There are thousands of books containing business advice on topics like brand development, marketing, startup funding and networking.
But less frequently addressed are the psychological and emotional impacts of being a business owner. That’s where Jane Carter, who holds dual professions as a therapist and a business coach, comes in. She guides her clients through the ups and downs of owning a business by building emotional resilience and reminding them why they got started.
Carter, who grew up in Atlanta, has called Asheville home for the last 20 years. The licensed clinical mental health counselor often finds herself cozying up in one of Asheville’s many bookstores or coffee shops and buying books “faster than I can read them,” she says.
Xpress caught up with Carter to learn about what business coaches do, the importance of facing one’s fears and why starting a business is not for the faint of heart.
This interview has been condensed for length and edited for clarity.
What is business coaching, and who are your typical clients?
If you think about an athletic coach, they’re there to help you with your skills and your strategy but they’re also there to help you with your mindset, your “inner game.” So a business coach is going to help you with skills and systems, how to do your marketing, how to make more money and how to manage your time. But also a good business coach is there to help you with your mindset.
Starting a business is not for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of courage and putting yourself out there. It’s very vulnerable. [It helps to have] a coach who can give you some insight and also give you encouragement to help you see where you might be getting in your own way, so that you can enjoy the process of running a business and not just feel stressed and burned out.
I would say on a deeper level, your business coach is there to remind you why you’re doing this and what your deeper purpose is. That can help you stay motivated when you’re going through all the challenges that come when you’re running a business.
I think everyone can benefit from coaching. I tend to work with deep-feeling people, a lot of healers and creative types, artists, writers, nutrition coaches — people who really care about the work that they’re doing. They don’t just want to make a lot of money; they want to run a business that feels very aligned with who they are.
You’re also a therapist. How does that inform your business coaching?
I’ve been doing psychotherapy for 20 years. I’ve always been fascinated by what makes real change happen in people’s lives and wanting people to be able to live up to their full potential. Like a lot of therapists, I got into the field because me and my family benefited from therapy. Then I got into coaching because I benefited from business coaching when I first started my private practice.
There’s so much overlap between therapy and business coaching. I actually call coaching “stealth-therapy” because it’s a deeper issue than just knowledge. All the information that anyone needs about how to start and run a business is out there. As one of my favorite authors, Derek Sivers, says, “If more information was the answer, we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs.”
Just like with therapy, [in our businesses] we all have these old stories playing out. We have these negative beliefs and assumptions. We have our old wounds. A lot of that deeper stuff gets stirred up when you take a risk such as starting a business. Once I realized that it was an emotional process too, I was able to draw on those therapy skills in coaching.
As a therapist, on a practical level, I have knowledge about how the brain works and about human behavior. I can use that as people are dealing with things like money, marketing and messaging.
But on that deeper level, I’m trying to help them have more self-awareness and self-compassion so that they can do work in a way that feels like they’re bringing their best self to it, as well as making good money and having more time and freedom.
What is a common issue that entrepreneurs struggle with, and how would you approach helping them?
It all comes down to fear. Anytime someone is stepping up and playing a bigger game, taking a risk and getting out of their comfort zone, it creates a fear response.
As a therapist, I’m really used to helping people work through their fear. It takes courage for people to take steps like starting that business, posting something on social media, putting out a blog post or reaching out to someone who they’re scared to contact.
Every time a business owner takes a risk in their business and gets rewarded, they’re overcoming that fear and becoming more confident. I often tell people that the confidence comes later. All you can do in the beginning is take courageous action over and over again. That’s when confidence comes and that’s where success comes.
What’s the best entrepreneurial advice you’ve received that you’d like to share with others?
Don’t go at it alone. Make sure to have support and help — whether that’s a coach or a group of other business owners. Having support is so important.
Another piece of advice is to do it scared. There’s no way around it.You have to do things scared! You have to take risks and sometimes, you will fail. And that’s OK, because all of it is fertilizer for your growth. It’s all part of the process. Getting out of your comfort zone is the only way to get to where you want to be.
My very Asheville answer is: Whatever is different — or even weird — about you is your greatest asset. We all have those ways that we don’t fit in or we feel weird or different. The more that you accentuate what’s different about you instead of trying to minimize it, the people who need that are going to connect with you. And that’s really healing, not only for you but for the people who resonate with that aspect of you.