Christie Mims is a professional and certified coach who built her coaching business, The Revolutionary Club, into a Forbes Top 100 for careers. After serving over 1,000 clients, she got a ton of questions on how she did it, and Coach Pony was born. She says if you want a real and honest, no holds barred look at being a life coach complete with wine and chocolate, this is the community for you.
In This Episode
A coach for life coaches, Christie Mims shares her advice on failing fast, the importance of being brutally honest, using humor to relate to an audience, and the right way to scale a business.
1:20 Coach Pony’s Mission
Coach Pony is about giving life coaches the skills and the community they need to learn basic business skills.
3:00 Succeed Through Failure
You’re going to fail, so just get out there and fail faster.
3:45 Wise Perseverance Versus Stubborn Idiocy
You have to ask yourself if you are still passionate, then ask your audience if they are still interested. Make sure there is still a reason to be doing it.
5:00 Overcoming Difficult Obstacles
Break apart a difficult task into simple actionable steps.
6:30 Start With the Basics
Once you get the basics, you can start to really get creative. But if you don’t get the basics, you’re never going to get anywhere.
7:00 Honesty and Humor to Conquer All
Whether it’s dealing with product launch hiccups or what it’s really like to be a life coach, it’s not always pretty. Bring brutal honesty and humor into everything you do to set yourself apart.
8:30 Don’t Put All Your Eggs in the Same Basket
Do Facebook ads, Google ads, internal referrals and build partnerships with businesses that feed into your own.
10:00 Learning How to Scale
The way you scale one business may not be effective for scaling another. After growing to a tipping point, you have to figure out what the scales looks like, and scale in a manner that’s most supportive to your customers and community.
13:00 Being a Modern Life Coach Entrepreneur
It means freedom and ultimate creativity. Unlike the past, you don’t need a lot a capital to get going; you just need an idea and an Internet connection.
– Christie Mims
LR: Welcome to Modern Ontrapreneur. Today we have Christie Mims who is a professional and certified coach who built her coaching business, The Revolutionary Club, into a Forbes Top 100 for careers. After serving over 1,000 clients, she got a ton of questions on how she did it and Coach Pony was born. So, she says if you want a real and honest, no holds barred look at being a life coach complete with wine and chocolate, then this is the community for you. Thank you so much for being here and making me read your promotion. That was well done.
CM: Thank you.
LR: So, talk to me about Coach Pony. That’s your primary thing right now?
CM: Well, my business is split but right now Coach Pony is the primary thing because we’re in a launch.
LR: Okay, so tell me about that.
CM: So, one of the things about being a life coach is that it attracts people who love to help.
CM: And they just want to help and they just want to do good in the world.
CM: They’re often not very skilled in the business side of things.
CM: And so when I became a life coach and really got into it, I just discovered I loved online marketing; I love the business; I love everything else. One of the sadnesses that I have is so many life coaches fail because they just aren’t willing to do the business side, or they don’t know how, and so Coach Pony is about giving them the skills that they need and the community that they need to learn basic business skills in terms of coaching specifically.
LR: It’s like an online course? Or a live course or what is this thing?
CM: So we have a couple things. We obviously have a big free community with what you’d expect. A lot of website resources, a lot of free guides, free videos, Facebook group, all the usual bells and whistles. And then we have a program called Build a Real Business too which is a structured 10-week program to really help coaches kind of take that next level in terms of their going to … getting their MBA in business for coaches … and then I have a book as well called Money Paths, Six Real Ways to Make Money as a Life Coach.
LR: Awesome. So you’ve been doing this for quite some time now.
CM: I’ve been a full-time coach for over six years.
LR: Uh-huh. And Coach Pony is a newer endeavor.
CM: Yes. We’ve been doing it for about two years now, roughly. Yeah.
LR: Was being a life coach your first sort of entrepreneurial venture?
CM: Yes. Well, no. My first entrepreneurial venture was a blog that I started with a friend of mine called City Girls, How to Have Fun in the Cities of D.C. and Philadelphia as a Single Lady.
CM: Yes. It was basically an epic failure except I got a lot of free makeup out of it so that worked out for me.
LR: Total win. So if you could like, now having had some success in this entrepreneurial endeavor, go back and tell your startup self how to make it easier, what would you say?
CM: Well, I was a consultant for a long time, and we did a lot of risk management. So the thing I would say to my younger self is like, “Oh, my God, you’re going to fail so just get out there and fail faster.” I think that’s it.
LR: So that’s something that actually we talk about at Ontraport quite a lot. We encourage people to get comfortable with failure and we demonstrate it all the time and yet, sometimes failures really are failure and it’s hard to know when we’re kind of like … On Wall Street we say you don’t want to throw good money after bad, right? It’s hard to know when you’re continuing to invest in something that’s just a sinkhole and yet at the same, you don’t want to stop investing in something that is just going through what Seth Godin calls the dip. So how do you figure you tell the difference between perseverance, wise perseverance and like stubborn idiocy?
CM: Well, for me, I think a couple things. One is do I still have like a passionate interest in doing this thing and when I call up a couple people who I know need it, are they still interested in doing it as well. So I always try to go back to both first myself to think, “Oh, my God, can I still do this?” And then second to my customer base and just ask them like, “Hey, what’s going on? You know, would you buy this? Why haven’t you bought this? What’s happening?” To make sure that there’s still a reason to be doing it. I think there’s a period where you just have to keep doing it and suffer, you know?
CM: Until it becomes clear.
LR: And how long was that period for you?
CM: Depends on the product.
LR: Oh, uh-huh. Yeah.
CM: So some products have done really well, and it’s been great. And then some have been just a pain in the butt and so I just … It honestly depends on the product. And a lot of times I think even when … The thing that decides it for me is even when I go back to my customers and I’m like, “Why aren’t you buying this?” Is it that I just don’t … I don’t have any interest in selling it anymore. I just realize my passion isn’t there and if my passion is not there, I’m just not going to be able to get through it.
LR: To get behind it. Yeah, interesting. That’s good self-awareness. So what do you feel like your unique skill set is?
CM: I think my unique skill set is I take difficult things and make them a little bit easier to understand and break them apart.
LR: So breaking complex things into simple …
CM: Actionable steps.
LR: Simple actionable steps.
CM: Yes. I think one of the big things I always focus on and I think comes easily to me and not so easily to others is to take action. And so being able to break apart a difficult thing like how to start a coaching business into simple actionable steps is one of my strengths for sure.
LR: Where do you think people get stuck mostly?
CM: A lot of times people get stuck in two areas. One is they get stuck in all the admin and bureaucracy that goes with setting up a business. And that they just never make it past like, “Do I incorporate? What’s up with my state law?” And the other is who do I serve? Because coaches, in particular coaches, are terrible about wanting to help everyone with everything all the time always and so, therefore, they say, “I help people with transformation.” I’m like, “Peoples, everyone’s transformation is everything.” Like that’s really hard. You’re not going to get a lot of traction with that. So they have a hard time narrowing the focus to really be amazing at one thing.
LR: Yes. So that it resonates with somebody.
CM: Yeah, so that it’s sticky to their audience but also so that they have credibility and mastery. If I was to say to you, “Hey, are you starting with your career right now?” And you said, “No.” And then I said, “All right, are you looking maybe for some romance because I could also help you with that.”
LR: Uh-huh. Yeah. Wait a minute.
CM: Like how sketchy do I sound?
LR: Yeah. I totally hear you. So helping people get focused and over just some of the basic hurdles is a lot of it.
CM: Yeah. I think when people get their building blocks in place then it’s just kind of understanding what you do well at that point. It’s not rocket science. What we do is not rocket science. There’s only a certain amount of ways to do it, especially in the coaching industry, so once you get the basics then you can start to really get creative. But if you don’t get the basics, you’re never going to get anywhere.
LR: Yeah, totally hear you. You obviously are like all of us, an entrepreneur that has to go get customers and convince them to purchase your thing. What’s working for you now to make that happen?
CM: I was laughing because I’m in a launch and so everything is blowing up. Like four websites have been down and you know like Leadpages went down and something else went down and I’m like, “Oh, my gosh.” The thing that’s been working with me I think is honesty and humor. That’s what I try to do. A lot of people have a lot of feelings about life coaches like, “Ummm, what is this? This feels culty.” And a lot of people have feelings about life coaches learning business skills. Like is this a multilevel sort of product launch thing? How shady is this organization? So I think just shedding light on what it’s really like to be a life coach, what it’s really like to build a business. It’s not always pretty. Let’s talk about that.
So I’ve been trying to bring a lot of brutal honesty and humor into what I do every day and into the blogs and the marketing content that I share, into my Facebook ads, everything that we’re doing to try to not only set myself apart but build up the rapport with my customers so they know that they can trust me to tell the truth.
LR: Yeah. In terms of like actual tactics, you said content and I hear you say Facebook. So is that like kind of the one-two punch of your situation is like Facebook ads to content?
CM: In this moment, yes. We’re doing a lot of Facebook ads because we’re gearing up for another program launch so that’s a huge piece of it. But in the longer term I rely on partnership for the most part. Building partnerships with coaching schools that teach certification and building my network that way. So that’s going to be how we have gotten students in the past and how we continue to get students moving forwards outside of the traditional marketing methods like Facebook or Google or all that other stuff.
LR: Well, partnership is actually a traditional marketing method and super smart. So you’re going to the place where students are coming out newly certified to be life coaches and then going like, “Now, what the hell do I do?” And you’ve built relationships with those schools so that they are referring you business.
CM: Yes. I’m slowly building relationships with a bunch of different life coaching schools. It’s taking time but that’s exactly right, that’s exactly the process.
LR: Yeah. It does take time because you’re not the first person to think of this.
LR: No doubt. And how have you thought through the process of getting them to refer you instead of the like 100 people that have asked them to do this before?
CM: Okay. Well a couple things. One, I’m going to schools that I have students who have graduated from my program. So who …
LR: Alright. So you have internal referrals.
LR: Uh-huh, strategic.
CM: Yes, yes. And we’ve got success stories.
CM: And the other is I’ve been just reaching out and building general relationships with schools, attending some of their programs and conferences. Doing a charm offensive, trying to help them out wherever I can. Just start to build those relationships. But those are the two primary methods.
LR: Yeah. Smart. So, tell me what is your cutting edge in terms of what you’re learning right now? What is going to be the most useful thing for you to kind of … The next level for you to get to?
CM: The non-cutting edge one is still going back to the sort of the essentials and theory. Like I feel like I have to re-read that book every three months.
LR: Oh, really. I haven’t read that book once.
CM: Oh, it’s so good. It’s so good. Yeah, I just continue to stay focused on what’s really working and do one thing and do it amazingly well, do it better than anyone else in the world. That’s what I want, the Coach Pony community to be the best in the world for business. The other is scale. The thing that I’m excited about learning about is, you know, as we reach a certain tipping point, I have to … I scaled up the career side of my business in a different way than I’m going to scale up the Coach Pony side of my business. So figuring out what this scale looks like, how to scale in the most supportive way possible to our students and to our community.
LR: What are the challenges with scale that you’re like seeing oncoming?
CM: Some of the challenges, first and foremost …
LR: Well, and can you just repeat that sigh?
CM: I don’t think it will help this one a lot. Finding the right people to help me scale. Finding the right team members to help me tackle that and to take care of my customers. I have an internal team and I have freelancers as well and people on retainer but training everyone in exactly the right pattern of thinking so we’re consistent always. And putting the right people in the right role I think is the first. And then scale in terms of lead generation and really building beyond what we’ve been able to do so far and trying to get to another level of visibility and credibility. So I’m working on both those things. Did I answer your question?
LR: Yeah, I mean, those are the challenges, right? We get to a certain point and it stops being about the product and it starts being about the team and figuring out how to manage more cooks in the kitchen and bring them on and inspire them to do their best work. It’s all unique challenges that oftentimes we didn’t even see coming.
CM: Yeah. Getting the right people in the right role and knowing what the right role was in the first place. So that’s something I’m definitely …
LR: Super challenging.
CM: Yeah, thinking a lot about.
LR: Yeah. Good luck with that.
CM: I could use that.
LR: So, man, you’ve been at this for a little while. You obviously have years to go in your career yet but, when you think about what is it all for, what do you imagine you’d like your legacy to be about?
CM: My legacy is I helped people find work that they love and that’s it. I think the world’s a different place when we like our jobs. Because if I can help one life coach be successful and they have even at minimum over the course of a year, 20 or 30 clients, that’s amazing. They’ve changed 20 or 30 lives and I’ve been able to help them do that just by kind of being there at place and time in their journey.
Whatever you think about coaching or life coaching, there is a huge amount of positivity around it in terms of what can happen when people reach their goals and be a little bit more focused on stuff. So putting more well-trained successful life coaches in the world I think would make a huge difference.
LR: You know, we are living and building these businesses in a pretty unique moment where change is literally happening at an exponentially faster rate every single year. What do you think it means to be an entrepreneur in this modern moment?
CM: I think it means two things. I think it means freedom which is the first thing and I think it means ultimate creativity as the second thing. Because unlike the days of yore, you don’t have to have a lot of capital to get going. You don’t have to have a space to go to. You can start with literally nothing, just an idea and an Internet connection. You don’t even need a lot of clients today, I think, to be a modern entrepreneur. You just need the right clients and with the targeting and the capabilities that we have, you can find them in a way you never could before. I think there’s so much freedom in that for people to kind of be able to leave the traditional work force and do what they want.
And then the creativity, like just in what I get to do, the things that I can create, the programs, the book, just the retreats, whatever I want to do I can create it and I think that’s amazing. The kind of creativity I did not have as a consultant, creating a lot of power points, working for the man. And so it’s pretty fabulous. That’s just my industry but just being here in San Francisco, everyone’s doing something awesome and there’s so much creativity. I think the sky’s the limit on it. I’m not sure that was something that was always the case.
LR: I’m pretty sure it wasn’t. Awesome. Well, thank you so much for taking the time. I really appreciate having you here. Would you do us the favor of signing our wall?
LR: All right. Thanks.
Want more Modern Ontrapreneur Podcast?
Check out the previous episode featuring long-time start-up executive and founder of CabinetM, Anita Brearton.