Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in personal development, but not sure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Wendy Hanson co-founder and Chief Programs Officer of BetterManager.
What's your business and who are your customers?
BetterManager offers virtual leadership development solutions for all levels of people managers. We pride ourselves on meeting people where they are— from high potential individual contributors to new and oft-forgotten middle managers, all the way up to the C-Suite. Our customers are leaders and people managers at some of the top universities, corporations, and startups in the world.
Tell us about yourself
My first career was actually in special education. In the early 80’s, I was hired to create a job skills development program for adolescents with developmental disabilities. We started several businesses, such as catering, plant maintenance, and pottery, as a means to teach job skills. I worked in the education and nonprofit sectors for two decades, always seeking to bring an entrepreneurial perspective and inspire new possibilities.
As I partnered with companies to provide opportunities for our students, I realized the incredible difference that managers can make at work. I soon began looking to expand beyond education and heard about The Coaches Training Institute (https://coactive.com/training/coach-training).
In 1998, on the East Coast, executive coaching was still in its infancy. I became a certified coach, went through a wonderful leadership program, The Coaches Training Institute, with the same organization, partnered with a fellow coach, Will Corley, and we set out to begin inspiring and driving change within companies.
I’m motivated by the positive changes I see in the people I coach and by my coaching colleagues. BetterManager’s carefully vetted team of coaches work from all over the world, and it’s so inspiring to hear the stories they tell. Not only are they changing other people’s lives, they are always growing and changing themselves. It’s a joy to work with people who are so passionate about living full, meaningful lives that contribute to society.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My biggest accomplishment as a business owner has been building a global team of certified coaches with an industry-leading coach NPS score of 90. Each coach on our team meets the very highest standards of professional excellence. If a client is unhappy with their coach at any point on their leadership journey, we’ll begin the process again with a new coach at no additional cost. As far as I know, this is the only guarantee of its kind in the coaching industry. It speaks to the deep level of confidence and respect we have in our coaches and the consistently great feedback we receive from our clients.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
The responsibility of delivering exceptional quality service to each and every customer is difficult to maintain, though we are able to do it. It requires vigilance, adaptability, and a lot of energy! Additionally, with a global team, it’s challenging to navigate so many different time zones and culturally specific issues. We try to be as sensitive as possible to the cultural differences associated with work across the globe, which means our coaches and clients need to be really well matched. That process alone is challenging.
Perhaps the hardest part is knowing that your team’s livelihood depends on your success. It’s not easy with that weight resting on your shoulders, especially when you hit bumps in the road. At these times, it’s so critical to maintain a healthy perspective and to be grateful for all that’s going well!
I was very fortunate to learn how to be grateful as a child. When something good happened, my mother always wanted to share it with others. There are times in life that we go through very tough experiences, yet, we can always find things to be grateful for.
What are the top 3 tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- My #1 tip is to always test the viability of your target market! You may have great ideas, and people may really need your services, but if they can't afford you, it's simply not a viable business proposition. For example, in 2008, I co-authored a book called The Sassy Ladies’ Toolkit for Startup Businesses, a reference for how to start a small business. Because my co-authors and I were based in Rhode Island, the smallest state in the union, we targeted women “solopreneurs” who worked independently. These women needed to verify a concept, figure out how to market and sell it. In retrospect, we realized that selling to solopreneurs starting a business was a mistake because they did not have enough money to purchase coaching services or training. Most of the women taking on solo pursuits were first-time entrepreneurs. For them, this was a side gig while they maintained a full-time job. It was a market that sorely needed our services, but couldn’t pay for them.
- Tip #2 is to take your time putting together the right team from the get-go. The people in your business are everything. Again, you may have great ideas and people may really need what you’re offering, but if you don’t have the right team to execute on that vision, it’s not going to work.
- Tip #3 is related to tip #2, and it’s about the importance of maintaining healthy company culture. First, you need to build a team with the right mix of strengths and experience. Once you’ve found your team, the culture will often develop organically, but as the leader, you have a lot of influence over that culture. It’s critical that you keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening. If someone or something is causing problems, you must act to address the issue quickly, before it creates unnecessary damage. Stay engaged and informed. Let people know you are there to support their growth and wellbeing. Celebrate the wins!
What are some of the things you put in place to maintain a healthy work/life balance?
I regularly meditate and practice yoga. Especially as a business owner, it’s sometimes hard to know when to stop working. These days, the line between work and home has gotten so blurred that you have to be intentional about creating space for yourself to do rejuvenating, non-work things. I set aside time for myself to just be present each day without judgment, and it’s been a pandemic lifesaver.
As I mentioned earlier, gratitude is also an important part of my life and a way to maintain a healthy work/life balance. My dear friend, Chuck Roppel, introduced me to Brother David Steindl-Rast’s A Network for Grateful Living.
The Network’s fundamental teaching centers on making gratitude a daily practice. It’s a powerful lens through which to live and see the world. Being grateful becomes a way of being. You can start by simply making a list of things you are grateful for every night before you go to sleep. It helps shift your perspective, and research has proven that it creates a better night’s sleep. Once it becomes a habit, it's almost impossible to stop it from having an impact.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
I’d love to share a quote that relates to my answers about gratitude:
“In daily life, we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.”― Brother David Steindl-Rast
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share then email firstname.lastname@example.org, we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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