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Meet The Coach – Justin Souter

This week we get up close and personal with one of our longest standing business coaches, Justin Souter.

What do you do and how did you get started?

I’ve worked as a consultant for the last twenty years, starting at an IT outsourcing company. I was a business consultant helping clients share information using technology, and sorting the people, process and organisational change alongside it.

I set up my own business in 2008. Later, I found out about the Lean Startup framework whilst working at Happiest. After that I set up an accelerator programme in Middlesbrough and delivered a series of workshops on Tyneside and Teesside. I probably cut my teeth when I coached some Lithuanian entrepreneurs who have gone on to be successful (perhaps despite my coaching!).

In a nutshell, I help business owners  to ‘structuralise’ their thinking. We do this in various ways but one of the simplest ways is by physically writing their ideas down on good old fashioned post-its! As my coachee said recently: “Justin – I think it was an epiphany”.

What can our clients expect when working with you?

After an initial diagnostic consultation (usually an hour), I combine coaching & mentoring acting as a ‘critical friend’ to provide accountability to founders.

Typically, we create a visual map of your business model; product vision and strategy; potential customers; and ideally a road map of what you’re going to do next.

We’d meet ideally every three weeks, with the goals of getting you ‘unstuck’ and into gear this involves identifying the innovators and early adopters in your market, with whom you can co-create your product and service. And like Helena Hill – please expect homework: you have to do the work in between sessions!

What kind of clients do you work with?

My sweet spot is working with entrepreneurs before they are ready to write a business plan. I help them understand the fundamentals of their business, how they fit together, and validate it all with potential customers.

I work with solo founders, teams and folk with existing business experience; and those who are starting out (either cross-training from other work domains, or just entering the workplace). I’ve worked with UK Nationals, and folk from exotic places such as Mauritius, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, and Wallsend, ye knaa!

What do you love most about your job?

I love bringing ideas to life – and by extension, those who seek to animate them.

Perhaps I’m at my best when founders have a challenge; they ask for advice; I give them my thoughts (which sometimes can be challenging, hopefully in a constructive way); they act on that advice; and sometimes they exceed expectations. I love it when they then translate this hard work into sustainable progress and success – and ‘fly the nest’.

What are the benefits of working with a Lean Startup coach?

Founders can start to reassemble everything into a whole which makes sense to them, and therefore others. You can also show others which creates a visual narrative and instills confidence that there’s a process behind the experimentation.

As one of my coachees responded: “I particularly like that you help get ideas out of your head that’s one thing I’m trying to push at the moment. It’s easy when it’s in your head, but when you have to explain it – that’s the challenge.”

I understand the emotional struggle of entrepreneurship, in that I grapple with these issues myself. I am happy to work with clients on their own issues such as the ‘Imposter Syndrome’ i.e. the human side of the coin, as well as the functional aspects of a business.

What do you do when you’re not coaching?

I live in a small Northumbrian country village. I mountain bike in the wide open spaces, keep bees (very much a work in progress), play tennis and golf, and read quite a lot. I find that the natural world is the best TV of all with remarkably good surround sound. I’m a big fan of mindfulness and being present. I attend retreats based on the work of Parker Palmer, and spend time with friends doing all of the above.

My sweet spot is working with entrepreneurs before they are ready to write a business plan. I help them understand the fundamentals of their business, how they fit together, and validate it all with potential customers.

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