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Called to Coach
Think Like a Strengthspreneur®: Growing Your Coaching Business
Called to Coach

Think Like a Strengthspreneur®: Growing Your Coaching Business

Webcast Details

  • How can you differentiate yourself as a coach and become a thought leader?
  • In what specific ways can you pursue entrepreneurial excellence?
  • How can you use your unique strengths -- and those of complementary partners -- to build your business?

Gallup Called to Coach Webcast Series -- Season 10, Episode 3.

Below are audio and video plus a transcript of the conversation, including time stamps.

"The coaching industry is still a billion-dollar industry. And so the opportunity is still better than ever. ... But ... you've got to have resilience, and you've got to have self-compassion." Brent O'Bannon -- a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach with over a decade of professional coaching experience and almost three decades of entrepreneurial experience -- has optimistic, yet realistic, views of what it takes to become a coach and to build your coaching business. On this episode of Called to Coach, Brent discusses what coaches can expect as they start their coaching businesses; how they can enlist a coach to help them with their coaching; the importance of science and competencies in coaching; and how coaches can differentiate themselves as entrepreneurs and become thought leaders who are "able to play the long game." Whether you are just starting or have a well-developed coaching business, Brent's insights are sure to energize your coaching.

If you want to have a long-term marriage, ... you do have to have some ... love and connection, right? You're not going to stay together if you don't have it. Well, you're not going to have a business unless you market and sell.

Brent O'Bannon, 48:13

It's never too late [to become a coach]. But I will say it's going to take being able to play the long game.

Brent O'Bannon, 5:41

If Belief, for example, is one of your strong talents, maybe your belief is, "Marketing is just serving. So when I serve others with my values, then I'm adding value to the world."

Brent O'Bannon, 48:53

Jim Collison 0:00
I am Jim Collison, and this is Gallup's Called to Coach, recorded on January 19, 2022.

Jim Collison 0:18
Called to Coach is a resource for those who want to help others discover and use their strengths. We have Gallup experts and independent strengths coaches share tactics, insights and strategies to help coaches maximize the talent of individuals, teams and organizations around the world. If you're listening live, love to have you join us in our chat room. There's a link right above me there. Click on that; it'll take you to YouTube. Sign in to the chat room; ask your questions live. If you have questions after the fact, or maybe you're listening to this on YouTube or as a podcast, you can send us an email: And of course, don't forget to subscribe on your favorite podcast app to this Called to Coach right there on YouTube -- Subscribe button over in the bottom right-hand corner.

Meet Our Guest on This Episode

Jim Collison 0:54
Brent O'Bannon is my guest today. Brent is a Gallup-Certified Coach and ICF Master Certified Coach who's facilitated 27,000 coaching sessions -- that's a lot of coaching sessions, Brent -- spoken to 500-plus organizations, become an Amazon No. 1 bestselling author and is a global Strengthspreneur® and Strengths Champion. As the first Gallup-Certified Coach under our current program, he does have that No. 1 designation. Brent's Top 5 is Focus, Individualization, Achiever, Command, Competition and Woo. Coming to us from the great state of Texas, Brent O'Bannon, welcome to Called to Coach!

Brent O'Bannon 1:29
Jim Collison, it never gets old hearing you do this intro to your podcast.

Jim Collison 1:34
Well, thanks. Good, good to have you. You and I have been doing this a long time. You are one of the first -- when we say, first Certified Coaches in our current program, also one of the first coaches we interviewed on Called to Coach before it was even Called to Coach. I think we did a call with you. We did it on ReadyTalk or one of those kinds of crazy programs. And that might have been the genesis for me meeting with that team to say, "You know, we could do this just a little" -- you know, Maximizer No. 3 -- "we could do this just a little bit better with audio and video." So thanks for saying "Yes" to all those things. And thanks for saying "Yes" today, and welcome! Hey, I want to start a little bit about the, the state of the coaching world. You've been doing this a -- How long have you been -- when you think about as being a coach or a coach of coaches, how long have you been doing this, Brent?

Brent O'Bannon 2:25
Started my business 1993 as a professional counselor in private practice, and then I repurposed into a professional coach about 12 years ago.

State of the Coaching World in 2022

Jim Collison 2:37
And give us -- let's talk a little bit about the state of the coaching world today in 2022. I mean, there's been a few small events that have affected maybe what's gone on around the world and I think has, has really shaken the world. I mean, just from -- in some cases, has made it better. It's made, people are more open for coaching; people are more open for development. But if I were to ask you, you know, Where do you think the state of the coaching world is today? Give us, give us your, you know, kind of your, your background, your synopsis on it.

Brent O'Bannon 3:11
Probably some pros and cons. And I'll start with the pros, because we're strengths-based coaches. And No. 1 is, there is a greater awareness about what coaching is and what it's not. It's not therapy; it's not consulting. And so people are being better educated in today's world about what coaching can benefit you. The, the second pro that I see is that more professional coaches are taking it not as a hobby but as a profession. And so that means they're getting more International Coach Federation training, and they're taking their coaching skills to a whole nother level.

Brent O'Bannon 3:58
And I'll say the third pro about the coaching movement is that there is more opportunity to work in the corporate world -- so not only with entrepreneurs and small-business owners, but in the corporate world. Now a couple of cons. I would say that No. 1, the coaching field is getting more and more saturated. And so absolutely, you have to figure out, as a coach, how are you going to differentiate in the sea of coaches? How are you going to stand out? And that's one of the things we're going to talk about today. So I would say that's three pros and one con.

Jim Collison 4:45
Do you think it's too late for coaches? If I was thinking, you know, you know, I'd like to kind of start my own business and, and maybe be a coach for, for individuals, for corporations. You know, we have 11,000-plus Certified Coaches out there plus, you know, thinking of the coaching world. Is it too late, Brent, for me to jump in the pool, at this point?

Brent O'Bannon 5:06
Never too late. No, there, no, the coaching industry is still a billion-dollar industry. And so the opportunity is still better than ever, and whatever, you know, work that someone has to have a side hustle, whether you're a consultant, coach, facilitator, trainer, teacher -- whatever you call yourself, you're going to deliver services and make a difference in the world. You're going to design your life and business and be in the flow of your strengths, your purpose. And so that opportunity, it's never too late. But I will say it's going to take being able to play the long game. You've got to have resilience, and you've got to have self-compassion. You have to be able to, to overcome that impostor syndrome if you're going to stay in the long game, building your business as a coach.

Expectations for Starting Your Own Coaching Business

Jim Collison 6:05
Brent, you say, "the long game." And you know, I know you can't give an exact number. But as we think about, you're, you're a coach of coaches, and you've seen this cycle over and over. If you were to think about someone starting in, starting their own business, becoming a Certified Coach and doing the work that they do -- to a point of stability, generally, how long does that take? And what should folks expect in that phase?

Brent O'Bannon 6:33
Yeah, I mean, it took me 3 years to really develop my coaching business to the point that it was really solid. And I think people can speed that process up with having their own professional coach as well as their own mastermind, and doing more training. So I think they can speed it up to a year, a year and a half. I mean, I can think of one of my coaching clients who, you know, she was teaching in a university setting, and she was making about $60,000 a year. And she went to my Coach Business Builder Strengthspreneur® program. And she got one contract during that 3-month program, and she got $60k in that contract. So she literally doubled her income. And that was just in the first 3 months. So if you follow entrepreneurial excellence in business building, then the sky's the limit.

Differentiating Yourself as a Coach

Jim Collison 7:42
You, we, we had talked about this idea of differentiating yourself as a coach and in the business world. I mean, the coaching aspect of it, everybody -- for Gallup-Certified Strengths Coaches, they all go through the same training. They all get the same materials. They all have the same opportunity. Right? They've, they've been through this consistency of training and learning. But when we think about differentiating yourself and kind of creating that specialized or that content that you need to begin to push for, can you talk a little bit about that? Cause I think that's really the first step in setting yourself up as a coach and doing what you're doing in your own business. Talk a little bit about that.

Brent O'Bannon 8:23
Yeah, I think becoming a thought leader is really how we differentiate ourself, if you think about it. You know, one of my heroes is Jack Canfield. And so he not only started the Chicken Soup for the Soul series book -- that's what he became famous for, and then he, he eventually sold it and made multimillion dollars -- but also his book, The Success Principles. So he's known for that content. You know, when you think of Simon Sinek, you think about Starting With Why. When you think of Brene Brown, you think of confident vulnerability. When you think of Gino Wickman, you think of EOS, Entrepreneurial Operating System. So coaches who are trained by Gallup or any other organization, we have to be careful not just to regurgitate everything we've been taught. You have your own wisdom; you have your own experiences; you even have your own "flawesomeness." So that means --

Jim Collison 9:26
Hold on. What is that?

Brent O'Bannon 9:27
OK, so "flawesome" is a real word. And "flawesome" means that you are still awesome with your flaws. And so we all have our own flawesomeness. And so that means you actually embrace not only the superpower, super uniqueness of your strengths but, as we all know, with every corresponding strength, there is a weakness and downside. And so really, you cannot escape both. And so you can actually build your business -- now get this; it's a little controversial -- not just around your strengths but around your weaknesses. Because that is what differentiates and causes you to be standing out as a thought leader.

Jim Collison 10:15
It's, OK, so I think there's some -- you said, "a little controversy," and I think some people will be saying, "No way." Can you give a, maybe a personal example from you? Like, in this area of flawesomeness, what do you, what are you not doing well? And, but how are you taking advantage of that at the same time? Can you talk a little bit about that?

Brent O'Bannon 10:32
Yeah, for an example, you know, I'm bold. And with my particular strengths, with Command and Competition, and Achiever, Focus, I, I'm a bold communicator. And so I've been dinged before; I've been tapped on the shoulder, like, "Brent, I think you might be going overboard a little bit here. You might be tooting your own horn; you might be marketing too aggressively." And at the same time, that, that's part of my genius is that I'm going to be bold; I'm going to market; and I'm going to speak out. And some people are going to love it. And some people will resist it. And that's OK. And that's true not just for me; that's true for every one of us.

Fostering Self-Compassion and Resilience

Jim Collison 11:22
How do you handle the, you know, for those that become a little disjointed with that? That always happens in the world I live in. I hear from those individuals, I get that feedback. And, you know, you got to, you got to kind of take it in, accept it for what it is. But how do you, how do you deal with those naysayers, so to speak, or those folks that you might grind the wrong way based on that?

Brent O'Bannon 11:47
So this is where self-compassion comes in. And if, if you haven't ever jumped into the research by Kristin Neff, and, so she's an example of a thought leader. She's taken that whole area of self-compassion, and now she is known as the, the thought leader. But here are a couple of questions on her assessment. "I'm disapproving and judgmental about my own flaws and inadequacies." "When I fail at something important to me, I become consumed by feelings of inadequacy." "I'm intolerant and impatient towards those aspects of my personality I don't like." So these are examples of questions that we're going to fail. We're not going to be liked by everyone. And so the question is, How much grace? How much compassion? How much emotional intelligence can you have around these areas, because you're going to need these in order to survive.

Brent O'Bannon 12:51
One quick thing. You know, I'll never forget. I was reading through the, the Old Testament in the Bible. And, you know, King David was being, he had enemies that were seeking to kill him and put him away, so to speak. And I remember this one verse that said, "David encouraged himself in the Lord." And so that's an example of like, self-compassion, self-encouragement. And we all have to find ways, How do you, how do you boost your resilience, you know, so you don't give up?

Jim Collison 13:32
As you're, as you're working with other coaches, and those difficult times always come in different forms for people. How do you, do you have any advice? Or when we think of this idea of resiliency, or resilience, how do we -- do you have any tips to help coaches, like, what can they, when they're in those down moments, right? When they're in those moments where they're beating themselves up -- or they're getting beat up -- It happens both ways. What kind of advice do you give them? Or is there any kind of universal principles you could bring to that, that to say, "Try this"?

Brent O'Bannon 14:04
You know, for me, it's so tempting to isolate, and, you know, be too independent whenever I get discouraged. And I have Individualization, I have Relator as my two Relationship Building strengths in my Top 10. And so that means I have to have my own professional coach. I have to have my own business mastermind. I have to have my own spiritual tribe to be able to get that encouragement. That's No. 1 for me. And I believe that's true for a lot of people. We get too independent, and we don't really connect at a deeper level. It's a superficial level. You know, we watch podcasts, we read articles, but are you actually having deep conversation? Are you really, you know, allowing someone to ask you deep questions so that you can, you know, learn more about yourself?

Brent O'Bannon 15:08
So I think that's No. 1. No. 2 is, you know, many of you who are Learners, you're great at this. Learner and Input, you are constantly "sharpening the saw," and you're constantly taking new courses. And that's one way -- even though I don't have high Learner, my Focus and Achiever do a lot of learning for me. So getting new certifications, taking new courses, reading articles, listening to Audible -- man, I think, you know, 52 books is what I went through this past year on Audible. So those are just a couple of ideas of how to stay resilient.

Finding a Coach to Improve Your Own Coaching

Jim Collison 15:49
Couple years ago, we spent a whole year talking about "Everybody needs a coach," and even coaches need coaches. I'll admit, I have a friend who acts as that outside consultant for me, not a part of my world at all. He's a good friend, but not invested in anything I do at work. He's not a Certified Strengths Coach. He's not, like, he allows me to be that coach where I can kind of say, "Hey, here's how I'm feeling." And he can give me this incredible feedback. I just had a conversation with him just a couple days ago. Very, I think, very, very helpful, Brent. The second question I get asked, "How do I find somebody like that?" Now you do that, but, Brent, let's, you know, from general standpoint, as we have these coaches listening, How do they find a coach to coach them on coaching?

Brent O'Bannon 16:38
Yeah, I mean, I don't know about you, but No. 1, I Google. And so if, if someone doesn't have an online presence or credibility, and I can't find them, then I probably don't trust quite as high personally. And No. 2, I start looking for, you know, who are the people they've worked with? What are some of their case studies and examples of successes that they've had? And so if I can look at, Oh, yeah, that person grew their business; that person wrote their first book; that person, you know, stood out as a thought leader, you know, then that makes me want to reach out to them. So, you know, there's lots of coaching directories out there. But again, I don't see those as typically great ways to find coaches. You know, research someone and connect with them on LinkedIn, and then set up that, you know, Ask Brent Anything call or that get acquainted call, and see if you resonate, see if you connect.

Jim Collison 17:53
Well, and you often, we often talk about mastermind groups where you can have reciprocal coaching relationships with folks. I oftentimes say, Connect with someone who's your opposite. Like, don't, don't find someone who's just like you. I mean, that's fun. That's fun. But find somebody who's your opposite. Because I think that yin and yang concept of being able to them seeing things through a different light, even a different political or a different socioeconomical or a different, like, whatever, right -- even maybe across countries. I always find one of the privileges that I get is I get to talk about this, you know, this, these CliftonStrengths concepts around the world. And so I get to hear about how other people say it, right, and even that, those conversations are value, important.

Jim Collison 18:42
Let's check in with the chat room like really quick. Justin says, Yeah, it feels essential to build a network of good people around us to be with and discuss -- so important for solo operator businesses in particular. Support your a little bit -- by the way, Catherine likes your Top 5, Brent, by the way. Theresa says, So many industries require continuing education, it makes sense for coaches to continue learning. And you mentioned a bunch of different ways to do that. In a second, I'm going to ask you about one in particular. Catherine says, Since May 2020, I've completed 10 different programs and I'm applying for my ACC next week and finishing my master's thesis this, this semester. So Catherine, congratulations on that. She also says, I love reciprocal coaching sessions. I lead with Strategic Thinking and Influencing, and they lead with Relationship Building. And so the kind of that, kind of, again, those, those opposites, they kind of challenge you. And I'm, that is an area I could do, you know, I could do a lot better in is continuing to find those folks that are my opposite.

Jim Collison 19:42
Brent, how important, when we think about continuing education and learning, how important is ICF? That has been a, you know, that has been an organization that has really landed hard on the Gallup-Certified Coaching Community's radar over the last, I'm gonna say 5 years. And I get a lot of questions around this. Can you talk from your own personal experience kind of the importance of ICF? And where do they fit into our ecosystem?

Brent O'Bannon 20:07
One of the things that Gallup is so good at, and Donald Clifton, the inventor of CliftonStrengths, is the pursuit of excellence. And, you know, even though Maximizer is No. 34, for me, OK, my Competition and Focus has certain areas I want to be the best in that I believe I can be the best in. What is that one thing that you can be better than 10,000 people? as Donald Clifton said in Soar With Your Strengths. And so for me, professional coaching is one of those things. And so that means, Brent, if you want to be excellent, world-class, you have consistent, near-perfect performance in the coaching activity, then what will you do to get there? And so the International Coaching Federation is the gold standard of professional coaching. It's not the only standard, but it's the gold standard. Just like Gallup is the gold standard for the science of strengths, ICF is the gold standard for professional coaching. And so putting myself through that process, as many of you know, is very rigorous.

Brent O'Bannon 21:26
And, you know, I was at that, excuse me, I was at that PCC -- Professional Christian Coaching -- level for 2 1/2, 3 years. And I knew I wanted to go after the Master Certified Coach -- the top level. And man, you're talking about having to be intentional. I mean, I created a goal sheet where I was aiming my strengths into the core competencies. I was taking ICF-accredited courses. I had a professional MCC mentor coach. I was investing money. I was investing time. I was recording all of these coaching calls and then going back and watching game film. And watching that game film and learning, Oh, man, I needed to take my knowledge, skills and practice to the next level. And then last year, you know, I finally was able to get totally approved as a Master Certified Coach, which was a dream come true.

Reviewing Your "Game Film"

Jim Collison 22:46
Oh, congratulations on that. It is a lot of work. I mean, it is tracking and, and working. Listen, I love the concept of game film. This is one of those areas I identify with most because, as a podcaster, as a communicator, this is all I do. And so I have to go back and I go, I go, I don't have to, but I do go back and listen to things that I've done in the past. And it's painful at times. You know, I'm like, "Oh, I could have done that better." I also speak, like, as an example, I find myself, I speak slower than I think I do. And some people say I talk fast. But when I'm listening to it, it feels slow. And, but, but I spend time reviewing things I've done. It's a perfect scenario, because everything I do is recorded. When you think about game film, and you talk about the way coaches can improve by "watching" -- and I'm using air quotes, "watching" game film. What do you mean by that? I mean, what are some tangible ways they can get better by reviewing what they've done?

Brent O'Bannon 23:49
Yeah, so, you know, when you get permission, and you record your coaching session, I would actually score myself on -- it was the 11 core competencies; now it's the 8 core competencies -- I would score myself on a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being the best. And my mentor coach would score me as well. Then we would come together and we would compare our scores, and we would begin to fine tune. So, you know, for example, how good was our, my coaching sessions in setting up the coaching agreement? I think that's one of the hardest things for a lot of coaches, especially when you have a very talkative client and they're giving you like, you know, 10 different areas that they want to talk about or explore. So how do you help them to start to focus and start to choose one or two areas that they want to explore inside the coaching session?

Brent O'Bannon 24:54
And many coaches get overwhelmed, or they, they try to set the agenda themselves or they don't also get markers of progress in the beginning of the coaching session. Like, How will you know that you made progress by the end of this session on this particular topic? Those are just a part of those excellences about coaching that you don't know unless you go through a program like ICF.

Jim Collison 25:25
Yeah, I think ICF sets a nice framework for that. It sets a nice framework for learning. It's not, listen, the -- I get a lot of this feedback from some of our coaches. It's a definitely a brand, a style of coaching that some people like and some people don't. But I think ICF sets a nice, kind of level-sets a nice learning path for you, if you use it just for their learning path. I think that's some great, you're, this idea of reviewing, I think, I think some coaches think they can come to a coaching session and it's all, it's kind of, you know, it's just a conversation -- and it is. But there's also learning moments that you can --

Brent O'Bannon 26:05
There's a science behind it.

Jim Collison 26:06
Yeah, you can get better at this.

ICF and the Science Behind Coaching

Brent O'Bannon 26:07
There's a science behind those coaching sessions.

Jim Collison 26:09
Talk, talk a little bit more about that. When you say, "science," what do you mean by that?

Brent O'Bannon 26:13
Well, and first of all, I guess, there is a metaphor that's coming up in my mind. I'm not even a musician, but, you know, think of ICF and learning the competencies like learning the chords in music. You have to understand that there is a range of different kinds of chords and sounds. Or maybe, maybe it's bars. You're supposed to understand the bars first. But once you start learning those individual notes, then you can start to create your own jazz. You start taking up and you're riffing with your own individual strengths and weaknesses as a coach and with your client. You're dancing, you're jazzing, you know, with your, your coaching client. But most -- I won't say most -- many coaches want to start jazzing. But they don't even know the, the bars, you know, before they, they start jazzing. And so they feel a little constricted by the ICF.

Brent O'Bannon 27:16
I'm a tennis player. So learning the different grips for forehand, backhand, volleys, you know, in the beginning, these were basics that I had to learn. And then as, you know, a more sophisticated tennis player, I can change my grips if I need to, to put a different spin or, you know, to play a different kind of player that I'm playing. So -- and the same thing with strengths, right? You know, you want to learn the 34 CliftonStrengths themes from the Gallup research and definition first. And then, as you get to know them, and you're applying them, and you're experiencing different types of clients with a variety of strengths, you start jazzing. You start seeing possibilities none of us knew were there.

Brent O'Bannon 28:10
And that's the power and beauty. You got to learn the basics. And then you got to keep growing in practice and excellence. And then I like to say, you know what? As an MCC, I still don't know it all about coaching! I'm still going to continue to learn and grow. And I keep, and I have this mindset about strengths as well, that I'm gonna relearn everything I thought I knew about strengths, everything I thought I knew about coaching -- I'm gonna keep relearning it with new eyes.

Jim Collison 28:47
Catherine's got a good point, just to, to build on yours. She says, As a (former) jazz singer I had to learn the different types of scales and modes, right? Once you know the scale or the key the song is in, you just improvise around the scale. Right?

Brent O'Bannon 29:03

Jim Collison 29:03
I love that idea. So having to know it, you know, you got to kind of know where you're going. You and I, in preshow, we were talking about how do we want to structure this, this chat? And you, and I was kind of mentioning to you, I like to make it look like it's a natural conversation, but I like to have structure so I know where we're going., right? And it's that same kind of idea. As you think about the Gallup tools that you use -- the, the things we provide for you in your coaching, what do you find is most helpful to you? What do you really like? What's your, what's your go-to -- and everybody's different in their coaching, but -- kind of what's your go to? What do you get the most out of, when we think about CliftonStrengths coaching?

Brent O'Bannon 29:45
Man, I, of course I'm a fan of Gallup and so much appreciate my relationship with Gallup. If, if I was just to -- everything, almost everything Gallup puts out I'm going to read or watch. It's kind of like one of those foundations that I'm just going to continue to dive into. But here's what I do a little differently. Then I start -- and this is my Individualization strength -- I start individualizing. Like, What if I apply strengths with self-compassion? What does that look like? What happens when I start applying strengths with conflict resolution? What does that look like? That's the jazz. That's the improvising.

Brent O'Bannon 30:31
And, you know, one little way that I do this is, is even this right here. Taking the, the basics of the 4 Domains of Leadership that, obviously, Gallup came up with. But then I have my own fun story and way that I share that information. So that's where that thought leader comes in to, you know, whether, you know, for me, it's Strengthspreneur®; I have my own registered trademark in that particular area, writing a book on that. You know, Strengths Champion Solutions is the name of my company. And so, you know, how do I brand off of that Strengths Champion, versus something else? And I think each coach, you have that inner wisdom and experience; sometimes you just don't even see it in yourself. And that's where you need the, the coaching and the mastermind to help you see it.

Mastermind Groups

Jim Collison 31:33
George had asked the question a little bit earlier; since you mentioned that, let me bring it back. Any advice on joining a mastermind? Like if, you know, say, I'm living out there, and I don't have a lot of connections, and I'm really looking to connect with people. Brent, how do folks go about starting -- and I've got some ideas, too -- but how do folks go about starting or becoming a part of a mastermind?

Brent O'Bannon 31:58
This is a little harder to find is mastermind. It's kind of like finding a coach. But again, I go for credibility. And if you Google out there, and you look up, you know, "mastermind," "business mastermind, "marketing mastermind," "strengths-based mastermind," there's all different types of masterminds. And you may be at a different season in your development. Maybe you want to just learn more about each other's strengths. And, or maybe you've already gotten a good foundation of strengths, but now it's like, OK, how do I champion strengths?

Brent O'Bannon 32:40
Let me give you one quick example. Like, I have one mastermind, that's, like, two different masterminds. One's called a strengths champion mastermind. And in this particular mastermind, there are people who have a foundational knowledge of strengths, but they don't know how to apply strengths into an organization setting or coaching managers or in applying it in different parts of their business. And so it could be HR people in there, could be independent coaches in there. So it's more about the application of strengths; it's not just knowing the themes. And another example of that is my Strengthspreneur® mastermind. Again, it's not just knowing your strengths. It's like, OK, how do I apply my strengths in marketing? How do I apply my strengths in my branding? How do I apply my strengths in hiring my, my own team, and finding complementary partners that are in my team? So it's, it's the application of those strengths is what's important, I think, in the next stage of development.

Jim Collison 33:53
Yeah, I think finding that mastermind group is sometimes as much work as starting a business. Because, right, I mean, this is, you need to find folks that you're compatible with, that you can get together with on a regular basis to create those reciprocal coaching relationships or to offer that advice. It requires, I think, meeting together on a fairly regular basis. I have a bunch of my coaching friends, there's kind of a West Coast mastermind. They get together all the time. I hear from them, and they're going through training together, they're doing things together. They've, they're like-minded in that sense, and they go through. I'm sure that mastermind took a while to put together.

Jim Collison 34:35
I don't know, Brent, if there's a magic formula for it, or even a standard definition that, you know, has these -- "Hey, every mastermind has this, this" -- it's a, it's a group of people, and size can be whatever works. I guess that's the key sometimes is thinking, What's working? Like is this group, whether it's 3 or 5 or 15, is it working? I've seen some meet monthly; some meet quarterly. I know some groups that meet on an annual basis; they meet for a whole day, once a year type deal. Everybody brings a presentation and then they kind of talk about it. So I guess I want to tell our Certified Coaches, don't be intimidated by that concept of mastermind. Also don't make it harder than it is. It's really just a group of people getting together, spending time together sharpening their, you know, sharpening the instruments of what they use in coaching. Brent, would you add anything to that?

Brent O'Bannon 35:30
Yeah, there are different types of mastermind. And, you know, some masterminds might even have certain topics that you have some content you read or you study before you come to the mastermind. And then you discuss those topics. And some masterminds, like my own, I do a lot of hot-seat coaching. And so people get like 15 minutes, and they literally present a business topic and their challenge. And they're asking the group a very specific question. And so that group will then do some quick asking questions for clarification. And then there's a brainstorming where, literally, you come up with as many solutions to that particular topic. And that person that's on the hot seat, they will then verbalize, towards the end of that 15 minutes, "OK, here's the 3 things, you know, the ideas that I came up out of this, and that I'm going to act on before the next mastermind."

Brent O'Bannon 36:37
And for me, I really like -- I've been a part of one mastermind where we met once a month for a full day. And I have had another mastermind where we met every other week for like an hour and a half. And that's, that's the format of mine; that way, you're getting to like 3 hours. And sometimes, you know what, it's kind of like coaching -- you don't know what I want to talk about. I don't really know what's the best, you know, area I need to delve into. And you come to that coaching session or you come to that mastermind, like, you're not sure. But you know what? If you show up, many times you will have the biggest breakthroughs, because you've just come to a place of not knowing. And sometimes the not knowing all of a sudden produces a lot of creative ideas and breakthroughs.

Jim Collison 37:34
Ralph makes a good comment. He says he'd love to be part of a mastermind and just be on the path together. And, and, you know, in his case, needs to be online. I think, Ralph -- and this is a perfect example -- I think a lot of folks want to be one, in one. So make one. Like, start your own. You -- that doesn't mean you're the master, by the way, right? I mean, you're not setting it up that way. Your goal is to gather, gather a few folks who you think would be interesting to include in this. Ask them if they want to be a part of whatever frequency, whatever you're going to do. I guess don't overthink it, and then just start meeting together. The mastermind concept, you don't need permission, you don't have to, you know, you don't have to file any forms with the government. Just do it. Right. Just kind of get out there.

Jim Collison 38:20
I have a, I have a unique version of a mastermind, where I wanted to learn, I wanted to continue to work on my craft of podcasting. And so, kind of by accident, I just started another podcast about being better at podcasting with another podcaster. And we meet every Saturday. And we, the two of us get on and we talk about it. I'm, I have Communication 4, so I like to think by talking. It works perfect. And it's weekly, right? Every single week. We take audience feedback; we get other people to come on the show; we talk about it. Brent, it's, I think it can be that simple. And I would -- I don't call it my mastermind, but it is a form of a mastermind, right? You can be super creative with it. I guess, don't be intimidated. And if you want to do one, just gather some people and start one, right? Get some friends together --,

Brent O'Bannon 39:10
That's how I started my very first mastermind in my home many years ago. And I remember, I was learning it from my hero Jack Canfield about starting a mastermind. And so I, I went to like three or four different entrepreneurs in my community, and three of us had just written our very first book. And so it was us three and one other spa owner. And that particular mastermind continued 10 straight years, where we met twice a month. Now we had different people come in and out. So you're gonna see, you know, some change. That one was in person. And like Ralph said a few moments ago, the cool thing now is we can do masterminding with people all around the world because we can be on Zoom or whatever platform you use. So, but it is powerful when you can have the online, and then maybe once a year, or twice a year, you come together in person. There is some synergy and creativity that I've found comes from that as well.

Jim Collison 40:24
Yeah, I like it. Ralph, Ralph says, Some, someone would need to be the master. I would contribute to the mind part. So that's a good, Ralph, that's a good way --

Brent O'Bannon 40:34
And that's one other quick thing is, understand that a mastermind is about facilitating growth. It's not about anyone being the expert. We all are experts in the group; no one's above each other. We have this openness to learn, respect and grow from each other. So don't put that pressure on yourself to be the master.

Jim Collison 41:00
I wish somebody -- I've been racking my brain how to get the word "service" or "serving" in that concept of a mastermind -- "serving mind" doesn't work as well. But they're really groups about serving each other. That's really the, the concept in it is not to be the teacher -- teaching and learning will happen in the context of it. But I think the best ones work when the group members are serving each other in that way and, and are giving, right. I mean, I think that's -- it's more of a giving mind. Again, that'll come to me; somebody will come up with a great concept --

Brent O'Bannon 41:32
Yeah, may come up with a new name.

Pursuing Entrepreneurial Excellence

Jim Collison 41:34
Brent, in the next 15, in the last 15 minutes or so segment of this, I'm going to ask you some, and we're going to kind of talk about the business of being a solopreneur. And I really kind of want to open this up to the chat room for your questions as well. This would be a great opportunity for you to ask kind of some specific questions. We won't be able to spend a gigantic amount of time in any one, but we will. So if you're in chat, you want to ask some questions, do that. As we think about, Brent, pursuing entrepreneurial excellence in the, the, with the emphasis on entrepreneurial, because as a coach, many coaches are coming at -- there's many who are listening to this are embedded in organizations and, you know, almost said they don't need to be entrepreneurial. But they do, because they're doing entrepreneurial work inside their organizations.

Jim Collison 42:18
I just had a phone call yesterday with someone who's starting up a big strengths practice inside a big organization. Guess what? That's, you know, call that intrapreneurial or call it -- it doesn't matter. They're starting a small business inside an organization. So we all do that. If you were to think about some concepts or some principles or some encouragement to folks who are in this, they, you always feel alone; you always feel like this is a bigger mountain than I can climb. Give some of those, give some encouragement. What are some things you would say to those individuals?

Brent O'Bannon 42:50
Yeah, use that desire and Learner and Input and Strategic to help you learn the business of business. I didn't even know I was an entrepreneur until I started my own business. And then I remember listening to a cassette tape on building my business. That's how long ago it was. Yeah, so you're laughing. I know, see, I'm a dinosaur.

Jim Collison 43:20
No, I used to get those too, Brent. I used to get those too.

Brent O'Bannon 43:23
But I remember that was the first thing that I listened to. Terence Gorski was his name. And he was teaching about how to start your own counseling business and setting up your forms and setting up your practice. And from there, it was like listening to other books and reading other books. And then I started attending workshops and different things, you know, so, like, Entrepreneurial Operating System, scaling up. These are two really good business-building programs, that the more that you can study and learn, then you're going to, you're going to learn the elements of growing a business and not just a hobby.

Jim Collison 44:12
What kind of encouragement -- we don't celebrate the intrapreneurs enough, the folks inside organizations who are wanting to build a strengths practice. They're, they're trying to drive an organization to be a strengths-based organization. They're bringing in strengths as a part of that. In your coaching experience and working with coaches that are in that role, what kind of encouragement would you give to them? What would you say to them, you know, what would you say to this person that I had a conversation with yesterday who's saying, "We don't have strengths at all, but we want to. And I want to be the one in our organization to do it." What kind of encouragement would you give them?

Brent O'Bannon 44:47
Yes, intrapreneur is what I would definitely call those that are entrepreneurial inside of a larger organization. I see you as that for Gallup. You are influencing; you are helping the brand to become more known. And you're helping to share the products and the services. And so, you know, people can do that either through podcasts or even through their, their social media, their online. And then there are some people in organizations, they just, they have no idea even how to do that.

Brent O'Bannon 45:24
And so like I spoke to a group of insurance agents this past summer, and one of the guys who, who heard me, he said, "Brent, I want to order your book. And I want to have you come in to help my team be more entrepreneurial." So, so, in other words, he was saying, "Brent, I want even my, my admin assistant, I want my, not just my salespeople, I want everyone in my organization to take ownership for growing the business." And that's really what entrepreneurs are. They take ownership, to grow and to scale a product and service. And so that's what organizations do. If you don't have someone inside the organization, helping you to sell it and to share it and influence it, then that organization is going to stagnate eventually.

Jim Collison 46:21
You, we started this with the idea of the long game. And in the precall, you asked the question, you know, "How long we been doing this?" And the very first certification class, I think, went through in 2012. So we're at, we're coming up -- I think that's May of 2012, so we're coming up on 10 years. We started, I think, and I think we started podcast not far, not long after that, or around that same time period. So we're at 10 years or 9 years, somewhere in there for those. I just feel like we're finally hitting some strides. You know, after 10 years, I'm like, Oh, we're learning a few things. And we continue to make mistakes. And we continue, you know, those kinds of things.

Using Your Strengths, Complementary Partners to Grow Your Business

Jim Collison 47:01
But, and I think, for a lot of coaches, setting this up, both for intrapreneurs and for entrepreneurs. And I don't want to discourage anybody. But I do think it's a long-game approach, with a whole bunch of, a whole bunch of games in between, right? There's a whole bunch of things you need to win, right, kind of in between. What do you think is, for most, for most intra- or entrepreneurs, when you think about the No. 1 thing they struggle with the most -- and you may have mentioned this already, but -- what do you think, what do you think that is? What do you see most common in entrepreneurs that they really struggle with?

Brent O'Bannon 47:43
No. 1 that I've seen is that we have a definition or a concept in our head -- for example, about marketing or sales -- that we have a disconnect with. We don't like it. "I'm not a marketer" or "I'm not a salesperson." And, therefore, if you're going to grow a business, you have to market and you have to sell. There, that is just the bottom line. It's kind of like, if you want to be, have a long-term marriage, you do have to communicate, and you do have to have some affection and love and connection, right? You're not going to stay together if you don't have it. Well, you're not going to have a business unless you market and sell.

Brent O'Bannon 48:27
And so, but here's the key. And the key is that all of us CliftonStrengths coaches have it -- Gallup's helped us, and that is find those activities in business building that match your strengths. Build marketing and sales around your strengths. If Belief, for example, is one of your strong talents, maybe your belief is, "Marketing is just serving. So when I serve others with my values, then I'm adding value to the world." And so most people, though, are not connecting their strengths to business building. And so that is the whole resilience game.

Brent O'Bannon 49:21
And then, I would say the second piece is those areas that do not connect with you and you, you don't have a passion, you don't care about -- maybe it's product development or disrupting by creating a new service or a new product, then barter or hire other complementary partners who love doing those things. I have one of my team members who has Maximizer in her Top 5 -- it's No. 34 for me -- and she is great at content creation. So our Strengths Champion Academy online courses is just starting to knock it out of the park. But partly because of her; it's not just me. But I just realized I have a need, I have a weakness, and I need her as a complementary partner.

Jim Collison 50:13
I love that idea, Brent, of complementary partners. I was reviewing my own website's SEO the other day. And I have one post that is just far and above crushing it. And I didn't write it. And so I was, I was talking to my daughter about it. And she's like, "Well, Dad, that's because they optimized it for SEO. And you're not very good at that." And, you know, it was that moment, I was like, "Yeah, I don't, I should never be trusted to do the writing for things. And, and at Gallup, I have a writer, Mark, who many of you have heard me reference before. Mark does a lot of that editing and writing for me. And he's fantastic at it. And I am more than welcome, more than happy to turn that work; in fact, it gives me great joy to see his art play out, right, in that way. And so I love that, that you brought that in, to say, you know, and I, we say, "beg, borrow and steal." That's maybe not the best way to say it. But I like how you said "barter," right? Work with another individual who's different than you, who enjoys some of those business practices that are different.

Jim Collison 51:19
George is asking a question about the book. Who did you first contact, if you're thinking -- and by the way, the end goal for -- I sometimes think coaches think this. The end goal for every coach is not to write a book. It's helpful if that's what -- I'm never going to write a book; I just don't have that in me, I'm not going to do it. Doesn't mean I'm not going to be successful in what I do. But Brent for you, so I'm giving you permission, you don't have to have one. But if you're gonna write one, what, what's your advice on book writing? What would you give to somebody who's thinking about putting a book together?

Brent O'Bannon 51:48
So here's, here's the cool thing. I've written seven books, and I don't like writing. So how'd I do it? Seven different ways. And the first book was a self-published book. And that was the one I wrote everything in that book. And so it's, it's being updated right now. It's called Balance Matters. So, to the person who asked about publishing, you know, you can go the self-publishing route. So that means you really are just creating your own publishing company. You're getting your bar codes. You're setting everything up. Now, there are a couple of different companies that can help you do it faster. You know, for example, -- is a company I've used over the years. And they'll help you get everything set up, formatted. And you can do softcover, hardcover books, print-on-demand books, so you don't have to store all your books.

Brent O'Bannon 52:51
And you can also go through Amazon. Amazon now is not only doing Kindle books, but also softcover and hardcover books now. And so again, you don't have to store. So the self-publishing route is definitely faster. And you, you remain more control. And you can make more money off of your books that way, and you become a thought leader. So I actually say one way you differentiate is by writing a book, which doesn't have to be 200-plus pages; it could be a 30- to 60-page book. My Selling Strengths is only like 60 pages, and it became Amazon No. 1 bestseller, right? So my favorite way -- and, Jim, this might be something that could be helpful for you because we both have Communication in our Top 10 -- is I like to teach and record, then have it transcribed, and then hire my team to help me do all the editing, all the formatting, and create the book. It's the easiest way to create a book.

Jim Collison 53:59
Yeah, I've been given that advice many times, Brent, like, Hey, just record, and maybe in the future, I'll have Mark, I'll do that. I'll do this. And then I'll have Mark, because he's my favorite.

Brent O'Bannon 54:09
You have Mark already! I mean, --

Further Insights on Differentiation, Being a Thought Leader

Jim Collison 54:11
Well, yeah, it's a little harder to do that as, while I'm working for Gallup, that's a little difficult. They write different kinds of books. And, and so, well, it's some, that's, Brent, that's some great advice on the on the book side. When we think about other areas of influence -- so you mentioned books -- what other areas, because for some folks, maybe that's not, they're not going to go that route. What are some other things they can do to be an influencer? Or to be a thought leader, so to speak?

Brent O'Bannon 54:39
So, so one of the areas that I think coaches can differentiate is through their own products and services. Some of you are really good about being innovative and disrupting, and so you can create your own course. And that's my first thing is, you know, create a course on it. It can start off like maybe just three 1-hour sessions. And now you've developed content and a little workbook and you do videos. And you can sell that course online, as well as you can go present on it live. So you can repurpose that into white papers to give away so that you're capturing more email addresses on your website. So there are so many ways to repurpose content, just like Gallup does. You all are so good at modeling this for us as coaches is create content. Repurpose it many different ways. And that way, it's marketing and sales as well as you're adding value to other people at the same time.

Jim Collison 55:48
Newsletters are another one of those -- you mentioned a, you know, a mailing list, having a mailing list and sending out a regular newsletter to folks. This is an area, we've just mentioned about four or five different communication skills that some are better at than others. And so I think just a great, a great opportunity to kind of find your niche. I think one of the things I've learned, Brent, in this -- and I think it's a lesson learned least by individuals -- is when they start doing these, these exercises, they gather a few people, and they feel like they have to have thousands. And I actually think there's a sweet spot in the very beginning where you have tens. And you can be spending a lot of time with those tens. Like, you can be doing a lot of market research, you can be asking a lot of questions. They're obviously staying around you because they're interested in you. Spend time with them. Do your market research with them. Use them -- you have access to them, and obviously they're the most engaged customers you have at the moment because they've signed up for your newsletter, or they've done something like that.

Jim Collison 56:52
I think sometimes we spend so much time trying to reach the masses that we forget about those individuals who are, you know, I think about the folks that are in our chat room right now. And I think I know most of them. And I have regular conversations with quite a few of them. And so it's spending time with them, it's important to me. They're willing to give me feedback. And I think lots of entrepreneurs get so busy in the business of scale, they don't forget, you don't need to scale until you need to scale. Spend time, maybe spend extra time with folks who are close to you. And don't miss them because they're your, they're gonna probably be your most engaged audience forever or your most engaged customers forever. Don't forget about them.

Brent O'Bannon 57:39
And that's actually one of the 10 areas of business development that I discuss, and that is client engagement. So how, what kind of system do you have in your coaching business to engage someone, not only through that first 100 days, which, by the way, the research shows that when you have a client that is totally emotionally engaged with you in the first 100 days, the likelihood of that client rehiring you ongoing goes up like 10% -- or 10 times, I should say.

Brent O'Bannon 58:15
So, so in other words, having a system -- and I will say this has not been one of my strengths, because I'm probably a little more natural at marketing and getting new clients; a little more of a rainmaker in that sense. But I've also hired a team who is helping me to implement a consistent plan, not only for blogging and engaging my ongoing clients but also sending gifts and sending different ways, surprising my clients along the way, so that I'm building that more long-term engagement with those clients.

Jim Collison 58:56
Brent, a lot of great advice. I think the advice I'd give to anybody listening now is go back to the beginning and listen to it again, because I think there's -- and not for me, because there's a lot of great advice in there that Brent gives on all these, on all these pieces. Brent, thanks for coming back today. Thanks for the representation that you give to the CliftonStrengths community around the world, the care and the love and the passion that you give to your customers and to your clients and to those that you coach and just being kind of being a force for it out there. I see you everywhere. So thanks for the

Brent O'Bannon 59:32
May the force be with you!

Jim Collison 59:34
That's -- ooh, we can't say that! Disney will now have as taken down for saying that, but, but, but all well intended, Brent. Hang tight for me one second. What that, we'll remind everyone to take full advantage of all the resources we do have available now in Gallup Access. Head out to; sign in. For coaching, master coaching or to become a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach -- what we're talking about here -- if you want to start that journey; you're listening to this, and you want to start that journey, send us an email: We can get you set up to get that process going. We're, I'm kind of starting a series -- I didn't even think about this till today, but I got a couple guests coming up. As we think about kind of master coaching or coaches who have been doing this a long time, Maureen Monte is joining me in a couple weeks here. And, of course, she's written a fantastic book and has lots of advice. Head out to; get signed up for that, if that's still time. Or head over to the and listen to the podcast we've already recorded. But we'll be spending some time here this, early this year talking about that, again, that address: Follow us so you get notifications whenever we post something new, and get registered for that event or the other events that are available. Like we do a couple a week, so we'd love to see you out there. We want to thank you for joining us today. Brent, can you stay around for a few, just a few minutes after the show? If you're in the live, and you didn't get your question asked, stay around. With that, we'll say, Goodbye, everybody.

Brent O'Bannon's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Focus, Individualization, Achiever, Command and Competition.

Learn more about using CliftonStrengths to help yourself and others succeed:

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