Healthy, wealthy and wise


Strategic Coach’s Dan Sullivan promises to teach entrepreneurs how to earn more by working less

Dan Sullivan co-founded Strategic Coach in 1988 and claims that his training programme is the first of its kind. It operates in seven cities, employs 100 staff, boasts 15 instructors, and has 3,000 active members. A total of 11,000 people have taken the course since its inception. Even “non-active” alumni keep in touch, says Sullivan.

To join the programme, candidates must have run a business for a minimum of three years and pay themselves a salary of at least £80,000 (though Sullivan says there’s room for flexibility here).

Aimed at entrepreneurs and senior management executives, the Strategic Coach programme comprises four one-day sessions per year and costs between £4,500 and £5,250 annually, depending on whether the participant pays in full up front or by standing order.

It might not come cheap, but it does promise to improve participants’ financial health dramatically. Indeed, Strategic Coach claims that members’ salaries rose by an average of 120 per cent after three years.

Sullivan himself began his career working in an advertising agency. Yet his father was an entrepreneur and Sullivan was acutely aware of the lifestyle differences between those who worked for themselves and those who didn’t.

“I admired the freedom that my father had. My friends, whose fathers worked in companies, didn’t have that freedom,” he explains. Sullivan wanted that liberty too – and to help other business owners keep theirs. He started Strategic Coach to make this vision a reality.

“One skill I’ve had from childhood is the ability to ask questions and for people to be able to answer them in such a way that they become clear about their thinking – they get in touch with their aspirations,” Sullivan says.

The company turns over £15m per year. The average income of a member is £162,000, while the top earner on the books takes home £25m a year.

I attended one of the firm’s complimentary seminars, held in the private members’ club One Alfred Place, to find out more. Presenting the merits of the programme was Andrew Burcher, who has been a participant since 2009. Founder and managing director of a law firm, Burcher said he was paid expenses only to conduct the seminar, adding that he has doubled his income and leisure time since joining.

Outlining the programmes, Burcher went through the components and “tools” that members can use improve their lives. There’s The Ceiling of Complexity, The Entrepreneurial Time System and Unique Ability – all trademarked, of course.

While the labelling of abstract concepts is distinctly American and perhaps a little uncomfortable to us Brits – Sullivan says the British are particularly hard to get on board but once recruited stay much longer – the principles themselves do make a lot of sense. The Entrepreneurial Time System, for example, instructs members to divide their time into “focus days”, “free days” and “buffer days” – with a particular emphasis on increasing “free days”.

The number of “free days” is another underlying principle behind the programme. Strategic Coach wants its member to not only take more holiday, but to ensure that when they are on holiday, work emails and phone calls are banned.

Various members of Strategic Coach were present at the seminar. Some came across a little overzealous, including one couple who had been on the programme for decades, and who seemed almost dependent on it. Sullivan says:

“Entrepreneurs are generally on their own; they lack a natural community. Initially people come for the tools, but they stay for the community. It’s an expanding conversation; it’s their own little separate industry,” says Sullivan.

“Nobody has the handle on it. They help each other, they come back for that.”

But, of course, longevity is the key to Strategic Coach’s success and this is where it makes its margins. “The real money in the programme is how long you keep them in the programme,” admits Sullivan, “and the renewal rate in London is much higher than in the US.”

But then when it’s boosting your salary by 120 per cent, what do you expect?