In this interview, we talk to Mike Irving, founder of Advanced Business Abilities about creating and growing a completely different kind of business coaching.
Hello! What’s your background, and what is your business?
My background is in sales and business management. I ran a direct sales company for over 10 years, with a sales force of 300 people in three different cities. I’m now the founder of Advanced Business Abilities – a Business and Leadership Performance Coaching Company.
We support business owners to be more able to get what they want in life and business.
What motivated you to get started with Advanced Business Abilities?
When I was running that direct sales company, although from the outside looking in it would have appeared that I was successful, I was really unhappy. I felt stressed and an anxious and couldn’t work out what was going on for me.
I hired business coaches hoping they would help, and unfortunately most of them didn’t. Until finally, I met the people who now make up the research team at Advanced Business Abilities.
They are retired performance coaches and they were able to support me to make the changes necessary in order for me to feel more free in life and in business, and less stressed and overwhelmed.
The work I did with them was so successful that I made the decision to close down the business I had been running and focus all of my time, energy, money, effort, and intention on learning everything I could from them about how they did what they did for me. I wanted to be able to do that for other people.
Who is the ideal customer for Advanced Business Abilities? Why would they benefit?
Our ideal customer is someone who has been in business for at least 5 years – so they’ve had some success and have an idea of what they’re doing. Typically our clients come to us because even though they’ve had success, they’re feeling stuck in one or two areas and aren’t sure why.
Our ideal client is also someone who has sought out coaching or some form of self-development in the past – people who are looking to improve themselves tend to be a great fit for what we do.
The benefit in anyone coming to see us is becoming more able. They become more able to get what they want.
Take action, get started, and you’ll learn and improve as you go.
Looking back, how has your business evolved from initial idea to now?
At first it was just me coaching people based a hypothesis that I could combine my experience running a business with the principles I was learning through our research team. The hypothesis was that if we supplied service A, it would create impact B for our clients. The next step was to test the hypothesis. As we tested and tested, we learned more and more, and all of a sudden we had a significant amount of documented principles and systems that worked consistently to help clients create the change they wanted.
We now have a team of 5 coaches and 2 support staff, with plans to expand that to 10 coaches and 5 support staff within the next 2 years.
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Like Nike says: Just do it. It’s all too easy to get wrapped up in details, or get so much advice before you get started that you get confused and start to second guess yourself. Take action, get started, and you’ll learn and improve as you go.
The most important thing is to work out what service or product you’re going to supply, and then go and see if you can find a small group of people who make the decision to purchase it. If you can do that a handful of times, you can do it thousands of times.
How do you market Advanced Business Abilities to attract new customers?
We’ve operated for ten years on referral and word of mouth only. Happy customers talking about us was the only source of new clients we had.
As we’ve decided to grow because more people are interested in our style of coaching, we’ve started being more active with networking and business development. We’ve dabbled in Facebook ads and Instagram marketing; what we trust and use the most though is networking.
We enjoy, and also get the best results, from meeting people face to face and building a relationship first. When you talk to someone, they know pretty quickly whether or not they consider you to be trustworthy enough to want to do business with you. That’s our preferred method.
Could you share with us how the idea for Advanced Business Abilities came into your mind?
It was born because I saw a major gap in the market. I had been on the receiving end of the standard form of business coaching… they come in and tell you what to do and which of their systems has to be implemented for success. That didn’t work (and still doesn’t work).
Then I found myself on the receiving end of a completely different kind of business coaching, and it really worked. When I had that experience, the seed that became Advanced Business Abilities was planted.
Have you had any mentors or role models that have influenced you? How have they helped?
Absolutely. I value being able to learn from people older and more experienced than me. Our research team has an average age of 74. I feel like they’ve forgotten more than I’ve learned.
I prefer to learn and gain certainty rather than be inspired by what others have done.
These guys have helped by asking me questions that support me to inspect how I think. That’s the most valuable thing someone can do.
What do you attribute your business success to?
I’m a product of the service I deliver and the concepts I now teach. I’m not a coach because I’m the smartest person on the planet. I’ve worked diligently to develop my abilities to help others.
My success is largely due to the degree of intention I apply to everything I do. If I decide that something is going to happen, it’s as good as done. It might take longer than I’d like it to sometimes, and it still gets done. Anyone can have great teachers, or a research team. It takes diligence and intention to implement and get things done.