Hills Business Case Study: Aspire Life Strategies and Business Coaching

Starting out in sales and marketing, Christina McCarthy worked with Dale Carnegie in Sydney back in 1994 and discovered that her passion was in helping people overcome internal and external obstacles that prevented them from having the success they strived for.

Back then business coaching was still in its infancy, however participating in the Carnegie program and seeing the success of their clients, convinced her that this was what she wanted to do.

Over the last 20+ years Christina has trained to become a Certified Coach and facilitator/trainer as she realised early on that to offer real value to her clients they needed both training (new knowledge, skills and strategies) and coaching to improve their outcomes and achieve their goals.

Through her business Aspire Life Strategies and Business Coaching, Christina helps clients create success by focusing on personal development: time management, self-sabotaging behaviour (like procrastination and distraction), finding clarity, decision making, and getting into action.

From her significant experience, through both coaching and running her own business, we asked Christina for some of her top tips on running a business.

What is your greatest business learning?

My greatest business learning has come from understanding that in order to lead a business and people to success, you must first lead yourself well and appreciate what that means on a daily basis in ways of thinking and doing.

Having a better understanding of neuro-leadership has changed my way of dealing with problems and people. This scientific approach, incorporating mindfulness strategies into life and business is changing the world of coaching and it has changed my life.

What is your greatest business success?

Business success to me is seeing the people I work with grow and change the way they think and the way they do things in order to achieving success as defined by them. Not only do they grow in confidence and skill, but they improve their personal lives and relationships too – to me this is real success.

Is there anything you would have done differently?

If there is one thing I would have done differently when going into business for myself, it would have been to invest in a coach much sooner.

When you are in your business you are often on your own without a sounding board and someone who "plays Devil's Advocate" forcing you to stretch yourself, your thinking and doing.

To grow your business, you need to develop yourself. A coach holds you accountable, but more importantly they "hold up a mirror" that enables you to see your blind spots.

It takes more than working in your business to be successful, you need to take time out to work on the business. Clear goals, action plans and support, is imperative to move in the right direction, having a coach helped me to gain more clarity and courage.

How do you stay up-to-date with the latest business information and trends?

I stay up to date with the latest business information and especially developments in my field of coaching by continuously educating myself through formal and informal learning. I ensure I do professional development courses every year, I attend webinars, read books and articles and I love TED talks.

Where have you sought business advice?

Business SA does provide sound advice and training but there are also other organisations and government websites and councils that offer practical advice.

Having a good relationship with your accountant and working with a business consultant who can help with your business model and strategy is also very beneficial.

What financial factors should be considered when wanting to grow a business?

Business growth sometimes happens organically; however, we often have to put a lot of effort in to increase business growth. Having a strategic plan is essential to ensure we don't overcommit or end up in debt that is unmanageable.

Determine where and how you will get the money to pay for the additional inventory, new facilities, equipment or the cost of staff. Seek professional advice and move forward with a clear plan and budget.

What value do you place in business plans?

Having a business plan or not is a controversial subject, however as a coach I think it is an excellent tool in understanding where you are at, where you want to end up and how you intend to get there.

Research has demonstrated that growth in the venture is increased by a factor of around 30% as a result of writing a business plan.  However, it is the quality of the business planning process which counts. Do your research, seek advice and consult with others who have gone through the process before.

Having a clear understanding of what values underpin your business will be invaluable as you move forward, guiding your decision making, hiring staff and solving problems. Having a clear vision of what your business model looks like, your value proposition and what resources you will need in order to be successful will help you deliver your message to potential stakeholders including investors.

What three things should someone consider before starting a business?

Apart from the obvious such as legal requirements, business structure and finances consider how it will impact…

  1. Why do you want to be in business for yourself?
  2. How will it affect your family and lifestyle?
  3. Define your niche – be exceptionally clear about your message