitals right now.
The expertise I have isn’t necessarily in that field – but I do know how to support people to remove obstacles, create breakthrough results, and not get stopped by circumstances. It sure seems like there is a need for that when I hear it will take 2 months to get a hospital ship from Virginia to NYC or that the shortage of medical protective equipment is so severe. It’s a call for creativity and being unstoppable. If you or anyone is in a field where my expertise could help right now to speed up results, please reach out to me. I have free time and I’d love to help.
This article is an example of a group of people in crisis mode creating a result you wouldn’t think was possible. They did certain key things: built relationship with one another, created simple principles and acted from them, told the truth to each other, and had quick stand up meetings several times a day to get the facts and address the breakdowns they hit. That’s what we need now in these circumstances.
I also noticed in my desire for structure in this temporary and isolated life, there was a different question to be asking myself. What is the purpose of this time? What do I want to make this time for? My immediate thoughts are: reset, renewal, love and connection. Contribution and generosity fit in there too.
My purpose for this time will inform the structure I design to support myself and others through it. As my almost 80 year old mentor used to tell me: “Your purpose is your leaky life preserver in the sea of uncertainty.” Better to have a leaky one than none at all!
And since they are reducing the ferry schedule to protect the ferry crew, I may need that leaky life preserver.
Stay well, stay creative and be super kind and generous with yourself and others.
Business partnerships can be one of the greatest business structures when it’s going well.
One of the worst when it’s not.
I’ve been in both scenarios over my career.
I often work with business partners when they’re frustrated or struggling. They started the partnership inspired by an idea with probably some sort of very basic business legal agreement.
But that agreement doesn’t cover the most common challenge they encounter:
misalignment of goals, vision, approaches, style and workloads
Miscommunication ensues. The business partners become at odds with each other.
The longer they don’t address the misalignment, the worse it gets.
Think of it like two parents – one with a lenient parenting style and the other strict. As the stricter parent is strict, the lenient parent reacts and becomes even more lenient – and vice versa. So they each get more and more positional, which makes the situation more at odds. There’s often a lot of finger pointing and blame.
These issues are common and can be resolved. I can’t say it always works out perfectly – but a new approach can be created, partners can learn to work together more effectively or even dissolve the partnership amicably if that’s needed. I’ve seen the partnership improve within a month.
This relates to alliances, joint ventures and family businesses as well. There are certain questions to be thoughtfully addressed before you start. Here are a few to consider:
I’ve met with people who were thinking of starting a partnership. After talking with me, they decided not to. They probably saved themselves thousands of dollars and many, many headaches.
People usually request help when they’re already in the business and frustrated. They’ve done everything possible to work better together but it just keeps getting worse. This impacts the partners’ well-being and everyone in the company—not to mention the business focus, growth and profits.
Everyone knows when the parents are fighting.
Watch my video on partnerships here on the Top 3 Tips to Have Partnerships Succeedand please share it with others.
If you know someone struggling in a partnership, I’d love to chat with them. They will get immediate relief and a way forward that works.
From a couple of my clients in partnerships:
"Kerry's coaching has had an incredible impact! Her coaching has helped to create a better working relationship with my business partner, to shift my listening, and help me to be more collaborative with my team. I really believe in her philosophy around relationships and communication. She is incredibly open, upbeat and positive. Kerry sees the potential in you and her approach and coaching have helped guide me to that potential."
"Our coaching experience with Kerry has been terrific. She has pushed us, held us accountable, seen aspects of our business that we've been unable to see for ourselves, helped us to have difficult conversations that have opened new avenues and overall, made us better leaders. Our business has grown as a result of what we've opened up with her coaching."
Just back from a week in Provence with an abundance of divine bread, butter and cheese, vacationing Europeans on the wildest roads I've ever driven (It's oh so fun to have two cars' side mirrors bump with a sheer drop on one side and have the other driver reach out and pop your mirror back -- "Nice to meet you!"), and lovely friends at the most relaxing retreat I've ever experienced.
One of my favorite parts of travel is that I experience "fresh eyes" -- both when I'm away and when I get back. Everything is so new, it challenges my normal (I can hear my children laughing) ways of thinking. Parking a car can be a 30 minute process -- getting the machine to converse in a language I understand (I did understand the French error message that said: "Find another meter"), walk up another long hill to new meter -- only to discover I need my rental car license plate, and down the hill I go.
Then when you get home, it's familiar and easier, but I see things that I didn't notice before that are so American -- such as walking through the Philadelphia airport with more food options than I've ever seen (unfortunately nothing close to that bread, butter and cheese).
Fresh eyes expose what's been invisible to you.
When you have a new hire in your organization, you want to take advantage of their fresh eyes before they get assimilated. They'll ask obvious questions and potentially notice practices that you may have engaged in for a long time that are inefficient or inconsistent with your values. Those observations are gold for your organization if you listen and value their perspective. If you don't listen, they'll start to be quiet.
This is also one of the challenges business owners and executives face. As the company grows or they get promoted, they are challenged to download the gold inside of them to others who will replace them. They don't realize how much they've learned over time and how much mastery they have. I enjoyed discussing this on a recent interview with Rick Nuske on his podcast My Future Business.
You can listen to the podcast here.
If you'd like to discuss creating fresh eyes to increase both your business results and your day to day satisfaction, let's talk: https://calendly.com/kerrywalls. I promise you'll see new ways to approach situations that may be frustrating you.
I find that most of us wait too long to ask for help. That's something I notice as a theme when I talk with potential clients. Sometimes we have to get darn miserable, upset or frustrated -- before we ask for help.
Combine that with the plethora of coaches out there, and finding a coach that's right for you can be a challenge.
As I study the coaching field and watch what's going on, I am concerned about what I see.
I heard from a colleague about folks going into coaching because it's easy to get into and easy to make a lot of money. I'm not sure that's a reason to become a coach.
I'm concerned what coaches post in Facebook groups -- about confronting people who say they can't afford coaching. I gave up confronting clients a long time ago. If you have a strong relationship with your client, confronting them isn't necessary. They just listen because they trust and respect you, and they take a look at what you're saying and see if it makes sense to them.
Here's another cringe worthy example in this promotional email I received from a coach:
"I don't want to waste your time and I don't want you to waste mine, so if you aren't into investing a few thousand into your business - this is NOT the right program for you. Also, if you aren't actually prepared to put in the work and take action to grow your business, this is NOT the right program for you. That said, for the ROI you get on what I've built into the program, (name of their program) is a friggin' steal at the price I'm charging!"
Interesting tone. Does this work? If you're a client of this coach, will you start using that arrogant, disrespectful tone with your clients?
How do you wade through all those coaches to find someone who will work for you and understands your situation?Watch my short video here on what to look for in hiring a coach. (Please like or share it with your LinkedIn network if you're so inspired.)
There are tons of coaches out there. Take the time to sort through the fluff to find one with integrity and caring--who puts you first, and not their own agenda.
If you'd like to discuss to discuss coaching and how it might help, let's talk: https://calendly.com/kerrywalls.
A very common challenge for business owners is that their day-to-day fulfillment decreases dramatically as their businesses grow.
They lose access to the purpose, meaning and inspiration they felt when they started out, and they get bogged down doing things that they don't enjoy. The classic business book The E Myth describes it this way: they get stuck working in the business, not onthe business.
Dave Collins of CleverHiker.com shares his experience when we started working together 3 months ago, and where he is now
Watch the video here. It's short! (Please share it with your LinkedIn network if you're so inspired.)
It's funny. The more fulfilled we are, the more successful we are. They are connected, not in conflict with each other. Extricating yourself out of the day-to-day reactivity of your business helps you be more strategic which grows the business. Business coaching helps you work on the business not in the business by helping you step back and be more thoughtful so you can create the future you envision.
It's easy to neglect our individual fulfillment and vitality in our businesses and careers. If you'd like to discuss how to increase your fulfillment, let's talk: https://calendly.com/kerrywalls.
I hear a lot about what is going on behind the scenes in businesses over the last 20 years of coaching.
One thing that surprises me is that many leaders in business don’t necessarily correlate business success with treating employees respectfully which creates a safe, learning environment. I've heard of public shaming, swearing, gossip, passive aggressive behavior and more.
When employees are in fear (for instance, they feel blamed, they fear losing their job if they make a mistake or speak up, or they feel a need to defend themselves), you won’t get great performance.
They will be in survival and self protection mode which gives them the options of a) fight, b) flight or c) freeze. They lose any access to their creativity and productivity – and they are no longer focusing on the business.
That can't help business results.
The trick is to keep employees out of fear. How do you do that?
Your business will be more and more successful if you keep practicing this. Your employees will step up in ways you never thought possible.
To your success and fulfillment,
P.S. I'm offering a course to Coaches and Consultants: Selling Your Services Through Authentic Connection. Find more details here. Please share this email with coaches you know. This course will easily pay for itself