Coach Interview Series: Bri Seeley

by Brandon

Bri Seeley

Entrepreneur Coach

Our main objective here at the National Coach Academy is to enable aspiring coaches to reach their full professional potential. One of the most effective ways to educate students about the world of coaching is by offering them a window into the world of real, practicing coaches and showing them all the different ways coaches make a difference in the lives of their clients.

We hope today’s interview adds another insightful glimpse into the dynamic world of coaching.

Today we are interviewing Bri Seeley. Bri is an Entrepreneur Coach and Creative Growth Strategist based in New York. She is the author of the best-selling book Permission to Leap: The Six-Phase Journey to Bring Your Vision to Life.

NCA: Can you describe your coaching practice and the kinds of clients you typically work with?

Bri: I work specifically with entrepreneurs. I help them grow themselves and grow their businesses so that they can be the most effective, impactful and profitable entrepreneurs out there. I do that through helping newer stage early entrepreneurs, wantrepreneurs, and side hustlers to develop their mindset, their habits of success, and their best practices in terms of being an entrepreneur and managing their time — all of that good stuff.

I also help people who have been in business for a while to put together a comprehensive and holistic, full-picture growth strategy. People can also hire me to make their growth strategy for them. They don’t necessarily get the coaching aspect of it, but they can hire me to essentially one-and-done create their growth strategy for their business.

NCA: What initially got you interested in becoming a coach?

Bri: My background is in fashion and I had my own fashion company for eight years. Through a series of frustrations and missteps in my fashion business, I came to the point where I was ready to close it down. But I knew I still wanted to be an entrepreneur. I accomplished amazing, great, unheard of things in my fashion business for a solopreneur who didn’t have funding, who basically didn’t have a team or support. I realized that I had fallen in love with entrepreneurship.

When I closed my fashion business, I knew that I wanted to continue being an entrepreneur. I knew I would never go back to work for anyone else, ever. What I realized after I closed my business is that I had an email inbox full of people who had been reaching out to me asking me to help them grow their businesses based on what they’ve seen me do with my fashion business.

When they had emailed me in the past, I would say, “That’s not what I do. I’m a designer. You’ll have to find someone else.” When I shut my brand down, I said, “Oh, people actually need my help and I actually am a really good entrepreneur.” Plus, while I was growing my fashion business, I’d been a counselor for eight years.

All of a sudden, I had all of these transferable skills and I pieced it together. “Oh, I’m a really good entrepreneur. I’m a really good counselor. People are actually asking for these services from me, so I’ll start this business.”

It started a little bit on accident. I never sought out to be a coach, but I’m very good at it. I know how to help people. I have the knowledge and expertise and it all fell together and coalesced into this business that I’ve now been running. It’s my five-year anniversary this March.

NCA: I think you offer an important perspective for new coaches, because there is this perception that coaches spend most of their time actually coaching. But as someone who understands how a business — especially a new business — is run, you know that being an entrepreneur brings on a whole host of new challenges that have nothing to do with coaching.

Bri: As a coach, if you’re working for yourself, coaching is just a sliver of what you do every day. At the end of the day, you’re also a business owner. My life every day doesn’t look like I’m coaching all the time. This morning, I was sitting down doing my 1099 forms and after we get off the call, I’m going to be closing out my 2019 money stuff so that I can get it to my accountant. After that I’m getting some stuff ready for my team, so that they can do their jobs later on today and pitching myself for five different speaking engagements.

The thing about being a coach is that it is one aspect of what you do, but you’re also running a business. If you are exchanging time for money and just being a coach all time, that’s not necessarily a business. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re an entrepreneur. They’re very different things and I think it’s a misconception that goes along with the industry. In fact, part of the reason I hired my assistant coach was that she loves coaching. She doesn’t love being an entrepreneur. The coolest part is I get to be the entrepreneur. I get to be the thought leader. I get to have all my content, my information, my teachings, and all my trainings and she gets to come in and support a lot of my students as their coach because that’s her zone of genius. She doesn’t want to do all of the other stuff. I want to do all of the other stuff and help people grow their businesses at the same time.

This is part of why I do what I do. I used to coach other things. I niched down into only helping entrepreneurs because this is a huge hole, especially in the coaching industry. I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve had that are coaches that have gone through coaching programs and get out on the other side and they say, “Wait a minute, no one taught me how to run a business. I don’t know what I’m doing.”

A lot of these coaching programs have a huge gap in that. Yes, they teach all the great coaching skills, but then when it comes time to picking your products, setting up a website, doing your SEO, figuring out your customer avatar and their psychographics, getting your communication strategy together — all of that stuff is just as important as being a coach unless you’re going to work for someone else. But unfortunately, a lot of coaches don’t make a lot of money because they don’t understand the business aspect of it.

A friend of mine did a survey online for coaches. He surveyed 400 coaches and 87% of them are earning less than $1,000 a month. Being a coach is great, but being a business owner and a coach is the only thing that’s going to get you to a sustainable income in the industry.

I just posted on Facebook this week, “Entrepreneurs, just a reminder, your 1099 terms are due.” And I can’t tell you how many questions I got. This morning I posted on Facebook. I said, “Credit card processing fees are a cost of doing business. Don’t want to pay them? Don’t be in business.” There are so many people that I hear saying, “How can I get out of paying 3% for credit cards?” And tell them, “You don’t. That’s the cost of doing business. If you don’t want costs associated with delivering services in the world, shut your business down because it is a cost of doing business. It has always been a cost of doing business. In fact, we’re lucky. 3% is nothing.”

When my parents owned a candy store, we used to have to pay a percentage plus a per transaction fee, plus an application fee, plus a monthly fee, plus renting out the credit card processing terminal, plus any maintenance or technology problems that we have. With the cost of doing business right now, we are so blessed. I am grateful every time Stripe takes 3% out of my processing fees. People frankly don’t understand what it takes to be a business owner and an entrepreneur.

This is one of the things that I’m so passionate about combating. This is why 66% of businesses don’t make it to their 10th year in business. If you had one person to your left and one person to your right, only one of you is going to make it. I didn’t get into business to go out of business, so I want to switch that statistic around.

My mom was an entrepreneur. For my first 10 years of life, I was raised by my mom as a single mom. I would go to work with her and she was responsible for all the buying and all the employee training. I would go behind her at the age of five and restock shelves and help customers find things. It’s been a part of my life forever, which is so funny because when I got out of school I thought, “I’m never going to be an entrepreneur.” Then I immediately opened my own business. [laughing]

Entrepreneurs march to the beat of our own drums. Why would you try to fit a square peg in a round hole when you know that you need to go find your square hole and things will work for you? You have to know yourself and build a custom business strategy around who you are.

NCA: In working with your clients, what is the most challenging aspect of the work that you do?

Bri: My biggest struggle within my business is I find it really hard to see outside myself and to communicate with people in their language and their terms and their level of understanding. The way I look at a business and see a business is fairly advanced, but I’m working with a lot of people that either have never been entrepreneurs before or are new to being entrepreneurs. It’s a challenge for me to communicate at their level and essentially speak their language.

That’s why I have hired a marketing person for this year — to help me develop some of my communication. She’s able to see me and my business from a completely different perspective.

There’s one side that says, “If you’re passionate about something, just follow it. Just do it.” There is a sense to that. Clearly, I’m really passionate about entrepreneurship. This is what I do all day, every day. I wake up in the morning, I sit on my meditation mat and start reading entrepreneur books. This is my life. It’s what excites me. I’m passionate about it. But at the same time, there’s that pragmatic that it’s also a business, and that’s the not sexy part. Everyone wants the sexy part — the passion and the excitement and “I’m doing what I love and I’m following my bliss.” But there’s also this not sexy part of “I also have to file my 1099 and I also have to track all my incoming money and my outgoing money and I have to figure out how to build a team.”

My perspective is less sexy, but again, this is why so many businesses fail. It’s because people are told, “If you just follow your bliss, everything will work out.” There are legitimate human business tactical things that go along with that that people want to skate over and not talk about.

NCA: What would you say sets you apart from other coaches that are in the same space as you?

Bri: One of the other things that I feel differentiates me in the market is that a lot of the business coaches out tell their clients, “Here’s the formula you follow to be successful.” I’ve always been the kind of person to say, “You don’t know me. Don’t tell me how to do things.” Even when I had my fashion business, people said, “Oh, this isn’t how you get famous as a fashion designer. You have to move to New York. You have to work for free. You have to be an intern. You have to count buttons and take all the shit. And at some point, maybe someone will want to fund you and help you start your own label.” And I was like, “That’s not my path. Nope. I don’t care if that’s how other people do it. That is not how I’m doing it.”

I built my coaching business the same way. I do not run my coaching business the way that most coaches run their coaching business and I don’t teach people “five step processes.” I help them uncover their path because we entrepreneurs march to the beat of our own drums. Why would you try to fit a square peg in a round hole when you know that you need to go find your square hole and things will work for you? You have to know yourself and build a custom business strategy around who you are, what your skills are, what excites you, what your zone of genius is, and go from there.

NCA: One of the most common challenges new coaches face is self-doubt. Some coaches call it Imposter Syndrome, where early on they feel somehow inadequate to take on the role of coach. What is one piece of advice that you would give to somebody who is in the beginning stage of their coaching career and dealing with these doubts in their mind?

Bri: I actually see imposter syndrome as a good thing because at its core, imposter syndrome is that comfort zone-based brain chemistry that is designed to keep us safe. It only triggers when you’re getting outside your comfort zone. Think about it: When you’re sitting on your couch watching Netflix in your comfort zone, those imposter syndrome thoughts don’t exist. When you suddenly start doing big things and going towards the things that call and pull at your heart, that’s when the imposter syndrome pops up.

For me, imposter syndrome is simply a sign that says, “Hey, you’re getting out of your comfort zone.” For me, that is the only way that I will live. I actually encourage people to start seeing imposter syndrome as a good thing. Of course, if your imposter syndrome is paralyzing you or holding you back, it becomes a detriment to you. But on a basic level, you can perceive as, “Oh, as long as I’m not believing it, as long as I’m not listening to it and allowing it to run my life, it’s actually a good sign that I’m on the right path.”

One of the ways that I recommend people combat it is to start proving it’s wrong. Every little day, we get proof around us. Whether you’re listening or not is another question, but there is proof around you that you’re on the right path.

For me right now, I’m proving to myself that I am infinitely supported. Every single night before I go to bed, I write down proofs that the universe or the world or the people around me gave me that day to show me how supported I am, so that when my doubt thoughts start coming up about how I’m alone, and I’m on an island and there’s no one around me to help or support me and I’m doing everything on my own, I have this whole written journal of all of these instances proving to myself how those stories that I’m telling myself are false. I can have tangible evidence to prove that those are all lies and that my truth is something else. That’s something that I have used since the inception of my coaching business when I started in 2015 and I continue to use it for myself. I also continue to recommend other people use for themselves as well.

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