Ambition and Service in Coaching: Are they compatible?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be committed to helping others – and if there’s a fundamental incompatibility with a desire to build a large online business.

The reason given by most online business gurus for creating a multimillion dollar business is so that you can have a more “impact.” You can reach more people, and therefore help more people, and therefore “change the world” for the better.


Now I certainly see that a large, well-known business with thousands or millions of followers will have substantial influence and have power that a small operation will not. Large businesses might have more money to contribute to causes that they believe will help others.

On the other hand, I’m concerned about what happens in the process of becoming large and influential. One of the most popular models for growing a large business is to “leverage your time.” That means that if you can serve many clients at a time, while still charging what you would for an individual client, you can reach more people and make a whole lot more money!

Sounds good, right?

But let’s look at it from the standpoint of the individuals who are the clients, the people “being helped.” I can speak to this from personal experience and here’s how it looked to me.

I wanted to learn more about marketing my money coaching services online, so that I could continue my practice while living on my rural farm. I joined a mentorship program with a woman who I thought was good at presenting marketing in an intelligent and engaging way. I wanted to learn from her. But the only program available to me was her group mentoring. So I joined, with a bit of a cringe at the cost!

The program included no 1:1 time with this mentor (my first big mistake!) unless you paid for the “Gold” version, which cost twice as much as my version, and then you got 1 or 2 45-minute sessions with the mentor. But my program also included 3 in-person retreats where I imagined our mentor would get down and dirty with us and give us feedback and direction about our businesses.


That wasn’t the case at all. This coach presented the material and at the first retreat was available for quick questions (if you made it to the front of the line). But at the second retreat she wasn’t even available for private questions. She certainly was not coming around to our group tables to help us with the exercises or to get to know us or our businesses. There were hired coaches to do that, and coaching groups, but these weren’t the people I had chosen to be my mentors. (And I’m pretty sure I could have hired them for less than I was paying per month for the mentorship program.)

So this is an example of an experience I had with someone who was “leveraging her time.” The model most certainly worked for her (she was very clear about the amount of money she made and the lifestyle she lived) but it didn’t work so well for me, the client.

Another personal example of this is when I joined an online program to help me create my “More than Money” course. There was a Facebook group for the program, but the woman who taught the course (a different coach than the one above) was rarely there to answer questions. Most of her time was spent promoting her high-end mentorship program and her other courses. So the business model worked well for her – she had also made lots of money and had a built-in audience to market to – but my course was a huge flop! (Not because it wasn’t good – it is! – but because no one enrolled for it. Hence the marketing guru!)

Do you see how this works? The “guru” leverages their time, you don’t get a whole lot of their time, and then you get told that if you just take the next program (which is also heavily leveraged) you’ll reach your goals.

And, yes, some people do reach their goals this way (as evidenced by those lovely testimonials) but I wonder what proportion of other people do not, despite their best effort to do so.

So here’s my question. For whom is the large, “high-impact” business created? Who benefits the most from it? Is this true service to others, true helping of others, true “changing the world,” or is it self-serving ambition, plain and simple?umbrella-1913843_640

Can “helping others” and “I-want-to-be-big-and-famous” ambition in coaching truly co-exist?

From my personal experience the answer is probably not, but it’s not really a black and white issue, is it? Some good invariably comes from these types of businesses, to be sure.

But then I wonder: what would happen if every one of us – coaches, therapists, spiritual leaders, body healers, nutritionists, etc. – focused on helping each individual who comes our way, to the very best of our ability, without striving to reach millions or to make millions, but to give enough and make enough. What kind of impact would that have?