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A 15-year journey of highs and, yes, some lows

Today is a day to remember for me – 15 years ago, I launched Vision Coaching Inc. In 2005, I started the journey from relatively inexperienced entrepreneur to founder of an award-winning leadership coaching firm in Atlantic Canada, along with some incredible colleagues.

I am so proud of what we have built together, and feel blessed to have had the opportunity to work with so many amazing clients – people who entrusted us to help them in their journey to becoming stronger leaders and to propel their organizations forward.

I confess, it was a gamble. I look back at the first year of business now and wonder what I was thinking. At the time, my wife Mary Ellen and I were expecting our first child and building a house – truly starting a life together. We needed Vision Coaching to succeed – our family was depending on it.

Even crazier, here I was at 33 years old, not only launching a new business but one focused on coaching executives who had been operating in the boardrooms for years – in some cases, for as long as I had been alive.

A leap into the unknown

To top it off, I had no concrete evidence that there would be any demand for leadership coaching in my local market. But I did have a strong gut feeling.

It was truly a leap into the unknown, though a leap driven by a passion and conviction for this amazing way of working with leaders called “coaching.”

I had discovered leadership coaching just a few years before. I was working in an HR-related area and had, over time, more than a few people ask me if I would coach them. Then one day, a remarkable leader approached me to ask if I would coach him. This was already someone I regarded as an impressive leader.

His query provoked my curiosity, and I picked up Coaching for Performance by Sir John Whitmore.

In reading this seminal book from the man recognized as the godfather of leadership coaching, my excitement grew. But I also became acutely aware of how much I would need to learn to credibly offer myself up as a coach.

Off I went….

Any other time I would have jumped in with both feet and learned along the way, but not with this. It was obvious to me that being a leadership coach required formal training and accreditation.

So off I went to Royal Roads University, and its Graduate Certificate in Executive Coaching. The premier program in Canada, graduates earn the ever-important Certified Executive Coach credential from the International Coach Federation.

Looking back, I am surprised that I didn’t hesitate even for a moment to sign up, even though it conflicted with my wedding day. (Mary Ellen and I married mid-course!)

I was so drawn to what I was learning at Royal Roads and the incredible impact that coaching can have on leaders. I cherished the people I was studying with – talented people who shared the same passion and enthusiasm for the power of coaching. Some of those classmates are today cherished Vision colleagues.

Critical moment

From Royal Roads, fast forward a few months: here we are – newlyweds, expecting our first child, getting a house built, and talking over the wisdom (or otherwise) of abandoning a full-time job and launching a coaching business.

A critical moment was when I went to the one person who I was certain would try to talk me out of it – my father-in-law. But instead of warning me off, he encouraged me to go for it, asking me a thought-provoking question: “If not now, then when?”

So on Oct. 1, 2005, Mary Ellen and I did it – we launched Vision Coaching Inc. with the very same vision statement I had developed at Royal Roads: “Creating a world that is transformed by compassionate, resilient and creative leadership.”

There is so much more to say, but for now I just want to say to all of you in the most heartfelt way possible: Thank you.

The years that followed brought some tremendous highs but also some incredible lows. I have to be candid: more than a few times, I wondered if all the hard work and sacrifices were worth it.

Those days where all you heard from a long line of potential clients was “No thanks.” The days where big deals suddenly collapse. The days when you wonder if you’ll make it through the recession – or, for that matter, a pandemic.

As an entrepreneur, I seem to carry with me that constant tinge of anxiety of what may – or may not – lay ahead, of trying to take nothing for granted.

But what has gotten me through the low times and the anxious moments is remembering – or being reminded by the amazing people around me – to focus on the long view. Or, as I noted in a recent blog post, resisting that urge to succumb to a short-term view clouded with uncertainty and tinged with panic.

Life-changing for them, and us

Instead, my colleagues and I turned to creating value for the future by developing new coaching programs, investing in building awareness around how coaching creates value, reaching out to clients to see how we can help.

But most of all, what has kept me and my colleagues going is the rich reward in seeing our clients succeed. It sounds cliché but it is true – what could be better than seeing someone you work with closely breakthrough? It can be life-changing for them – and also for us.

On a day like today, reflecting 15 years later, I am grateful to Mary Ellen for believing in me and what we were jumping into.

I am grateful to the coaches and the many, many people along the way who feel the same way I do about our work, as well as our clients, peers, mentors, colleagues, friends and family (my brother, mother and father have encouraged me over the year in ways they will never fully know) – you have helped shape me into the person I am today, and you have helped shape Vision Coaching into the successful enterprise it has become.

I also recognize that we have a lot more work to do in the coming years and I’m excited about what lies ahead – such as the new services we will be launching in the upcoming months.

There is so much more to say, but for now I just want to say to all of you in the most heartfelt way possible: Thank you.

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