Where are we going?: The first call

I moved to an invite- and referral-only business model a few years ago, and it was one of the hardest professional decisions I’ve ever had to make.

It meant saying no to people that I might have known for a long time, but with whom I wasn’t a ‘perfect fit.’ Sure, it may have been good enough, but if I’ve learned anything in my career, it’s that ‘good enough’ always gets in the way of being great.

Nowadays, my decision to work with a new client pretty much comes down to one question: do I genuinely enjoy this person’s company? I’ve come to realize that if I wouldn’t enjoy having lunch with someone, then we’re probably not a good fit to work together.

This doesn’t mean, of course, that we must be best friends in order to work together. But we do have to be a good fit. The truth is that I’m not the right coach for everybody and that’s okay (hot tip: any coach who says they’re the coach for everybody is lying.) In this way, working on an invite- and referral-only basis is all about honouring both the client and myself.

All this to say, when I get referrals (as I often do, thanks to my amazing clients), I always make sure to kick things off with a one-on-one phone call.

The goal of this call is two pronged: it helps give them a sense of what I do, as well as gain some clarity on their own vision. And it helps me get a feel for whether their challenges are something I can authentically support. At the end of the phone call, we should both have a fairly good sense of whether or not we’re a good fit.

Ideally, the prospective client will also walk away with some answers to questions that they have never asked themselves. They will be equipped with a compass they didn’t have before. That’s why I call this session the ‘Strategic Focus Game Plan’, because when we actually sit down and create a map of where we want to go, it’s game changing.

In this chapter, I’m going to share with you some of the questions I would typically ask in this 45-minute session. While you’re reading, I want you to actually set quiet time aside (with your phone off) and answer the questions for yourself. Grab a cup of coffee or tea, take out a pen and paper, get comfortable, and go within.

Imagine it’s two years from today, and we’ve bumped into each other in the street. You say to me: “Oh my God, Shawn, the last two years have been off the charts – beyond my wildest dreams.” What does that reality look like to you, personally and professionally?

What are your top three business, health, and relationship goals for the next 12 months? Get specific. (Example: if your goal is to lose weight, don’t just write ‘lose weight.’ What are the habits and behaviours that will help you get there?)

Top 3 Business Goals:


Top 3 Health Goals:


Top 3 Relationship Goals:

To accomplish these goals, how are you acting differently than how you’re acting right now?

How is your team acting differently than how they’re acting right now? (If you’re a solo entrepreneur, your team might be a contractor, your family, etc.)

What do you want more of, and what do you want less of? (Less stress? Fewer headaches? More time off? More saying no to the wrong opportunities? Etc.)

What are you still tolerating? (This is one of my favourites. Identifying what you’re still tolerating is the quickest path to change.)

What are your top three opportunities and your top three challenges right now?

What are your top three strengths? (These are the things you’re really good at, and that give you energy.) This is no time to be humble.
What is one habit that, if you committed to it, it would change everything?

What progress have you made towards your vision?

At the end of this session, it’s pretty clear to me – and to the person answering the questions – if we would be a good fit or not. If I get the sense that we would be, we can talk about what coaching might look like for you. My coaching style is unique in that I don’t follow a script or a program. I show up to every call for you, to help you stay on top of your vision. That means that my sessions with one client may look very different from my sessions with another.

In writing about this, I’m reminded of one of my clients in Boston, who came to me through a referral. At the onset of our first phone call, he was already set to pull the trigger. He said he had heard about me from a friend, someone he had a lot of respect for, and he had his credit card in hand. He was ready to start working together. Today.

“Whoa, slow down,” I said. After all, we don’t propose marriage on the first date.

I asked him to answer some questions for me before we made anything official. Then, I encouraged him to consult our mutual contact one more time, just to make sure my services were what he was looking for. (When choosing who you want to work with, I’m of the opinion that ‘slow’ is the way to go; when coaches say, ‘you have to sign by 3 p.m. today’, that’s a big red flag for me.)

We ended up being a match, of course, and I’m now thrilled to call this awesome guy a client. But we never could have figured that out were it not for that one critical session.

Those 10 essential questions, and the immense clarity they provide, will set the foundation for change in your life – if you’re open to receiving it.


Takeaway Tip:

Block out 45 minutes in your calendar, take out a pen and paper, and answer the 10 essential questions.