Carl Gould | What Can Working with a Coach Do For You and Your Business?

On this week’s episode of the Franchise Freedom Podcast, we speak with special guest Carl Gould. Carl is the CEO of 7 Stage Advisors, an organization comprised of business coaches and mentors whose aim is to help entrepreneurs take their businesses to the next level. He is also a business growth strategist, author, speaker, entrepreneur, business mentor, and award-winning coach.

“I launched my very first business at age 18. I had a design-build landscape firm, which I grew and sold seven years later. I then started a construction company and sold that business in 2004, but I got started in coaching in 1991. I went to a personal development seminar and I really loved the idea of helping people design their dreams, chase them, go after them, holding them accountable, and being a resource for them,” says Carl.

We chat about Carl’s background and entrepreneurial journey, as well as:

  • How a business coach can benefit you as an entrepreneur
  • Carl’s advice for those looking to start their first business
  • The differences between entrepreneurship and business ownership
  • The process of working with a business coach
  • And more

Listen now…

Mentioned in this episode:


Giuseppe Grammatico: Welcome to the Franchise Freedom Podcast. I’m your host, Giuseppe Grammatico, your franchise guide and today we have a very special guest. Today we are speaking with Carl Gould. Carl is the CEO of Seven Stage Advisors. He’s a business growth strategist, author, speaker, entrepreneur, business mentor and award-winning coach. Carl, I wanted to welcome you to the show today.

Carl Gould: Hey, Giuseppe, thanks so much. Appreciate you having me.

Giuseppe: Yeah, very excited. And a local New Jersey guy, so that’s always a plus. We’ve, this is the first podcast in New Jersey, so very excited.

Carl: Yeah, nothing’s too far from each other in New Jersey. So if we’re both in the state, we’re probably neighbors and as we’ve spoke offline, I think we are.

Giuseppe: Yes, very close. Very close. So Carl, you know, for everyone listening and, you know, our audience is either corporate executives looking to make their leap into entrepreneurship via a franchise. We also have a lot of existing business owners looking to diversify their investments, look at an exit strategy via maybe another business, a semi-absentee owner. If you can fill the audience in on, a little bit on your background, how did you get started in your business and just what’s that journey look like?

Carl’s Entrepreneurial Journey

Carl: Sure. Well, I, my journey into entrepreneurship started somewhat by accident, almost literally by injury. I was going to school at the University of Delaware for accounting and finance. And I broke my leg pretty badly in my second year, I had to leave school and since I was paying my way going back to school, just wasn’t it wasn’t an option at the time. So I needed to make money. And so I launched my very first business at age 18. I had a landscape, a design, build a landscape firm, which I grew and sold seven years later. I then started a construction company, homebuilding and construction-related company. And I sold that business in 2004.

But I got started in coaching in 1991. I went to a personal development seminar, I really loved the idea of helping people design their dreams, chase and go after them, hold them accountable, be a resource for them. And in 2006, I hired a business coach for my business. And if there were hashtags back then our hashtag would have been hang up the hammer, you know, because I thought the business was running me more than I was running it. And it wasn’t a business I was totally passionate about. So even though it was very successful, it wasn’t something that I said, Hey, listen, I want to do this for the rest of my life.

And so, in 2004, I sold that, the construction business, but I was coaching all through the 90s for Tony Robbins and Steven Covey, Franklin Covey systems and Situational Leadership by Ken Blanchard and Leadership by Dale Carnegie. And I was doing individual coaching, my practice, but I wanted it to be a full-fledged business. And so I started that in 2002 and that’s the business that I’ve held to today.

And so along the way, though I’ve remained entrepreneurial, I’ve been a franchisor, I’ve been a franchisee, I owned a couple of gyms. My wife and I bought a couple of gyms. I franchised the business consulting model 10 years ago, and we’ve advised numbers of franchisors and showed them how to franchise their business. And we’ve also worked with franchisors where we’ll work with the franchisee group to help them maximize the potential of their location. So that kind of brings me up to speed today.

Giuseppe: Wow. So you’ve done quite a bit. And I think that’s where we had something in common there was the, we were talking about coaching and some people that we, to meet acquaintances and yeah, I cannot stress the importance of a coach. When I first started coaching I said, Well, what do I need help with?

My business is fine. And so I hired my first coach. And it was night and day. Just someone added a business that could give me their true feedback and not like an employee that maybe fear their job, or didn’t want to give their advice. So yes, I cannot stress enough the importance and obviously, getting referrals because when I was looking at it, I didn’t have a referral was going online, look at some reviews.

The Goal of a Coach is to Compress Time

Carl: Absolutely. I think of a coach as a time machine. Your coach can be a lot of things to you, but they’re a time machine because they’ve gone through it. They’re going to help you process and shorten that learning curve, and they’re going to help you compress time. What would have taken you three to five years, you’ll do in a year. If you want to make it take longer, then fine, don’t hire a coach. But if you want to work with, if you want to compress that time, use a coach, a mentor, a consultant, a guide to help you shorten that curve for sure.

Giuseppe: Yeah. And I liked it. I remember the one question I asked the coach was, you know, what businesses have you owned? Because I wanted someone that had a business, that actually went through it, not just read about it. So that was great. You know, you definitely have the experience. Typically I ask this question and doesn’t sound like you had much career transition since you went to college into entrepreneurship. So that’s, so the question is typically what do you recommend or what advice would you give someone looking to make that career transition to entrepreneurship?

So sounded like you had that accident, you know, started right into that, to the landscaping design business, but, you know, what would you, maybe we’ll make it in, we look at what’s going on with COVID, the pandemic, a lot of people are in limbo, they’re furloughed, have lost their jobs. You know, what advice would you give to someone that’s thinking about starting their first business?

Carl: Well, you know, that’s a great point because during 2008 and 2009 in the last global financial crisis, we found a big surge in the number of registered businesses because, and some was reluctant and some people said I, you know, I have no other choice. I’m going into business. The first distinction I would make is, I would say, Look at the difference between business ownership and entrepreneurship.

They are different. I went into entrepreneurship at 18, I didn’t know the difference. I started my own business from scratch, had to develop the systems, the processes, and I became an entrepreneur. I wanted to start something new. So there’s that path, or you could take something that already exists and you can invest in that and either make that your own or make it better. So that’s more business ownership.

So going into franchising, if you’re going to be a franchisee, you’re actually choosing not to go into entrepreneurship because you don’t have to develop it all from new. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, the business model is sitting there. Your job, and if you’re considering franchise ownership, you can leverage your greatest strength, which is the fact that you work with people and that you also were a manager of some sort. That’s exactly what, in the franchising world, they’re looking for. But that’s not necessarily entrepreneurship.

You don’t have to go and invent the whole model and figure out the branding and get the licensing and, you know, and how do you do insurance and how do you figure out where do you do the locations and what kind of demographics do I need in order to start? So first step I would suggest, Giuseppe, is pick your path. Do you want to be an entrepreneur or do you want to be a business owner? They are different. Ilan Musk is an entrepreneur. He wants to send rockets to the moon and then bring them back again, you know?

But has SpaceX made any money yet? No. So entrepreneurship is a much higher risk. It could be higher reward, but it’s a much higher risk game where only one out of 10 businesses will be in business after 10 years. But in the franchising world, if you take an existing model that has systems already vetted and figured out, you have a nine in 10 chance of being in business 10 years later. And with your management skills, making money almost right out of the gate if not within the first 12 months.

Giuseppe: Right, yeah, very, you know what? That’s dead-on. And I talk about that in my book, the differences between the two. And for the audience, the question always comes up, and I’m sure Carl, we’re saying the exact same thing. Which is better, I know the answer and it’s very simple. Which is better depends on your circumstance, correct? I mean, one is not better than the other if you want, for example, I like the system in place that I can run with and I own multiple franchises. But other people want to create everything from the brand to the look to the feel to the processes, would you agree with that?

Statistically, There Aren’t Many Entrepreneurs

Carl: Yeah, I mean, to me, it’s strategically, if you have this burning desire where your name’s gotta be on the side of the building and it’s got to be your original system, then you’re probably more wired like an entrepreneur. If you’re saying, Give me something that’s work and I’ll blow it up. Like I know the guy who wrote Salesforce, the Salesforce software. He was not an entrepreneur. He’s more of a business owner but he wrote the software and then he sold it to Marc Benioff for $250,000.

And Marc Benioff took that and made it into a billion-dollar company. So Marc Benioff said, I’ll take something that exists and I’ll blow it up. But I got to put out, entrepreneurship is a pay it forward business. You’ve got to take all the risk, throw out all the money, and then figure out if it’s going to work later. But in franchising, it’s a proven system, or it’s a proven, even if you’re at Ground Zero with the franchisor.

If somebody says, I’ve got this new coffee concept. Alright, great. Well, coffee is not an unknown entity, right? You know, they, we know what that is already. The question is, I want to get in a little bit earlier, so I can have a little bit of my signature on it. But when your a business owner, think of how much risk you can live with, number one. Number two is, you know, leverage. How much do you want to scale that business? You can scale a franchise. So those are some of the parameters that you want to take. Look, there are very, very few entrepreneurs.

Let me give you a few stats. In America, let’s just talk America for a minute, one out of 15 people’s even a business owner, okay? Only 4% of those business owners will ever make it to a million dollars a year or more. And while there’s no dollar requirement on entrepreneurship, it’s only 4% of that 15, one in 15 that are really entrepreneurs. Even in the entrepreneurial world, 96 out of 100 are business owners and 4% are entrepreneurs. So the likelihood that you are wired as an entrepreneur is not high. The likelihood you can be a very successful business owner is very high, right?

So if you’re a business owner, that means one out of 15 people are business owners, you have to walk into a room of 30 people before you ever meet a peer. If you do a million dollars a year or more, you’re one in 600 people which means you have to walk into a room of 1200 people to meet a peer. And if your business as $10 million a year or more, you are .4% of the population, which means you have to walk into a room of 12,000 people to, on average, to find a peer. That’s how rare an entrepreneur is.

So I think if as you’re looking at where you want to be in business, just be honest with yourself and say, You know what, I fall more on the side of business ownership than entrepreneurship. A lot more business owners make money than entrepreneurs. You know, entrepreneurs take a tremendous amount of risk, we read about them, they’re on the front page of every magazine we see but doesn’t mean they’ve put $1 in their pocket yet. So, you know, so depending on your goals, but also just be honest how you’re wired.

Giuseppe: I like that. Yeah. And that’s one thing that we work with our candidates on figuring out. So very, very good advice. It’s definitely spot on to what we’re, you know, what we’re talking about on our consultation calls. So Carl, what would you say is, you know, really exciting, you know, especially with everything going on right now, exciting, new in your business right now?

Carl: Well, we advise a variety of companies in a variety of industries and, you know, COVID has been the most brutal, merciless correction that I’ve ever witnessed, and I’ve been in business since 1985, but certainly, anything that I’ve ever read about, or ever witnessed and what it’s doing right now in a six-month timeframe it has disrupted every industry. And the way that we buy as consumers has changed, right? Just like 911 changed forever how we travel, COVID has changed forever how we are going to interact with people.

And so on the humanity side, you know, I wouldn’t wish COVID on anyone and I wish everybody health, safety for their families and everybody gets through this time as best they can. On the business side, what is going to be exciting is to see how each of the sectors pivots, how they need to pivot because even though we’re still going through it, if you will, we are now in a post-COVID world, meaning everybody knows what it is.

We know how it responds, we know who can get it and how, we know how you get through it if you get through it and we understand what it takes to keep ourselves safe when we’re out and about amongst others. Social distancing, you know, masks and all that sort of thing. And buyers are telling people, telling sellers, business owners very clearly what is acceptable to them and what is not. And so, we have been talking to our clients about what we would call hashtag safe as home.

And companies are gonna have to put it in such a way that they make their employees and their clients comfortable that they set up an environment that is as safe as home. Because the one place in the world everybody in mass feels okay going to his home. All across the world, people are not sure they want to come to your establishment or come work in your office or go back to that restaurant or go see a movie. They’re not sure yet because the movies and restaurants haven’t proven yet that it is safe as home. We haven’t proven to our employees yet that it’s safe as home.

That’s why people are choosing to work from home. The schools have not yet convinced everybody that it’s safe as home. And so what we’re, the game right now in every business is whether you’re a franchisee working a location, whether you’re the franchisor who’s trying to figure out how to have all my locations open or reopen and how to get back to my maximum capacity and earning potential is you’re going to have to convince your customers that you’re safe as home.

And when you do, and what’s going to happen is, those that convince are going to do that win. Those that are not going to convince the marketplace of that, they’re not going to make it because they won’t be able to operate at 10, 20, 30% capacity for much longer. So they have to convince them of that. So that to me is very exciting.

Giuseppe: And it is yeah, you’re right. It’s the new norm, right? Things are changing, this isn’t temporary. So we must all adjust and, as you mentioned, pivot. So with all that being said, so, we talked, we covered quite a bit on the show today. So someone listening in, you know, they own a business or maybe, you know, you own a franchise, the franchisee, franchisor or they’re just on a, you know, they’re an entrepreneur, they just started their own business not too long ago. What does it look like? They contact you, what, first off, what’s the best way to reach you? And secondly, if you could walk the audience through what the entire process looks like?

Growth Analysis

Carl: Sure. So with, the first step in the process is we do something called a growth analysis, or a franchise analysis. We’ll look at your business and we’ll say, is your business franchisable, is there a part of your business that’s franchisable? If you’re franchisee we’ll say, we’ll analyze the model and say, here’s the earning potential.

Here’s how you can increase your pricing, profit margin, efficiency, your scalability, how you can grow multi-units, being an area developer. And so there’s no cost to that. And we spend two hours with you, it’s a full-on consultation. And we’ve had some people that never hired us, took that plan and went and grew their business on their own.

Now the next step is we would then take a real deep dive with you and we would go through an entire discovery process to show you how to maximize your business and then we assign experts to your business to make sure that you can grow and accelerate your growth plan. So if they just contact me at or go to either one of my websites, and in the Contact Us page, just put business analysis in the header. We’ll make sure that we follow up and we show you what the growth potential for your business is.

Giuseppe: And who is the ideal, and also just to clarify the person is it essentially any business owner, any entrepreneur? Do you have, you know, should they be in business for a few years or are startups okay?

Carl: Startups are fine. We have mentored the launch of over 5000 businesses. So we understand the startup world very, very well. There are those who have unique dynamics for sure. And so we’re very comfortable with either size business. We work with some franchisors that are the number one category in their world, in the world in their category.

And we work with companies that are under 10 employees and looking to franchise, or under 10 employees and just bought a franchise. So we run the gamut with who we work with. We are, our methodology is about how to grow. So we’re not tied to any one way to grow. We have multiple ways and regardless of where you are in the developmental path, we will show you how you can grow your business.

Giuseppe: Right. And that consultation, as you mentioned, no obligation so that’s great for anyone listening. And I will also post everything in the show notes so just have to click the link. So everything will be there once we publish the episode. Carl, any other things that, anything else you’d want to cover today that we didn’t get a chance to cover now?

Go Overboard

Carl: Yeah, so, you know, the main thing is we’ve been talking to our clients is you have to get open and you have to stay open. And while that sounds like oh, yeah, duh Carl, when I mean get open, you might have some restrictions right now in your state, or maybe how you’re categorized or classified, right? So if you’re an indoor restaurant or you’re an indoor facility, go to your landlord, convince them to put a tent in the parking lot or you get a tent and put it in the parking lot. Now you’re an outdoor facility. You just got open.

Alright, once you’re open, stay open. This is not the time to be too cool for school, alright? What I mean by that is there are guidelines of how to, you know, of how to keep yourself safe and not to infect others, all right? So go over, I’m not gonna say do them, I’m saying overdo them. Go overboard. I remember years ago when they, when seat belts became mandatory across the country, right?

And I was like, no one’s telling me to wear a seat belt. No. Then I thought about it. I’m like, What am I fighting here? Putting a belt on so I stay safe in my own car and I don’t hurt anybody else. Alright, same idea here. You have, I have a lot of empathy for people but I’ll tell you right now, I have zero empathy if you open up your location, get to cavalier with risk, and I mean health risk, and you get put in a position we have to shut your business down, shame on you if that happens.

I’ve had a couple of people have come to me and said, and they wanted me to like, agree and say, Oh, it’s so hard these days and I’m so sorry. I tore them a new one. Like how irresponsible, how stupid can you be to let, to open your doors and within a short period of time, you have employees that are sick, clients that are sick, and you have to go back to your employees and your customer base and say, Oh, we have to shut down because we were too lazy or too ignorant or too negligent to follow certain safety protocols.

So get open, stay open, guys, because here’s the deal, your competitor isn’t open right now. They have pulled back on their marketing, they’re not reaching out. They’re not being aggressive and you have a unique opportunity that you could never get again where your competitors are sitting on the sidelines. So your job is do everything in your power to get open right now. Let the whole world know you’re open. Let the world know that you’re following all the safety protocols and start getting your competitors, your clients and your competitor’s customers.

Giuseppe: Great advice. I just couldn’t agree more, Carl. You, well said and I completely agree. Many are, as you mentioned, kind of sitting on the sidelines waiting to see what happens. People will remember, you know, the restaurants that kind of got up, figured it out, stayed open and, you know, your customers will remember that and they will come back over and over again. So, Carl, great episode. I really appreciate your time. I hope I learned a lot. I hope everyone else did. And looking forward to having you on a future episode.

Carl: Thanks so much. I really appreciate it.