Digitalizing Intercultural Coaching – Hype or Hip?

I recently wrote an article called “Digitizing Your Intercultural Coaching Practice – Ten Steps to a Digital, Global Coaching Practice” which was published in a short version in the SIETAR Europa Journal. Since the publication, I have made further progress on this topic and I hope to be able to answer your questions on how to deliver digital, intercultural coaching and what it actually means for your business model as a coach, trainer or consultant.

Digitalization is a megatrend. Still, most executive and business coaches work face-to-face with their clients. This is usually possible because classical coaching happens within the same city and like with a therapist a client builds a relationship with a coach over a relatively short period of time to follow certain goals. However, a lot of coaches are passed on between clients based on good old word of mouth. It’s not really a topic you write a review about on LinkedIn or Xing.

Digital Intercultural Coaching seems to be fairly new in the Swiss market. I’ve been running a coaching practice since 2012. Before I coached people in the companies I worked for. I had a few trial clients and I focus on Global Mobility in my coaching. So, my clients are intercultural, international and they are all extremely busy global people. Among others, I work with the Boudewijn Vermeulen® method. It works best face-to-face (F2F) and it is my preferred way of working. However, I have to admit that F2F is not always the best option for my business. I used to travel to a client in Basel for two hours for a 1.5-hour coaching session. In the early days of my coaching practice, I sometimes coached up to 15 clients in one week. That was the maximum I could manage with a good distribution of hours, without exhausting myself completely and with a good quality for the clients.

I started to doubt the coaching business model when I realized, that despite having a 60-hour workweek my income had dropped to one-third of what I made as a Global Mobility Leader earlier. I know that you have to accept a loss of income in your first two years as a founder but I was not making enough money to survive. I am the breadwinner in the family and Zurich is one of the most expensive cities in the world.

I decided to digitalize as much as possible. In addition to corporate seminars, I will now offer support groups and twice a year our one-week RockMeRetreat.

If you want to build a coaching model with potential to scale you need to adopt digital practices in order to serve more clients in a shorter time frame. I had experimented with Skype coaching and other online methods already and I figured out that a lot of my methods would work online too.

The 10-Step Plan to a sustainable Digital, Global Coaching Practice

Step 1: Tell the story of your ideal client

You are not in business for yourself. If you don’t work with a client as in a person who is willing to pay for your services you probably have a hobby. Before you think about your positioning in the market, you should know what your ideal client looks like and how she or he lives and works. It’s a good idea to write a story about your ideal client.

Step 2: Use LinkedIn to present yourself

You need to have an online presence in 2018. Even if you work as a freelancer you need to be able to show your qualification and approach online, you need to be able to connect with clients and potential colleagues online.

Step 3: Own a mobile-friendly website

If your website dates back to 1990 and is not mobile-friendly you should invest in making it mobile friendly. You could easily have a WordPress or google site without investing a lot of money.

Step 4: Work from home or a shared office

One advantage of a digital coaching practice is that your practice becomes location-independent. If you now think that you can work from coffee shops and the beach I would say that yes, in principle that is possible. You will still want to take calls from clients but you might be able to have those during specific hours of the day when you are in a disturbance-free area.

If you can work from home without feeling distracted this is your chance to move to the mountain hut you had dreamed about. However, in my experience, you can get lonely quite easily. I prefer to share an office in the city of Zurich so I can engage in offline networking and still offer physical meetings with my clients when they are close to my office. You will need a reliable Internet connection in order to hold Skype or Zoom calls. We work with Google-Meet too. It’s worthwhile investing in good headsets and a comfortable office chair.

Step 5: Work with a good email marketing tool

It took me a long time to figure out the best tools and media for sharing my messages with my clients and readers. I read a lot of blogs and reports and I curate content and events for my readers. They spend time reading interesting posts or watching relevant videos instead of digging through the social media circus. I always enjoyed sharing interesting content and now I use this skill professionally. I recommend Chimpessentials if you want to learn what email marketing really is and can do.

It’s important to understand that despite social media marketing you still want to build an email list with your own clients and prospects. I recommend a two-list approach. One list is for everyone who is vaguely interested in what you do. This is the where you let people join when they sign up on your website for free. In my view, it is mandatory that you have such a sign-up option. In WordPress, you could start with Magic Action Box for example. You should also have a list of paying clients. This VIP list is important for your targeted marketing campaigns.

Step 6: Invest in tech and your user platform

We developed our own web application called RockMeApp so we could run sessions without the use of paper and in parallel to a Skype or Google Meet call. Clients can enter their coaching targets and I can follow their weekly progress.

Step 7: Focus on selected social media

I could spend all day on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. My focus is on these three. Many coaches will tell you that you need to be on youtube and Instagram too. My advice is that you focus on the tool that speaks to your clients the most. I assume that most of my clients hang out on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Step 8: Organize yourself with a good shared cloud drive and master sheets

One of the challenges of today is that we all share everything. It is more difficult to find what you need especially if the documents are not tagged correctly. I use a system where I try to sort all my work according to event date because I have a lot of events. I also use names and tags on my documents. As a shared drive, I work with Google Drive because it allows me to share work with my global, virtual team without having to send emails back and forth. It also works with corporate clients if they use Google Drive. In order to keep overviews of projects and tasks, I developed very simple master sheets in Google Sheets. I like to use sheets as I can post a link (URL) to the relevant document or website there.

Step 9: Clarify your purpose and pivot

One of my main enjoyments in having my own company next to working with incredible Expats, Expat Spouses and Global Mobility Managers is the fact that I have the time and capacity to write and edit. I have been pretty good at maintaining a weekly blog called the “Global People Club Sandwich”. I regularly get requests for guest posts and together with collaborators my company has published two workbooks in different formats.

I am considering a pivot for Global People Transitions into a publishing company, which will develop digital and analog tools for global people in intercultural transitions and Global Mobility Managers.

We will still offer our programs but I will try to bring the more standardized programs online and focus on a few selected clients. It means that you have a great chance to take over my programs and that you can offer your own version of the HireMe! Program. Once you buy the published “Global Career Workbook” you can use it for your Spouse Career Support, even if you are not based in Switzerland.

Step 10: Use paper as a strategy

My next step will be to reduce all the paper in the office. In order to do that, I do not allow myself a large quantity of printing paper and flipchart paper in the office. I try to have flyers and seminar presentations and folders printed by professional printing companies in order to be more environmentally conscious.

I also consider investing in a good scanner so that I can digitize all the documents that I have collected in my professional life. I have noticed though in the last two years that I am not fit for a completely digital life. One of the issues is that I seem to need paper to remember information better. So now I use paper as a strategy, for example, to write “morning pages” or “have-done-lists”. I use paper to write coaching notes.

To avoid printing, I use “print to .pdf” as a default on my printer and I work on a big screen in my office so I can reduce the necessity to print.

I have noticed that if I cannot read a document online it might be because they were formatted for print. In that case, it helps to go back to the original source and check if the same article has an online version.

Please share this post with your coaches and trainer friends who try to make a living.

Kind regards

Angie Weinberger

PS: Special thanks to Dr. Eva Kinast and Matthew Hill and my support group Claudia, Angelica, and Cornelia. Also to Atiq, Pascal, Robert, Bernd, Tine, Anette, my mom, aunt, and uncle. Pascale Z. and Jörg B. you all have been amazing supporters in 2018. (I hope I did not forget anybody).

Happy Holidays

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