Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in personal development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Dr. Lois Frankel, President of Corporate Coaching International, located in Pasadena, CA, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

I am a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author, currently providing keynote addresses and webinars related to women in business. My clients are typically women's groups from Fortune 500 companies.

Tell us about yourself

As an executive coach, I worked one-on-one with corporate leaders to help them develop the skills needed to create high-performing teams that added to the bottom line. When I realized that women, in particular, may never have the opportunity to work with a coach, I decided to write books that would enable them to receive the same advice and "coaching tips" that I provided to my individual clients. The feedback I've gotten is that these books provide women with critical insights and the motivation to overcome self-defeating behaviors so that they can attain the things they most want in life. I am motivated by knowing that my books and speaking engagements help women to create significant and enduring change in the way they interact with others at work, at home, and everywhere in between.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

My biggest accomplishment as a business owner was being a pioneer in the field of executive coaching. I started my consulting firm at a time when business coaching was largely unheard of. There were no models for coaching, so I created my own, and many of these practices have become industry standards. Taking a cue from IBM founder Tom Watson, who called his company International Business Machine when he had no international business but knew that he wanted it, I called my firm Corporate Coaching International. That vision helped to take me to places I never dreamed possible, from conducting team-building programs in castles in Scotland to coaching Indonesian nationals in Jakarta and Bali. Subsequently, my speaking engagements have been in places such as Hong Kong, Australia, Belgium, and Mexico. It's true that "if you can see it, you can be it."

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

In the beginning, long hours and little sleep were the biggest challenges. Fortunately, that was at a time when I was young and could manage it! You don't create a successful business by doing the least amount of work possible. Then, as the business grows, your challenge becomes one of scaling and overcoming the fear of taking risks that might leverage you too much financially. The best piece of advice I ever got was that you "pay in advance for capacity." That is, if you want to grow, you have to spend money at a time when you may not have it. I took that leap when I started hiring administrative staff, and it was the best decision I ever made. The ROI for what I paid staff was tremendous. I was then free to do more business development and hire coaches to work for me. I learned that as a sole practitioner, my income was limited by the number of hours I could actually provide services, so scaling up to having more people providing services under my banner would be more lucrative -- for everyone.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Know what distinguishes you. There may be others who provide goods or services similar to yours, but what makes yours unique? Until you can define that, then you're in the middle of the pack of similarly situated vendors. Ask yourself the question why people should buy your products above others. Then make that distinction your sales focus.
  2. Don't underestimate the importance of relationships. People don't always buy the product; they often buy you. Look at Debbie Fields or Famous Amos. You weren't just buying chocolate chip cookies; you were buying the face of the company. You may not have a business on that scale, but everyone you come into contact with is a potential client or customer -- treat them as such. Not in a "salesy" way, but in building genuine relationships where you are memorable and perceived as having an interest in the needs of others, not just selling your wares. Studies have shown that people will actually pay more for a product from someone they like than pay less for it from someone they don't find as likable.
  3. Maximize the use of social media. That was something I didn't have to worry about when I started my business, but today you cannot grow a business without a presence on social media. Write articles, share information, and post about your products. You almost can't do too much of it.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

Starting and running a successful business, regardless of the size or product, requires certain key characteristics. If you don't possess most of them, your likelihood of success diminishes. Be honest with yourself in assessing your resilience, willingness to take risks, strategic thinking, emotional intelligence, perseverance, communication skills, leadership capabilities, stamina, tolerance for financial fluctuations, and ability to build strong, mutually beneficial relationships. Entrepreneurship isn't for everyone, and there's nothing wrong with admitting it before you get too far down the road. If it's more creative freedom or room to spread your wings you're after, maybe working in someone else's start-up would suit you better. Or, be an intrapreneur in your current workplace by introducing new ideas and plans to execute them. No matter how you do it, it's never too late to rewrite your script.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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