Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in career development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Neil Metzler, founder of Cloud Champions Coaching, located in Seattle, WA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Cloud Champions Coaching provides inspiring, results-based coaching for senior professionals in tech. I coach teams and individual clients at organizations like Amazon, Snowflake, Intel, and Disney+ from Senior Manager to General Manager.
I'm currently focused on high-impact topics for employee engagement & retention like:
- Owning Your Career (Self-directed Progression)
- Well-being at Work (Burnout Mitigation)
Tell us about yourself
During COVID, I started experiencing burnout symptoms at work. I wondered if I could create a path to a 'portfolio career' as a coach and non-profit volunteer. I ran a six-month pilot during evenings and weekends. I established a basic offering and first paid customer before I jumped. This validation helped me de-risk my next move. I started reading authors like Nahia Orduña (HBR, World Economic Forum) and Kai-Fu Lee ("AI2041") on the Future of Work. I realized the change and disruption I experienced were part of a global shift (digital transformation).
During my reskill journey into the cloud, I experienced friction and setbacks. I wondered if there wasn't a better way to accelerate career progression more efficiently. This became the foundation of my first success framework (5 Pillars Method) for becoming Credible, Capable, and Visible in a new industry or pursuit.
Once I left Big Tech, I created my own structure and way of working. I started volunteering one day a week to keep my skills fresh and grow my network. By showing up and putting the work in, I earned the trust of a new community (Women in Big Data). This opened new opportunities for coaching and leadership development.
My current work focuses on evoking transformation through three big ideas:
- Careers are no longer linear.
- There's a human underneath that armor.
- You aren't in this alone.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Delivering my first team coaching engagement at Amazon HQ in Seattle felt great. A senior leader I previously worked with took note of my podcast and presence on social media. He asked me for a proposal moving his team forward on owning their career. I'm most proud that the workshop content was original IP I developed over two years from the ground up. My experience at the event accelerated my confidence and clarity about what I do. I felt comfortable and confident enough to speak from a place of authenticity and vulnerability. 100% of attendees completed a 2-page self-assessment and planning doc to level up their next career conversation. >80% of participants said the workshop gave them more confidence for their next career step.
This experience was foundational in learning to design team coaching for new corporate clients. Seattle is my hometown, and I spent the rest of the week catching up with colleagues, family, and friends.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Decision-making on priorities. Where to place bets & when it's time to pivot, I had to learn to stop playing the hero on "smart" decisions or "correct" conclusions through overanalysis. Instead, I focus on practicing awareness and good processes. Sales coach & author Catherine Brown encourages us to ask better questions to understand how people really use our solution and which needs we satisfy. I've had to learn to keep listening to fresh feedback and asking deeper questions on how & why clients adopt. This means my annual roadmap and quarterly goals become less about guessing correctly and more about creating and capturing excess value.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
Be mindful of B2C vs. B2B lead flows and pipelines. You need to run experiments, learn and iterate. For example, in B2C, there are two steps I took that really empowered and simplified my new client relationships: adding an intake form and charging for the intro call. Clients loved the clarity they achieved from a small, self-service reflection before bringing that energy to the call. I loved the insights that helped me prepare better for our first speaking engagement. This nurtures trust and helps zoom in on opportunities more quickly. In B2B, you love the payoff of a big corporate engagement. If you can 'build once, use many' with corporate programming, you need far fewer engagements to reach numerous people and grow revenue. However, the sales process is complex & time-consuming. It requires different positioning than B2C. You may need specific B2B-facing material, like PDF whitepapers, social content, and a standalone website. You might need a different brand identity and tone. Plus, it can be difficult to discern who the decision maker, influencer, and gatekeepers actually are for a given company. Failing to qualify properly costs you time. Sometimes your internal champions are wrong or want to help but lack influence. This can require a total reboot of the approach with new internal champions. This is why I run small experiments, ideally two at a time in parallel.
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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