VOLUME 19 #2

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For a new approach, try a coach

by Rick Crossland, AS'88

Rick Crossland
Photo Janet Adams

ALUMNI | What if it were possible to significantly grow your business, or the profits of your department within your company, despite what was happening in the general economy? What if you could substantially enhance your executive skills and leadership capacity to help you get to the next level in your career growth?

As an executive business coach, these are the questions I address on a daily basis as I help top entrepreneurs and corporate executives see their opportunities for growth and success.

I think I may possibly have the best career in the world. I get to help super-smart people go farther and get there faster than they can on their own. That’s just the nature of having a top-notch business coach, and it’s the same reason all sports teams have coaches. In fact, the practice of retaining a business coach to achieve a competitive edge has gained rapid momentum as businesses seek to grow despite adverse economic conditions and increasing competition from both local and global competitors.

I founded my executive business coaching firm, Winners’ Edge LLC, in the teeth of the worst economic environment of our lifetimes, and have turned it into one of the highest performing coaching firms in the world in terms of both client results and business strength. I think the ability to personally launch and thrive in the face of this economic adversity gives me the unique perspective and skills to provide the proven tools needed to succeed regardless of the conditions.

It’s a tremendous responsibility to improve and/or turn around the performance of clients’ companies. In 2009, 75 percent of the businesses I coached actually made record profits despite the terrible economic conditions. In 2010, this number improved to 80 percent of my client base.

One client who comes to mind is the owner of a leading dance studio in her market. Several years ago, an unethical employee stole her customer database and set up a competing business down the street, with a predatory effect on her business. On top of this, the recession hit and students cut back on dance classes. Losses and debt in the business started to mount, and a clear course of action was needed.

Conventional wisdom would have dictated, not investing in a resource like a business coach, but slashing all expenses. In fact, the owner’s accountant thought hiring me was ludicrous. However, we worked on the fundamentals of her business, such as lead generation, conversion rate, average dollar sale, the number of customer transactions and profit margins. As you might expect, improving that owner’s business profits by 195 percent has had an absolutely huge impact on not only her life but also the lives of her current and future employees.

In the midst of the recession, she was actually hiring new staff as well as paying down business debt.


One of the best things about my profession is that I hear “thank you” from happy clients several times a day. Achieving your goals is a really fun process, and it’s a tremendously satisfying feeling to have clients discover breakthroughs right in front of your eyes.

We all have trouble seeing our own blind spots, which is one reason an experienced professional coach gets such fast results. On the business growth side, usually the fundamental issue is building a higher performance team that can better execute the correct strategies and profit equation of the business.

Most of the time, business performance has everything to do with what’s happening inside the organization and surprisingly little due to outside factors. I enable the organization to succeed by developing a strong culture based on improved execution, personal responsibility and accountability. I teach key executives how to lead to achieve better teamwork and results.

The coaching process is a very specific skill set, which is quite different from consulting. Look for proven results and defined coaching methodologies in your coach. In fact, with modern communication tools like teleconferencing, you can even work remotely with a top coach in another part of the country or the world. I have several top-performing clients I have actually not had the opportunity to meet in person yet.

If you are an executive or business owner looking to take your organization to the next level of performance, chances are a top-level business coach can get you there faster and farther. When looking for a coach, make sure you select an individual who has the horsepower, experience and credentials to take you where you want to go. I tell my clients: Specific strategies with detailed execution plans always win!

About the author

In each of the three years since Rick Crossland of Dublin, Ohio, started his executive coaching business, he’s won a major international award for excellence from his franchisor, Action Coach. Most recently, he was selected as the 2010 Coach of the Year in a vote by more than 400 of his fellow coaches in the Western Hemisphere. In 2009, he received the Best Client Results award.

Crossland earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry at UD and had been expecting to pursue a career in medicine, but he says his plans changed when he got involved with the University’s Undergraduate Student Congress, which he served as president in 1987-88. From that leadership experience, he became convinced of the power of teamwork and decided to enroll in graduate school at Duke University, where he earned a master of business administration degree.

He calls his academic and student government experience “my springboard in business as well as my foundation for getting results with clients.”

Editor’s note

This article continues a UD Messenger series called “First Person,” in which graduates share their professional or personal expertise on topics that are as diverse as our talented alumni. If you have advice to share or a story to tell, please send a one- or two-sentence description of what you’d like to write about to TheMessenger@udel.edu, and put “first person” in the subject line.

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