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Entrepreneurship Coaching and Its Benefits with Paul Baker

This interview is a transcript from Inter:views, Cracking The Entrepreneurship Code, with Paul Baker, co-Founder of Rapaid Charity and ex-Founder of St Pierre Groupe. It has been edited for length and clarity.

Author, Coach, Startup Advisor, Sophie Theen

Being an entrepreneur can be a tough job with many ups and downs. Building up your brand, developing a business plan, executing marketing tactics, and managing marketing budgets are all difficult tasks requiring enormous amounts of time and energy. These demands can lead to burnout and failure in business, and coaching can help you achieve these goals. Coaching provides insight into how to make the most of your time and resources as you set up your business.

Join this conversation with Paul Baker, who talks about his entrepreneurship journey and gives a testimonial on the importance of coaching in growing his business, exiting it, and starting a new venture.

Paul Baker bankrupted his first business at the age of 17, and it took ten years before he got back to entrepreneurship. He acquired St Pierre Groupe in 2002 and sold it to the largest FMCG company in Latin America in October 2022.

Many things have happened since we first met back in January 2021. Can you give us some context?

When we first met, you invited me to a podcast, and it was during the pandemic period. So, life was quite different for everyone right around the world then.

I do recall you saying to me, well, as a thank you for doing the podcast, you get an hour of free coaching, and me, being me, said oh, I don't need that. Thank you very much, that is very kind of you, but you know I'm okay, really. And you said to me, well, what have you got to lose it is free. It is one hour of your time.

And I thought you are right. I am going to do the hour. And you said to me if you don't like it, fine, nothing is lost. But if you like it, it could be useful to you. And in fact, I found it very useful. I was amazed, I'll be honest, at how eloquent and effective you were at really managing that one hour, which, let's face it, is not a lot of time to really ask me questions that really made me stop and think and, in some ways, actually vexed me a little bit because I thought I haven't really thought about that, and maybe I should.

It was very objective outside questioning and probing, which made me, as a business leader, stop and think a bit differently, which is always good. So that led to me saying, okay, let's carry this on, and we started off, and it's been incredibly useful.

I'm still your client, and people may not know that. Even though I've exited St. Pierre now, you were with me right through that journey, and I found it incredibly useful. I've got to be honest. And that's coming from somebody who was probably quite doubtful initially. So that's a bit of a turnaround.

You are a successful entrepreneur. So why did you decide to get entrepreneurship coaching with me? What was your bottleneck?

That’s a good question. You have always asked excellent questions, Laurent. It's difficult sometimes when you are leading a business because you have to make all the decisions, not all of them - you make some decisions as a team, obviously - but some key decisions.

Sometimes it can be quite lonely at the top, and my business partner Jeremy had retired the year before, and we very much run the business as a partnership, me championing America, and Jeremy is back at base.

I didn't have the sounding board I used to have. So, it was instrumental in having you put questions to me, making me think differently. And, of course, you were very objective because you're outside of the business so you would come from a completely different angle.

I think any person who's leading a business knows what their strengths and weaknesses are. Perhaps you helped me realize where my gaps were, which weren't obvious. I'm sure my team would say differently. They'd say, well, we knew where your gaps were.

As we went through that exit process, there were moments when I didn't have the time to spend with you; I extended it out to the team, which also became incredibly useful to those team members.

In the business, there was a feeling that training was the way; I wasn't always convinced about training, I'll be quite honest with you. I think it can be very positive. I think it can also be very divisive because you get pigeonholed as a person. There are all these exercises, whereas with a coach like yourself, it's far more personal, and it really gets into how you think, how others see you, and perhaps the things you need to address and the questions you need to answer.

It's more of a personal conversation, which gets into the nitty gritty of how you operate and what you need to do, which will empower you and be useful for the people around you as well, which is critical in a business. So, I was interested in how our relationship evolved, and I extended that to the team.

Coaching for me was a light bulb moment, really. I wish I'd done it earlier in my career.

Why didn't you get coaching earlier, then?

I was so busy building the American side of the business. When we went into the pandemic, about four or five of us were working on what, at that point, was a profitable fifty-million-pound revenue business.

So, keeping the wheels on that took me all my time and energy. There were only five dedicated to the US. That's why I didn’t because I just didn't have time. Now, I know people can say, well, you've got to make time for stuff like this. It's very easy to say that, but it took a lot out when you've got a very high-growth business, and it's going gangbusters. And, of course, we had a pandemic to manage, which put huge additional pressure on the pressure we already felt.

Scaling a business in the way that we scaled it is all-encompassing. And then when you have to go out and recruit seventy people to keep the scale going and to keep the momentum, doing something like coaching, it seems very self-indulgent, or that's how it appeared to me.

It had sort of occurred to me. I thought about getting a mentor, and I just thought, I don’t know when I will find any time to give to this person. But you came in when I was grounded because of the pandemic, and I couldn't fly to the US. That did give me more time, and I was in the office; nobody else was.

It was one of those things where the timing was right for me. You were in the right place at the right time, and I had the space and energy to say, this might be useful. I knew an exit was on the table hen