In the startup world, the abbreviation MVP stands for Minimal Viable Product. It refers to the simplest product that a company can launch to get momentum, feedback based on customer behavior and advice, and then improve or add features as needed.
This raises an interesting question: What is the MVP for an executive coach? What is the minimum you need to have in order to get out into the market and start attracting clients?
Here is our take on your MVP as an Executive Coach. There is good news here, as long as the perfectionists among you are willing to remember the advice that perfection is the enemy of good enough.
If you want to get started as an executive coach, here is what we think you need:
- Substance. The coaches in the market that haven’t made it often lack the experience, track record, or education that demonstrates credibility to decision makers. You need something that shows prospective clients that you are credible. There are many ways to do this. You might have an advanced degree in a field where you can apply what you have studied to leadership challenges. You might have a track record of success as a leader, whether in a traditional organization or a less traditional sector. You might be serving clients in other ways, like consulting or counseling, and be able to make the transition. Maybe you are a speaker, consultant, or trainer who already brings value to clients and wants to add executive coaching to the mix. Scott Adams, of Dilbert fame, introduced the concept of a stack, and this concept applies here, too: Maybe you aren’t the world’s greatest in one thing, but perhaps you can find a few things you are good at and combine those into the kind of substance that shows credibility (for Adams it was a good enough sense of humor, drawing skills, and knowledge of business that led to his successful comic strip). We are proud of the remarkable professionals that join us at the Center for Executive Coaching. We get people from the top organizations in the world, as well as self-made entrepreneurs, best-selling authors, and elite athletes.
- A coaching solution to a pressing problem for a specific target market. People don’t wake up every morning looking for an executive coach the way they look for a cup of coffee or tea. If you want to get hired, you need to focus on one, and no more than three, problems that you can solve through executive coaching — and do it better than most. When I first started as a coach, I was reluctant to focus, and so I didn’t get any clients for a while. Only when I chose a solution to a pressing problem — in my case, how non-profit leaders can create strategic plans that get executed and help take their organizations to the next level — did I start getting clients. You want to be able to say, “I help X to get Y,” where X represents a focused target market and Y represents the benefits you solve. Once you do this, it becomes easy to reach the people who have a need that you can address.
- The skills to solve that problem through coaching. It used to be that any retired or laid-off executive could hang a shingle as a coach, even if they had no executive coach training. That’s not the case anymore. The profession has evolved too much. High-ticket clients now expect executive coaches to have proven, practical competencies, processes, tools, and methods. They want to know that you have a clear path to results. You can’t expect to just sit with a client and ask never-ending questions that go nowhere. If you want to be an MVP as an executive coach, you need some training. The Center for Executive Coaching specializes in giving you those skills — and of course we can take you much farther than the MVP with full certification via our program, the International Coach Federation (ICF), and the Center for Credentialing and Education.
- At least one educational marketing piece to show that you are credible and can get results. You should have something that you can give away to prospective clients that brings them value, educates them about a problem they face, and shows that you have substance. Examples include: a white paper, an executive brief, a video series, a mini-course by email, an ebook, articles you write for an industry publication, a speech or seminar you give, or one or more one-page checklists with tips to improve results. There are many, many possibilities. This kind of marketing piece gets people interested, shows that you are the real deal, and leads to conversations about how you can help.
- A strong marketing message. Too many coaches have a tepid marketing message, and that’s being generous. You need to craft a strong message so that people know the problem you solve, the benefits you provide, your unique advantage/edge, and proof that what you say is true. At the Center for Executive Coaching, we give you as much support as you need to do that, and we have dozens of examples to show you.
- The work effort and persistence required to get visible in your target market. Some readers already have a great network. Others, like me when I started, maybe not so much. If you have a solid network of decision makers, you will have an easier go of it initially — although eventually you have to focus in on a niche instead of relying on your contacts. If you don’t have a solid network, you need to get out there and build your network while getting visible at industry associations, events, and anywhere that decision makers for your target market can be found.
That’s it. Notice that I didn’t tell you that you need a designation from the ICF, as so many people believe. You do need training as a coach, ideally with a program like ours that is accredited by the ICF. However, you can wait a bit to find out whether the ICF designation is necessary to your success or nice to have. If your target market includes going through the HR departments of large companies, credential-focused organizations like hospitals and universities, or the federal government, than you are probably going to need an ICF designation.
Notice that we also didn’t say that you need a costly website, investment in a LinkedIn marketing consultant, or that you have to have already written a book. You don’t need those things to have a Minimal Viable Product as an executive coach. Maybe at some point you will, and the Center for Executive Coaching works with you long after your training is done to guide you in the right direction. We also have great trainings in your member area about these and other topics related to building a successful executive coaching practice.
The Center for Executive Coaching curriculum is designed to get you everything you need to get out there and get started as a coach. We set you up quickly to have your MVP as an executive coach — and then we keep training you longer term so that you develop even better skills, learn how to position your services to stand out from others, get any designations you want or feel you need, and get amazing toolkits and processes to get results and rave reviews from your clients.
Other programs don’t do this. Many teach the kind of fluffy nonsense that make executives, leaders, and up-and-coming leaders cringe. Others make you jump through far too many hoops, with too much academic theory and jargon. Still others force you to evangelize their specific philosophy, almost like a cult.
If you want a practical, efficient, results-focused way to succeed as an executive & leadership coach, join the Center for Executive Coaching today. Start as an MVP, and then become a superstar.