Forward Change: Judi Saunders
The life coach on going it alone in your fifties and balancing business with a family – and a part-time job
Tell us what your business does: I am a life coach, support group facilitator and presenter. Where did the idea for your business come from? Coaching, in various formats, is something that I have been doing for the past 30 plus years, so I decided to make it official. What’s your unique selling point? I help people rekindle their passion and inspiration for their work and life. I have over 30 years’ experience working closely with people all over the world, from all walks of life, ages and different ethnic backgrounds. I have worked with everyone from a duke to banana pickers, and from convicts to police officers, in five continents. What were you doing before starting up? I worked for a not-for-profit, international organisation, which took me all over the world. In these situations, I spent time coaching, mentoring and counselling the people I was working with. At first it was very difficult to leave, but as time went on I adjusted and realised that it was time for a change. Have you always wanted to run your own business? I never really thought that one day I would have my own business, because I was very engaged in the work I was doing. When I realised I would need a new job, the thought of getting a 9 to 5 was totally out of the question – it seemed like a world I knew I didn’t fit into. The only answer for me was to start my own business. What planning did you do before you started up? First I took courses on life coaching and got certified. In fact I am still taking more courses, as there is so much to learn in this field. I received coaching myself, networked with other coaches and did lots of research online, including participating in business webcasts. I quickly realised that I needed to learn about business and I still am. What challenges have you faced how have you overcome them? I am in the really early stages of starting up and at the moment my biggest challenge is finding private clients, as there is stiff competition from other coaching businesses. I also have to maintain a part-time job, to help pay the bills while this is gearing up. That does take some time and energy away from my start-up, but is necessary. Also, I am over 50 and basically re-inventing myself. I don’t have the boundless energy I once had, which would help me to get more done. But what I do have is a lot of experience. I am optimistic. Where is your business based? I mostly work from home – I often give coaching sessions via Skype. It has been a challenge to separate home and work and to find the right balance between the two, so that neither suffers. However, I schedule, and it seems to be working out OK. Thankfully, I have a supportive family. I do wish I had more time to take care of things around the house but when you take on something new, something has to give! How have you promoted your business? Social media is the main way. I have tried some types of paid advertisement, but it didn’t yield the kind of results I was looking for. I do realise I need to put time and effort in, in order to see results. But since I am learning about marketing at the same time, have another part-time job and a family, there are only ‘x’ amount of hours in the day I can put into it. I wish there were more! How much do you charge? My fees are flexible, according to the individual situation. I.e. whether it’s face to face coaching or via phone or Skype. I also offer package deals to people who are interested in more than one session. What would you say the greatest difficulty has been in starting up? My greatest difficulty has been a lack of finance, brisk competition and fine-tuning my niche market. What was your first big breakthrough? I just started facilitating a monthly support group – open to anyone interested in coaching or self-development – which is exciting. It’s great networking with like-minded people. I am gleaning a lot of good business tips. You can read these things online, but it holds more weight when you meet someone in person and develop a connection. One thing a coach told me about starting up was: “You have to get out there”. At the time, I was nervous about venturing out from behind my computer, but I knew it had to happen. What would you do differently? Don’t confide too much in very close friends or family in the very beginning, as often they will inadvertently discourage you. They don’t want to see you hurt and try to ‘pad the fall’. Instead, wait until you have some success and then casually mention it to them. It is very encouraging when they act astonished at what you have accomplished so far. What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs? Anything is possible. Stick to it and you will succeed. Find someone to mentor you and listen to what they have to say. Be open to change. You might have to change your way of doing things, or your view point, and you have to flow with current situations. It’s the old brittle trees that fall down when the wind blows…the young flexible ones just bend with the breeze and then snap back when it’s over!