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Growing a Coaching and Consulting Business with Rupert Whiting

Interview Transcript

Mike Zipursky: Hi, everyone! It’s Michael Zipursky from Consulting Success. On today’s show, we have Rupert Whiting.

Rupert is a business coach that works with dentists and family-owned businesses with $10 million plus in sales. He focuses his efforts on making business in a city more profitable and systematically sustainable for the benefit of the local community.

His passion is to help ambitious business people to live the life that they want to live, to create the businesses that they have always dreamed of and to create great jobs for others in the process.

Rupert is part of Focal Point – a business coaching system and franchise created by Brian Tracy.

Rupert, welcome!

Rupert Whiting: Hi, Michael.

Mike Zipursky: So Rupert, you won an award for the highest sales record. Tell us a little bit about that.

Rupert Whiting: Yeah, that was back about 6 months or so after I really joined the Focal Point franchise. I really sort of knuckled down after a while and sort of make things happen. I used a system and broke – at the time, it was the most that any coach had sold in a given week of ongoing monthly coaching. I was pretty pleased with that.

Mike Zipursky: Very nice. Can you give us a bit more specifics around how many clients that meant for you or what kind of revenue or any details around that?

Rupert Whiting: Yeah, sure. At the time it was one partnership of three partners and I was charging them $5,000 a month for coaching, and I landed two other clients where I was – well, when I was coaching one of two partners, and the other one I was coaching a single one so I had like a three, and a two and a one. And the two and the one I was charging them $2,500 a month each so that was $10,000 per month of income and I signed all of those in the same week. That was a massive win for me.

Mike Zipursky: Great!

Rupert Whiting: You can imagine, that was a pretty big hike in my income.

Mike Zipursky: Right. And so how did you feel? Did you celebrate that in any way?

Rupert Whiting: Yeah. One of the good things about the Focal Point brand is that, yeah, what you feel about things like that, you’ve got a whole team of people you can celebrate it with, and it inspires them and re-sets the bar for everybody else.

So I pumped it around the Focal Point system, not to brag, but sort of send the vibes.

Yeah, I went out and had a nice meal with my wife.

Mike Zipursky: Very nice.

You also told me that you helped a client double their rate and their revenue. What happened in that situation?

Rupert Whiting: Well that was actually one of the – that was the single guy of those three. He’s a small farmer out __[02:50] sort of looking to – well, he still does grow a really great organic greens hydroponically. It’s funny when you mention hydroponics, everybody seems it’s not for…

Mike Zipursky: Right

Rupert Whiting: It isn’t for food consumption. But this is great.

Anyway, by working with him just on the capacity models, other sources/channels to market, I really was encouraging him “Look, the more you grow, the more you’ll sell.” Whereas he was stuck in that “Look, I don’t want to grow anything I can’t sell.” kind of model. Within weeks, he had doubled his production and he said he got on since there. He’s probably at about three times – would have grown about three times more now than he was when I first started working with him.

I don’t work with him any longer purely because he reached a plateau which is as bad as much as he could handle. There wasn’t a return on investment on the coaching that he was able to take home. He’s probably sustaining that at about three times his volumes right now.

Mike Zipursky: If we could dig into that just for a moment so everyone listening is going to have a better understanding what you did to enable your client, in this case, to really grow their business. You’re saying kind of three times from where they were before.

What was it specifically – if you could kind of outline the issues that they were having and then what you did, kind of what you applied in order to get them to where they are today.

Rupert Whiting: So yes, I was saying it was really just asking the questions about why there wasn’t a more of a production bent and then creating a sales problem. Because without production churning out, the sales team – and in this case, it was the same guy – but without the production problem, he wasn’t really pushing the sales. And it was easy at the end of the week – because this was real fast turnaround product – he wasn’t presented with a bunch of products which was waste, which I knew and as happened, it drove him to like “I can’t waste this. I’ve got to get out there. I’ve got to pound the pavements more. I’ve got to have more aggressive conversations with my clients about them buying more.”

So it was really understanding psychology to a limited degree and also into having seen it in many business before. Create the right kind of problems in your business because you’re always going to have problems, but create the right kinds of problems like “Hey, I’ve got more product than I can handle. Now I’ve got to get out and sell it.” Without that problem, he wasn’t selling it.

Mike Zipursky: And why do you have that problem? Why did he think that he didn’t need to grow anymore? I mean, what was the issue in his mind going on that you helped him realize?

Rupert Whiting: Well there was two things: one, he had a business partner who was very conservative — not necessarily like in a partnership — but somebody – another stakeholder in the business who was very conservative, and who was waiting to help him with the grow when he had the contracts in place. And I fundamentally disagreed with that as a strategy. It was like create the product then go sell it because until you see it with your own eyes, it’s just an academic exercise.

So really, he was being kept small by somebody who was actually trying to act in his best interests by saying “Let’s not waste. Let’s count every penny.” which I like that way of thinking. It runs account. I know I value that in my teams. I do recognize that it’s the time to be conservative. But in this particular case, as you all know, Michael, it was an overplayed strength. Conservatism, when it’s overplayed, becomes a restriction.

Mike Zipursky: Right. And I think people listening, they’re going to kind of feel this is resonating with them because a lot of people would feel “Well, why should we go off and go ahead and build something if we don’t yet know whether or not we can sell it?” I mean, these days especially, entrepreneurship and start-ups, the whole idea of validating the market before you go and expand capacity, what you were telling this client is “Hey, expand your capacity. Go on and produce more and then figure out where to sell it.”

Wasn’t there some potential risk there? What kind of conversations were going on between you and the client there because it does seem that is a bit counter-intuitive to go ahead and develop the product further without even knowing whether or not they could sell it?

Rupert Whiting: Remember, it wasn’t developing/growing plant. You’re going to get the same product. It’s just you’re going to have more of it. But what the margins were such in that you didn’t need to sell all of it, but then also the market was totally empty. He wasn’t like he had saturated a market for it. He just wasn’t exploiting the market that was there aggressively enough.

I just knew that it was a matter of him banging on doors and having more urgent conversation – there was no urgency there.

So to my mind, the risk was pretty low. And we’re talking about hundreds of dollars of seeds being wasted. We’re not talking about a situation where we were driving in anywhere close to going under. It was just turning on the tap a little bit further. The amount that was eventually wasted, I mean, he consumed…it wasn’t we could get rid of it somehow for the marketing expense. And I did that several times. I took it out to restaurants that I know saying “This is a free sample. Just tell me how much it is you want, when you’re going to pay for it.” kind of thing.

So we managed to use everything that he grew. We were forced to get more creative as to how we did that.

Mike Zipursky: I think what’s really interesting in this story for everyone that’s listening as kind of as a takeaway is sometimes we need to get out of our comfort zones because if in this case, your client would not have gotten out of their comfort zone and just kind of stayed in there, they potentially wouldn’t have seen this massive growth in their business and all the benefits that came along with it.

Whether it’s for a consultant, or a coach, or any independent professional, business owner, if you’re really weighing the risks and looking at the benefits, sometimes, extending yourself a little bit and getting out of that comfort zone can really bring substantial rewards.

Rupert Whiting: Absolutely. And to build on that point, there were risks of standing still, too. He was wearing out. He was uninspired. Then he gained a new lease of life by actually having to – he was more engaged as a result of having those extra __[09:35]. Yes, there was risks of growing, but there was also risks of standing still.

Mike Zipursky: Definitely.

So Rupert, let’s go back in time now and look at how you got started. You were actually in the military.

Rupert Whiting: That’s right – British Military.

Mike Zipursky: And tell us a little bit more about how you got from there into the world of business?

Rupert Whiting: Well I left the military when I couldn’t get a promotion because I was too young. So I realized that the army was too big a bureaucracy for somebody with my personality type so I got out, joined a small management consultancy – long, long story short – and then ended up emigrating over here about 7 years ago. And somehow, I’d found my way into the print industry selling print.

And again, left there and I moved to CIBC and left there. But before I moved to CIBC, I’d started coaching for free. It was what I did is what I did for fun was I’d help people set bigger goals for themselves. I’d talk to them about business over a beer. Anybody who wanted a talk, I’d talk and that’s when I realized ‘This is what I’m doing for free. This is what I do for fun more importantly. Why wouldn’t I do it as a job?” Because I don’t know what else I want to do so I swallowed that bible on ‘If you do what you enjoy, you’ll never work another day in your life.’

I said well if money was no object, I would go find people who don’t run the business that they deserve to run. They’re brighter than that. They deserve better out of their business. I’ll go and help them. And then about three weeks after I decided that’s what I wanted to do, the business coaching franchise kind of landed in my lap.

Mike Zipursky: Okay, and so I guess is that also a result of doing those free sessions? Is that how you ended up getting your first real paid client as well?

Rupert Whiting: My first paying client actually was a friend at a dinner party. He said “Hey, would you mind having this kind of conversation with my boss because he’s already struggling? Doesn’t like what he sees when he talks to consultants but you seem to talk a different kind of sense.” So that’s my first paying client. That was before I was officially a coach.

And then let me think my first client as a coach. That was a hot knock. I just went to businesses that I liked to frequent __[12:00] male clothes shop. I got chatting with the owner and said “Hey, this is what I’m doing now with my life.” And they’re like “Hey, I know Brian Tracy. I could do with a business coach. Why don’t we…” so we sat down and we did – that first one, I will admit, was part cash, part clothing.

Mike Zipursky: Right

Rupert Whiting: But you get creative. If I was going to spend money there anyway, it reduces their cash flow impact and it helped me…my first professional client.

Mike Zipursky: How big has the Brian Tracy brand been for you? I mean, that’s kind of one question, but the other area that I just would like to explore – and for everyone listening I think would be interested as well is – why get involved in this franchise? Why not just go off on your own, and become an independent coach and consultant, and do your own thing?

Why did you choose to get involved with the Brian Tracy franchise?

Rupert Whiting: Self knowledge. A) I didn’t realize how hard coaching was going to be. Because I enjoyed it so much, I thought it would be easy. But I know myself. I know I’m a team player. Like when I broke that sales record, I wanted to tell people and to have other people who will celebrate with me, not just friends and family, was a big deal for me.

Also, I’ve picked up the phone to my franchisor…happen once – in fact you know what it was? It’s about two weeks before I broke that sales record, I picked up the phone and I just went ‘Man, this is tough. Man, I’m banging my head against a brick wall.’ And he __[13:34] rounds me and says “Look, I have this conversation with everybody at some point.” and he rattled off the names of our sort of franchise superstar coaches. “It’s like I got this conversation with them and you’ll get through it too.” And then three weeks later, of course, I break the sales record.

Just having that ability – I don’t know that I could have done anything like I’ve done if I was a single with the shingle, so to speak. I’m not so disciplined or detailed to want to create a brand for myself, and logos and all that sort of stuff. So I knew that I was going to have to spend that money anyway and probably a lot of time, why not just go and take the one that Brian’s created?

So that’s one reason. I’m a team player and I’m also low on the real attention to detail scale so I didn’t want to build my whole business. I wanted a business in a box.

And the second point is something that’s really interesting. Today, we had Brian’s call for an hour, and I had a friend’s boardroom full of clients and prospects and we listened to Brian talk for an hour. We then debriefed about sales and we then debriefed for an hour. That’s part of the package. It’s a little value-add I can bring. And for me, it’s worth every penny of the franchise fee to get those little extras. But primarily for me, it was the sense of team and the sense of identity and belonging.

Mike Zipursky: And you mentioned that you were going up – again, knocking your head against the wall, having a lot of challenges. And you’re saying that coaching was really difficult. What exactly were you finding so difficult in those early days?

Rupert Whiting: Coaching is only maybe 30% of what we do. The rest of the time was sales and marketing ourselves. Just the finding out what works. I mean, there’s so many – like I’m sure people are listening – so many people out there telling you what you should do to market a professional services firm. It’s hard to see the wood from the trees. You try things. You got to get through a lot of ‘No’s’ before you get to ‘Yes’s’. It’s just kind of the nature of the beast.

I think that to have the institutional knowledge that ‘it was the situation, not me’ that created that was very valuable for me.

Mike Zipursky: Okay. So the challenge was getting clients at the beginning?

Rupert Whiting: To be frank, Michael, I haven’t __[16:00] to that challenge yet. I have far more __[16:02] than I used to. In fact there’s 99% of our business is referrals. But I still don’t have the pipeline that I would like simply because the more you coach, the less you get out there; the less you get out there, the less opportunities you have to meet new people to coach. So it’s that vicious – it’s that rollercoaster that everybody’s __[16:23].

Mike Zipursky: Is the work that you’re doing now with clients, the processes that you use and just the way that you run your business, is it different now than it was when you got started?

Rupert Whiting: Very. I hired a virtual assistant about 2-3 months ago and that’s transformed my business in terms of allowing me to do what I enjoy doing, and palm off that which I don’t enjoy doing which actually was sucking my energy and making me not enjoy the job, the role. I would have done that sooner.

I am recognizing some – I’m talking very frankly with you here because we’re sort of talking amongst peers. But…not good at attention to detail, but some of my clients – my ability to enter a session with one client needs that he’s getting better now. Before, I would just bound in and trying to wing it.

It would be stupid to – Focal Point system’s strong enough that didn’t need to do that. But my personality type is not one to take copious notes and spend an hour debriefing myself after a session. It’s just, move on to the next thing, the next thing and then come back next week and go “Where were we at again?” And so I’ve improved over that a lot in the…

Mike Zipursky: So Rupert, just to stop you for a second because the connection’s kind of losing a little bit there. What you were saying is that just the attention to detail wasn’t necessarily your strong suit; something that you’re improving on but now as opposed to where you would have just maybe walk into a meeting before without as much preparation, these days, you’re preparing a lot more and finding that’s much more beneficial to your business and your time with your clients?

Rupert Whiting: Yes, absolutely. The biggest thing is my personal sense of mental calm because I know I’m prepared and I know I’m not going to drop anything whereas before I was enjoying it, but I was winging it. The clients were loving it. The clients were getting great value. But I was a little petrified. It was __[18:20] this was the time when they wouldn’t get that __[18:23]. Now I know that’s not happening.

Mike Zipursky: Right.

Let’s talk about your virtual assistant you just brought on recently. Tell us a little more about what was going on within your own life that made you want to hire and bring on a virtual assistant? And then specifically, what does this person been able to do? What kinds of tasks and what kinds of things are you having them do that is helping your business?

Rupert Whiting: I was disorganized and I was avoiding things. Remember you and I met up in the restaurant and we haven’t spoken maybe for 2 or 3 weeks before in between us setting the appointment? I now get my virtual assistant to ring ahead. I put them in my diary as unconfirmed appointments and she will ring ahead 24-48 hours ahead and confirm with somebody that that’s happening.

And I wasn’t losing a lot of time of it, but it was stressful just not knowing if that person was going to turn up. I’m the kind of guy who will get in the car, set off and then think “Wow! I don’t even know if Michael’s going to be there. Better give him a ring.” Whereas she now does that. And it looks professional and it means that I get cancelled on a far, far less than be I get cancelled on 48 hours in advance and I can fill that time with something more profitable and productive. That’s one thing.

The other thing was I was chatting with a client once on the phone as I was driving somewhere. I had a great idea, put the phone down to him, rang and left a message for Amanda for a document that I wanted creating a checklist. So I just “Here’s what the checklist…don’t worry about the formatting. I’ll format it. But just bang all these points down.” Boom! There we are. Next thing I know…3/4/5 hours later, whenever, but it’s definitely acceptable turnaround for me, there’s that document that I can then sculpt into what I want.

I’ll have great ideas as I’m driving. I can just ring her, and leave a message and say “Send me a message with ‘Call Robin and tell him this, that and the other.’” So she becomes my kind automatic to-do – I guess, if you’ve got Siri, you might not need that but I didn’t have Siri. I don’t have Siri.

What else does she do? Takes a bunch of personal admin off me. Buy flowers for my wife, order a cake, do this…all that sort of stuff because that’s not what I get paid. Doesn’t…pay myself to do so I can pay her to do it and it gets done perfectly, and actually better than I would do it.

She does my invoicing, Michael. Honestly, it was the worst time of my month weirdly with invoicing and going to get – just the admin. I told you I was low on details. Jus the admin, oh man! It was just driving me insane especially when I do…when I charge them just a few bucks here and a few bucks there. Just that __[21:10] and it takes me about 5 or 10 minutes to do my invoicing instead of an hour and a half, and I do it a weekly __[21:22].

Mike Zipursky: So all the different things that may have been going on in your mind before when you thought ‘Okay, this is a great idea. This is a thing I need to get done.’ whatever might have been that you would have had to have written down initially by yourself, and like everyone probably forgone a great deal of that, now you’re able to kind of offload that at your assistant and it gets done.

Rupert Whiting: Absolutely. The things that I’ve been __[21:48] have made a good idea for weeks…

Mike Zipursky: Sorry, Rupert. You cut out there. I didn’t hear you.

Rupert Whiting: Sorry, I said the things that good ideas in the moment get done as opposed to them having to remain really good ideas for a whole week or two weeks for them to eventually rise on top of my to-do list out of frustration.

Mike Zipursky: Right. And what about the costs involved in something this is it? Very expensive? Or how does that work?

Rupert Whiting: I won’t say how much she charges me an hour. But I only hire her for half an hour a day, so you can imagine it is not a big expense.

Mike Zipursky: No. Very interesting.

Let’s get into this action bite which is ‘Feel-Felt-Found’. So if you could explain to everyone listening what that is, how you use this concept and approach, and then maybe we can get to some examples as well.

Rupert Whiting: It’s a great [22:44 – 22:50]

Mike Zipursky: Rupert, you just cut out there. I just need you to start again because we didn’t…

Rupert Whiting: I said it’s a great sales technique for people in our business but all our clients too.

Really, it’s an empathy close and it’s like “I understand how you feel.” if we get an objection or some resistance, we simply say “I know how you feel and I would feel that way if I was in your situation too.” or “I know how you feel.” is the first thing you do. Acknowledge that they have feelings of resistance.  Either “I felt that way too when I was first presented with this challenge.” or “Other people in your situation have felt exactly the same way too.” Wow! Now that they feel heard and understood, they now feel like it’s not them. It’s not about them. Other people felt like that. And then the kill is “But what they found is when they take this step/when they get this advice/when they get the coach/when they see the money come rolling in, what they found is it was a great investment of their time/energy/money/(whatever it is we’re asking them to commit to).”

So “I know how you feel.”; “I felt…” or “Others have felt the same way.”; “But what we found is…” like “Okay, my feelings are valid. My feelings are common, but that they shouldn’t stop me because other people have found that they were (unfounded or whatever).”

So ‘Feel-Felt-Found’ is a real killer tool to have in your box. If you’re coming up against resistance, understand what it is that they’re feeling, make it all right for them to feel that way and with empathy [24:29] “Other people felt like that” and tell people __[24:31] that fear.

Mike Zipursky: So how can people prepare for this? Is there a certain exercise that they can use or any kind of preparation that they can go through to get better at this concept and implement ‘Feel-Felt-Found’ for themselves?

Rupert Whiting: If our clients aren’t doing what we – aren’t accepting our treatment plan (to use a dental analogy) is because they have a fear, basically and we can predict, at least in clumps, of what those fears may be.

You’re just “I understand how you feel.” and it’s probably recognize the fear or the people felt that too. So it’s really just go and sit for a while, 30 second or a minute in your client’s chair. And honestly – Michael, I’m sure you’ll know this – if you have two chairs in your office, literally go and sit in the one the client sits in, and walk a mile in their shoes. Sit there, understand how they would be feeling and then come up with a script that suits the situation. “I know how you feel.”; “I would have felt.”; or “I did feel.”; or “Others have felt that way too.”; “But what we found is…”; “To step through it is advantageous/is the best move/is whatever.”

Mike Zipursky: So this can almost be – people could kind of list out all the different experiences and you can have areas of resistance that they anticipate or they’ve come up against, write those down and then also look at some of the success stories that they’ve seen with other clients and just kind of prepare those different stories and situations in their mind. So that way when they do come up against this kind of resistance, they can then implement ‘Feel-Felt-Found’ by pulling in the right stories. Would that be a good way to do it?

Rupert Whiting: Very much so. Yes.

Mike Zipursky: Great. All right, Rupert. Well, thank you. It’s been a pleasure having you on the call today. I hope everyone listening to us has received some great value from it. I think a lot of the information you shared here will really resonate with many people. Again, thank you.

Rupert Whiting: Pleasure’s all mine. I’m sorry if the reception was poor at times.

Mike Zipursky: That’s all right. We’re glad to have you.

Rupert Whiting: Thank you, Michael.


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