The Four Stages of a Coaching Business

By Toku

When I first started coaching,

I thought . . . If I can just charge a hundred dollars an hour, then I’ll have made it.

Then I thought . . . If I can just go to a Rich Litvin intensive, then I’ll have made it.

And then . . . If I can join 4PC, make over six figures, build a scalable business, hire a great assistant, write a book, write a speech…

On and on and on.

For years I chased the next milestone, the whole time missing what was right in front of me.

And then I started reading books about business.

Scaling Up, Predictable Success, Small Business Life Cycle, The Pumpkin Plan, Run Like Clockwork . . .

At a certain point, I started noticing that as MUCH as I knew about coaching I knew SQUAT about business. Even worse MOST of the coaches I had been listening to knew even less.

Slowly, I began to see that there are…

Four Evolutionary Stages to a Coaching Business

Stage 1 – Not Enough Clients or Cash – this is where most coaches are and this is where most of them stay. They can’t support themselves or they can BARELY support themselves. This stage is dangerous for two reasons:

  1. You’re Prey – At this point, you on at the bottom of the coaching food chain and thus are prey for the larger more dominant predators in our industry and because you don’t know much you can be easily fooled.
  2. There’s No Going Back – unlike coaches at later stages of growth, the only way out is up. If you stay here for too long you’ll quit, either because you run out of cash, credit, or hope. So it’s vital you move beyond this stage quickly.

Stage 2 – Cash, Clients, and Chaos – Most of the coaches you think of as successful are here. They’re running around making deals, signing clients, and bragging about it all. They LOOK impressive, but they are just one bad month or two away from stage one.

If they stop hunting they starve and so they talk about how great they are at hunting. They tell you about the niche they’ve carved out in the market and encourage you to find a pack of wildebeest to follow just like them. They are having fun, but they are always on the move.

The biggest dangers in this stage are burnout or growth. You will either run out of steam or grow so much that you have to expand or collapse under your own weight.

Stage 3 – Too Many Clients, Too Many Projects – If a coach keeps pushing and growing eventually they end up here. They start burning out, or their business or lifestyle get’s too expensive. They’re coaching a LOT of clients and they start to resent them. They miss the days when things were simpler.

So they downsize, they fire their assistant. They go back to hunting. They come up with a few new projects but it’s still all on them.

A few coaches move beyond this: they expand, they give up control, they create structure and learn to evolve from hunters to farmers. But this takes courage and discipline and humility.

The biggest dangers of this stage are fear of the future, not being willing to get support, choosing the excitement of signing clients over the mundanity of running a business.

Stage 4 – Balance, Flow – This is rarefied air. Most businesses are aiming for this place, but most coaches don’t even know it exists. This is a place where you stop being the business and the business becomes a thing unto itself. You no longer do the thing, you now can make the thing happen. What you choose to do here is up to you. You might step away or you might choose your favorite part of your business and give yourself that job.

This stage offers true freedom. But it also requires you to let go of your identity and embrace something new.

THIS is the success I had been seeking when I started my business and for most coaches, it is as well.

They want freedom, they want time away, they want something that has an impact bigger than them. And they THINK they’ll get it by getting to stage 2, but stage 2 is a trap. It’s a job in coaches clothing.

The true freedom comes in stage 4 if you’ve got the courage to get there. And for most of you, that means getting OUT of phase 1.

It means getting to a point of making JUST enough cash to earn a living and then figuring out how to do that month after month.

You need to STOP worrying about anything beyond a basic website, a simple text logo, a few coaching packages, and a simple fee structure.

Your LIFE should be about clients. Finding them. Serving them. Selling to them.

You’ve got to MASTER sales and connection, NOT branding and marketing.


The Stages Are Simple

What can seem complicated to figure out, is how to keep them that way.

Your first job is to figure out what evolutionary stage you’re in. (For most of you it’s stage 1)

And your second job is to figure out how to solve the problem of THAT stage.

I know you want your problem to be more complicated. I get it. Logos are easier to make than clients are to enroll.

But that’s EXACTLY why most coaches have a logo, but not enough clients to eat.





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