Dov Gordon - Becoming an "under the radar leader" in his industry and helping others do the same.
Dov Gordon, of ProfitableRelationships.com, helps consultants use “backwards” networking to reach their ideal clients, consistently.
Experienced consultants know that the best clients come from referrals and relationships.
But referrals are unpredictable.
And relationships take lots of time.
Instead, Dov helps you become an “under-the-radar leader” in your industry.
It gets better, because Dov shows you how to leverage the relationship marketing you’ve been doing for free - into a six figure revenue stream. It’s all at ProfitableRelationships.com. In this interview, we chat with Dov on how he got started as a Business coach, how he got his first clients, how he grew his business without selling his soul and finding his own way, what drives him, the challenges he faces as an entrepreneur and his advice for starting a business. What's special about your business? I help consultants get clients by becoming "under-the-radar leaders" in their industry as opposed to what is more commonly seen, showing people how to become the guru or celebrity or building their brand, which I think that's important. Everyone should be building their brand. But it's more how you go about it and what you're trying to accomplish. That's what we do.
Why did you start your business? Well, I've always been interested in entrepreneurship and in business from age 13 maybe 14 when I discovered the Business and self help section in the library a block away from where I grew up. And, the first self help book that I came across and read was Million Dollar Habits by Robert J Ringer, who's quite a character and still around. I don't remember what the 2nd book was but I continued learning. When I was 21, I had just gotten married and needed to figure out what I'm gonna do to support the family. I heard about this thing called Business coaching. I didn't really know what it was, never had a real job, never worked for anybody. I hadn't run a business of course. But still, something told me that I could do it. I just found something I felt I could be good at. As a teenager when I was about 19, going back a couple years before I got married, I came across a couple of brothers hanging across the street and found out they were pretty much on their own, aged 13 and 14. The older one I did not really connect with. The second one I ended up helping him a lot. I found somebody who donated $ 25K to help them. So, he was dealing drugs. I helped get him in a school for kids who needed extra attention. I hired a psychologist to help him, fired the psychologist with guidance, and hired another one. Because the first psychologist was not helping at all, the second one was much more helpful. And I'm still in touch with them today. I learnt a lot from that. Somehow that exposed me to the world of coaching as well and to the skills involved. I realized if I could do something like that with business owners... And, this is what I've been doing and in various evolutions over the years.
How did you start your business? So I started researching and found a course that trains you to become a Business coach. I signed up for the course which was over a couple of years. I learnt the skills that helped me get started. I never bothered with the certification because I understood that certifications were not going to make a difference. A lot of coaches don't understand this. It's not being certified that gets you clients, it's being good at selling and marketing yourself. Whether you like that as a fact or not. It's true. So, I realized I needed to learn how to market and sell what I do. Are there situations where coaching certifications does matter? Probably. Like if you're selling coaching to HR people who are basically buying it like they are buying paper or other things and are looking for certain boxes they can check... But with Business coaching, generally this is not required. I say this because there's a whole coach training industry that likes to make a very big deal about being certified. And I think it ends up taking a lot of otherwise very promising coaches down rabbit holes that don't take them where they want to go.
How did you market and promote your business when you were launching? What was the most effective strategy? How did you get your first customers? So I took this course and as I started, they encourage you to start getting your first clients even as you're in the training, which makes a lot of sense.
I actually then joined a local Dale Carnegie course because I was looking to meet some business people. And it seemed it was largely small business owners. That's 14 weeks where once a week you get together for 4 hours. And people are sharing and giving practice talks pretty openly. It was a great place to get started and to meet people. And what I remember is out of the 40 something members I got 14 percent as my first clients. I don't remember exactly how many that was but that's how I got started.
How did you get your next customers?
And moving on beyond that, I moved into other networking groups and BNI and that's slowly but surely helped me make some progress.
How did you validate your idea? When did you feel it was going to be a viable business? It's an interesting way of asking the question, because at least for me, I always felt that I had a lot to offer. The challenge for me was would I be able to sell it? Would I be able to convince people? Am I any better than other people who have a lot to offer? Am I any different? Why would people buy from me? Those were doubts or questions that always came up. It wasn't like oh I'll start a bakery and if that does not work out I'll start a coffee shop or whatever. It was always this is what I could do. This is what I'm good at. And I'm very good at it. It was more a question of figuring how to make it work more so should I go start a delivery service or a startup, like a software business. I'm not going to start a software business, that's not what I am interested in. It took you a few years before getting a consistent flow of clients. How did you get your breakthrough? It wasn't a breakthrough really so much as a lot of little breakthroughs probably. And it's still that way. I don't think that we have really arrived. There's always more to do. But one big breakthrough is really coming to understand there is no one right way. I suppose that was a big breakthrough for me. Because for too long I was approaching from the perspective or the assumption that there is a right way to do this. And, other people know what it is. So I need to find out from them and do the "right way" and then I'll be very successful. I had this realization after many years of trying this and that. And also being unwilling to do certain things... It was the early years of online launches where everybody was promoting each other, like Frank Kern's syndicate for example. And I was wondering, do people really buy that stuff? It was entertaining but really pushy. But they seemed to be doing well. But I wasn't willing to be somebody else or pretend to be somebody I wasn't in order to get clients. Sometimes I questioned myself on that. Maybe If I do that and that, maybe it will work. I just wasn't willing to. And of course looking back, I'm very pleased that I didn't because it is not worth selling your soul for that.
How did you finance growing your business during this time? It was up and down. I did have clients. I did have projects. It wasn't like I had nothing. But I didn't have a system. When you're working with a client, like if I'm helping a client go from A to B, I have a process. When it came to marketing and selling, I didn't feel I had a process. I wanted to have something that if I do this repeatedly it will give me results. It seemed much more like you never know what's going to come from where. Paradoxically looking back, I have much more of a system now - and btw systems are never finished and that's something I've come to understand over the years. However, the clients do tend to come from me doing my work but often still there are clients that come in an unexpected way. If I wasn't doing my part, they would probably have not found me but still there's something unexpected in how they show up. I think that's just the way it is. There are some things that are expected but there's always an element of surprise. What do you like most about being an entrepreneur? I feel that what I really enjoy is helping other people with the same things that I work on myself all the time. Which is to be free and lead others to freedom.
Our first freedom is in our own mind and hearts. It's being the one who naturally causes the results that we want. It's becoming that higher version of ourselves that we all know we are capable of. But we fall short of our own expectations of ourselves all the time. And we need everyday to get up and try again. And sometimes we do really well, we surprise ourselves, and we're excited. So, I love when I can help somebody who has a very valuable skill. They've spent years or decades sometimes in the corporate world, honing their skills, developing mastery at something and then decided hey I want to be doing my own thing.... "I'm tired of doing it their way, I'm tired of being limited by the corporate politics and bureaucracy." "I just want to do great work with great clients and make a great income and have some time to enjoy myself."
Maybe travel again as it's slowly opening up. That's what people typically want. They want to be able to help their family members, they want to travel and do things that they would not be able to do otherwise. And they don't want to be bogged down working all the time. Most of the people I work with are coming at this largely because they are like hey I'm really good at this - similar to my story - but are not for the most part interested in building a multi seven figure business or scaling endlessly or looking for the 8 or 9 figure exit. What has been your biggest challenge/failure as an entrepreneur? And how did you deal with that? I think the biggest challenge, at least for me - I think it's probably true for many others although some people are aware of it and some not - is my own head. It's being really clear on what you're aiming for, making clear decisions about the path, the plan and what you're going to develop, what you're going to be doing. A lot of people don't make decisions about what they want. Because they think what if it's not the right thing. What if it won't work? Which is probably the most common mistake in thinking that we human beings make. Mixing up the What and the How. Mixing up the means and the ends. And, I'm not free of that completely. So, the challenges are eliminating, prioritizing, saying no to things. This comes up all the time. Things almost always take longer than you think they will. And therefore, you have to eliminate, you have to make decisions, you have to prioritize. And, for somebody who's intellectually very curious, very interested in how things work, in a lot of topics, it's challenging, it's frustrating to say no to lots of things. Challenging also is keeping up with lots of relationships, lots of clients and colleagues. It's hard to say in a sense but you have to prioritize certain relationships. There's no other way of doing it. You don't want to but you have too. It's the constant inner conflict between the way you wish things are and the way things are, reality. I realized many years ago that reality is what it is. You can either break yourself against it or leverage it. You can't do both. You've got to see things as clearly as possible for what they are and not for what you want them to be. But still, it doesn't stop us from wanting for things to be different, from trying to cheat reality, so to speak. Those are the challenges that we have. That's where we get stuck. It's when we try to play games with the way things are and then we end up breaking ourselves against it. The short answer is the hard things are always on the inside.
What are your business goals for this coming year? I've got two what I call Alchemy Networks. One is our "JVMM" and the other one is the "Under The Radar Leaders Network" and I'm focused on growing those. And developing trainings as well for our customers and clients that help them simplify and develop very simple plans and systems. The way I see it is it breaks down in systems which break down into steps. So, you need tools to work those steps. And you need skills to use the tools to work those steps. We help people see an overall very simple system, which is not so easy to get to. Simplicity on the far side of complexity. And then we need to help them develop the tools and the skills to use those tools. To make those systems hum.
How can an aspiring entrepreneur start building a business ? What would be the best steps to take as a beginner? The first step is to realize that business is about marketing and sales, more so than anything else. And just accept that as reality. The first step in Marketing is to get the attention and interest of your ideal customer or client. And to do that you usually have to talk about a problem they have and don't want and/or talk about a result that they want but don't have. That is the foundation of your business. You need to be really clear about what is the problem I'm helping solve? What is the result that I'm enabling? For who? What kind of person? And be willing to narrow your focus. That's a mistake I make and others make. You've got to be narrowly focused. You've got to work on the critical 10 percent that makes you brilliant 90 percent of the time.
And for someone who's already in business but struggling to get clients consistently? If you're in business and you struggle to get clients consistently but you've had some clients, keep moving. Oftentimes people stop what has worked or what is working because they are looking for that perfect consistency, for that perfect system. There is no perfect system, no perfect consistency when we're dealing with human beings. Accept that. There is no one right way. What you want to focus on being consistent about is your creative contribution to the people who have a problem you can solve.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I think in writing. Journaling. I have so many note books.
What's your favourite quote? Abraham Lincoln has a great quote : "The worst thing you can do for those you love is that which they could and should do for themselves." - Abraham Lincoln Some other quotes I like: "A belief is not an idea held by the mind, it is an idea that holds the mind.” - Elly Roselle "If you're going through hell, keep going." - Winston Churchill "Play the music not the instrument." - Miles Davis Any good book(s) to recommend to an aspiring entrepreneur?
I often recommend Ryan Holiday's book "The Obstacle is the Way."
I think the obstacle is the way and people recognizing that it is difficult. But that's the way forward. Life is difficult. There is no way of avoiding that.
And almost always, the people who are telling you that it shouldn't be this way, you shouldn't have these problems, they are basically saying that you should be entitled to act without having the equivalent responsibilities. Or focusing on privileges versus responsibilities. That's out of balance in every experience I've seen. They are lying to us.
There is no way of living a real life without taking responsibility for yourself.
----------------------- If you're a consultant, coach or sell a product with an expertise component and want to know how to systematically attract first rate clients, then get "The Plenty of clients manual" that Dov has created. It's plenty of good advice!
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