Launched in 2004, Forward Options takes a unique approach to executive coaching. Its founder, Karen Elizaga, employs a holistic approach to executive coaching and believes in living within your “sweet spot,” which she describes as “you on your best day.”
Elizaga, author of Find Your Sweet Spot: A Guide to Personal and Professional Excellence, says she uses her company to help people identify their goals and dreams, achieve their true potential, and enhance their everyday life. “I had a realization that I had to help people to imagine their full potential, as well as to share with them skills and strategies to achieve it,” she explains. “It became clear to me that I had to make this turn in my career – it was a need, rather than just a simple desire. I knew that if I didn’t do it, I would spend the rest of my career longing for this kind of a job. I knew that I finally had to act in alignment with what I wanted and who I was.”
Elizaga saw a niche to fill. “There are many executive coaches, many life coaches, and I wanted to fill that void in the marketplace for coaches who’ve themselves had corporate experience, as well as comprehensive education in the personal self-development arena. My approach takes the best of life coaching and combines it with hard tactics of executive coaching,” she explains. She does this through one-on-one coaching sessions and group workshops.
Forward Options was self-funded. “I started with very low overhead and funded it out of my own pocket. I started small and slowly grew the business,” Elizaga explains. The former corporate New York lawyer and London executive did have some initial challenges having switched career paths. “The first challenge was finding my clients. Because this effort was all new to me, I had to figure out how to market my business,” she recalls. “It was discouraging at first when I was getting only three people in a workshop, but because I was getting such positive feedback from those small groups, I knew I had to continue to move forward and stick with it.”
Once Elizaga developed a client base, she then had to grow the business. But like starting up, there are risks with expanding. “The next big challenge was to take risks to grow the business. I initially had thought about capital expenditures as ´spending.´ I was fearful. I didn’t want to “spend” money to get bigger or to grow,” she shares. “What if I wasn’t successful in growing the business? Then I realized that I had to look at these expenditures as ´investing´ in myself and my own project. Once I made that distinction, the fear went away, and I was able to strategically bet on myself.”
One ongoing challenge is keeping up-to-date with technology–something many small businesses face. “Technology has been a real challenge – digital and social media constantly morphs, and with a lean team, it’s sometimes difficult to keep up,” she says.
This year, Elizaga says she is focused on growing her “private client business, serving more executives to help them enhance their performance and increase their own personal well-being.” Looking forward, she says, “In the long-term, I want to continue to develop my national platform and help others – both executive and non-executive alike – through my book, public speaking events, and other media opportunities.”
In the process of starting and developing her business, Elizaga says there have been many important messages. “The most important business lesson, which I constantly coach my clients on, is that you have to believe and invest in yourself. You’re the first line of defense, and if you want to continue to push forward, you have to have the vision, and believe in it,” she says.
But above all, she loves what she does. “I absolutely love my job,” she enthuses. “I love helping people to be themselves on their best days. It is the most gratifying feeling to witness real transformation in my clients – from unhappy, undirected, and uninspired to motivated, focused, and fulfilled.”