Is Lightning Your Real Name?
Lightning is my real name because that is what everyone calls me. My friends, my clients, my landlord, my parents, my coach, my neighbors and my wife all call me Lightning. The birth certificate says Alexander Wellington Atkinson III, but I’ve never been called that. Lightning is more real than what is on a dusty sheet of paper. Please, call me Lightning. If it feels weird, just give it a few weeks and it’ll seem normal.
What is the difference between a coach and a business consultant? Which one are you?
A business consultant is usually a specialist who is brought in to provide an opinion, do a specific project, or solve a particular problem. Using a consultant can be a great way for a company to accomplish a task or resolve an issue while controlling costs and preventing long-term payroll expenditures.
A coach works with a business owner or management team on a variety of topics and issues. A coach provides support, guidance, feedback, challenge and accountability to his client while drawing on a wide base of experience and knowledge. A coach that works with small businesses every day can spot problems earlier and help his clients resolve issues faster than most business owners. He is an ally through many seasons and is not limited to a specific project or discipline. A coach helps the business, and its owner, achieve their highest potential.
I am a coach.
What kinds of companies do you work with?
I coach business owners of all kinds of companies in all kinds of industries. I rarely need specific industry expertise because my work is helping individuals and teams perform better, not solving specific business problems. My clients know their industries and look to me for my ability to help them see their problems in new ways while I provide support, focus, accountability and challenge. Most problems are much easier to solve when you are talking to someone about them, and when you become ultra-clear about the nature of the problem and the desired outcome.
What does it look like to work with you?
I generally meet with my individual clients every two weeks for coaching and strategy sessions. The sessions last 45, 60 or 90 minutes each and are driven not by curriculum or a coaching mechanism, but by the immediate experience of the business owner and his/her needs.
- dissect and understand disappointments and failures as learning experiences
- track and attend to the big-picture health of the business
- set priorities and goals for the short term and long term
- create strategies and action plans to achieve the goals
- monitor the business owner’s self-care and help to create a sustainable lifestyle
- process relational challenges
- identify personal issues that prevent the client from reaching his/her full potential, and address those issues
- discuss new ideas and business possibilities
- celebrate recent successes and goals achieved
Where do you meet with clients?
The amount of benefit clients receive from my coaching is determined in part by how openly they share with me about their business and personal experiences. The clients I have coached at a coffee shop were reticent to talk about the more difficult (and thus more important) aspects of their business and their lives because we were in public. The coffee shop is not a conducive environment for personal growth work or in-depth business conversations. I have coached clients at their offices, and the obstacles to vulnerability are similar because the office staff is present and the phone always rings. One of the best things I offer a business owner, entrepreneur or work group, is the chance to step out of their day-to-day environment and see business and life from the outside.
It is impossible to see the big picture when you are in the picture. For that reason, I now do all my coaching sessions at my office in Evanston. We won’t be interrupted, you won’t have to worry about your staff overhearing our conversation, and you will be free to express whatever is on your mind.
And the coffee is good and the parking is free.
Do you work with start-ups?
I absolutely do. I love start-ups. However, my services are not priced for the shoe-string startup. If you have a great idea, or are determined to work for yourself, you owe it to your future self to not move forward until you have at least $10k-$15k to work with. Only a small part of this is my fee, but you will be surprised how quickly you can spend $7-$10k when you are starting a business. If you don’t have some capital to work with, your journey is going to be so difficult and your chances of success are slim. You’re worth better.
Do you work with struggling businesses?
I have sincere sympathy for the struggling business, because I have been there. However, the kind of coaching I do should never be a last-ditch effort for a failing business. Most businesses are in so much trouble before their owners seek help that they can’t afford the help—or there is no business left to save. As a business owner, you must keep your eye on all areas of your business (especially the areas for which you don’t have a natural affinity) and get help as soon as you notice issues.
If you have just discovered a leak in your ship, call me—we can probably fix it.
If you are up to your knees in water, let’s talk about your options.
If you are on already on the life raft wondering how this happened, I am probably not the right coach for you.
When should I hire a coach?
Life is better when we are going through it with intentionality and support. Coaching is for everyone who wants to grow and change and achieve something great.
Though there is no universal answer to this question, I have noticed a similar set of realizations that most people experience immediately before they are ready to be coached:
First, people who are ready have a deep desire for tomorrow to look different than today. Sometimes that is because the outlook today is not good. Sometimes, today is going well and they have bigger goals they want to achieve.
The second realization is that their better tomorrow is more likely if they have help along the way. This doesn’t mean they are incapable of achieving their goals on their own. They have realized that they will get where they want to go faster and with less struggle if they have help. They have realized that having someone on a journey with you is better than going it alone. They are ready to receive the support, focus, motivation, accountability and challenge that a coach provides.
Third, they find a coach that is a good fit to work with them. This is an important step because you don’t want to share your unique journey with just anyone. There is a level of trust and respect that must be present in the relationship, and you should like them.
The fourth realization is that their better tomorrow is worth the investment required today. Many people have goals and dreams, but few value those dreams and goals enough to do the hard work today that it will require to achieve their dreams. Individuals who are ready to be coached have made a commitment to themselves and are ready to invest in their dreams, their goals, and themselves.
How much does it cost?
I know this is the first question everyone asks…but it is not the most important question. There are so many types of coaches out there and they are all different. Each coach brings a style and a personality and an approach that is different. The most important question is not what do you charge, but are we a good fit to work together?
When evaluating a coach, the price doesn’t matter if they aren’t the right coach for you. Ask yourself if you would you let this person push and challenge you? Do you think he can relate to your journey? Do you like him enough to spend up to 90 minutes every other week with him? Do you trust him enough to share with him your challenges and struggles? Does he relate to you in the way that you want? Does he help you feel more motivated and more clear?
How will I know if I am a good fit to be coached by you?
I do three things to help us determine together if we are a good match.
First, a phone call. We’ll spend 20-30 getting to know each other. I’ll ask some general questions about you and your business. At the end of the phone call we’ll decide if we want to take the next step. Either of us can say no.
Second, I ask you to take a survey. This usually requires about an hour of your time. This survey gives me a more in-depth understanding of you and your business. If we both want to move forward after the survey, then you get to try before you buy.
Third, I’ll invite you for a free initial coaching session. This gives us a chance to meet in person and work together. The client-coach relationship grows and deepens over time as trust develops…this initial session is only the beginning. If at the end of the initial session we both believe we are a good fit, I’ll explain exactly what you can expect from me and what financial investment is required.
So, call or email right now to set up your free initial phone call. Even if you ultimately choose not to be coached by me, you will have connected with a pretty interesting individual. And I will have too. The world could use more of that.