By Ruth E. Thaler-Carter
RPCN members who offer coaching as their business service can look to Robin Dettman, MSL, CPLC as a role model. Dettman - who bills himself as an education and business organization coach in his longstanding role as owner of Coaching for Success - launched his consulting business in 1990 but has more than 30 years of "successful coaching focusing on the questions that have helped [his] clients achieve the success they desired." His LinkedIn profile uses "coaching to achieve desired results" as his business definition.
Here is a video interview with Dettman in which he talks about why he launched his consulting business.
Through his consulting business, Dettman offers "organizational development - management, change management, reading and understanding clients' current status, and helping them become clear about what I can do with them so they change the situation they are in," he said. "In coaching, you're leading clients to change themselves; you're not changing for them."
Establishing a coaching business was a natural progress for Dettman. He had done the equivalent of coaching in his full-time corporate work with Radio Shack over the years - he managed six different stores for the chain, which he says often felt like being an entrepreneur. That also involved a type of coaching work, since a store manager had to encourage and motivate store employees.
For Dettman, "independence is a big part" of the appeal of consulting, as is the variety of projects and clients he can work with. "I thrive on variety," he said. "If I'm doing the same thing for too long, boredom sets in. That's why I managed six stores (for Radio Shack) - I needed new challenges. When I achieved success at one, I would move on to another store." He launched his own business because "I like working for myself," he said.
In his coaching consulting business, Dettman works with individuals and teams, usually in not-for-profit organizations and school systems. "I help them identify the challenges they are facing and what they want to achieve. Many times, I work with more people from other areas," he said. He has experience in the education field, which makes it easier for him to understand what leaders in that field might need from his services.
Dettman earned a master of science (MS) degree in strategic leadership, business administration, and management and operations from Roberts Wesleyan College in 2013 and a BA in photography from the State University of New York Empire State College in 2012. He has been working on certification as a Certified Professional Life Coach from the Life Coach Institute of Orange County since June of 2013.
Dettman isn't all business; he also contributes to the community and does some pro bono work, which he has found "often will lead to paid work." He cares about causes such as arts and culture, children, civil rights and social action, economic empowerment, education, human rights, poverty alleviation, and social services, and currently serves on advisory boards for three nonprofit organizations focused on art and education: Baobab Cultural Center, the Help Me Read program and J Reve International. He also is involved with Celebration of Life and a tutoring program at #17 School, and belongs to the Interfaith Forum of Greater Rochester, of which he is a co-founder. "I do a lot of reading and research on spirituality," he said.
Among the RPCN programs and services of greatest value to Dettman has been the Absolutely Abby program that helped him strengthen his LinkedIn profile. The RPCN Consulting Business Boot Camp and Friday speakers have been useful as well. "Recently, we've had really powerful speakers," he said. "They've helped me with my approach to clients and what to charge clients."
Dettman doesn't have a website - "I couldn't find a real benefit to a website, because LinkedIn gives me all I need" in terms of finding clients. "Educators all over the world are connected via LinkedIn," he said.
In addition to RPCN, where he currently serves on the board, Dettman also belongs to SCORE, the Vietnam Veterans Business Council Chapter 20 and the Veterans Resource Center. Workshops taken years ago in using the Microsoft Office Suite and in-service training for school administrators have been invaluable for his business, in terms of both tools and insights into what clients might need.
Dettman doesn't see a lot that he would do differently if he were to start his consulting business today. "I've done things recently that I didn't do at the beginning," he noted. "I take workshops and the RPCN's Boot Camp as a refresher. That helps me stay sharp and exercise my skills. I do a lot of research on the Internet and a lot of reading - I have a whole library of books on people who are successful in making change, especially in education." William Glassner's books on reality therapy have been especially useful, he said.
Dettman's advice for those considering launching a consulting business is to "be willing to put in the hard work it takes to develop a strong network of current and potential clients. You can't just put your name out there and expect clients to come running," he said.
Ruth E. Thaler-Carter (www.writerruth.com) is a freelance writer, editor, proofreader and speaker whose motto is "I can write about anything!"™ She is also the owner of Communication Central (www.communication-central.com), which hosts a conference for communications entrepreneurs in the fall.