Carlos was reflecting on how happy he was with his family, his wealth and all of the achievements he had made in the food supply business.  Then his thoughts wandered to how hopeless he was only fifteen years ago…

15-Years Ago

Carlos was frustrated.  He felt like he had tried any job to make ends meet after he got his business degree 5-years ago; but nothing seemed to be a good fit.  He went to college to learn how to start and run his own business.  But the only opportunities that he received after college included working in dead-end jobs for large companies that, in his opinion, had no clue how to run a business.  First he worked as a salesman for a home siding manufacturer only to learn that he hated door-to-door sales.  He then got a job with an insurance company following up on claims made by customers.  He learned from this job that he hated working in an office from 9-to-5 talking to angry customers.  His last job was an assistant manager at a local grocery store.  He had initially thought that this job would be his entree into some sort of management career; only to learn that he was constantly dealing with complaints from the local labor union.  After a labor-dispute with a the union steward, the grocery store felt like they had to let Carlos go.

Feeling disillusioned, Carlos, left his grocery store management job and had no desire to try to find a new job.  He had enough money to last him a few more months without work; and then he’d have to take another job that he hated just to pay his bills.  Is THIS what life is all about?  You work in crappy jobs to pay bills; and have no time to have fun in life?  Why did he get a business degree, if he couldn’t lead even the smallest business?   Why had he learned how to create business plans?  What could he do that wouldn’t result in another dead-end job?

Carlos thought he should start his own business, but he really didn’t have a clue as to what business that would be; or where he would come up with the money it would take to start this new dream business.  After attending a job fair a while back, he remembered running into a guy named Russ.  Russ said that he coaches business owners and so Carlos thought that Russ could help him decide what he should do with his life.

He Googled “Russ business coach”, and found Coach Russ’s web site; and noticed that Coach Russ would give him a free 30-minutes to discuss his situation.  He could certainly afford FREE; and so he gave Russ a call.

Russ started the conversation with, “What has prompted you to seek coaching?”

Carlos didn’t know how to respond to this question.  He didn’t want to pay a lot of money for a coach. He just wanted some FREE advice on what he should do,  But he played along, “Russ, I’m stuck; and I think I need some advice on what I should do.”

Russ responded, “As a coach, it’s my policy not to give advice.  However, I can probably help you get unstuck.”

Carlos thought, ‘why am I talking to you, if you can’t tell me what I should do?’  Carlos then spoke up, “Russ, I’ve been stuck in some dead-end jobs and I’m tired of working for other people.  I got a degree in Business Management because I wanted to run my own business, but have been getting several lame jobs just to pay my bills. I really don’t want to apply for another dead-end job; and have no idea what business I can start.  What should I do?”

Russ responded, “Tell me.  If you could run any kind of business; and money were no object; what type of business would you create?”

Carlos paused, thinking about Russ’s question, and then said, “I guess I’d own a Mexican Restaurant.”

“Fascinating!  And how would your life be, if you owned this Mexican Restaurant?”

Carlos was convinced that this discussion was going nowhere, but played along, “I wouldn’t just have one restaurant, but I’d have a chain of three restaurants.  I’d be running the whole business.  People would respect me and I’d have lots of money from the profits of all of these restaurants.  Customers would prefer my restaurants over any other Mexican food; and I would live a life of leisure while my restaurant managers took care of business.”

“What a great vision you’ve painted, Carlos.”

Carlos agreed with Russ.  That would be so cool if he could live this dream.  But he was convinced his statement was a fantasy as soon as he said it.  Carlos explained the to Russ that he didn’t have money to start such a restaurant; and even if he had the money, he had no experience running a restaurant.  He apologized to Russ for wasting his time and felt like his only option was to find another dead-end job.

Russ offered, “Carlos, if you were to hire me, I’d first help you break down your Mexican Restaurant Dream into baby-steps.  Then I would help you stay accountable to achieving those steps until your dream is a reality.  What do you say?”

Carlos said, “That sounds great… but I’ve told you, I don’t have money to start a restaurant; and I’m guessing I don’t have enough money to hire you to coach me.”

Russ had heard the ‘no money’ objection more times than he could count.  Russ asked, “What did it cost you to get your Business Management degree, Carlos?”

“It apparently cost me way too much, if I can’t seem to even find a Business Management job.”

Russ persisted,”Just play along.  What was your total college tuition?”

“It cost me $70,000; and I still have $40,000 in student loans I’m paying off.”

“For $70,000, you purchased some extremely valuable tools to put in your toolbox.  I’m asking you to complete your investment by hiring me to learn how to put your tools to use.  I charge $1,000 per month for weekly coaching, but feel like you would benefit from my $500 per month plan for coaching twice a month.  I can guarantee you two things: 1) you will never be put in an untenable financial situation; and 2) you will get a phenomenal return on your investment in coaching, if you participate fully.”

Carlos didn’t know what ‘untenable’ meant, but $500 a month seemed like he would have to go without groceries if he were to last even two months without a job.

Carols responded, “Look, Russ.  Your wealthy business owners may think $500 per month is nothing; but I’m broke.  I only have enough money to last me a few months.  If I hire you, I probably only have one month before I need to be earning money somewhere.”

“I get it, Carlos.  Why don’t we spend our first session on figuring out how you can pay me; and still support yourself financially?”

After a pause, Russ added, “Look, Carlos.  You seem to have two options.  You could go back to searching for another job to pay your bills; or you can experience some near term financial stress to create your Mexican Restaurant dream. Which one seems most appealing to you?”

After Carlos’s first session with Russ, he was asked to break his Mexican Restaurant into baby steps; and he was given the task of interviewing three restaurant owners to get their input on his baby-step plan.  When Carlos executed the plan, he didn’t like what he heard.  One of the restaurant owners had no college degree and worked his way up through the ranks starting at dishwasher, then server, then cook; and then got into a lot of debt to do his own thing.  Another restaurant owner had a business degree, but had a lot of experience working part-time in restaurants to put himself through college; and then borrowed money to buy his first restaurant.  The third restaurant owner inherited her restaurant from her father after working in the restaurant business for almost a decade before she was promoted to manager.

Carlos returned to his second coaching session heart-fallen that most of the restaurant owners laughed at his plan to start as a manager of a restaurant; then earn a lot of extra money; and then have his employer sell his restaurant to Carlos to start his chain of three restaurants within a few year’s time.

Russ asked, “What have you learned about your dream of creating your chain of Mexican Restaurants?”

Carlos responded, “I was laughed at.  I guess my dream is a joke.”

“Why do you think I gave you this homework assignment, Carlos?”

“Because you wanted to show me that I’m a complete rookie when it comes to creating a restaurant chain.”

“Carlos, you may be a restaurant rookie today. But my purpose of the homework assignment was not to embarrass you; or convince you that your dream is not possible.  Achieving a business dream is a PROCESS. It’s like climbing a ladder.  You cannot get to the top rung in one leap, but often times have to start on the first rung.”

Carlos was indignant, “Are you saying that I should start as a dishwasher? And wait ten years before I can own my own restaurant?”

“I’m not saying that you SHOULD do anything.  But you may need to temper your restaurant ownership dream with a dose of reality.  Based on your discussions with the three restaurant owners, what changes will you make in your plan?”

“I suppose that I can borrow money to buy a restaurant online, just like one of the owners I spoke with.”

“What types of questions do you think the bank will ask you before they give you money to buy a restaurant?”

“I suppose they’ll want to know if I have restaurant experience.”

“How will you get this restaurant experience?”

“I suppose I could get a job in a restaurant.”

“What job would you get in a restaurant?”

“I was laughed at by all of the restaurant owners when I told them I wanted to start as a manager.  So I guess I would have to get some entry level job, like server, or cook.”

Russ had coached several restaurant owner clients and offered, “Actually, Carlos, entry level for most restaurants is dishwasher.  A few will employ hosts or hostesses as entry level as well.   Most will want some sort of experience for cooks or servers.”

“Are you kidding me?  I’ve got a business degree and you want me to get a job as a dishwasher?”

“I’m not telling you what to do.  I’m merely pointing out to you that dishwasher is considered entry-level in the restaurant business.”

Carlos was angry, “I hired you to tell me what I should do, and it sounds like you’re giving me advice to start another job that I will surely hate as a dishwasher!”

“You have learned some valuable lessons in the past few weeks.  You’ve learned that there is a bottom rung of the ladder for all journeys toward business ownership.  One restaurant owner started on his bottom run by working part time for a restaurant in college.  Another restaurant owner started as a dishwasher.  Still another started working for her father. I am merely asking you to develop a realistic plan; find your bottom rung; and then start climbing.”

After some silence, Russ asked, “What are some other industries in which you’ve already started climbing the ladder?”

Carlos thought about the jobs he had held that he felt were dead-end.  Then he realized that these jobs may have been opportunities instead of dead-ends.

Carlos then responded to Russ’s question, “I guess I kind of liked the grocery store job I had.  I was in a management position right off the bat, but hated dealing with union workers.”

“What did that experience teach you about yourself?”

“I guess I either need to learn how to manage union workers; or I need to find a non-union grocery store to work for in the future.”

Russ, “Very good, Carlos.  You’re a very fast learner.  What would your dream look like in the grocery industry?”

Carlos was excited, “I guess I could start a grocery chain that supplied authentic ingredients for Mexican cuisine.  Maybe I could be a food supplier to Mexican restaurants.  I earned a lot about supply chain management in my grocery store job.  I am probably on at least the second rung of this ladder.”

“Our session is almost over for today, but I sense some excitement around Mexican cuisine food supply.  I’m going to give you the same homework as last time, but this time I want you to explore grocery stores and commercial food suppliers.  What do you think?”

“I think I’m excited about my homework!”

Carlos did his homework the same as he did with Mexican restaurant owners.  This time, he got a different reaction from the food suppliers and small grocery store owners.  Instead of laughter, he was greeted with curiosity.  In fact, one of the wholesale food suppliers was impressed with his experience with supply chain management; and asked if he wanted a job as one of their buyers.

Within one month of coaching with Coach Russ, Carlos changed his perspective about his dead-end jobs.  He realized that his job at this new food supplier was simply a second rung of a ladder that he needed to climb in order to achieve his long-term goal of creating his own Mexican restaurant food supply business.  He continued to work with Coach Russ designing his grand plan and growing his experience consistent with his long-term dream.  After saving enough money, Carlos started his own business that created a unique way of supplying restaurants that included a system that ensured low waste and low costs to all of his restaurant owner customers.

After 10-years of growing his business, he ended up selling his intellectual property rights to the very same food supplier he started working for after starting with Coach Russ so long ago.

Back to the Present

It was simply amazing when Carlos thought about how he was so stuck in his career aspirations and felt hopeless; and how Coach Russ helped turn his hopelessness into thinking of opportunity; and how that change of thinking resulted in his ultimate success.  Carlos had matured quite a bit since his initial meeting with Coach Russ. He now knew that every path is a PROCESS; and in order to succeed in that PROCESS, you need to start at the BOTTOM RUNG OF THE LADDER and look for OPPORTUNITIES and not see DEAD-ENDS.

As a business coach, I help my business owner clients see opportunities and not limitations.  For those business owners who decide to apply the principles they learn, it makes all of the difference.  If you’re serious about moving your company forward, please download my 5-Part Formula to Business Success eBook below to understand some simple tips that could make all of the difference in your business.


Note from the Author
My name is Jeff Schuster.  I am a certified Life and Business Coach serving small business owners, corporate executives and others who want to transition from “expert” to “entrepreneur”.  I have been a small business owner for most of my 30-years in the workplace.  I grew an energy efficiency and renewable energy engineering and construction company from nothing to over $10-million/year and sold it in 2013.  I now help other business owners make amazing progress toward their own dreams of business ownership independence and success.

As a long-time small business owner, I know how hard it is to create the business of your dreams while struggling with the financial realities of attracting prospects, converting those prospects into high-paying customers, and making money for you and your family.  My biggest mistake in my past was not seeking the advice of wise counsel sooner than I did.  I don’t want you to make the same mistake.  I use a simple 5-Part Formula to Business Success in my approach to coaching business owner clients that will help you immediately improve your business’s profitability.  Download this eBook to see how this 5-Part Formula will work for you.