Coaching Lessons From Oprah

Oprah Winfrey is an iconic and incredibly influential figure in the coaching world. While it’s a tad unrealistic to assume everyone is going to have success like Oprah (can you say multi-billionaire… and by the way, she’s the planets first African American Billionaire!), her career provides some incredible marketing and business lessons when you look at her 30 years of uninterrupted success.

Here are five of my favorite coaching lessons from Oprah.

Success is a slow burn.

Coaches often go into business thinking that they’ve got the contacts and experience to launch their new coaching business and blow past $100,000 in revenue. There are certainly some unicorns out there and several of our coaches have done it. Jason Economides, Glenis Gassmann, and Andy Turner come to mind, but even for them, success didn’t happen overnight. It will likely take a couple of years to build up the referral network and successful strategies to generate new clients consistently en’ masse.

When Oprah started the Oprah Winfrey Network, it took three years for her to create the right strategy and get her winning foundation in place. As usual, the press was quick to prematurely call her network a failure. The lack of short-term success is not a failure. It takes time to form the right team, create the value proposition you’re comfortable with and create a winning coaching program.

If it took the icon we call Oprah, who had every resource imaginable at her disposal… millions of dollars, Rolodex, millions of loyal followers, and all else imaginable – three years to build a solid foundation, then expect it to take you a similar time frame to get going and growing.

Do not become disheartened as you get started and you’re not an instant success. A career coach knows that hard work will pay off for MANY years to come. Hard work and providing massive value will lead to success, clients, and financial prosperity.

In the words of Oprah: “You can have it all. You just can’t have it all at once.”

If you’re just getting started as a coach this will be helpful… When I started coaching I’d do a scaled pricing model to help close the deal and show I was dead serious and confident. I was charging $997 per month for my coaching (CHEAP!!) and I’d do it month 1 for $100. Month 2 for $200. Month 3 $400. Month 4 for $800 and Month 5 for $997 per month. Closed a TON of clients this way (all I needed was a payment of $100 to get started and it doubled each month) and showed my certainty of long-term success. I kept many of my clients for years so the first 3 months didn’t matter.

I also successfully experimented with a “puppy dog close”… If they wouldn’t close I’d offer to coach them free of charge for the first three weeks… and week four they start paying (my full fees – not the discounted rate mentioned above). One of the stipulations is they’d need to pay for my books and binders to be mailed to them (I’d get their credit card number which is CRITICAL) for roughly $30. The magic here is that in week 4 I didn’t need to get a credit card for my fees to go through… they just went through automatically. Worked a TREAT, provided I did a great job and once again many clients stayed for years after this Jedi coaches sales trick.

Your clients NEED to be CERTAIN you can help them. The above tactics will help provide or increase, that certainty.

If you think the above pricing models are a bad idea… consider this. How long did Tom Brady throw a football for no charge before he started getting paid by the Patriots? How long did Serena Williams swing a tennis racket before she started getting paid obscene amounts? It’s OK for you to do a little work short term to gain the valuable skills required to become a bulletproof 7 – Figure Business Coach.

Exude Humility

Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.

Oprah was the most watched television host for 20 years running. One of the primary reasons she grew her media empire and stayed on top for two decades was her ability to maintain an emotional bond with her audience despite her incredible power and wealth.

When I got started as a business coach I was a pretty young guy. I had a lot of early success, placed millions of dollars through bank accounts that I wasn’t quite ready for, got a little too big for my britches… and frankly paid a heavy price. Cough… can you say “self-sabotage.” Good news: lesson learned and there is no question it’s super important to stay grounded and connected with your clients and team members as per Oprah’s advice.

When you see a professional speaker you’ll notice they always “tear themselves down” in order to come down to the level of the audience and not have them think “ya, well that works for you because you have millions or you’ve been doing this for 20 years…” What you need your audience to be thinking is “If this idiot that failed grade 8 math can work it out… surely I have a shot if I follow the system?!?!”

The art of the deal

With FEAR of bringing up Trumps name… love him or hate him he put out a great book. My guess is that Oprah read this book a time or two because there is no question she’s a master at crafting winning deals. Many years ago when she had a falling out with her network, rather than going back to the table to negotiate a salary… she negotiated ownership of her TV show, the studio where she produced it and the distribution!! Rather than just become a spokesperson for WeightWatchers she negotiated a piece of the company (for a cool $43MM). Note: both of these deals could have ended VERY poorly for her.

These types of “deals”, and her willingness to back herself, are the reason she’s a multi-billionaire today.

As a business coach, rather than negotiating a higher monthly fee… back yourself in the right situation, and take a piece of the upside. Or offer to coach the client for an insanely discounted rate (free in some cases, see my example above under Success is a slow burn) to prove your worth and lock in a long-term coaching client.

Two things will happen: One, you’ll get very good at coaching regardless of the outcome. Trust me, you just will and it will be AMAZING for your career. Two, the BIG WINS will be worth their weight in gold.

Humility is a lot like philanthropy. The more money you give to worthy causes… the more that will come back to you. Subsequently, the more humility you show (combined with HARD WORK) the more people will want to connect with you and the faster your coaching business and your network will grow.

Promote yourself.

When you become a self-promoter there is a pretty good chance you’ll attract some flack. But the reality is that if you’re not comfortable and willing to promote yourself and your coaching services… why would anyone else?

Oprah is a rock star in this area. She’s built her personal brand and the Harpo name as a self-promoter. And if you want proof… she has made herself the cover model for each edition of her own magazine!! I bow to you Oprah.  

This maintains her ‘brand consistency’ and obviously her promotions work… she’s a billionaire and marketing rock star. Take a page out of Oprah’s book here and be willing to shamelessly promote yourself, your coaching services and your programs. Others just might follow suit.

Be best in class

If you’re going to put yourself on the front cover of your own magazine… for every addition ever put out you need to be able to back it up and be best in class.

Oprah’multi-billionaireaire and has created brand after brand by simply recommending the products/services on her show. To say she backs it up would be an understatement.

In the small knit community of coaching if you’re going to be a successful self-promoter you’ll need to back it up as well.

If you say you provide amazing breakthroughs for your small business clients… you’ll need to start doing it. If you say their company will reach new heights of profitability after working with you… you’ll need to back it up and increase revenues in a number of different ways. And by the way, if you want help in this area of finding legitimate and incredible financial breakthroughs for small business folks, just ask for a test drive of our game-changing Profit Acceleration Software™).

Reality is the BEST COACH IN THE CITY (marketplace) is never short of a client nor someone to help for a fee. Simply take a small step EVERY DAY to becoming the best coach in your market and success will be yours.

“It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from. The ability to triumph begins with you—always.” Oprah Winfrey

Build a team.

While Oprah is a master in the art of “self-promotion”, she’s also built an incredible team. She not only seeks out and hires the best of the best to work with her companies like Adam Glassman, the creative director of The Oprah Magazine … but she has literally launched the careers of designer Nate Berkus, Dr. Phil, Suze Orman, Robert Kiyosaki, Dr. Oz and many more.

By creating this star-studded lineup, she’s been able to create an incredible value proposition her followers love and respond to.

When it comes to building your coaching company, make sure your partner and align yourself with great business people. Partner with a local accountant you trust and that goes above and beyond. A local business broker with passion and a burning desire to HELP small businesses sell in record time. The networking group that is run with passion and helps people connect. Align with these types and watch your business grow and succeed beyond your wildest dreams.

Give and you shall receive.

You can’t watch her show without seeing the incredible giveaways. “You get a free car!” is locked into every die hard Oprah supporters mind. Her constant giveaway strategies created a ton of excitement for the show, not just with the people who won and left with tons of cool stuff, but with fans across the globe who heard about it long after the fact.

While you’re probably not well advised to have your coaching company give away free cars (although I’d love one if you’re offering :o) perhaps you can give away 12 months of free coaching to one lucky business owner and manage to get applications from across the city (country) along with lots of free press. You could go to your existing client list and offer 12 months of free SEO from a local company. It will get them exposure and you’ll find the promotion a lot of your clients that did not win will be willing to buy the services (and you get a hefty affiliate fee for lining up the relationship).

Whatever you might give away, just make sure you’re creating excitement — for your clients, for your company and for your brand.

Thanks for tuning in,

Karl Bryan