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As an experienced executive, entrepreneur, & expert in media, branding & technology, Chris Behnke emits a powerful energy & enthusiasm that are contagious when you meet him in person. He showed an extraordinary talent for business when he co-founded Avalon Technology Group, a small technology company in Portland Oregon, when he was only 19 years old.
As the Co-Founder and COO of Choose Growth Chris is passionate about helping executive and leadership coaches break through the lid on their business for growth in the new economy! Choose Growth is a membership based management services company for professional leadership and executive coaches. Their mission is to equip members to become the best in their industry, to stand out as growth experts in the new economy, and to impact their world with meaning and significance.
MO: Where does your love of entrepreneurship come from?
Chris: My love for entrepreneurship came very early in life. Even in grade school I found myself working, making, scheming deals, and causing things to move forward. It’s a challenge to see how the pieces fit together, like a sport. I love the SPORT of business. I have found the “magic” happens when a person figures out their passion, leverages it in a purposeful way, and figures out how to turn it into a viable business model. I love finding that magic, and making it happen.
MO: As a serial entrepreneur you must have faced some rocky times. Can you share one of your bigger failures or mistakes and what you learned from the experience?
Chris: I’m not sure I would call myself a “Serial Entrepreneur”, yes, it’s true I have been involved with a lot of companies, I understand the game and how it’s played, but I don’t do anything without a specific purpose behind it. I try to be very intentional about that. Not all of my businesses have been a success, but I do not regret any of them, every single experience has been an amazing learning experience for me. I would say that one of the hardest lessons I have learned, and am still learning is the lesson of “slowing down” It’s a fine line to walk of course, because in a start-up environment, you really MUST move fast, at the same time, very often as entrepreneurs we move a bit too fast, a bit too much intuition, and that can hurt. It’s also critically important to pick co-founders and your foundational staff VERY carefully. I have made mistakes in the past, this can destroy a business faster than just about anything else!
MO: What inspired the idea for Choose Growth? Can you talk about the development process from having the initial idea to developing into a company?
Chris: Choose Growth started a few years ago as a high-end executive coaching firm. What my business partner Isaac Tolpin and I began to experience was we had a “lid” on our own ability to impact the community around us. We felt our “Magnitude of Mission” increasing and saw our own business model limiting us, we needed to pivot.
It didn’t take long for us to understand that every successful leadership or executive coach faces the same lid on their business. We pivoted the company to empowering the very best in the industry to break through that lid by offering business management services specifically targeted to the needs of small business owners. Websites, PR services, marketing, branding, billing, invoicing, HR, etc… We also have developed several products that allow coaches to start to generate recurring revenue, this is key, revenue NOT tied to their “per hour” work is essential to their businesses future success and growth.
Pivoting to the new business model has been a fantastic experience, while it was a natural transition, it has been difficult learning process along the way. The difficultness of creating a business, and shifting the business model is good actually, struggling through, making mistakes, trying, failing, then trying again until you have success is what makes business work. The most successful entrepreneurs, the ones that build the best companies are the entrepreneurs that perseveres through this “refining process” and don’t give up.
MO: What are some ways that you equip members to become the best in their industry, to stand out as growth experts in the new economy?
Chris: We do this in a couple ways, we have spent an incredible amount of time and effort to create the absolute best systems, processes, products, training. Basically all the “business” pieces the executive or leadership coach needs to be successful. These are the parts of their business that simply can’t be ignored, but at the same time, get in the way of the coach doing their highest and best contribution. Our goal is to empower them to do what they love, what they are truly good at, and basically help them get the rest of “running a business” out of the way of them doing what they are truly called to do…
MO: What influenced your decision to choose the membership model for your business? Can you talk about the set of criteria you use to choose members and create a credible and thriving community?
Chris: The membership community is key for a couple reasons; the first being when you truly get “the very best” together, a community and culture, of helping can start to exist. It becomes a kind of “mindshare” were members can come together share ideas, and really help each other. The community aspect is amazing for shared learning and teaching. The other critically important reason the involvement of our members in the development of many of the systems, processes, and best practices. By involving members in the creation of the actual solution, it begins to create an environment of collaboration, everyone feels like they “own” part of the solution, it causes a “feeling” they are working together, a culture of helping and sharing the best ideas. It’s a very powerful approach.
MO: Do you have any tips for ways that our readers can expose any conditioned thinking that might be preventing them from fulfilling their full potential?
Chris: This is such an awesome question! I have done a lot of entrepreneur coaching, and over the years there is one consistent theme for what holds people back, it sometimes looks different in different people but at the end of the day, it’s always the same…
Fear of failure, fear of “what will they think”, fear of rejection, fear of the unknown, even fear of success. Our entire culture is built on fear, you can see it everywhere, from the books and magazines we read to the commercials on TV, if you want to break through and succeed, it’s imperative you break through the fear limiting growth. Everything around us is designed to instill a sense of fear, to motivate action. When fear starts to set into a person, it’s crippling, If you want to truly make a difference you can’t fear anything, fear will always cloud your judgment, it will always cause doubt and uncertainty… My advice is determine what your purpose and passion are and GO FOR IT, don’t stop, don’t think, and certainly don’t listen to the neigh Sayers out there, prove them wrong, if you do you’ll discover how fun proving them wrong is!!
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