May 1st is National Executive Coaches Day. A day to celebrate the professionals that simultaneously keep their finger on the pulse of their industry and their foot on the necks of the competition. Executive Coaches are change-makers that use research and knowledge to equip their students with the tools to overcome complex issues ranging from performance management to conflict resolution and team building.
These industry professionals are many businesses’ best kept secret, since they are usually hard at work behind the scenes. This national holiday pulls them out of the trenches and into the spotlight to reveal how pivotal their contributions are to the development and growth of successful businesses. Meet the woman that is blazing trails in this space, Dr. Shanna B Van Ness.
Dr. Shanna B. Van Ness is a Certified Business, Executive, and Life Coach. Also known as the Committed Action Queen specializing in personal growth, relationship, career, business, and executive coaching. Dr. Shanna maintains a private practice in Brooklyn, New York, and Atlanta, GA.
Serving as a private practitioner working with a broad spectrum of clients. In addition to being a professional Coach, she’s also presented nationally to general audiences speaking on the topics of Leadership Success, The Art of Mastering Relationships, Organizational Strategy, and many other areas.
Additionally, Dr. Shanna is a collaborative, solution-focused, results-oriented Coach. Through this approach, she provides support and practical feedback to help clients effectively address personal life challenges that will resolve extraordinary results. Integrating coaching techniques and helpful assignments to offer a highly personalized program tailored to her clients. With compassion and understanding, Dr. Shanna works with her clients to help build on their strengths and attain the personal growth they’re committed to achieving.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Dr. Shanna B. Van Ness, is a loving, compassionate, authentic leader. I am an author, motivational speaker, entrepreneur, mother, wife, and SistaFriend. I have a passion to support individuals and organizations to clarify their vision to achieve extraordinary results.
What inspired you to start your business?
As a child, I was always the “talkative one.” Straight “A Student,” but when my parents came to the parent-teacher conferences the report always ended, she talks…”a lot.” I can remember being a child and always having something to say. I always had an opinion and even as a child I would get the side-eye for sharing my opinion even when I wasn’t asked to. So, I would say, I have always been vocal. I can also say that growing up I asked a lot of questions. If something intrigued me or if I wanted to know more, I wasn’t shy about asking questions. My passion to support the growth and development of others led me to become a Certified Business, Executive and Life Coach. Throughout my personal and professional relationships, I was always the person people would come to for advice or an opinion. Even then, I took that to the next level by simply asking thoughtful questions that supported them in finding their own answer. With that being said, I listen and respond with thought-provoking questions to support individuals and organizations clarify their “what’s next?”
What have been some of your biggest challenges in business and how did you overcome them?
This is an awesome question. As I reflect on when I first started, I can say that I made a huge shift in my work-life balance. As an entrepreneur, first starting out, I was really gung-ho about establishing myself in this industry, acquiring clients, just being a workaholic. Over time and after burnout, I realized that it is OK to turn the “work” switch off. Yes, this was a huge challenge for me because I felt like I was missing out on something if I hit “pause.” Nonetheless, burn-out set in and I knew it was time to make a shift. When I realized this, it gave me a sense of freedom, peace, and alleviated a lot of stress. I had to own that it is OK to have the balance and still thrive in my business. So, today, I have that balance. I know when to say “no” and be OK with that, I take days off …. It’s embedded in my schedule. And, I make sure I separate my business/work time from my family time.
How important is it for you to have individualized programs for your clients?
Great question! With regard to providing Life Coaching Services, individuals will first undergo a 30 minute FREE consultation. During this consultation, we identify three areas of one’s life where they want to achieve an extraordinary result. This could be relationships (professional, personal, intimate), finance, health and well-being, or perhaps career/education. After I listen to what they want to shift, I create a very brief outline on how the result in one area identified can be achieved. If a person chooses to hire me, we work together for 90 days toward achieving the results. For an individual or organization seeking Business or Executive Coaching, it is a bit different. From a business and executive point of view the consultation is a bit lengthier, but the process is still the same. Once we have narrowed down the focus of what the desired end result is, we work through a process to achieve the results. Therefore after sitting with my clients and hearing their “why” in seeking a Coach, it supports me in creating and tailoring a program that aligns with what they are seeking to achieve. We are all different and have different needs, so an individual’s coaching program is of utmost importance because the services they need are unique to them.
What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?
So I would say, my most effective marketing strategy to grow my business was through persistent and consistent networking. I also realized that if I wanted to grow my business as a Business, Executive, Life Coach and Strategist I needed to focus my priorities on my niche and network to find a team that could develop a streamlined marketing strategy. I do not profess to know it all, and I am good with saying “I don’t know what I don’t know.” With that being said, I am so grateful for Jakeem Smith of JP Agency. When we first met, I shared my vision and he hit the ground running to support my vision. Then COVID hit its peak and things took a pause for a moment. However, I am grateful to say that JP Agency comes with a cadre of FANTASTIC and AMAZING people and I was introduced to Tammy Reese of Tammy Reese Media. Now, let me tell you, PHENOMENAL, trust what I say. Ms. Reese is awesome at what she does and she does so seamlessly. She manages all my Public Relations and I lean in for her guidance and advice in the world of marketing my brand and public relations. Since working with Tammy Reese Media, my business has grown, my reach has grown, and I am so thankful for her. So ultimately, I would say it is essential to align yourself with the right people that will support you in achieving your vision and business goals.
Burn out is a huge issue, especially amongst women entrepreneurs. What tips would you give to help prevent this?
Yes, burnout is a huge issue amongst women entrepreneurs. For some reason, we feel like we always have to be on “go.” While growing as an entrepreneur I worked a full-time job and successfully achieved my educational goals. Later in life I remarried and I have two beautiful grown daughters, ages 25 and 22, I was also blessed with my Bonus daughter, 13, and my 3-year-old son. I share all this because it feels like I have been on “go” all the time and as a result, I did experience burn-out.
After my experience with “burn-out,” I had to retrain myself in adding balance back into my life. So to ensure I made myself a priority in regaining balance in my life, I placed “ME” on my calendar. Now, balance looks different for everyone. I had to really identify my “ME” priorities and started to practice what I coach. Self-preservation is not selfish. We all need time to decompress. Quickly after my experience with burn out I learned that I cannot pour into others if my cup was empty. So, a few tips I would like to offer are to treat yourself like you would treat your best friend. We are quick to give others tips of “you need to rest, you need to relax,” well definitely take your own advice. Know when to turn it off. Yes, turn off the cellphone which is such a distraction. Schedule “ME” time with reminders so that you begin to make yourself a priority just like you prioritize your clients. And, lastly, take vacations, reward yourself for the HEART WORK that you do.
What’s your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?
I would tell them to stay resilient, be open to learning from each part of the process they are going through, stay focused, remain disciplined, and persevere. It is key to “Say Yes to You” and live life in committed action to achieve extraordinary results. And, do not allow anyone to define what success looks like for you.
Who is your business role model? Why?
First, I would say my mother, who is no longer here physically. She was a huge part in helping me achieve my educational goals because as a young single mother she was there to watch my girls as I completed my Bachelors’ and Masters’ Degrees. She gave up many evenings for me to pursue my goals. She was also an inspiration because although married, with children, she was able to balance work and being a mother to the best of her ability. As a role model, I saw her go into the workforce daily, manage work and balance family life. I am also grateful to say that I have had many mentors during my journey that have inspired me. They are Business Women and their inspiration sparked me to pursue my career, educational, and entrepreneurial goals. To name a few, Louise Martin actually gave me my first “real job’ working in higher education. I can tell you from A?—?Z she was there building me up. Literally, from supporting me with buying professional attire to guiding me in my Masters’ Degree school of choice. She never gave up on me and I am very grateful for that. Karen Booker, is another amazing mentor. She supported me through some trying times when I was ready to jump out of higher education and pursue my entrepreneurial goals. I can honestly say that these women had my back and I am forever grateful. “We Lift As We Climb” and these women were there lifting me as they were climbing and I also get to lift others.
What do you have planned for the next six months?
The next six months look FANTASTIC and AMAZING. I am excited to work with an amazing team that is truly supportive and open to the vision I have. I am excited to publish the “Live Life in Committed Action 90 Day Journal.” This journal can be purchased at any time in one’s life when they are ready to get unstuck, clarify their vision, to then live life in committed action and achieve extraordinary results. I am also excited to re-launch the “Living Room Talk Show.” The show was created to promote positive social change through engaged dialogue with leaders and influencers who developed solutions to prevalent issues that impact diverse communities. With the re-launch of the show, I am adding a new ingredient in which I highlight the work of business leaders that provide strategic solutions that can support entrepreneurial and community growth. This time “The Living Room” will be more resource-oriented, provide strategic solutions, and support the growth and development of others. So definitely, stay tuned for that.
About the author
Brianna Laren is a writer, filmmaker, and mom of two. Born in Maryland and raised in Washington D.C., Brianna has been writing poems, plays, and stories since childhood.
Her most recent book, Edge Control for the Soul was number one on Essence Magazine's 21 books We Can't Wait To Read in 2021. Brianna's books have been described as love letters to black women serving as a reminder that we are more than enough.