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January 2011
Smart Coaching
By Heather Head

     Imagine your business, coordinated and cohesive. Imagine your people, better than ever. Imagine your life, balanced. Imagine your company and career with a Scholz Leadership Development coach.

     Founder Chip Scholz of Scholz and Associates, Inc. works primarily with privately owned, multi-generational businesses with revenues of $50 million to $1.5 billion. He provides one-on-one executive coaching, team process development, strategic planning, and overall business alignment.

     Scholz’s Leadership Development clientele call on Scholz for many reasons, from new hire assessments to facilitation to group coaching. Most clients also lean on Scholz for personal growth as well as business development.

     “People talk about it being lonely at the top,” says Scholz. “And that’s true. You can’t talk to your board, your subordinates, or the people around you. If you talk to your spouse, your spouse is going to ask you to stop talking about work. Your friends all have an agenda. And that’s where a coach comes in—the only agenda a coach has is the client.”


From the Top Down

     Scholz understands about the loneliness at the top from experience, but he hasn’t always been there. In 1998, he was a lobbyist at the city and county level for BFI, where he had grown bored with the job and tired of Los Angeles. When his boss called to inform him that his job had been eliminated, his reaction was not typical: “I called my wife and I was laughing,” he remembers. “I told her, ‘I get to change what I’m doing!’ and two weeks later we were on a plane to Charlotte.”

     Scholz had lived in Charlotte in the 1970s and liked it. Together, he and his wife had picked it out as the place to be as soon as they had an opportunity. He never regretted the move, but the decision to strike out on his own in a new city presented significant challenges.

     Once in Charlotte, the Scholzes built a house in the Peninsula, expecting to maintain the lifestyle they had become accustomed to. “That was probably my first mistake,” Scholz says. “We moved from a place where all my contacts were, to a place where I had no contacts, didn’t know what I was going to do, what I was going to sell, or who I was going to sell it to. Not exactly a great plan, right?”

     The job market in Charlotte was good at that time, but not for the type of position Scholz was seeking. The couple’s Peninsula neighbors were all either business owners or high-level bank executives. Scholz had decided that he did not want to work for someone else. He had always admired people who had, what he considered, the “guts and ambition” to build something of their own. So he took the plunge, hung up a shingle and went into the people development business.

     Predictably, he struggled for a few years. Every week he had to decide if he was going to put out his resume and look for a job or keep pursuing the entrepreneurial dream.

     He first attempted to get his feet on the ground by becoming an affiliate of Resource Associates Corporation (RAC), a Pennsylvania company that provides resources for those that wanted to be in their own training and coaching business.

     In September 1999 he went through the initial training, and had his first client two weeks later. It was a 12-member group of executives that he took through a leadership development process. Scholz remembers, “The vice president of the company took a chance on me, and I couldn’t let him down.”

     But that was the end of his good luck for the next eight months. “At that time, coaching was not well understood,” remembers Scholz. “People thought that if you were being coached, it was because you had a problem.”

     He persevered, and business improved at first, but then started tailing off. After five years he was still struggling: “I wasn’t doing the homework. I wasn’t reading a lot of books at that time, and I didn’t have a coach,” says Scholz. “I wasn’t doing a lot of the things I was telling my clients to do, and clients can smell that a mile off.”

     He knew the time had come to either become an expert and truly serve his clients or get out of the business. He decided to go “all in” and become an expert.

     Scholz went back through the initial training at RAC, and began reading a book at least once a month. (“I’m now reading two a week,” he laughs.) He hired a coach and began setting goals.

     “I started doing all the things I tell my clients to do, and surprise surprise,” he smiles: “Things began to turn around.”

     He also began to give speeches at Rotary Clubs, which led to engagements at conventions around the country. At first, the speeches were mostly unpaid, but they put him in front of a lot of potential clients. He began to receive requests for employee and leadership assessments.

     Today, about two thirds of his clientele are in the supply chain business. He especially enjoys working with multi-generational companies to help them reach their full potential.


Clarity, Focus, Attention, Intention

     It’s difficult to sit with Scholz for long without learning something that can make you a better person or a stronger leader. For instance, listen for 10 minutes and you’ll hear him talk about the four key qualities that distinguish effective leaders: Clarity, focus, attention, and intention.

     Clarity refers to the ability to understand in detail what you want as well as what you are doing. Scholz tells the story of a corporate attorney who concluded a convention speech with an offer to help anyone in the audience who needed an attorney. Afterward, Scholz challenged him: Would he help someone going through a divorce? No. What about an immigration problem? Well, no.

     What the attorney lacked, says Scholz, is clarity. The particular attorney in question specialized in corporate law and was available to assist business owners and executives. Clarity regarding that specialty helps to attract the right kind of prospects.

     Scholz helps companies become very clear about who they are, who their employees are, and also who they should be hiring. Pat Riley at Allen Tate has worked with Scholz for eight years and says they never hire a candidate for management without first checking with Scholz, who performs detailed assessments and analyzes how the new employee will fit into the company.

     Once you are clear, you can focus with laser-beam intensity. Focus involves closing doors and sending all your energy in a coordinated direction. “Often people want to keep all their options open,” Scholz explains. “So we keep doors open that we don’t need to have open, and we grow sick and die from the draft.”

     Instead, he recommends, close the extra doors and every day focus on the things you have clarified as being important.

     “Now, you’re ready to pay attention. You probably never notice all the white Fords on the road—until you buy a white Ford. Suddenly, there are white Fords in every parking lot, and that is the power of attention,” says Scholz. “When you pay attention to your clients, they pay attention to you. When you pay attention to what you want, you get more of it.”

     “Call it the law of attraction if you like,” says Scholz. “But I’m not that mystical. It’s just a matter of paying attention so others pay attention to you.”

     Finally, intention means taking your clarity, focus, and attention, and putting them to work to accomplish specific, written goals. “We tend to fall into the things that we’re intentional about,” explains Scholz. “Intention is knowing where you are going and what you want, having those goals written down and choosing deliberately the people, activities, networks, and resources you expend your energy with.

     “It may seem cold,” says Scholz, “but when we start closing doors and stop being haphazard in our actions, we start to accomplish things.”

     Scholz himself is quite clear and focused on his business, but he says new clients usually are not, so he begins every new relationship with questions. “I rarely give advice,” he says. “And that’s key. I work with very smart people and what I do is I keep asking questions until they figure it out on their own.”

     David Thaeler, senior vice president at a design-build construction client, has worked with Scholz’s company for 10 years. He appreciates Scholz’s individualized approach and focus on understanding the specific needs of each company. “Chip doesn’t have a box he wants each company to fit into. He takes the time to understand and challenge people, to help them develop themselves and take responsibility and accountability for growing.”

     Scholz puts it this way: “What does success look like to you? Are you working on someone else’s definition or your own?”

     Scholz’s goal for each client is “for them to be better tomorrow than they are today: For them to be able to manage and lead better, to have a more fulfilling life, and to get what they want done.” Usually, of course, that involves achieving impressive business development and revenue growth.

     An individual and a company that are clear about their vision of success, focused, paying attention, and intentional about their actions and associations naturally develop a strong vision. It’s that vision that helps carry them through good times and bad.


Selling Yourself Always

     For many companies, this economy is one of the bad times. “Some industries took it in the shorts,” Scholz says, shaking his head. But he and his clients are doing well nevertheless. “I’ve had to work harder and smarter, but I have not seen a dip in revenue, nor have any of my clients failed.”

     He attributes that in part to his coaching, but is quick to point out that the people who seek out his coaching are already smart, savvy business people, who know how to sell. In fact, he says, the key to success in any economy, but especially a difficult one, is selling.

     “Instead of shutting off the lights and putting less pickle relish on the hot dog, my clients started selling again,” Scholz explains. “They learned how to market or they already had that competency, and they continued to do it. They might not be doing exactly what they were five years ago, and their company may not be as large, but because they’re out there selling themselves, they’re still doing well.”

     For Scholz, selling includes a wide range of traditional activities plus tools that as little as five years ago were brand new. He maintains profiles on several social and business networking sites, to which he posts his regular blog “Leader Snips.” He sends out regular e-mail blasts called the Scholz Report with timely tips and information on leadership topics. He regularly speaks at Rotary Club events as well as industry conventions, and also has a book out called Masterminds Unleashed: Selling for Geniuses and a second book Do Eagles Just Wing It? due out this year.

     As a result of his success and that of his clients, Scholz’s outlook through the recession and beyond is positive. “You can’t get where you are unless you’ve been where you’ve been,” he says. Although his first few years in business were rough, and although the economy makes everyone work harder, he has no plan to get out of the game any time soon.

     “I’m having fun, I’m engaged, I wake up every morning excited to do what I do,” he says. “I don’t ever expect to retire.” Which is lucky for the businesses that rely on his expertise, guidance, and sympathetic ear.


Heather Head is a Charlotte-based freelance writer.
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