Meet Scott Couchenour, Founder of Serving Strong Enterprises – Over 30 years of business experience as Chief Operations Officer, Chief Executive Officer, Life Coach, and Business Coach. He partners with business owners and founders who have started a business, succeeded, and now struggle with the gradual drift from their central core.
Scott also specializes in getting clarity on the root source and context. Together with his clients, they design a path forward and he serves as their virtual project manager as they pursue their objectives.
His clients save time and money as they structure their business processes differently for a better life and a better bottom line. He serves as a cautionary tale from his experience of losing a family business to cash flow and the tremendous lessons learned in the process.
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Let’s learn a little about you and really get to experience what makes us tick – starting at our beginnings. Where did your story begin?
Scott Couchenour: My story began as a 20-something in 1989 when I began my first real career as a COO in our family’s multi-million dollar national business. We coordinated the design and construction of churches. I served in this role for 24 years. I organized all of the legal, licensing, insurance, bonding, safety, and executive reporting mechanisms.
The big challenge began when in the Spring of 2013 the board of directors elected me to succeed my oldest brother as CEO. We were hemorrhaging cash from the 2008 stock crash. I was tasked with the responsibility of reinventing our company. However, as we began the new business model, it became clear that we were five years too late. This resulted in the closing of the business after a 44-year run, having built over 760 projects representing half of a billion square feet.
We closed in June 2015 and I became a 50-year-old without a career. For the next four years, I faced one of the biggest struggles of my life. I had to reinvent myself. This long and arduous journey resulted in a business model I discovered which pulls from both my experiences and my strengths.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up?
Scott Couchenour: I will never forget the scene. I was sitting in the waiting room of the bankruptcy court. I, and several others, were awaiting our turn to make our case to mitigate the liability we had incurred. It was humiliating. I sat there because I had signed personally on the company line of credit because I believed in what I was doing. We were staring at over $20 million of backlog. We were building churches, not drug houses. But we simply couldn’t bridge the cash flow need. So I sat in the waiting room running the whole scenario through my mind. I was completely lost as to what to do next. I struggled with who I was, what I was going to do next, and if I had what it took as a 50-year-old to start over.
Give up? The thought of giving up haunted me everywhere I went. With success, it has diminished in its intensity, but I still see it in the corner of every room as I meet with a client and in the corner of the screen at every zoom session.
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. What’s the worst advice you received?
Scott Couchenour: The idea of hustle.
If you ever hear someone say it’s all about hustle and grit, don’t listen to them. At least not completely. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not wrong to hustle, just incomplete. Hustling for the sake of hustle is a destructive path that can delay your progress and cost you a lot of money. I invested in a sales program that ultimately did not pan out because it wasn’t authentic and I wasted all that money and time.
I would advise hustling strategically. Learn to stop your pursuit when it’s time to adjust and pivot. Don’t give in to blind effort. Don’t give in to sunk cost bias, thinking since you came this far, you may as well keep going when the path you’re in isn’t working.
Resilience is critical in critical times like the ones we are going through now. How would you define resilience?
Scott Couchenour: Resilience is almost spelled the same as “re-silence”. It begins with a cadence of quiet reflection on what is going on. Resilience is born of perspective. Perspective can be gained, not through action but reflection.
A resilient person uses perspective to see behind at how far they have come, while also seeing ahead and what’s next.
When you think of your company, 5 years from now, what do you see?
Scott Couchenour: I see a community of clients (founders, business owners, executive directors) living with such freedom that they are able to produce an exponential amount of good in their corners of the world. I see them reaching out to one another in times of need and co-creating solutions to the problems that progress produces for them. I see them and their organizations becoming the fullest expression of their God-given design.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success?
Scott Couchenour: My answer would be:
- Tenacity. Sticking with it in the face of adversity and hopelessness.
- Community. Having a support network that surrounded me with their encouragement, belief in me, and at times correction.
- Humility. The realization that I am a broken vessel in need of others’ perspectives and input. I learned early on not to see myself as the center of my endeavors
What have you learned about personal branding that you wish you had known earlier in your career?
Scott Couchenour: Simplicity.
I am a generalist who was under the gun to produce financially for my family. That caused me to “go big” and be any resource to any need. This only slowed me up and watered down my message to my market. I learned that it’s true what they say: less is more. I could have saved a lot of effort by starting out with a simple approach. I can always grow more as I succeed.
How would you define “leadership”?
Scott Couchenour: Leadership is the act of becoming the fullest expression of your unique, God-given design.
That means we are all leaders. When we are the expression of our own design, we will attract the right followers. Those followers will each have their own expression and lead their own followers. What we are able to do in this world is directly proportional to how purely we can express our unique design.
Do you think entrepreneurship is something that you’re born with or something that you can learn along the way?
Scott Couchenour: Entrepreneurship is something that we are all born with AND it is something that must be learned along the way.
The Oxford Dictionary defines Entrepreneurship as, “The activity of setting up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit.” I feel that is a grossly shortsighted definition. Every day when each of us wakes and gets out of bed, we take a risk of winning or losing. Life is what we make of our uniqueness and the time we have been graciously and mercifully given. Our accomplishments are entrepreneurship. Our unique influence is entrepreneurship.
Yes, many people use their entrepreneurship to start a business. But think about it. Isn’t a business merely exercising influence with a group of people for money? I think entrepreneurship is much, much broader and accessible to all of us if we are willing to see ourselves as entrepreneurs in this sense. I am fond of the book by Harry Beckwith entitled, “You, Inc.”
What’s your favorite “business” quote and how has it affected your business decisions?
Scott Couchenour: My favorite business quote comes from a document titled, “A Servant Leadership Primer” written by Don M. Frick. In it, he quotes Machiavelli. Here is an excerpt for context:
“How does one see more clearly where it is best to go? Through foresight. Foresight is the ‘lead’ that the leader has. Once he loses this lead and events start to force his hand, he is a leader in name only. He is not leading; he is reacting to immediate events and he probably will not long be a leader. Machiavelli knew this. Here is his advice to princes who wished to survive, quoted by Greenleaf in a modern paraphrase:
“Thus it happens in matters of state; for knowing afar off (which it is only given a prudent man to do) the evils that are brewing, they are easily cured. But when, for want of such knowledge, they are allowed to grow so that everyone can recognize them, there is no longer any remedy to be found.”
Mike Weiss, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Scott Couchenour for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Scott Couchenour or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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