Please tell us about your journey into coaching
I had been coaching at work for a long time and had always had this feeling that I wanted to be a coach, although I had no idea how you started or got into it. Then in 2011 as part of a leadership development programme through my job I got a coach. This was my realisation that I wanted to do it as a career. It took me another 5 years of training and coaching at work and externally to take the leap and start up my coaching business. At the time I was just about to go on maternity leave with my second daughter and knew I didn’t want to go back into my leadership position after she was born. I had already had one attempt at setting up two years before so this time I was focused on doing it the right way and got support to help me launch. Five and half years on I have not only got my own coaching business, but I also run a training business working with people who want to become certified coaches and am now one of only 65 MCC (Master) coaches with the International Coaching Federation (ICF).
The coaching industry is booming. Can you share your insight into why this is happening now?
I think more and more people are seeing the benefits of working with a coach. For example, 86% of corporates who employed coaches saw a ROI and 96% would use coaching again as an intervention, and 77% of business owners who had coaching reported an improvement in business performance (Coach federation, 2021). As the market matures in the UK, and people see the benefits both in business and areas of their life, it is natural that the growth will continue. Equally, the fact that in COVID times people have had the time to reflect on where they are and what they want has also seen an upsurge in coaches in sectors from relationship to life to career as well as an increase in demand for coaches to help work with organisations and teams who are moving back to the office. People recognise that coaching can help in a whole range of contexts and there is a growing body of evidence that it works as an intervention in the majority of cases.
Where do you see the industry going?
I think in the UK it is going to continue to grow especially in some sectors, however I equally believe that there is a rapid growth in demand for certified and accredited coaches. With the growth in the industry as a whole, especially online, there have been a number of reports and articles about unqualified coaches who aren’t trained, which has meant they lack not only coaching skills they are also not insured for the work that they do or are members of professional bodies. There is a movement for coaches who work with corporates and the public sector to hold a recognised qualification with one of the most reputable accreditation bodies (ICF, AC, EMCC, ILM) as well as to have regular supervision and professional indemnity insurance. Individuals are starting to follow suit as well. I see this as a professionalisation of the industry and think it can only be a positive for both coaches and their clients. Equally I believe that the increase in competition in some sectors means that those who focus on client experience first are more likely to survive and thrive as reputation is important and word of mouth is still one of the main ways many coaches grow their businesses.
What does that mean for coaches such as yourself? Is the competition healthy or does it make it harder for you to stand out and grow your business?
Personally, this is great for me as I run a business training coaches to become certified to the highest level and we are focused on helping our students develop their coaching business as well as their expertise. As a coach I haven’t had to directly advertise for one to one clients for over two years because people come to me through referrals from existing and past clients. I do believe that competition means that you need to do the work to ensure you stand out from others and spend time focusing on you as a coach and your development as well as your client experience: if you do this and market yourself effectively there are many opportunities for growth.
Tell us about your work life balance
Part of the reason I wanted to work for myself is that I wanted to be around for my kids before and after school. I couldn’t do this as a senior leader in a secondary school as I always had to be at that school with other people’s kids. Now I get up around 6.30am or 7am, depending on how I am feeling. I may work or may do some exercise. I then get the kids up and are focused on them until after school drop off. Three days a week I pick the kids up at 3.15pm and hang out with them until bedtime. Twice a week they go to an after school club and I work until 5.30pm. I occasionally work evenings or weekends. When I do, I give myself time off the day before or after as I know I need to have time out to think and working 24/7 doesn’t suit me. I have time off with my kids every holiday, although I don’t have all 13 weeks off with them. I have a team who work with me so I have to be around, although I do reduce hours over the summer and we all have two weeks off at Christmas and New Year. My work life balance is something that I revisit a lot. I am lucky now that I have a big team so I have stepped back from doing a lot of things myself. There have been moments when I have really got things wrong and have been on the beach on holiday replying to an email or looking at my phone when I am with friends. I am doing my best to stop this and have started to take apps off my phone each weekend to really be present with family and friends. I did the whole get up at 5am thing for a while but it didn’t suit me and I now listen to my body and do what I feel I need rather than what everyone else seems to think I need!
How do you market yourself as a coach?
I now do minimal marketing as a coach as I only work with a few one to one clients and have a small mastermind [group]. Most of these are from word of mouth although we have enquiries from social media and via our website each week we often refer on. As a training school we use Facebook ads, social media, mainly my Facebook group – the coaching community, IG and Linkedin, as well as a weekly podcast and a video on my YouTube channel. We also have email marketing and work with partners on our launches.
What are the challenges you face as a coach?
For me personally, the challenge is growing the training business to become the number one in the UK for coach training. As a coach, I want to continue to role model high standards and professionalism to my students and be seen as someone who is actively changing the industry from the inside out with more quality training and certification processes.
What’s next for you?
To grow Optimus Coach Academy to be the number one training provider for those who want to become coaches or those who want to develop their coaching skills and to continue the work we do with pro bono organisations. My big dream is to develop a coaching toolkit which can be embedded into the curriculum and taught at secondary level to all young people so they can start to build their self awareness and coach themselves. I think that if young people knew about coaching and how it could transform how they think and feel we would have a much healthier and happier population.