Goals are great, and can inspire you to wonderful things. But I find that people often neglect to answer a critical question: Where are you starting from?

With all my clients, we uncover their goals and visions and possibilities, but then we spend a good amount on their current situation. It’s not about me understanding their challenges.

No, it’s about uncovering resources and limitations, before designing the best next steps to take.

Suppose you’re trying to advise someone on how to win a race. So you describe to them how to launch a quick start, establish a sustainable pace, then sprint to the finish line.

It’s only now that you find out that they’re a fish, and the race will be underwater. So all your methodology is pretty much worthless. You didn’t know what you’re starting with.

This is the kind of paradigm-shifting that coaching can help people with. I know it was kind of a strange picture, but it’s not as strange as you might think.

I could have easily been talking with someone about how to sell their business. If we haven’t laid the proper groundwork, I don’t know:

  • This particular industry’s norms and expectations around selling a business.
  • Whether the business looks healthy from a buyer’s point of view – totally different than a customer or seller!
  • Whether selling the business actually aligns with this client’s deeper personal and business goals.
  • How many people this is likely to affect – employees, partners, customers, investors.
  • How many years of “financial cleaning” they’ve already done.
  • And so on.

The client needs to be aware – and often brutally honest – about where they’re starting. It’s quite possible that there is absolutely no way to sell the business in two years at a fair price given where they’re starting from. It’s also quite possible – I’ve seen this – that selling is absolutely the wrong way for this person to meet their goals.

We won’t know until we know where we’re starting.