Updated: May 11, 2022
Welcome to the inaugural post in a “Meet the Bincubators,” a new Bincubate.com series in which we interview notable professionals who are helping entrepreneurs and small businesses to form, grow and succeed. Our guest today is Zoë Slasor Riddell, a career coach with The Entrepreneur’s Source.
Q. Zoë, welcome. Can you tell me a bit about your business?
Absolutely. I am a career coach who helps people explore their personal and professional goals, needs and expectations, when it comes to figuring out what their next career move should be and what would make them the happiest. One option is business ownership. My mission is to provide information and education and to help people achieve clarity in their thinking on these questions.
Q. What is your background and training?
I received my MBA from Vanderbilt University, and have worked in various corporate positions, in the airline and banking industries. I am an entrepreneur and a founder who started my own life-and-relationship-coaching consultancy, focusing on helping people thrive through divorce, and I hold several professional certifications in areas such as nutritional counseling and personal training. I am also a mom, of three beautiful children, the last of whom I have just sent off to college. And, finally, I’ve gone through the extensive and proven training program that The Entrepreneur’s Source provides to its owners.
Q. Who is your clientele? What kinds of people do you work with?
My clients come from a wide variety of different backgrounds and experiences, of all ages and points in their career. Probably the common theme among them is that they are feeling dissatisfied with their current situation and they know they want something more. A large number of my clients have been working in the corporate world for 20 years or so. Perhaps they have just sent their kids off to college, as I have, and are finally allowing themselves the “luxury” of taking stock and taking care of themselves for a change!
Q. You mentioned that one option you help clients explore is that of business ownership. What are some of the others?
Well, the first option is staying where you are, in a traditional job working for somebody—or finding another corporate job that is a better fit, if yours currently isn’t. This path offers a number of benefits, including actual benefits and stability, among other things, and is a good fit for many. Another option is the investment route, where you set yourself up, if you are able to do so, to earn income passively, through things like stocks or real estate. And, finally, there is business ownership, and this can take one of three paths. You can either start a business purely from scratch, buy an existing business that someone else has built up, or buy a franchise. Not every option is for everyone, but I try to walk my clients through all of them, if only as a brainstorming exercise, to see what might be the best fit for them.
Q. This isn’t really a question, but it seems to me that some people have given up on being happy in their jobs and view them as something they just have to bear. Working for the weekend. Or to put it more dramatically, “leading lives of quiet desperation" in their cubicles, or at least feeling very much in a rut—not really satisfied but not seeing a clear path out.
I think that’s true in a lot of cases, and it’s sad, isn’t it? Of course, we all have practical and financial realities, people who are relying on us and who we have to support, and not everyone is going to be able to, as the saying goes, “find something you love to do and do it for a living.” But I think we have to try and, as we move forward in life, keep trying, continuously making adjustments and trying to be happy. We all need to make a living. But we don’t need to be miserable. Why wouldn’t you at least try to find something you love doing?
Q. You are sounding very “life-coachy” right now—I like it!
[Laughter] Thank you, I’ll take that as a compliment. Look, for better or worse, we all work so hard these days that, in some cases, at least to an extent, our careers do become our lives—or at least a big part of them. My life coaching background definitely comes through. I’m also very committed to certain things in my own life, such as mindfulness and meditation and trying to be positive. So, these things probably come through as well, lending a “holistic” and “whole human” approach to my career coaching. I like that, and I think my clients like it too! In fact, one of the things that appealed to me about The Entrepreneur’s Source, when I was considering becoming affiliated with them, was that I saw many of these elements in their approach as well.
"We all need to make a living. But we don’t need to be miserable. Why wouldn’t you at least try to find something you love doing?"
Q. What kinds of costs can someone expect if they’d like to work with you?
There are absolutely no costs to my clients. I get paid in two ways. First, if a client is interested in a franchise business model and ultimately decides to purchase a business that I present to them, I am compensated by the franchise—but blindly, on the back end, through The Entrepreneur’s Source. But, almost as important, since the majority of clients will not buy a franchise, if a client has a helpful and positive experience, payment would be through referrals, a positive review, or a recommendation on my website. The rest of my services are completely free, and the company’s compensation model is specifically structured to make that possible, which I love. Before committing to working together, I do ask that my clients understand they will need to put a few hours a week into the process, and that open communication is vital in order to get the most out of our time together.
Q. I hope you won’t mind me asking, but does this mean you might steer people towards the franchise option over some of the other options?
I don’t mind you asking—it’s a natural question. But as any client could attest—and as anyone can easily verify by scheduling a free consultation call with me—I don’t steer clients in any way. Our corporate mission is one of education and discovery, not aggressive sales techniques. Not only must we, as coaches, abide by this, but so does every vendor (like funding sources we might suggest) or other organizations we partner with—in fact, they are all asked to complete a training and enter into an agreement to that effect. And that is a real relief to me. There’s nothing wrong with sales, of course! But I am a coach, not a salesperson, and I’m happy to have found a position where I can be myself.
Perhaps the easiest way to think about this is to compare it to the buyer’s agent model in real estate. We’ve probably all worked with a buyer’s agent, at some point in our lives. They don’t get paid unless and until someone buys a house, in which case the seller pays them. Until that point, they have a duty to their clients. They learn their client’s dreams, they explore various neighborhoods together, they teach their clients about home ownership—they are a team. Some buyer’s agents will work with clients for years, ultimately even becoming friends, and probably only a small percentage of clients actually end up buying a home—but their compensation structure allows for that, as does mine.
"'Analysis paralysis' is a real thing. This happens when overthinking leads to a complete halt in progression."
Q. I would actually like to talk a bit more about franchises—I have always been curious about them. For those people who have always wanted to start their own business, but who have never considered franchise ownership, what are some common assumptions or misconceptions?
Probably the biggest misconception is that the only kinds of franchises that are out there are things like McDonalds or Taco Bell—you know, those huge, brand names with brick and mortar locations and required expensive equipment. There are actually so many different types of franchises out there. Some of the storefronts on your small town’s main street, which look like a mom-and-pop shop, may actually be franchises. Many clients are surprised when they discover what exists.
Q. And why might a franchise be a good option for someone?
They are a great option for some people because they do a lot of the work for you—the groundwork, the background, back-office work. This can make the difference between someone owning and succeeding in business, or not. Also, business ownership is risky, and franchising can make it less so. You’re going into business for yourself but if you franchise, you’re not going into business BY yourself. You have built-in colleagues that you can turn to for help. And they are not your competitors. You are all in essentially the same boat, so you’re all trying to raise that tide.
Q. Can you talk a bit about your own experience, arriving at the decision to take the franchise path?
Of course. I had a few different experiences in the corporate world, and, at a certain point, I realized that I didn’t want to work for someone else anymore. And so, I started my own business. But, while I loved what I was doing—which was coaching, talking to people, getting to know them and help guide them, I kept getting pulled away from that core work and onto other things like marketing, social media, building and populating my website, and all of those other basic back-office things that are so important, but which I didn’t enjoy and didn’t want to be doing.
Good leaders and managers need to recognize their own strengths and learn to delegate and that’s what franchising has meant for me, personally. It was like suddenly having this amazing team—which I didn’t even have to recruit and train. Starting and building a new business takes time and many brand new and untested businesses fail. Plus, like many of my clients, I am at an age where I want to get to the heart of the work and not spend 20 years laying a foundation. Quality of life is also very important to me and I’m not willing to wait for it. None of us should be.
So, when I ran into a friend of mine who had recently left a 20+ year corporate job and started his own business—a flooring business—I took him out to lunch and asked him lots of questions. He mentioned that he’d worked with a career coach and offered to put me in touch. And the rest was history.
Q. What other options did you explore with your coach?
My coach helped me to be certain that I didn’t want to be in the corporate world anymore, working for someone else, or continuing to struggle to build my own business, by myself. I had already been wondering a bit about the franchise option, and was curious about how that might work. So, after a very thorough assessment process, which I loved, I considered a few different possibilities—all of which tied into my love of helping people to learn and feel more secure. One, interestingly, was a swim school and the other had to do with helping people find the best elder care. But ultimately, I ended up loving the process so much that I decided I wanted to do exactly what my coach was doing – getting people exploring and excited about their futures in a really personal, one-on-one way. And I’m loving it!
"Quality of life is also very important to me and I’m not willing to wait for it. None of us should be."
Q. So if I schedule a consultation with you, what specifically can I expect? What is the process? Do you give me a personality test or something similar?
Well, during our first call, clients can expect a friendly, informal conversation, about what their goals are in life, both professionally and generally. What do they want their life to be— not only in terms of income and wealth goals, but also more intangible things such as quality of life?
We don’t administer “personality tests” per se, but we do have various proprietary tools that get you thinking about things you may not have had the opportunity to consider before, in a very supportive and safe way. Our assessments are aimed more at determining your behavioral characteristics and communication style—including your driving forces, general motivators and the kind of environment in which you might be most likely to thrive. Our tests are nationally recognized, and a lot of companies offer similar ones to their senior executives and staff—because they know it helps set people up for success. Outside of a corporate context, people usually have to pay to take them, and this can be quite expensive. My clients get the benefit of this for free, with no obligation.
Q. Starting a business isn’t for everyone—or maybe I’m wrong about that? What are some indicators that someone is ready to work for themselves—or may NOT yet be and needs to do more prep?
There’s not really one general answer to this; it’s all very personalized. But perhaps I would gently recommend that, just as you shouldn’t cut your own hair in times of crisis, you probably shouldn’t impulsively start a business in times of great emotional upheaval or transition. Starting a business is tough and many new businesses fail, so the decision needs to be carefully thought through and considered—which is what I try to help people do. To be honest, the majority of the time clients realize that business ownership is not right for them at the moment. The timing really needs to be right.
Q. In closing, we are going to ask all of our Incubators to share a few basic tips for people who are thinking about becoming entrepreneurs and starting their own businesses. Do you have any that you can share?
I do! They are:
1. Keep an open mind—going in with “beginner’s mind” will allow you to see possibilities that you may not have known existed.
2. Do your research and don’t be afraid to ask any questions, of course, but ask the right people. (This is something I can help with, as a coach)
3. That said, be beware that “analysis paralysis” is a real thing. This happens when overthinking leads to a complete halt in progression.
4. Don’t feel pressure to make an immediate decision. It’s about discovery and what path will best meet your goals.
5. Consider a range of possibilities to assess whether or not this potential business could be a vehicle that will allow you to achieve your goals long-term, not just in the foreseeable future.
6. Include family members who may be involved or affected, from the beginning, rather than thinking you can easily bring them in midway or in the late stages of your planning. If you announce that you are suddenly starting a new business doing X, tomorrow, and this is the first they’ve heard of it, they may understandably be scared for you, worried you haven’t thought things through carefully enough.
7. However, directly related to my last tip, I will offer what I call the “crabs in a basket” analogy: when you have one crab in a basket, you need a lid because it will crawl up the side and get out. If you have two or more, you don’t, because if one tries to get out the others will pull it back down. So, while it’s important to share your dreams with your family and friends, realize that they may not always understand or support you. Often, when trying to be supportive, the "crabs" can pull you down. This does not mean that they do not love you or care about you. It's a normal reaction to change. But, while you can listen and consider everything they say, try not to let yourself be squelched by someone else’s fear.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me. If clients want to get in touch with you and schedule a free consultation to discuss their career options, how can they do so?
*This interview is provided for informational purposes only, and is not intended to offer either an endorsement or legal/business advice.