As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful Service Business,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Benjamin Ritter, a leadership and career coach, regional learning manager for YPO, national speaker, podcaster, author, mentor, and passionate about guiding others in finding, creating, and sustaining a career they love.
With over 10 years of experience coaching and a background in organizational leadership and adult learning theory Dr. Benjamin Ritter understands how to navigate any career path you decide you want to travel. Since launching his coaching practice he has guided hundreds of professionals toward creating the career they love and has impacted thousands through his events and media content. From empowering young professionals to take accountability and feel empowered over their own levels of job satisfaction and careers, to guiding senior leadership on how to stand out from the competition, develop executive presence, and discover meaningful work, Ben is an expert in his field that will guide you toward truly living for yourself at work and in life.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I feel like every day is “how I got started’ since there have been so many twists and turns in my career. Overall, I’ve always been a bit more service based, from when I walked neighborhood dogs and shoveled sidewalks, to when I launched my first coaching/consultancy.
Each one of those gigs though was a reaction to opportunities, something I fell into because it made money and it was novel. Real growth happened in my professional career though when I actually had enough experience to answer the questions; what do I really want to do, how do I want to make it happen, and who do I want to impact along the way.
That led me to complete a doctorate in Organizational Leadership, study value congruence and job satisfaction, and really hit the ground running on promoting self-leadership, job crafting, and the importance of value alignment for professional fulfillment.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led you to think of the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
It was more of a slow kindling into a bonfire to be honest. It started because I was unhappy as a healthcare executive, and resentful towards my organization for not “giving me” meaning (which is ridiculous when I think of it now). An organization can’t GIVE you meaning, you need to give it to yourself.
But anyways, this experience caused me to really ask myself what I wanted to do with my professional career, and a hard audit of my skills, passions, and desire for challenges, led me to the industry of professional leadership development.
Initially I just wanted to do more of the work so tried to craft my job to include more projects in that area, but the organization was acquired and that put a stop to that path. After trying a few other options, I landed on building street cred and explore the industry through a doctoral program.
Now my mind is always running with entrepreneurial ideas and when I was on a plane for my first week of doctoral classes (I lived and worked in Chicago and flew out to LA for in-person classes every other month) I started pondering what it takes to live a fulfilling life. That led to drawing and brainstorming on the back of a napkin which developed into a framework and acronym, LIVE, which then became the heart of the company Live for Yourself Consulting.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
This funniest mistake I made when I was first starting is something that can still happen today! The dreaded copy paste mistake when sending out mass emails. It happens. Expect it. Try to slow down and balance quantity to quality because you may just send out that “mistake” to the wrong person that could have been a priceless opportunity.
Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
The exact same purpose that it is now. Your purpose needs to be consistent. Goals can change but your purpose stays the same.
My purpose is to help others take back control of their life. Which evolved through the use of the term self-leadership and guiding others to a career they love. Your life is YOUR life.
What do you do to articulate or demonstrate your company’s values to your employees and to your customers?
Demonstrating your company’s values require constant and consistent communication of them. You need to show up authentically and then back up exactly what you are portraying. This entails how you speak to your employees, customers, in your marketing, and how you also treat each one of those groups. I just try to highlight what I care about through how I show up each and every day. If you don’t, people notice, and good luck establishing and sustaining trust for your business.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
You are your most important leader. Period. I dictate my actions. It is my choice to work, to not work to accept that client, to give extra time to that client. Self-leadership is the most important type of leadership.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Wondering if you’re “good enough” or if you are on the “right path” are constant nagging thoughts that a lot of entrepreneurs have to face. Especially service-based entrepreneurs.
Your success, especially if you’re selling high ticket items like I do, is based on lower quantities and usually a longer sales cycle. This means that there’s a large investment of time and energy into potential clients, and a potential higher level of disappointment when it doesn’t work out.
When I was just starting out a lack of clients (which is a given when you start out) can weigh on you and cause you to look for other options. The goal here it to find the strategies that have the greatest ROI to whatever goal you have set (such as getting sales calls, clients, etc.) that are also enjoyable.
Too often service based entrepreneurs think they need to do something or everything when they start out, drain themselves, and eventually burn themselves out. The goal is to focus on the one thing that leads to the greatest progress toward your goals.
So, how are things going today? How did your values lead to your eventual success?
Things are pretty spectacular in a lot of ways. I’ve been able to impact thousands of people and organizations across the globe through events, workshops, and client work, and there’s just more to come.
My values of health, growth, openness, and challenge have led me to continuously keep in mind my goal of making a positive social impact for my clients and audience, as well as led me to consistently take action to learn and test myself and push the organization in new ways.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a founder or CEO should know in order to create a very successful service based business? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Clarity comes first. Why are you doing this? Why is it important to you? What do you want to accomplish? What ways can you accomplish it? Who do you want to impact and work with? And When does this need to happen? When I was younger I invested a lot of time and energy into growing companies that weren’t in alignment with who I truly was. I could have saved a lot of stress if I spent time gaining clarity on what I truly wanted to create for the world and myself
- Success doesn’t require talent as much as it needs confidence. I’m able to think of an opportunity and take action. I’m able to take criticism and defeat. Without confidence I would have given up long ago and never have achieved the success I have. You need to look at adversity and say, I got this.
- It’s not supposed to ever be enough. Meaning, when you care about something so deeply that it is the source of passion and your purpose, you will never feel like you accomplished it. That’s the point of it being something you care about. It’s never supposed to be fulfilled, instead it’s a source of meaning.
- Stay curious. It’s easy to assume and judge the world around you, people, and even yourself. Curiosity will keep you learning, creative, innovative, and lead to a greater understanding of people around you.
- Clients come first, but they better be your ideal clients. Know who you want to serve, who you would help for free if you could, and then only serve them. I remember a time in the beginning of my business when I was doubting if I should keep going. Do you want to know the source of that when I sat down to try and understand my doubt? It was the fact that I was coaching clients that I didn’t want to coach. They weren’t the people I started my company to serve. Be true to yourself, and to your clients.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Everyone. Seriously. Every single person I’ve connected with on LinkedIn. The failed and successful sales calls. The people that have attended my events or the people that have ever liked a post I’ve made on social media, and the people that haven’t. The speakers from my events. Past clients. Everyone that has touched my business and my life has led me to where I am today.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Live for Yourself. Find out what you care about. Then integrate it into your life, work, and relationships now. Not tomorrow. Not 3 years from now, but right this very second. Lead yourself.
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