WINCHESTER — By trade, Crystel Smith is a business coach. But, if you ask her, she is in the business of changing lives.
Smith, who owns Crystel Clear Business Solutions, said she focuses on the personal goals of her clients, which then translates into dollars and cents for them.
Many of her clients had never sought help from a business coach before.
“A business coach is someone who is a business expert who has a passion for serving, leading, guiding, directing and inspiring small business owners to achieve more than they’ve ever imagined,” Smith explained.
Those aspects of the profession are why Smith got started in the industry.
After working in commercial lending for 16 years, she was recruited to work with a small business coaching operation about 10 years ago. She discovered she was good at it and set out on her own after two years.
She said the process of being a business coach begins with figuring out why a client went into business in the first place.
“My first question is ‘what are their personal aspirations?’” Smith said. “A good coach, while they’re business savvy and business experts, they understand the reason that a person starts a business is a personal reason. We start there then begin to build a business that helps them achieve those goals. Where are you going with your life, and what purpose does this business serve in that?”
Smith works mainly with family-owned, small businesses, but she does have some corporate clients.
“The reason I love working with family-owned businesses is because when you can give children their dad or their mom back or give a spouse their spouse back, then you ultimately change lives,” she said. “I feel like I can make the biggest impact with those businesses.”
Many business owners immerse themselves into their business and leave very little time for family or friends or just living life. Many of Smith’s clients ask how they can get that work-life balance and still be successful.
Smith’s biological father was a small business owner who was hardly present in her life growing up, so those stories hit home for her.
“I think that’s what I’m so passionate about it,” she said. “I don’t ever want another child to have to go through that. People think they want to start a business, but what they really have is a low-paying, high-demanding job.”
Smith works with clients all over the region, the country and the world. She said she most enjoys working with local businesses but working with businesses in other countries allows her to always learn something new.
After the initial goal-setting questions, Smith moves into developing a one-on-one coaching plan that works toward meeting those goals.
“The driving force is always where are we going,” she said. “We’ll go on a vacation for a week and we’ll plan every last detail. But when we’re planning our business, we just kind of show up every day and do what we think needs done.”
The steps in the plan have target dates for business owners to shoot for and she meets with clients once a week to keep working through the plan, updating it as needed. That also holds the business owner accountable, she said.
There’s no set time limit on working with her as a coach, and many of her clients have been with her from the time she started Crystel Clear Business Solutions, she said.
“Business owners surround themselves with key people who are great at the things that they aren’t. That only makes sense,” she said. “If you could hire an employee for $15,000 to $20,000 a year who could increase your profit margin, provide a return on your investment, connect you with marketing opportunities and all of the things that business coaching entails, that’s a no-brainer. You’d never let them go.”
Once you learn how to build one business as a business owner, Smith said it’s easy to duplicate. So, many of the business owners that work with Smith have multiple streams of income.
That level of financial security helps give business owners comfort knowing that if one stream isn’t successful, they have others, Smith said.
By then, the business coaching is less about fixing a business and more about quality of life.
Smith has also branched out from the one-on-one coaching aspect of her business to offer bootcamps and learning sessions for business owners. She’s also hosted two pitch night events, similar to the widely popular “Shark Tank” TV show.
“I think we have some of the most incredible entrepreneurs that I have seen in any community,” Smith said. “Their willingness to share their expertise is unmatched. In our community, all you’ve got to do is pick up the phone.”
Smith said business owners should be willing to admit they don’t know something and to ask other experts for help in a particular field. She said the Northern Shenandoah Valley understands that and works well together in that aspect.
“If we can give people a platform for that locally, it provides a huge opportunity,” she said.
If you’re considering hiring a business coach, Smith said a business owner should look for someone with integrity who will be personally invested in you and is a business expert with experience.
She also said it’s important to get a return on your investment.
Smith charges about $1,500 a month and said her average return on investment is 2,036%, which means for every $1,000 spent, businesses see a return on investment of $26,000 in net gains.
Time investment is important, too. For every hour spent with Smith, she said business owners can expect about 20 hours of their “life back.”