Selling my company in Frankfurt
In the glorious year 2000 I sold my consulting company in Frankfurt to PwC, which I had brought together with my partners to a formidable market position. During the period of handing over our company to PwC I had my first session with a professional coach. The idea for the meeting was to finish my long career as an entrepreneur and consultant. At the end of session my coach made a prophetic comment, which I did not understand at that time: “I sense that there are three issues in the background that might occupy you in the near future – What will you do? With whom will you be surrounded? Where will you live?” I was shocked. I thought: “What is this man talking about?” For me, my future was very clear. I would now retire to my Austrian country home and be happy as a country gentleman.
Living as a country gentleman in Austria
I left Germany, retired to my country house in the Alps of Austria to live the well-earned life of a country gentleman. I went hunting with my neighbors, played cards with the farmers on weekends and renovated our country home. But in less than a year it was clear to me that a wonderful retirement, in a wonderful house, in a wonderful nature was too much wonderful. This could not be the rest of my life.
Returning to the world of business
I went back to Germany and spent two months of retreat in a Yoga Center. I trained as a yoga teacher and had many talks with people about what I could do in my life after the age of 60plus. Two things became very clear: I wanted to go back to an occupation that would be really meaningful for me. Secondly, I wanted to work with people to pass on my former experience as an entrepreneur and consultant. With only these vague ideas I began a period of trial and error over one year – trying out activities, letting go what did not work and trying something else.
The first step was the creation of a “50-plus association” together with my previously mentioned coach in Frankfurt. We wanted to support people above fifty in their work and life transitions. After a promising start we found that we would not find enough clients in the long run. The time was not yet right for this business in Germany and we gave it up. However, for me it was a first step back into the world of business.
First steps into coaching
After having somehow digested this first failure, I moved to the French part of Switzerland. There I met the owner of a consulting company, who invited me to join his business as a shareholder and partner. The company was working with my former 50-plus age group, assisting unemployed people over fifty to reenter the labor market. We found that our workshops would be more sustainable if we offered intensive individual coaching and I took over this role. After a year it was clear that this business model would work. With this step, I started my career in coaching as an “amateur” coach.
As a result, after two years I was active as an entrepreneur and leader with a very fascinating work; I was surrounded by a group of congenial colleagues; I was discovering the completely new working environment of Western Switzerland. And surprisingly enough, with these changes I had realized the prophesies of my coach in the beginning of my journey.
Entering the world of ICF
For my above first coaching career I felt quite well equipped. I had a solid business background as entrepreneur and leader. And in Frankfurt I had worked with a psychoanalyst-supervisor on my leadership and people management for a number of years, which was now very supportive to my coaching. However I felt that something was missing. Could you do “serious coaching” without formal and officially recognized coach training? With this question in my head, I ran into a Swiss MCC coach from the International Coach Federation. I asked him for a coaching session. I was fascinated. This was different and strongly amending what I was doing. It became clear to me what I was missing: The combination of a clear structure and a complete openness and depth of work at the same time.
This experience brought me to a new road of learning. I started a series of coach trainings in Switzerland, in different places in Europe and over virtual meetings with people in the US. Looking back at these years, I am tremendously grateful for the support I received. I met colleagues who were on a similar road and I discovered the fascination of learning in different training situations. Also I received trust from my clients with whom I was allowed to work on this journey. And than, five years ago, I was to my great pleasure honored by ICF with an MCC.
As a member of ICF and a certified coach, I was also invited to join the ICF board of Switzerland and lead the local ICF-chapter in Bern over a couple of years. With this voluntary work I could give back something in return for what I had received.
Looking back with gratitude
In looking back, I know that coaching has changed my total life, in business and in my personal relationships. People tell me that I am much calmer and really listening. And I hope they are right.
Personally, I am very grateful above everything else. Grateful for what I have learnt from my mentors, from my colleagues and from my clients, the people who trusted in me. I have understood that sustainable professional and personal change needs inner transformation.
Today after fifteen years of coaching, I feel very enriched. I am in my Element, to cite Ken Robinson: I can do (some of) it, I love it, I want it and I go for it. And I am full of trust that life will lead me into the future.