Nikki Goldman helps leaders to unlock their potential and forward their thinking. She is the Founder and CEO of I/O Coaching, a leadership development company that specializes in supporting founders and executives through coaching, experimentation, deep reflection, and action. Nikki acts as a thought partner to forward-thinking CEOs and executives. Her mandate is to help them to grow, shift, and evolve.
She has deep expertise in creating strategic alignment, navigating tough situations, and helping them to see into the future. Nikki has worked with companies such as Peloton, Warby Parker, LOLA, American Express, and many more. With an undergrad degree from the University of Pennsylvania and an Executive Coaching Certification from Columbia University, Nikki combines academic research and operating experience to create impactful programs. Nikki is a lifelong learner and is constantly seeking more ways to enhance her coaching practice.
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Table of Contents
Thank you for joining us today. Please introduce yourself to our readers. They want to know you, some of the background story to bring some context to your interview.
Nikki Goldman: I’m Nikki Goldman, Founder of I/O Coaching. I/O Coaching is a company focused on leadership development. We believe that leaders are made, not born, and we help train company leaders to be more effective communicators, to lead with compassion and empathy, and to build high-performance teams. I am an executive coach and a workshop facilitator.
You are a successful entrepreneur, so we’d like your view point, do you believe entrepreneurs are born or made? Explain.
Nikki Goldman: I definitely think that entrepreneurs are made. The important skills that set apart successful entrepreneurs are learned ones. In my personal experience of being an entrepreneur and with coaching many of them, the three most important learned skills for success are extreme ownership, optimism, and flexibility.
If you were asked to describe yourself as an entrepreneur in a few words, what would you say?
Nikki Goldman: I am a heart-centered person and entrepreneur. I lead through passion and build from the heart.
Tell us about what your company does and how did it change over the years?
Nikki Goldman: I/O Coaching partners with companies to help with the human side of their businesses. Your people and culture are your competitive edge, and most expensive line item, so it’s important to invest in them. We help to optimize and uplevel how a business is run. Just like Olympic athletes have coaches to help tweak their performance, hold them accountable, and encourage them to raise the bar, we do the same with business leaders. Our business is ever-changing. We meet our clients where they are, so every day offers a new challenge or opportunity.
Thank you for all that. Now for the main focus of this interview. With close to 11.000 new businesses registered daily in the US, what must an entrepreneur assume when starting a business?
Nikki Goldman: An entrepreneur must assume that his or her first idea isn’t going to work. Having a testing mindset is key. It’s important to build a business in small steps and interactions so that you can see what works and resonates. Take every failure as an opportunity to make the next test better.
Did you make any wrong assumptions before starting a business that you ended up paying dearly for?
Nikki Goldman: I incorrectly assumed that I knew what was going to work. In the early stages of launching I/O Coaching, I would get really down on myself when a contract would fall through or when a certain topic didn’t seem to resonate with an audience. What I realize now is that I wasn’t questioning myself enough and I wasn’t listening to my customers carefully enough. I paid in my emotions; there were points when I was ready to throw in the towel. These days, I take feedback as a gift and spend a lot of time talking to my customers in order to clearly understand their needs.
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what advice would you give yourself and why? Explain
Nikki Goldman: In hindsight, I would tell myself to do things that don’t scale. I would have focused more on my first few users or customers and on making magic happen for them. I would tell myself not to worry as much about something not fitting into my business model or being repeatable. I would advise myself to figure out the scaling part later and to just focus on getting some wins.
What is the worst advice you received regarding running a business and what lesson would you like others to learn from your experience?
Nikki Goldman: The worst advice I received about running a business was that I wasn’t ready. This advice came from someone who was experienced in his career and who I really respected. He told me I was too young to be in a business like this and that I should spend more time working at other companies before starting my own. The truth is, there’s never a perfect time to start a business and you’ll never feel ready, but you should absolutely trust yourself and your own goals and capabilities above the advice you receive from others.
In your opinion, how has COVID-19 changed what entrepreneurs should assume before starting a business? What hasn’t changed?
Nikki Goldman: I think this all depends on the business. For instance, entrepreneurs in professional services, similar to I/O coaching, should assume that the businesses they’ll aim to work with are still figuring out their return-to-office plan. Likely, many companies will remain remote or will at least adopt a hybrid model. This will affect how new professional service companies should sell their systems, solutions and resources to these businesses.
What is a common myth about entrepreneurship that aspiring entrepreneurs and would-be business owners believe in? What advice would you give them?
Nikki Goldman: One myth is that entrepreneurs know something that the rest of us don’t. That’s just not true. Entrepreneurs are just willing to take a risk, possibly without reward, to leave their comfort zone, and to challenge themselves. There’s no silver bullet or magic wand that successful business owners have aside from the courage to act on their goals, however uncertain they may seem at the time.
What traits, qualities, and assumptions do you believe are most important to have before starting a business?
Nikki Goldman: Positivity and optimism are so important. Things are inevitably going to get really hard at some points, and there will be crossroads and tough decisions that many people would not move past. Approaching your business with optimism is crucial for keeping you, your employees, and customers engaged and happy. If you don’t believe in your business, no one will.
How can aspiring leaders prepare themselves for the future challenges of entrepreneurship? Are there any books, websites, or even movies to learn from?
Nikki Goldman: Learn by doing! There is no better way. Start small and on the side. Maybe you’re selling seasonal cookies or trying to open an Amazon shop. Regardless, these small businesses will help to prepare you for what it’s really like to be an entrepreneur. Do something that is low risk for you, but that you’ll enjoy doing. You’ll learn more this way than by reading or listening to anything!
You have shared quite a bit of your wisdom and our readers thank you for your generosity but would also love to know: If you could choose any job other than being an entrepreneur, what would it be?
Nikki Goldman: I would love to open a coffee shop or cafe. It would serve healthy food, showcase tons of art, and would give back to the local community.
Thank you so much for your time, I believe I speak for all of our readers when I say that this has been incredibly insightful. We do have one more question: If you could add anyone to Mount Rushmore, but not a politician, who would it be; why?
Nikki Goldman: Oprah! She has inspired me and her community greatly. She’s an incredible philanthropist with a uniquely global perspective.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Nikki Goldman for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Nikki Goldman or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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