The days before ActionCOACH
“Before I became a franchisee I had been trained in finance and accounting. I’d worked for a corporate until 2000 and then started my own consulting business using my skills largely to do project and feasibility studies, finance and governance, and business development,” says Ferguson.
ActionCOACH is an international brand and was introduced to South Africa in 2007. “At the time I wasn’t too interested but I looked into the brand and that’s when I realised it was what I wanted to do. The more I investigated, the more it appealed to me because while I was doing some of those functions already, ActionCOACH was a professionally packaged system.”
What’s the appeal?
“I had looked into a number of different coaching approaches and the value of the ActionCOACH franchise is the system. The kind of content and the sheer volume of information available meant even I was learning important things not covered in business school. I had an epiphany that every businessman needs to know this. It gives you the tools to make a profound difference and that was very appealing,” says Ferguson.
The road to becoming a franchisee
In 2010 Ferguson made contact with founder Brad Sugars when he was delivering a seminar in South Africa. “I also met with the South African master franchisors, Harry Welby-Cooke and Pieter Scholtz, and they helped me understand the huge market that waited. They did their due diligence on me to see if I’d be a good coach, and I interviewed a number of ActionCOACH franchisees to see for myself the results that could be achieved in a client’s business.”
Ferguson financed the franchise through bank loans and business connections, and the decision to set up a home office meant his initial starting capital was relatively low.
“After completing my franchisee training in Las Vegas, I went about converting my existing clients to ActionCOACH clients. This was actually quite an easy process and they were happy with the change because I understood their business problems well and got them to understand the value of the systematic coaching process. Because I had a client base already, I broke even within five months.”
Moving up and up
While you don’t need a lot of infrastructure to get an ActionCOACH franchise running, the size of Ferguson’s client base will see him move into offices with Welby-Cooke and Scholtz in Centurion. “When you reach critical mass you need a professional image.”
There’s only so much you can do in a day, so Ferguson has some tricks up his sleeve: “I’m in the process of evaluating candidates to employ a full-time coach to work with me, I have radio airtime in exchange for business coaching which helps get my name out there, and because I can’t help every business on a one-on-one basis I’m rolling out seminars for business planning, business valuation and evaluation, so groups can gain value.”
Advice from one in the know
Ferguson offers this advice to someone wanting to become a business coach. “There are so many versions of coaching, so do your homework. Make sure the kind you commit to has the right credentials and there is a world-class support system ready to assist you.
“Bear in mind that business coaching and life coaching are not the same thing: Life coaching is the engine for achieving personal goals, business coaching is about building businesses.”
On teaching and being taught
Part of being an ActionCOACH franchisee is about living the systems in your own business practice so that you’re an example to others of how the system works.
“I start every day practicing IVVM. First is Idealisation where I create an ideal reality in my head. Next is Visualisation where I visualise how I’d like my day to look. Verbalisation means I say out loud everything I need to do to make the day’s visualisation happen, and lastly Materialisation is about conducting the actions that will make your mental picture come true. I also have a default diary that I don’t ever deviate from, which is something I coach my clients on too.”
Ferguson specialises in business rescue and turnarounds and had to learn how to pick the right clients.
“You need to evaluate the business carefully. I was very eager in the beginning to take on any business, but when your business success depends on a reputation of success, you have to become very selective.
“The most common reason for turning away business is when I sense lack of co-operation or there isn’t 100% buy-in by the owner or partner. It’s also better to help businesses that have no back door, because then they have to give it their all.”