Are you ingredients looking for a recipe?

by Pamela Slim

As a career and business coach, I spend a
lot of my time working with people who are trying to figure out what to do for a

I usually start by sending them on an
internal expedition, examining the nuances, thoughts and feelings of their body,
mind and spirit for clues about what interests them.

They carry around notebooks in which they
furiously scribble insights, they create vision boards, they bookmark websites
like crazy, they make spreadsheets and they stuff files with pictures and
magazine clippings.

Then they get back in touch with me,
feeling a bit perplexed and overwhelmed, sharing a summary list that looks
something like this:

My interests:
old rugs
Pittsburgh Steelers
organic farming
my family
writing code
web 2.0
speaking Russian
salsa dancing
small business
space travel
old episodes of

They say “I sure love all these things,
but how in the world can I make a business out of them?”

To which I reply:

You are ingredients in search of a

Or perhaps many recipes.

A common misconception about the process
of entrepreneurship, and specifically a coaching business, is that you have to
fit all your interests into one neatly tied up and integrated business which
will allow you to express all of your passions.

Instead, I like to think of skills and
interests as ingredients to use selectively in different business models,
depending on the opportunities and market.

So you could help your clients formulate a
plan like this:

“I think I want to use salsa dancing as
the main staple for my next venture. I will round out the flavor with a bit of
coding, by creating a killer website that hosts great instructional videos for
novice dancers, and will sprinkle in a little bit of photography so I can take
stunning photos of professional dancers that they can use in their promotional


“I would love to spend some time in
Pittsburgh so I can catch all the Steeler home games live. I think I will focus
on organic farming in the northeast, using a few cups of marketing to help local
farmers expand their offerings in the slow winter season. I hear that there are
some amazing rug dealers in the area, so when not doing small business
marketing, I will try to find some great pieces and sell them on

Using this simple framework, you can help
your clients see that they don’t have to use all their “ingredients” at once, in
the same measure, in the same recipe.

All they need to do is to continually
refine their list of ingredients, and combine them in ways that interest them
and taste great.

As for your own coaching practice, when
you feel like something is lacking in your business model, experiment with
adding shakes of ingredients to liven things up.

“My coaching business is really boring at
the moment. How could I add a touch of Burning Man to the mix and make it more

“My clients seem to be getting really
stuck and bored with phone sessions. How might I combine my love of art and
children’s camps to make a unique coaching retreat?

“I love working with clients but am bored
to tears in my small town. What would happen if I added some location
independent to the mix and did my coaching from Burkina Faso?”

Try it!

What is your list of

Pamela Slim is a business coach and author of Escape from
Cubicle Nation: From Corporate Prisoner to Thriving Entrepreneur
May 2009). Download a free chapter of the book at

Scroll to Top

IAC Login