An Interview with Michael Neuendorff
I didn't understand what it truly meant to be busy until I spoke with Michael Neuendorff, a growth coach and professional speaker who lives in California. On a daily basis, Michael has helped improve not only his life but the lives of others. This year will be his first year speaking at the WITI Annual Summit, so I wanted to take the time to learn more about what he does and how he manages to find time just to breathe.
1) How would you describe your life as a growth coach?
I have been in this business since 2008, and I have been on a journey of personal and professional growth for myself and my clients ever since. I say that because I chose this business for two reasons. One is that I knew that if I went into the coaching business, I would be immersed in an environment of people that want to learn, grow, and achieve more in their lives and that's something that gets me excited. I'm a professional development junkie, so it's like my dream come true to be in a profession like this and get paid to help people improve their professional lives. The second reason I chose this business is that I knew that if people were going to be looking to me as a guide for improvement, I would have to be an exemplary individual. I knew that I'd have to stay on the leading edge of improvement myself, which has proven to be true. I've changed and grown a lot in the years that I've had the business, and I feel like I'm just hitting my stride now. I feel like things are starting to develop in a real maturing way. I'm much more mature now than I was when I started, and I have a lot more wisdom and understanding of what it takes to grow.
2) What inspired you to want to speak at the WITI Annual Summit and what do you hope to instill in those attending?
I want to speak at the summit because I've had a professional relationship with WITI going back to 2003 or 2004. We've been associated now for a pretty long time. Before starting my career as a growth coach, I was a marketing director at Oracle, and I worked with the events group, and we would do an annual event called Oracle Open World, and WITI would participate as a media sponsor. That's how I became familiar with WITI and their mission and vision, and I got excited about it. When I left Oracle, I maintained my relationship with WITI and had done some various projects with them over the years and so the decision to speak at the summit was natural. I'm such a big supporter of WITI and what they do and of course being able to share my message and my drive to help others with the information that I've compiled is an honor.
3) You started your bike store at the young age of fifteen. What was it like starting your own business and what sparked your desire to do so?
I lived in Sierra Vista, Arizona during high school and Sierra Vista is a small town in the southeastern corner of the state with a small population, and desert surrounded it. Because of the access to sand, I was into riding BMX bikes. I had a job after school delivering newspapers and from my money I would invest in the two things that I liked, which were music and bicycle parts. Unfortunately, the route didn't provide enough money for me to buy bicycle parts. So, I figured that I needed to make some more money. I thought about how my friends were also interested in tricking out their bicycles so what if I could sell them the parts? That way I could make a little bit of money off of them and put it on my bike. I'd give them a discount versus what they would pay through a catalog or the bike store in town. So I started a business called BMX Factory, which my dad supported me in doing. We did it legally by going down to the city hall, and we got a business license and set it up as a real business. I was running it out of my bedroom so that I would order the bike parts through the mail or over the phone, and my advertising campaign was word of mouth; I had a baseball cap printed with the name BMX Factory on it.
4) What difficulties did you experience while trying to grow your business?
Eventually, the news got to the one bike store in town that there was a competitor called BMX Factory, and they probed into it and found out that it was me. So the bike store felt intimidated and also infuriated that there was a kid undercutting them on selling bike parts to enthusiasts. The owner called other bike part distributors and told them that they shouldn't sell parts to BMX Factory because it's a kid operating it out of his bedroom and he doesn't have a store, so I was shut down.
5) Did your experience with your business drive you to want to help others start their businesses?
Yes, I caught the bug after that. I liked the idea of being an entrepreneur and serving others, and it led me to where I am now.
6) What advice do you have for someone who wants to start their own business?
Be clear about your marketing plan. I've seen many startups fail because they didn't have a solid idea about their marketing, and assumed that by offering the world something unique, that word would spread, and the customers would come to them. But it doesn't work that way. You could open a business that has an excellent product, and nobody would know because the word just doesn't travel that far. There are others that think that social media is the answer, but unfortunately, that's not enough either. You have to combine multiple levels of marketing.
Then, understand more than what you know. Many people start a business around an expertise, but they don't understand business. What they find is that if their business begins to succeed, they find themselves unable to manage the growth or those they hire. I recommend to my clients, that they read books, take classes, network with accomplished business owners, and learn from their experience.
The third thing is not to wait until you are ready. Some people have a perfectionist mentality, and they end up putting off the business because they are still getting ready. Once you have a minimum viable product, start and let the market tell you what to change.
7) You teach professional speaking; what advice can give to aspiring speakers?
If I could zero in on one thing, I would say that most people are not natural public speakers. I think that is because of anxiety that most people face. When you're standing in front of a group of people who are looking at you, you can become self-conscious. The one thing that I want people to understand is that training can help anxiety become focused. Most people are in the same boat and the audience rarely sees your nerves the way you feel them. Only when you bring your nerves to their attention will they begin to notice your reaction to the nervousness.
8) Because you do so much on a daily basis, how do you find the time to stay centered and to take care of yourself?
The things that I like to do to relax and take a breath are reading and listening to audiobooks, doing things with my wife and two children, and remembering my faith. My faith helps me to stay grounded and realize that even in busy days that everything passes.
Brooke Lazar is a student at Youngstown State University, majoring in Professional and Technical Writing. She is an editor and is dedicated to achieving her goals. In order to immerse herself into the writing world, she spends her free time reading and conducting research on writing styles in order to edit individual manuscripts accordingly. As a WITI intern, she hopes to acquire skills to further her education.