Coach Interview Series: Don Smith

by Brandon

Don Smith

Executive 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 Don Smith. Don Smith is an executive coach with decades of experience who helps small business owners and leaders focus on the right things to improve their results and get their time back. To work with Don, please click here.

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

Don: Most of my clients are small business owners who have gotten in over their heads a little. They usually have a fair amount of business and are running themselves ragged trying to keep up. I help them bridge that gap so that they can start getting their time back while continuing to improve the bottom line. I also work with executives and managers who are looking to be more effective leaders.

NCA: What initially got you interested in this career path and what kind of degree or certifications did you need to complete, if any?

Don: My coaching career started from a personal blog where I started sharing some of the things I’ve learned over the past 40+ years from running companies, serving on boards, and raising five children. Some of my readers asked if I provided coaching services, and I said, “Sure.” Once I started, I found that I loved helping others, especially small business owners and leaders, which led to my niche.

As far as degrees or certifications, I did get certified as a life coach, but it didn’t really teach me much that I hadn’t already learned from attending the school of hard knocks for decades. I’m also an avid reader and have read thousands of business and personal development books over the years, so that helped too.

Focus. I made the mistake for far too long calling myself a “life coach,” when really I was best suited to help already successful small business owners take the next step and get their time back.

NCA: What is the most rewarding part of your career and on the flip side, what is the most challenging aspect of the work that you do?

Don: The most rewarding part of my career is seeing clients who have their hearts in the right place take off. While every business needs money coming in to run and grow, I love working with business owners who have a bigger vision than just trying to buy a Ferrari. I worked with a lady in our local area who owns a nonprofit organization called Pure Haven that helps at-risk individuals and families enrich their lives, build strong families, and become self-sufficient. She was on the verge of closing the doors but took the advice and ran with it, and now has another branch, employees, multiple programs, and has helped tons of people in our community develop the skills they need to be successful.

The flip side of that is trying to help people who are stuck who won’t invest any money or time in their side “business.” I used to do some free coaching but quickly realized that if people weren’t willing to invest in my program, they wouldn’t be willing to invest in their business which would leave us spinning our wheels.

We would have conversations that would go like this:

“Have you tried to advertise?”

“Yeah, I post on Instagram sometimes. I’ve got a fair number of likes and followers.”

“I mean paid advertising. Do you actually get any business from those posts?”

“Oh. No, I can’t afford that because I don’t have enough clients. And yeah, that’s how I got my first client.”

“I see. Do you at least have a website where people can sign up?”

“I’ve been meaning to do that.”

“You mentioned your first client, how many clients do you have?”

“Just the one so far.”

“Gotcha. Well, we can build on that. Would you consider doing some advertising?”

“I don’t have the money for that. I was hoping that since you had so many followers you could help show me how to grow organically as you did.”

** Facepalm **

“Um…yeah… About that ‘organic’ growth…”

We’d go around in circles and get nowhere. That’s why I always charge for my services these days. I know there’s a good chance I’ll be wasting my time if they aren’t willing to invest their time and money into making their business successful. If they’ve laid out a nice chunk of change for coaching, they have a lot of motivation to make the best use of our time.

NCA: Can you think of mentor who was most vital to your success as a coach? In what ways did this mentor help you to thrive in your career?

Don: I’ve had a lot of mentors over the years including my parents who got me started off on the right foot, but one of the most influential was a well-established business owner who I became close friends with. He was always there to bounce ideas off of and freely offered up his honest opinions which weren’t always what I wanted to hear but were almost always what I needed to hear. I do the same thing for my clients today and frequently find myself repeating his advice.

NCA: Finally, what advice would you give someone looking to get started in the career path that you chose?

Don: Focus. I made the mistake for far too long calling myself a “life coach,” when really I was best suited to help already successful small business owners take the next step and get their time back. Hire your own coach too if you don’t have a ton of sales and business experience, the right coach can dramatically improve your results. Also, don’t be afraid to say no. If I don’t think I can help someone, I tell them and move on to the next prospect. It saves both of us a lot of headaches and gives me time back I can spend on people I can help.

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