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How to Design a Coaching Business That Runs Itself (with Adrienne Dorison)

How to Design a Coaching Business That Runs Itself (with Adrienne Dorison)

Learn how to delegate anything and create ultra-efficiency in your coaching business in this presentation recording from the Great to Elite Online Summit for Coaching Businesses with Adrienne Dorison, CEO and co-founder of a company that delivers approachable solutions to small and medium businesses Run Like Clockwork.

Clockworking your coaching business as an insurance policy

Clockwork is an insurance policy for your business. Entrepreneurs can be pulled out of their businesses for various reasons, and we ensure the smooth running of the business in their absence. The clockwork method can be successfully implemented in all types of businesses, including coaching, consulting, and expert industries. It is possible for anyone, even those skeptical about its effectiveness.

Have a better understanding of your time

To start, we must understand our time and its value. This concept involves recognizing where our time is spent and the importance of various activities.

The 4D framework

The Four D framework, known as the Four Ds, is crucial for understanding how our time is allocated. We recommend a five-day time tracking exercise, although it can be challenging. This exercise provides a detailed picture of where time is spent, similar to financials for time management. It helps us identify areas for improvement. 

The Four Ds represent different work types that entrepreneurs and team members encounter throughout their day and week. This framework is applicable to teams as well, as it's important for them to recognize their engagement with each of these Ds.

4D framework: doing, deciding, delegating and designing

1. Doing

The first D is called "the doing," which refers to task execution such as writing emails, making sales calls, coaching, and invoicing. Doing should be considered a neutral aspect rather than negative one. It is a valuable work type that adds value to the business and marketplace. 

However, it's important to assess who is responsible for doing the tasks and ensure they are the right ones. Initially, as a business owner, you might handle all the doing. But as you grow or reach capacity, hiring additional team members becomes necessary to handle the increased workload and allow others to participate in the doing.

2. Deciding

Another work type we introduced in the book is the "deciding" work type. When we assign a task to someone else, we still retain ownership of the decisions related to that task, responsibility, or role. The assigned individual may seek guidance or clarification, asking for instructions or preferences on how to proceed. 

Making decisions is mentally demanding. If we hire people but they constantly rely on us to make all the decisions, it can become overwhelming. We end up feeling exhausted and unable to focus on our own responsibilities if we spend the entire day assisting others. 

3. Delegating

If you find yourself constantly making decisions for others, it's crucial to transition to the delegating work type. Delegating involves assigning an outcome to someone else, which differs from merely assigning a task. When an outcome is delegated, the individual becomes responsible for the decisions within that specific area, activity, or role. 

However, many people struggle with this transition. They may feel overwhelmed by decision-making and contemplate reverting to doing everything themselves. They might redo tasks completed by team members or question their abilities. 

To address this, we must practice the skill of fully delegating and assigning outcomes to others. This enables us to focus on tasks of the highest value for the organization while allowing our team members to operate in a delegated state.


The fourth work type is called "designing." It involves shaping the future of the business through visionary elements, strategy, big-picture thinking, and dreaming. Examples include exploring new revenue streams, planning marketing launches, and optimizing team productivity by assigning specific tasks. 

In the designing work type, you have a comprehensive view of the business and take responsibility for its future direction. As an entrepreneur, CEO, or business leader, it is ideal to allocate more time to designing. However, many of us find ourselves stuck in the doing and deciding work types. To prioritize designing, we need to shift our focus away from those and place emphasis on this crucial work type.

What is the highest value use of your time?

Please consider and reflect on the highest value use of your time. The designing work type, despite often not receiving enough attention, is typically the most valuable. Think about activities that have the potential to generate substantial returns, such as those worth a thousand dollars or even $10,000 per hour for your business. 

This exercise will bring clarity to where you should allocate more time and help identify tasks that can be delegated or eliminated. 

4 Ways to shift your time to create more value for your coaching business

There are four ways to increase the value you create for the business by shifting your time. First, track your time for four or five days, noting when you switch tasks and the specific activities you engage in. This detailed information will guide us in transforming your time into something more valuable.

For instance, simply noting "email" is insufficient. We need specifics like reading marketing newsletters, responding to client emails, reviewing pitches, or sending invoices. Being precise allows us to take action, whether it's delegating, eliminating tasks, or implementing systems for those areas of the business.

Once you've completed the time tracking, there are four options for utilizing that time and those activities.

1. Trash it

Consider reviewing your activities throughout the week and identifying items that can be eliminated. "Trashing" means questioning whether certain tasks are necessary for the business. 

Often, we continue doing things out of habit without questioning their value. This tendency to stick to old practices was something I struggled with during my time in the corporate world, where efficiency and cost-saving were essential.

While working in paper mills, I often questioned why we followed certain procedures and received the response, "Because we've always done it that way." When starting a business, we should avoid adopting such a mindset. However, after a few years in business, there may still be activities performed out of habit without evidence or metrics to support their importance.

We encourage you to consider trashing such activities. If you're uncertain about completely eliminating something, attach a metric to it and conduct a test run for a few weeks. If the metric shows negative results or goes against your objectives, you can reintroduce the activity. However, if there's no metric to support it, it likely doesn't hold much value for the business.

By freeing up time by eliminating non-value-adding activities and focusing on more valuable pursuits, you can enhance business efficiency. Trash items that don't contribute significantly, whether it's meetings or entire revenue streams. 

2. Trim it

The second action you can take with your activities is to trim them. Parkinson's Law suggests that tasks expand or contract depending on the time allocated to them. If we give ourselves unlimited time for writing marketing emails, coaching clients, or creating webinar slides, those tasks will take much longer. 

However, if we set specific time limits, like two hours for writing a marketing email or campaign, we are more likely to complete them within that timeframe. This principle also applies to meetings. Scheduling an hour will likely consume the entire hour while allocating 30 minutes will likely result in a shorter meeting.

Evaluate which activities on your list could benefit from tighter constraints. Are there tasks that are taking longer simply because you have more time available? Trimming these activities offers an opportunity to regain valuable time for the organization.

3. Transfer it

The next action you can take with an activity is to transfer it. When reviewing your activities, assess whether they align with the highest value use of your time. If they don't, consider transferring them to someone else. 

Transferring means that the task still needs to be accomplished, but it doesn't have to be done by you. Even if you don't currently have a team member available to take over the task, acknowledge it in your time tracking. Recognize that it is not the most effective use of your time and that someone should eventually be assigned to handle it. 

This change in mindset enables you to prioritize implementing systems and initiate the hiring process to remove the task from your responsibilities, even if it takes six to twelve months for a complete transition. 

4. Treasure it

The final action you can take with those activities is to treasure them. What does that mean? It means that these activities represent the highest value use of your time. Therefore, you should prioritize and increase the time dedicated to these treasured activities. 

By personally engaging in them, you contribute significant value and generate more revenue for the business. As you assess your activities, identify the current treasured activities you have. As you gradually eliminate, streamline, and delegate other tasks, you create more time available to concentrate on and amplify these treasured activities, leading to greater overall value for the business.

Caveat: Value your team’s time

It's important to understand this not only for yourself as an entrepreneur or CEO but also for your team members. It's crucial to value their time as much as you value your own. By prioritizing and respecting their time, we can enhance efficiency and reach our maximum growth potential as a team. Therefore, it's necessary to give them permission to trash, trim, and transfer tasks just like you do.

Adrienne dorison’s quote about the importance of tracking time for coaching businesses

For instance, if someone is being paid $30 an hour for coaching but spends 20 hours a week on tasks worth $15 an hour, it becomes a bottleneck to the business's growth. Hence, it's important to value everyone's time on the team and identify the highest value used for each person's time. Gradually, we should shift towards treasuring activities and reduce the time spent on tasks that shouldn't be their responsibility or yours.

3 Reasons why your team is not making decisions

When transferring tasks off your plate, we need to address the issue of why team members are not making decisions independently. There are three common reasons for this: lack of information, lack of permissions, or lack of understanding regarding the desired outcome. Let's delve into each of these reasons further.

1. Information

When delegating or transferring tasks, it is important to provide the necessary information for team members to make informed decisions. They need access to resources and information that will enable them to accomplish the task effectively. Without this information, they may hesitate or struggle to make sound judgments, fearing negative consequences or job insecurity. 

Clear communication and knowledge transfer are essential to alleviate their concerns and empower them to take initiative. This includes sharing important information stored in documents or folders and ensuring that critical knowledge is not solely confined to your own understanding. 

By identifying the specific information they need, you enable them to make informed decisions without constantly seeking clarification.

What information do coaching businesses need to make good decisions

2. Permission

The second aspect is permission. What permissions do they require to take ownership of this role, make decisions, or assume this responsibility or project? Sometimes, we assume that delegation or handing something over automatically implies permission, but for them, it may not be clear. 

Particularly if it's a new task for them, which you have typically handled in the past. Or if you have always made the decisions previously, they might assume that you still want to retain that decision-making authority.

Another issue that often arises is when we believe we have provided individuals with formal permission, or perhaps we have given them formal permission, and they proceed to make a decision. 

However, later on, we alter the decision they made. In doing so, we revoke their future permission to make such decisions. We communicate to them that they are incapable of making that decision and that we need to be the ones making it. Consequently, they will continue to seek your input because you changed their decision.

This scenario indicates that they lacked the necessary information to make the correct decision. We need to examine why they got it wrong. What information did they require? How can we transfer that information to them so they can make better decisions going forward? It is crucial to convey that permission to them so they understand.

What permissions do coaching businesses need to make decisions

3. Outcome

And lastly, we have the outcome. Where are they headed? What are the criteria for success in this project or role? How will they know when it's complete? How will they measure their success? 

By providing clarity in this area, you can achieve approximately 85% of delegation and task transfer. They will be moving in the right direction because if you can delegate an outcome, they will understand their destination and can make better decisions to reach it.

Their decisions won't always be the same as yours, and it's important to embrace this and relinquish some control. I assess my team members' decisions based on their alignment with the vision, values, and goals of our business. 

As long as the decision aligns with what "Run Like Clockwork" would decide, it's acceptable even if it differs from what Adrian Doris would choose. Therefore, having a clear understanding of the business's vision and values is crucial. These serve as guiding principles for them to make better decisions within their roles and reduce the need for constant involvement from you. 

So, where are they going? What is the desired outcome? Clearly defining this will enable them to progress smoothly without confusion about your expectations.

What is the outcome for coaches for their projects or roles

IPO Delegation checklist

This checklist is used by our team and clients when delegating tasks. Your team members can also use it to share the workload. It's called "reverse delegation," where they assess the necessary information, permissions, and desired outcome based on your request to delegate. They can then mark off each item on the list to ensure everything is addressed.

If there's information that needs to be transferred, they can use a voice note or another convenient method. The aim is to simplify the process for everyone involved.

Ipo delegation checklist for coaches

Set a 4-week vacation date

Set a specific four-week vacation date as a priority. Task duration is influenced by the allotted time. Merely considering the idea of stepping away from day-to-day operations without a concrete date won't lead to progress. However, when you establish an actual date, you can actively work towards accomplishing that objective.

Start by implementing systems and gradually removing yourself from each business aspect in which you're currently involved while keeping the end goal in sight. With a tangible target in mind, you can take the necessary actions to establish these systems and progressively disengage from different components of the business.

What can coaching businesses improve and run like clockwork?

First, track your time. People often avoid it, thinking they already know how they spend their time. However, it's important to have a specific understanding. Our team does quarterly time tracking for ourselves and our clients. Even though I've removed myself from the business, tasks still come back or new ones arise. Time tracking provides clarity about your workload.

The second tip is crucial: examine your relationship with control and your team. Practice restraint. Micromanaging and controlling every decision hinders freedom. Freedom and control are opposing forces. 

To gain more freedom, you must gradually relinquish control. You can't be the sole decision-maker if you want to grow and scale. Implementing systems and trusting your team is essential for achieving the desired freedom and scalability.

Key takeaways from this presentation

Clockworking your coaching business is an insurance policy that ensures smooth operations in your absence. This strategy, successfully implemented in various industries, including coaching and consulting, provides entrepreneurs with a better understanding of their time through the 4D framework: Doing, Deciding, Delegating, and Designing.

To maximize the value you create for your coaching business, it's important to track your time and identify areas for improvement. By trashing non-value-adding activities, trimming tasks with time constraints, transferring responsibilities to others, and treasuring high-value activities, you can enhance efficiency and focus on what truly matters.

Additionally, valuing your team's time is crucial for overall efficiency and growth. Empower them to make decisions by providing necessary information, permissions, and clear outcomes. By doing so, you can delegate effectively and create a culture of trust and autonomy.

To implement Clockwork principles, establish a specific four-week vacation date as a goal and work towards gradually removing yourself from day-to-day operations by implementing systems and processes.

By embracing Clockwork strategies and shifting your focus to high-value activities, you can run your coaching business more efficiently, achieve scalability, and enjoy the freedom to step away while ensuring its continued success.

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