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IT'S EXCITING TO start your own special event business, but it's also terrifying. Are you going after the right clients with the right service at the right price? To help event professionals succeed, event pro-turned-advisor Sharon Jansen launched Special Event Business Advisors, a San Clemente, Calif.-based firm offering “coaching” to help small business owners focus on strategies to boost profits and market share.

SPECIAL EVENTS MAGAZINE: How is “coaching” different from “consulting”?

SHARON JANSEN: A consultant will look at an existing problem, analyze it, and then come up with a way out. A coach helps the client analyze and solve problems by looking at different angles and strategies. With a coach, you acquire competence for the future.

Q: Why do special event professionals need this service?

A: We're a creative, service-oriented community of people-pleasers, many with right-brain tendencies — we're adventurers and givers. We get so involved with helping our clients solve problems that it's hard to work out our own. From adrenalin-pumping activities to post-event doldrums, event professionals flit from one challenge to the next. Few spend enough time on left-brain inclinations — such as organizing and analyzing. As a result, they are poor with tasks such as building balance in life, mastering administrative duties and exhibiting discipline.

Q: As a coach, what mistakes do you see event professionals making most often in their careers?

A: First, they go after too broad a market, and their marketing efforts are shoot-from-the-hip. Also, they work with no end in sight — they have no growth or succession plan. Many have their business tied with their identity, rather than viewing their business as a tool for their lives. Special events is an all-consuming business; we're doing good things for good people, and we don't want that good feeling to go away. So event professionals start to think that the more they work, the better they will feel, but that's missing the forest for the trees. They keep working harder, but then start feeling resentful.

Also, they know that they should be doing more planning, and feel guilty that they don't take the time to plan. I see people setting big, lofty goals, but not planning the strategic steps to achieve those goals.

I also see fear of success; they worry, “What if I can't handle it?” Many think that one can become successful by going it alone. And finally, many are not able to interpret their own financial statements and have discussions with a CPA.

Q: What happens in the coaching process?

A: In a typical three-month, 12-week conference program, the client, with the coach, will assess skills, personality traits and learning styles; define vision and success outcomes; create an inspiring mission statement; analyze financial status and budgets; and establish annual goals with the objectives to achieve them. By the end of a nine-month, 36-session plan, the average client will have developed all the elements of a business plan and be headed for the next level of success with long-term projections.

Q: Can you give some examples of how your clients have benefited from coaching?

A: One client stopped making excuses about not having time to network and started attending association meetings regularly. She is now part of the leadership team, which has increased her referrals and enhanced her image.

Another client stopped thinking that by specializing, she would lose sales. Instead, she created a niche market that allowed higher fees and dramatically increased profits.

A third stopped ignoring financial statements and starting learning how to interpret them. As a result, profits doubled two years in a row.

Q: What should event professionals keep in mind if they are considering hiring a coach?

A: First, educate yourself about coaching. Hundreds of articles have been written about it in the last five years. Know your objectives for working with a coach. Interview three coaches before you decide on one. Be sure to ask for at least two references. Meet with a potential coach until you're comfortable that you're compatible. Find out exactly what is covered in fees; read the fine print in the contract. For personal coaching, monthly rates range from a $19.95 online application to $1,500 for a top-level executive coach with $300 to $500 a month for mid-range. Finally, be aware that credentialing of coaches is not yet standardized throughout the industry.

Jansen's Web site is

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