In the Animas Student Stories series, we ask people who completed our Diploma in Transformative Coaching what they’re doing now. These accounts provide some insight into the life of a coach, and the variety of potential coaching careers.
You can listen to the full interview using the player, read the full transcript, or read a shorter account below.
Nami Haghighi is a former Animas student and successful business coach and mentor working in Málaga. He spoke to us about connecting with the passion of coaching, finding his first clients, and coaching from the beach!
After being a business consultant for 20 years, Nami moved to Málaga, Spain for the good weather and lifestyle, and considered what it was that he really wanted to do. He recalls: “Business consultancy wasn’t really what I wanted to do anymore, but I always tend to want to help businesses do better. So, I thought, ‘What could I do?’ I got interested in coaching and I started coaching with Animas, and qualified as a coach. Then I realised that I seem [to] go more towards mentoring than coaching, and I’m always really interested in helping businesses. I focused more and more on businesses, and that’s what I do. I work with small business owners to help them become more confident and more successful in their business.”
Nami works with clients from all around the world. His client base consists of international business people who are not completely happy with where they are in life, face challenges to grow their business, or want to work less and live more. “I just love change. I wouldn’t really enjoy [myself] if I was just working with one type of person doing the same thing.”
Finding a passion in coaching
“Friends and family were telling me, ‘Oh, why are you doing this? Every business you have been in has been successful quite quickly. You’ve made a lot of money in the past, so why are you sticking to this? What’s making you keep going?’ I didn’t really have a clear answer.” It was during a programme in London that Nami found his passion.
He describes: “We went through a whole process of extracting values and not the values that you might do in coaching, like choosing from a list, but it was something that Dr John Demartini has devised, which is basically 13 questions about the actual life you are living today and observing, and then you give three answers for each of those questions. That actually tells you what things you value most in your life right here, right now. It’s like taking a photograph of your life but based on what’s important to you.”
Nami’s top three values were helping people, business and personal development, which were all values he combined in his business coaching work. With a reinforced belief, Nami knew he had found his passion, but wondered if he needed to change himself. “Because I changed hats from accountant, to business consultant, to a property developer, and now to a coach, I felt that I had to take on a persona of a coach and really in times and places wasn’t being quite authentic in myself. But doing all these exercises, and going through these courses helped me realise that I can be myself because what I have to offer is not for everybody, but it is for the right people that would benefit from it. Just find out what you are really good at, and focus and niche and hone it down and really offer that as your individual, unique offering.”
Finding his first clients
At the beginning of Nami’s coaching career, he had the jarring realisation that he’d never marketed his services before. In a new country, doing a new business, people didn’t come to him for help as they did in the past. “I had to kind of wake up and start thinking about selling my services,” Nami says. “And that led to [me] starting a business networking group here because, working with my coach, I realised that most of the clients that I had got in the past were people who knew me.”
While creating a networking group wasn’t his original intention, Nami did so with the help of his coach, who spoke at his first event. Even with a good start to the group, there were still challenges to face: “I was focused on the Spanish market, and I was totally ignoring the ex-pat market, thinking, ‘They are retired people, why would they be interested in coaching?’ I had to test the reality, and three years on, we have two and a half thousand members, a monthly meeting, and on the back of that I’ve got on stage, given talks and presentations. I have organised courses and workshops, and the list goes on.”
Nami shows the rewards of playing to our strengths. While writing blogs may be one coach’s strength, another’s might be speaking at events or networking. “A kind of 80/20 rule comes into play in a lot of places. It’s 80% about ‘what’ as opposed to ‘how’ or ‘when’ or ‘where’ etc. So, figure out what it is that you want to do, ideally, what it is you want to achieve, [and] who is it that you want to work with; the rest of it will come.”
One of Nami’s greatest strengths was one he had been hiding away. He explains: “I had to overcome my fears about public speaking and, amazingly enough, it is one of my strengths, and I didn’t even know it. I just shied away from it. Now every time people come and say, ‘We love your talk. It’s really interesting,’ and people tell me afterwards how they put what I said on stage into effect and they have got a massive result in their business, that just gives you so much joy, yet I was holding myself back from this apparent strength that I have because of what was going on in my mind.”
Success through niching
At first, Nami had a difficult time getting clients. He describes: “I had tons of experience, yet I wasn’t getting any clients. For me, by having a niche and knowing what I’m good at and who I can serve, I can actually communicate much better. When I go into a networking group event, I’m focused on who I need to speak to, as opposed to talking to anybody who comes to me, and walking away with no results.”
“If you know your niche, you can go directly to your niche,” Nami explains. “You don’t need to please the public. You don’t need to have hundreds of videos online and all the different things that people without experience will tend to, ‘Oh, you need to do this. You didn’t need to do that, and you need to have this, and you need to have that.’ I’m too busy doing other things that matter: serving and helping clients.”
Helping clients move forward
“One of the things that I loved and I learnt from coaching was not so much the techniques, but the tools and the attitudes that come with coaching. It’s meeting the client where they are, and I have a programme that I can take people through, but that’s not going to fit. I’m very much client-focused, and using the listening skills that we learn in coaching, I use that to figure out exactly where they are [and] what their challenges are, and help them see those themselves, and that’s the starting point.”
Nami goes through a process of defining a client’s values and passions, so that he can start helping them move forward. Nami has found that most people move forward without knowing where they’re going. He describes: “One of the first questions I ask is, ‘I’m here to help you achieve whatever it is you want, and what is it you want?’ A lot of them say, ‘Well, I’m doing OK. I just need to earn more money.’ I say, ‘OK, here is a euro, you have more money now. Your goal is achieved,’ and, usually, it gets a laugh and they realise [that] not having specific goals doesn’t help them achieve it.”
Once a client’s vision is clarified, Nami works back with them from the conclusion of their goals to today, so that his clients know each step that they need to take to move in the right direction.
What’s most often holding someone back from moving forward is their fear. “I noticed a lot of clients say, ‘I would love to have this, but…’ and I say, ‘OK. You are not allowed to say, ‘But…’ for the next five minutes because that’s what’s holding you back. You are already putting barriers in your way by saying the buts.’”
A day in the life
Variety is important to Nami, so very few of his days look alike. He relates: “A typical day is so different. What I enjoy most is working in sessions with clients. I do something called ‘Coffee with Nami’, and anybody is welcome to go to my website and book a coffee with Nami. It’s absolutely free of charge, and it’s where I help people as a part of my passion.”
“I would do a coffee with Nami usually once or twice a week. I set my goal to have a hundred coffees in one year, that was 2014. I didn’t achieve my goal, unfortunately – I only had 99 coffees in that year, but my hundredth came in January of 2015. So I’ve had over 200 coffees now in the last couple of years.”
“I coach in four- or five-star hotel lobbies. That was a big thing for me at the beginning. For a lot of coaches that might be a challenge: ‘I don’t have a room. I don’t have a business card. I don’t have a logo.’ None of that really needs to hold you back.”
In his last words of advice, Nami says: “Whatever business you are running, make sure your heart is in it 100%. Whenever you are with a client, be client-focused. My clients feel that they’ve got a good friend, a business partner, and they are going to get massive value, and that’s what gives me joy.”
Nami’s story is a useful one to hear for coaches starting out. It can be daunting finding your style or niche, and starting to work with clients, but what we might learn from Nami is that being driven by values, bringing who we are into our work, and having a coach ourselves can help us create a coaching practice that is exactly suited to us.