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Meet a Master Coach- Bruce Wilson

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Brad Sugars CEO & Founder of ActionCOACH interviews Master COACH Bruce Wilson who has his practice in New Zealand in this edition of  ‘My Coaching Story’ . Bruce is a +20year veteran of ActionCOACH and is considered one of the most successful coaches of all time.

Bruce Wilson: Yeah thanks Brad, I’m great!

Brad: You know buddy, over 20 years of coaching there’s got to be something that’s kept you doing this, what is it about coaching that keeps you involved, what do you love about this thing?

Bruce: It’s like the never ending puzzle, because every client is different. Every client has a different amount of potential, and it’s my job to weasel my way in there and find out what’s going to turn them on and what’s going to take them to the next level. So, yeah I like solving problems.

Brad: (Laughs) People are a definite challenge when it comes to getting the most out of them. So let’s go backwards, a little bit because you know we got to go back a fairways… What led you to coaching? Because most people, there was something that turned them on the coaching or some way they found it, what was your thing that led you to coaching?

Bruce: I’ve got a background, I had a very small little beekeeping business, but I started working with people. And I was working with at-risk youth and long term unemployed. I really liked the freelancing thing and I went along to a presentation you did at our local town hall. You managed to put 1,000 business owners in the Christ Church Town Hall. And there are two things that struck me. One was that you had a mathematical equation, to improve the business, which just, blew my mind. It’s like what if we focus on this it’s going to automatically deliver the result, I like that. And then I actually really loved your entertainment like, you know we weren’t bored. You gave us really good stuff, it was like I actually thought, that’s where I want to be, I want to be up on stage doing that so… That sort of got me interested, but my contract came to the end. I thought I will I’ll start up my own coaching business, you know? And, as luck would have it, a friend of mine actually involved the master license for New Zealand, he said, save yourself all those years of development and buy a system that’s already been proven. You know I grudgingly parted with tens of thousands of dollars.

Brad: (Laughing)

Bruce: And I’m like holy sh*t this has been a work, oh sorry that wasn’t very politically correct, but it was, it was your presentation of a formula that would improve any business. I didn’t have to know huge amounts about business I just had to follow the structure it had already been designed so basically I bought myself a head start… and  coaching at the time, no one talked about coaching. There was a few consultants, but you know. It was like a new field, and I think that really attracted me too. It’s like, it’s a bit outside the norm..

Brad: Yeah, you know when you think about coaching and business coaching, in particular, there is a fair bit of the business, but also a lot of the human element. And here’s your book (showing Bruce’s book)  Put it up there… So what is it, how do you balance that out? Do you think you’re mostly the human side you enjoy more or the business side, what’s your balance for that equation?

Bruce: Yeah well, to be perfectly honest Brad, I’m strongly into the ‘if I can sort the person out’ — the structural stuff is relatively easy I mean. It intrigues me that, like I trained in 1999. Came back on April Fool’s Day, and I’m still using the basic process. That’s the genius… I actually think most people overlook, the process does the work. So if I can get the person focused on doing the structural stuff that’s outlined, then things are going to happen, But, if they’re stuck in old beliefs, they’re out of date, they have opinions and that are working against the good of them and their team members, then I can improve the business where the owner doesn’t grow basically, that’s my philosophy.

Brad: Yeah that’s true for both business owners and their team, but also for us as coaches, You know, having, had you with me on the team for more than 20 years, you’ve seen the growth of ActionCOACH. What’s been the biggest thing about ActionCOACH’s growth for you, that you’ve seen? Because you’re on the inside, but you’re also watching it as a partner for New Zealand grow all across the world.

Bruce: Exactly and that’s it, because part of what I do is support coaches around the world. And I’m amazed that the core basic principles are translatable into any marketplace, you know? Different marketplaces have their kind of, you know, France is different than Indonesia, but the essence of the ActionCOACH system is truly globally proven. And I think that’s what amazes me, you know? Going into China, and China, like how they deal with business is so different… but once people get the hang of how to modify it, it’ll fit all over the world. I mean it is a global product. And once people learn how to just slightly adapt to it, the core principles, the coaching process works guaranteed.

Brad: If you look back before joining ActionCOACH, a lot of the knowledge that you gain prior to that you know, having your own business big, smaller, indifferent… you still have to learn that emotions of being a business owner. How did that help you with what you do today, with the business owners you work with?

Bruce: Yeah I think it’s almost to find my niche. I tend to work with owner operated businesses in the very small in — like you know around a million. And turnover is like my favorite spot, because I can relate! They’ve got to make the money to feed their family, their kids going to university or schools, and they haven’t had training, particularly in… that surprised me, all around the world, people take up a business, no matter what their academic background. Even a business training, and the theory of business is completely different to running a business. I just think that the difference I can make to those ordinary grafting business owners, so they learn a little bit, that’s really what I bring.

Brad: Yeah now a lot of your clients talk about your level of compassion with them. Tell me more about that, why did they bring that up?

Bruce: Mainly, probably because I struggled a hell of a lot when I sort of started out. And, and if you don’t know how to do something, it’s really quite embarrassing to admit you don’t know. And then you have to learn something new, and then you try it out and it doesn’t work because you know we talk about testing and measuring… And, most people fail because they don’t fail enough, because they won’t to test new stuff. I guess I understand what it’s like to be running a business and still be a beginner.

Brad: You know it’s that’s kind of interesting because the fear factor of taking on a coach, there’s a lot of that, as you say it’s an admission of ‘I don’t know things’ and all that sort of stuff. How do you work with people when they have that initial fear factor?

Bruce: Well, we got this formula for change and the resistance to anything new is always fear. So, basically I help them break it down so that they believe they can achieve their vision. And then break down how we’re going to attack the things that bug them.  But I don’t think anyone improves unless they got a vision for the future that’s really glowing. So that’s a huge part of the secret is you gotta… people gotta work to something that’s compelling. And then, it is compassion. It’s not wrong if you don’t know something, so not making people wrong when I first talk to them.

Brad: Great, great. In the 20 plus years and hundreds of people that you’ve helped them grow their business, there must be one or two stories that stand out as like ‘these are my favorites and here’s why sort of thing’ — you got any of those or have a favorite?

Bruce: Well, I mean everyone’s their favorite. I’ve just got a client at the moment, and after two years, they’re finally breaking even. Now, there’s not a glory story, except that they’re not sucking money out of their mortgage to prop up a business that’s floundering. So, it still continues on, but my one favorite as a client I had, he was a tree surgeon guy an avarice, and he had a few guys. When I first talked to him, I pointed out that he wasn’t actually making a business profit. And then he started listening to all your tapes and, because this was you know, a while ago,

Brad: (Laughing) Back when we had tapes…

Bruce: (Laughing) Yeah and CDs… and so it progressed, and I worked with him for over seven years and, at the end of it, he didn’t have to work in his business, plus set up another sideline business, which was a like a BNI networking thing that was based around fitness, which was his real passion. So to get him to the point where the choice whether it worked in this business or not plus he set up another model. I think that’s probably my highest achieving client in terms of you know, where we got to. My favorite clients were my first clients. They were the guys who, when I talked to them, they asked me, so how many people you work with? And I didn’t have any clients, you know? And I go, oh, I have a choice here. Do I make something up or do I tell the truth? I could feel a color going up, you know? (Gestures) (Laughing)

Brad: (Laughing)

Bruce: And I just said, well actually, you’d be my first. And they go, yeah they knew that, we just wanted to make you squirm so… (Laughing)

Brad: (Laughing)

Bruce: Interestingly enough, I worked with them for a year, then we had a break for about nine months. Worked with them for another year, then we had another break for about six months. And then I worked with them for another six months after that. And that told me that people get to a level, but so long as I keep in touch, they might want to input at the next level and the next level. Those are my two.

Brad: One of the things that your clients talked about in their notes about you, was that you helped build a community of business owners. Tell me more about that, why do you bring them together, what’s the benefits of that, and how does that work?

Bruce: Well there’s two aspects to that Brad. One is I’m basically lazy so,…

(Both laughing)

Bruce: So if a whole lot of business owners get together, they probably going to infect each other with good ideas. I say that a bit tongue in cheek, but it is the truth. But it’s really lonely being a business owner. There are a lot of dream stealers in the world. So, when my clients come together they’re hanging around with other people who are going somewhere, and the consistent feedback. It’s really good to be around positive people. So that’s what I think the community does. It does do some of my work because of the exchange of ideas and networking. More importantly, people feel they are a part of a group of positive people going places.

Brad: Yeah, and I think that’s a big part of why ActionCOACH works as an organization to. Our community, and that also helps the client community… because if you’re ever stuck you’ve got you know, one thousand coaches around the world in 87 countries that you can call on. What’s been the biggest way you’ve used that community to help your clients?

Bruce: Well in spite of my vast intelligence Brad…

Brad: (Laughing)

Bruce: I don’t actually know everything. And after a while I get to know the local coaches and the coaches around the world from the international conferences that have specialties. So, when I come against something that might be in an industry that I’m not familiar with of there’s an  angle I don’t know about, or it’s a biggest size business because some of my clients graduate up. I can either go on a forum, or I can approach people directly because we met that the conferences and I kind of know who they are. That’s why I paid the money, right at the start. Because I’ve got other people have done some of the work. it’s sort of like you know, the modern cars are the result of years of people having input. I couldn’t design a car to do what a modern car does, same with ActionCOACH.

Brad: You know when you sit back and you think about it Bruce. Your history also; you’ve grown as a coach. What’s been the biggest learnings for you as a coach that’s helped you keep clients, for a long, long period of time? A lot of your clients been with you, for many, many years.

Bruce: You’ve always taught us if you’re not growing, you’re dying. And part of the structure that you set up in the early days of regional conferences and global conferences; I’m always inspired by the guys who go where I haven’t gone. Like the amount of money some of the top coaches of banking now, honestly in 1999, we couldn’t even conceive that one coach could do it, you know, with support. But basically a single coach could do it. It’s constantly breaking the molds, people going, you can earn THIS much or you can coach people in groups, you can do this or you can do that. And that stimulating environment means I’ve got to keep up with the pace. I’m educating myself, which means that I’ve always got something new to give to my clients. I don’t want some boring robotic person working with them in the business, I can hire a consultant to do that. They want a coach who’s living life, and I believe part of the thing that distinguishes us is that we love life and we love people, and we live big lives. When I took 10 months to travel around the world, I seen pictures of all the places that I was going to, to my clients. Other coaches said, aren’t you worried what they’re going to say? Are you doing that because I paid you too much money? I go no, that’s what they want! They don’t want some boring person that sits with his slippers on and a cup of tea in the evening. They want someone who is climbing Mount Olympus! That’s loving life, I think that’s the key direction. I really believe that.

Brad: What’s the future like for Bruce Wilson firm? For you, your business, where do you see coaching for you?

Bruce Wilson: Yes, kind of interesting. I’ve realized that I’m bit of a lone wolf. I like working with people on their mindset. So the future for me is, I’m going to be expanding what I’ve learned about; how to get the best out of people in my own way, hence the book. Around the world and coaching people essentially to dump all of the junk that they picked up from when they’re growing up, you know people told them, they can’t do this, couldn’t do that. There are millions of people who want just a little slice of what I’ve got so, that’s my future. Global domination…

Brad: (Laughing) Well Bruce I want to say, on behalf of all your plans so far, thank you so much for all the work you’ve put in over the 20 plus years of being a coach. I know that they all rave about the work you do. We at AcionCOACH love having you as part of the team, so thank you for being here on My Coaching Story today, really appreciate your time.

Bruce: Thanks Brad, always a pleasure.

To learn more about ActionCOACH visit actioncoach.com


Carmen Gigar is the Chief Marketing Officer for ActionCOACH Global.