In today’s episode of The Road to Seven, I interview Mary Legakis Engel who is also known as The Management Coach. Mary and I sit down and we talk about how you have to fall in love with marketing in order to grow your business. She shares some amazing pivot points in her journey that has allowed her to create a scaled and highly profitable coaching company. This is an episode you don’t want to miss!
Mary is a recognized speaker, coach and consultant and business executive. Mary has been advising consulting and coaching leaders and managers on how to grow their businesses while continuously engaging their employees for over 15 years. Mary helps leaders and managers increase their incomes, raise their performance ratings, and achieve the leadership positions they aspire to. She helps organizations improve profitability, cash flow and employee productivity through a proven facilitation process that she has honed over 20 years as a management consultant. Her coaching clients come to her both privately and through referrals from their organization. Mary lives in Oakville, Canada with her husband, son, stepdaughters and two Bengal cats.
I am so thrilled that today we get to talk with you, Mary. I’ve known you for many years now. We used to be in a mastermind, what feels like ages ago, but I actually think it was just a couple years ago, where we were really pushing each other in our growth in our sales. I think one of the things that I’ve always admired about you was how you’ve been able to scale your coaching business. Mary, thank you for joining us.
Thank you for having me.
You’re welcome. Tell us a little bit about you. Tell us about you in The Management Coach, and how did you get started? How did this whole thing unroll?
So it got started about 10 years ago, I was working in a small consulting firm. I was also working at the time with a life coach with some personal challenges in my life that I was trying to overcome. I started working with this life coach and in that journey through coaching, realized how transformational it was, how well I was thriving and succeeding. I concluded that I thought maybe life coaching would be a great thing for the managers that I was consulting with at the time, and it kind of came together in that way. I conceived the idea while I was still working full time, I talked to my bosses about potentially being able to do some coaching on the side. Then one day, I received an email from one of the directors that I was working with, she was unhappy with a piece of work that I had provided to her and I was having none of the attitude that she was giving me. I remember standing in my then boyfriend’s kitchen, looking at him and going, I’m going to quit right now. And he was like, why don’t we go take the dog for a walk first, and maybe we’ll talk about it and when you come back, you can decide and we did that and I came back and I’m like yeah I’m going to quit. I basically turned in my resignation that night. I gave them two weeks’ notice on my five-year anniversary lunch and they gave me my five-year gold ring and wished me well. And the very next day I woke up and built my very first web page.
Oh, wow. It was that fast.
It was that fast. That’s how it got started and why it got started. I started The Management Coach to help managers who had situations like mine.
Yeah, where they were unhappy. That’s so cool. I love how you took your experience, and you melded it and you know what I see so often, and maybe you see the same thing is we often start a business to meet a need that we have ourselves and I think that you kind of just did that beautifully and you’re now solving that problem for others. How did you manage right at the beginning, Mary when you were starting out with The Management Coach, did you just jump in with two feet or how did you get started?
I basically jumped in with two feet. I mean, I left my full-time job, I went on contract with them, which was very helpful because that produced some income for me to give me some stability and some certainty that I’d be able to pull through. The very first things that I did were really three things. One was I started networking, and reaching out to people and talking to them. I signed up for a coaching school to be able to get certified as a coach. And the third thing was I signed up for a couple of very quick certifications that I could add to my profile that would give me some credibility that I felt like I could go to people and say, Yes, I have some qualifications here as a coach, give me a try, and let’s do some work together.
Were your first few clients from your current network?
Yes, yeah. They were people that I had worked with as a consultant, they knew me professionally and so they were willing to take a risk that I might actually be able to help them in an individual capacity as well.
I love that because that so illustrates the point that your network really can be your net worth. You know when you can start a business from scratch and then start it with the people that you already know. You’ve been able to do what many women entrepreneurs are not able to do. We know that most women entrepreneurs start a service-based business. You have however been able to scale your business. Tell us how you were able to scale The Management Coach and you’ve gone from the one on one trading time for hours to having a team.
As I was developing my products, one of my early questions was how to price and the common method that I had experienced anyways, was time for money, you go hourly you pay hourly, etc. And so one of my early changes was to actually sell programs instead of hours. Then, as I was working in the business, and I was relying on contracts with other organizations to bring new customers, those contracts started to disappear. They were taking more of their work in house, I got a little scared and started seeing my numbers drop. Rather than panicking, which I kind of felt compelled to do, I went online and looked up business coaches, and found myself a business coach who I started working with. I worked with her for about three years.
The scaling started with understanding marketing, and she was a coach. So my audiences, managers and leaders, who are typically used to B2B or B2C sales, very different than an entrepreneur to entrepreneur sale. I was in the middle of an entrepreneur to entrepreneur sale, learning how to do this from somebody who was coaching entrepreneurs. When I was learning the marketing techniques for an entrepreneurial kind of business, I was having to adapt them to a corporate style. So the very first kind of nugget, the big piece that helped me scale was generating the pipeline. I was basically taking techniques that were typically used in an entrepreneurial capacity marketing towards solopreneurs, which was her mechanism and adapted it to a more corporate audience.
What were some of those strategic moves that you made then? What does that look like?
Probably the first strategic move was understanding where I was generating leads and doubling down on those and it turned out that my best leads came from speaking and from my website. So I did more of that, I networked, I found speaking engagements, I found a couple of really, really great opportunities that have just continued to perpetuate and basically refer other people to me for speaking. So speaking was really the main one and then the website. The big strategy around the website was my keyword.
Well, your title is so brilliant. The Management Coach
Yes, and It means that I get to own that space because I’ve had it since essentially 2010. And at that time, people weren’t really looking for management coaches, but over the last 10 years, that has trended upwards towards being a really valuable keyword. I basically take that space like the first one that shows up in terms of coaching both in the US and Canada. So those are really where I focus my time. Then the third strategy once I had the pipeline, was figuring out the sales conversation. The pipeline was great and tracking my numbers on the pipeline was really good, and then tracking my sales conversations was really good. At the time, I was really only closing about 10% of the people that came through the pipeline to have conversations with me. I just felt like that wasn’t sufficient. I was like, I’m doing all of this work to close 10% of these sales. I’m like nope, not worth it. I don’t want to do this anymore. So I hired a sales coach. She was fantastic. I worked with her for three months and she helped me nail down my sales conversation so that I went from a 10% conversion rate to a 50 plus percent conversion rate.
It was that dramatic a shift.
Whoa. Was there any sort of key learnings that you took from that? Three months program what were some of the shifts that you made?
I think probably the most significant shift was making it my own. I had these formulas running through my head that other people had given me and they weren’t feeling natural. They weren’t feeling authentic and unkind and she allowed me to see a way that I could really make people feel safe on a sales call and heard and understood and get them to trust me. That I think was the thing that made the big difference.
And where are they coming in to you- cold? Were they cold traffic leads?
Sometimes they were, they either found me on my website or they connected with me through a speaking engagement. They may have seen me or heard of me or seen me speak. But as far as sales went, that’s how I did it. I did not do the cold calling route. Cold calling for me was deflating. I tried it, I closed a couple of sales with it. But I find that if you can find the thing that helps you generate your pipeline in a way that’s authentic to you and feels good, and for me that was through speaking and through technology, then the sales will come. Yeah, for some people that might be through cold calling. It wasn’t for me.
Right. I love that. And then I think that sort of opens up a couple of questions for me. The first is when you’re going through a sort of relearning that sales conversation and adopting it to you, what were some of the internal beliefs that you had to shift in order to enable you to make those bold moves really creating your own strip script, doing it your way? What was that process like?
The reason that I started my coaching business was that I was working with a life coach that has more of a spiritual bent and addresses the unconscious stressors and belief systems that tend to hold us back. That’s how my coaching works as well. So, for me at the time, there were just a lot of self-worth issues. Am I good enough? Am I worthy enough? Am I worthy of $100,000 a year or $500,000 a year? And so you escalate through the prices and you try and figure out what is it that is holding you back? What are those beliefs? For me, it was self-worth. It was believing I was good enough. Believing I knew enough. Those were probably the three that kept coming up.
Mary, you’ve been able to scale The Management Coach. Walk us through a little bit about how you did that because you really have achieved the pinnacle that I know so many women are trying to do which is scaling their service-based business.
Improving my sales and getting higher and higher conversion rates, I found that there was less and less time to actually provide the services myself. At the time, I was also training coaches, not in a particular coaching methodology, and was able to basically take some of those coaches that I was training and start getting clients. I basically said how I do things, my approach, I trained them a little bit more on some of the more unique aspects of life coaching and things like that. I said, Could you take on a few clients for me because I can’t do it? There were a lot of belief issues that went behind that around, “Are they going to deliver the work as well as I could? Could I rely on them to deliver it at a quality that I would expect? Could I rely on them to even deliver the stuff that I was asking them to deliver?” And that was really hard for me to let go of. But that just compelled me to make sure that their training was really good, that my systems were really good, that we have ways to communicate that. Have ways for them to report in to me, and I have ways for them to invoice me so that I can make sure that they were paid on time. And so we had to start putting in place all of those systems. But I asked them as well. I was like, what would make this easier for you? And so we all kind of figured out how to do it together.
Oh, that’s neat. How many did you start with just one or did you start with two?
I started with two.
And so the sales funnel look like the calls would come into you, you would do the sales call, the discovery call, the prospecting call, whatever you want to call it. And then how are you able to shift the conversation so that you could say to your potential client, “You can coach with me or you can coach with one of my coaches,” Or did you not give them the option?
That was actually a really fun period of trying to figure out how to do that and how to position that because, and that was an unconscious belief that I was holding as well, like, how can I consciously sell this person something that I know I can do perfectly well for them, but my confidence in my coaches was a little bit lower, right? You’re kind of like, I don’t know if they’ll deliver it the same way I do. So it started with pricing. Figure out how much less than me I would charge for the coaches. And then the conversation shifted to, there were a couple of things that would happen, if I was truly at capacity myself I didn’t give them an option. I would just tell them listen, I am at capacity so I can’t be your coach but one of my associates is available and I would like you to work with her or with him. But here’s my commitment, you actually get two coaches, because I will be supervising them, I will be monitoring the coaching through them. And at any point you need me to step in, I will step in and participate in a coaching session, I will be available to you through text and email support. So I was still their coach, but they had somebody else running their sessions. And that made it a lot easier. Then for other people, where I kind of was like, I really do want to coach you. And I do have capacity. But it was more a question of money or budget, I would give them the option and say, Listen, you could coach with me, but it’s going to cost you a lot more. And here’s another coach who’s trained by me and you get to have both of us, but she’s going to run your sessions and it’s going to cost you less. So I’m going to give you the choice you can do whichever way you want.
That’s the ultimate invulnerability because you really are giving away your zone of genius and outsourcing your zone of genius, and I think it’s sort of that next level, because you know, our first hires tend to be the VA’s or a graphic designer, things that are not in our genius. Was there sort of a practice that you put into place to be able to shift to that place of trust? I mean, you’ve got the system of training them and supporting them, and they’re accountable to you. But on an internal level, how did you go to that place of ultimate vulnerability where you’re giving your genius to someone else? Do you have a practice?
I think the belief was that the more I gave away, the more I got back. So for me, there were two things that were going on. One was if I could trust the coach to serve my clients and not self serve, so that they could trust that they weren’t going to try and steal my clients, I could teach them everything I knew, and they could apply it to my clients. But then I also got the multiplier effect if they could go apply it to their clients as well. Even if their clients are benefiting from my stuff, I felt good about that.
The only rule I gave them was you just have to give me the proper credit. So don’t take my stuff and put your name on it. Any of my templates, any of my forms, as long as you say it’s property of The Management Coach, and that really just freed me to let them do what they needed to do. It was that trust, and I did have people that did try to steal clients, or the clients tried to work with them directly. They didn’t have the conversation with those clients that I felt would have been appropriate. I just said, Sorry, you can’t work with my clients anymore. So I just cut it off with them. And I kept the ones that I knew weren’t going to try any of those little stunts.
So it’s gonna happen and you have to be prepared for that is what I think I’m also hearing. So what’s been the biggest lesson that you’ve learned over your last seven years as The Management Coach?
Those that fail are the ones who quit.
Those that fail are the ones who quit, that my friend is a very good tweetable because it’s not always smooth.
It’s not smooth. It’s not smooth at all. It’s hard. It’s soul crushing at times. It’s soul building. It’s a life journey, and it takes commitment. And the only thing that keeps you going is the commitment.
Yeah. How do you weather the storm during the tricky parts?
I’m good at that. I think I have a PhD in tears.
I cry. I do my inner work. I work with my own life coach.
Yeah, I mean, it really is an internal process. You know, I think you’ve really helped us see how you can scale and really what I hear is the two biggest pieces are falling back in love with your marketing and sales and doing it in a way that serves you and is fulfilling to you and also doing the inner work so that you are taking care of you through the growth cycle. Mary, you are a wealth of information and a wealth of knowledge.
Resources From This Episode
Like what you’re hearing? Click here to subscribe in iTunes for more episodes to boost your Road to Seven today! I have more episodes with great tips and conversations with women that are revolutionizing the way we do business – don’t miss it!
You can also join the sisterhood at the #WomenofAction Facebook group to meet other like-minded entrepreneurs who want to band together and help each other rise up.
I would be really grateful if you left a review on iTunes so that others can find and boost their business too! Just click here to review, select “Ratings and Reviews” and “Write a Review” I’d also love to hear what your favourite part of this episode is in the comments below. Thank you!