Marilyn Atkinson Ph.D is the Founder of Erickson Coaching International and originator of the Solution-Focused Coaching methodology. A former Registered Organizational Psychologist, Marilyn is an NLP Master Trainer and specialist in Ericksonian Communications. Since 1980s she has been helping leading global companies and leaders through Solution- Focused and Outcome-Oriented Coaching. Marilyn has co-authored three books in "The Art & Science of Coaching" Trilogy (Inner Dynamics of Coaching, Step-by-Step Coaching & The Flow of Coaching).
'Becoming Cleopatra' is a metaphor for flexible business building. Thinking about the financial ups and downs in much of the Western World has had me noticing the nature of fear. It is not really relevant whether you feel it or not. What is relevant is whether it stops you from doing what is required. What can allow us to weather any storm and to learn from it? We need to challenge ourselves to keep expanding our opportunities and making them fun.
I remember studying psychology in California in my mid-twenties. It was a financial crisis for me. My training as a psychologist was expensive and for this purpose, I had moved to California with my two children. I had arranged a suitable job as a clinical psychologist but arrived to find the assured job had vanished with administrative changes. I could not afford to live in California. I decided I could make money with a series of evening 'Cooking Classes' for grade school kids in West Hollywood homes (it worked), as well as starting organic vegetable gardens (it was spring).
Yet what I earned was just pocket change, enough to pay for our basic needs only. Several days of studying 'suitable' want ads proved discouraging until I went wild and became flexible. I found an agency that hired models to pose nude for regional art schools. Certainly not my 'self-image,' but still enabling rent payments while I went to school in the evenings. I soon found myself driving daily all over the Los Angeles area to one junior college or another.
Picture the scene: It was rather disconcerting to arrive off a complex freeway exit, and run into a college building only to immediately throw off all my clothing and quickly pose "naked as a jaybird" in front of 30 strangers. Yet the job paid well and I often could read an interesting book while reclining like Cleopatra on a sofa as an art class busily sculpted for three hours. Crisis resolved.
The key was flexibility. How do we find improbable ways to do what we want despite the odds? If you are a corporate coach and your regular corporate clientele say they cannot currently afford the luxury of a coach consider other variations: group coaching, team coaching, negotiations coaching, retirement coaching, job change coaching or 'stress management coaching'. Consider incentives and special offers.
Emphasize measurement tools so managers can measure the value. Consider calling what you do by a different name. Even silly labels like "Magician's helper to entrepreneurs: You get results or you don't pay." Consider going into professional areas where jobs remain stable, such as government, education & hospitals (medical hospitals and health professionals).
Find another strong niche and it may eventually be the one you keep as well as your current area. Find an interesting category like coaching for actors or orchestras as well as your normal clientele. "Flexibility Coaching" means being playful and giving lots of extras. It may mean adding some low cost or free exchanges. You learn to propose services that matter to people. Meantime, you are building relevant contacts.
It is value, not dollars, that connect us. Our long-term vision brings energy where it counts. We find ourselves learning to relax within different opportunities and markets that we didn't expect. Expand fun and flexibility and watch your business grow!