Episode 21: Alan Cohen, Executive Coach at Base Beauty Creative Agency

Meet the Base Beauty Team! They are the original WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY™ since this has been our agency tag line long before we conceived of the podcast series. Learn about their talents and career journey that lead them to BBCA.

Dan Hodgdon
AnnouncerWelcome to Where Brains Meet Beauty, hosted by Jodi Katz, founder and creative director of Base Beauty Creative Agency.
Jodi KatzHi everyone. We are joined by Alan Cohen, Executive Coach. He's actually my coach. Hello Alan.
Alan CohenHello Jodi.
Jodi KatzAlan and I met in November. So maybe it's been, like six months? And he's introduced to me by a friend, who is also an entrepreneur, who seemed to have a lot more serenity and peace of mind then I did at the time. So I wanted some of what she had, so she introduced me to Alan. It's been completely different for me ever since, so thank you Alan.
Alan CohenThank you Jodi. My life has been different since I met you six months ago as well. In all great ways.
Jodi KatzHow so?
Alan CohenSo thank you. How so? Well you ... we've talked so much about the power of connection and networking and making deposits into relationships and you have introduced me to so many amazing people in your network. Some of whom have become clients, and who have referred clients to me. So, it's kind of the gift that keeps on giving and I'm forever grateful to ... to you and to have you in my life. For that and for so many other reasons.
Jodi KatzWell, we both benefit greatly clearly because I ... I'm a different human than I was in November. I am so much more full of joy in my work. I am so much more calm. I deal with the stress of the day in a different way. The idea of business development is completely transformed for me thanks to your guidance. It's like insane how different my life is in just a few months, so thank you for that.
Alan CohenYou're welcome.
Jodi KatzI want to share with our listeners a little bit about your background because I think it will be really fascinating and a lot of our listeners are thinking of career change, and you're someone who went from one really successful career to a completely different place. Can you walk us through where you were and where you are ... versus where you are now?
Alan CohenAbsolutely. So I ... I worked in public relations and marketing for pretty much most of the first 25 years of my professional career and I had some wonderful experiences both working on the agency side and also working in house ... in corporate. And, probably the greatest achievement of my career was leading the publicity and marketing teams that promoted the "Harry Potter" book series. You've heard of that, yes?
Jodi KatzOh cool! Yeah, I've heard.
Alan CohenYeah. So that was ... at that point ... after that achievement I was feeling like I had kind of done it. There wasn't really ... I didn't know that there was much left for me to do in publicity, and I was ready to take on something else. And so I enrolled in a coach training program after having met this really cool life coach, just socially, and I really just took to the training and up ... pretty much up and left my corporate P-R job with a couple of bucks in the bank and a dream. And I suppose I always knew in my heart of hearts that while I loved P-R what I really loved is developing people, and developing talent, and the coaching would be a wonderful expression of that.
So, when I started working as a coach I initially worked with people in career transition and then transitioned into working with mainly P-R and marketing people. Both who run agencies and also who are ... individuals who are thinking about maybe their next act. And, I've been doing this for 10 years, and I think I have the best ... Maybe next to you Jodi, I think I have the best job in the world. I love my clients. I get to pick and choose who I work with and they're all up to amazing things and I love coaching them to have that powerful experience.
Jodi KatzYou mentioned picking and choosing clients. So, something that's been significant for me is this idea of choice and like the power of having a choice. So, obviously in my old life, in my twenties, I didn't feel like I had many choices. Like I could choose to take the job, choose not to take the job, but I didn't think that I had a lot of choices with like within the job. It's like do as you're told, follow the rules, kind of world. And, for those reasons, in addition to many more, I started my own business. But, do you think that there's something really significant for you in moving to being a coach where choice plays a pivotal role in your everyday joy and happiness?
Alan CohenAbsolutely. I ... And when I started out in this business, I didn't necessarily see the range of choices that I had because for me it was really ... initially it was just about making a buck. I love doing what I was doing, but I also knew that I needed clients so I would take any client and I didn't really ... I wasn't terribly selective and what I found is in a pretty short amount of time, I wasn't loving what I was doing. And so what I have found over the years is the more specific I am about the kinds of people I want to work with, and what are the things that I want to work with them on, I'm much happier. I don't ... And that means sometimes having to say no to some ... to a nice piece of business and just trust that something wonderful is waiting in the wings. And the universe abhors a vacuum, so you keep something ... leave the space and you'll be delighted to see what shows up. Requires courage though, because you don't always know what's going to ... to come into that space, but that's where faith plays a big role.
Jodi KatzI'm so glad you brought that up because, I mean this happens in our business all the time. Not all the time I should say. Not every day are we turning away work, but we are turning down work because sometimes the people just aren't nice on the other end of the phone. Like it's as simple as that.
Alan CohenRight.
Jodi KatzWould I want to be working with this person? Especially when projects get hard. When they get technical and complicated, and we need feedback. We need responses, and we need them to be able to pivot or be flexible. Do I want my team interacting with that person or team every single day? And when the answer is no we say "No thank you", and of course I couldn't have done that earlier in the business, but now we can and it is so fulfilling. And it feels so big still every time we do it. It feels like a huge achievement.
Alan CohenYeah, and I think that it requires us also to believe that we can be very specific in terms of both the demographic as well as the psychographic of the person we want to work with and know that just by being specific doesn't meant that we're limiting ourselves in any way. Because there are ... There's an abundance of people who will fit that criteria. It just may take a little bit longer to find them, but when we do find them or they find us, how fantastic. Because you know that you're going to do your best work and you're going to bring the best work out the ... You're going to have the best collaboration and so-
Jodi KatzRight.
Alan Cohen... yes. Abundance. The abundance-
Jodi KatzSo for our listeners, it doesn't ... It's not easy. I don't want our listeners to think it was easy for you and I to all of the sudden be like "No thanks."
Alan CohenRight, right.
Jodi KatzNot a good fit.
Alan CohenLove and light.
Jodi KatzI mean, I feel like ... That you never gave me a bad situation followed by a bad situation followed by a bad situation time, and time again until I was really ready to face it and say "You know what? I can do better. I can make better choices." It wasn't like all the sudden I just started being like "Forget it. I don't want to work with those people." It was certainly a process.
Alan CohenYeah, and there ... There will be times that we may be forced, or feel that we're forced to take something on that isn't ideal. That doesn't really meet our client avatar, but then just know where you're choosing from and maybe make that a very short term project to pay those bills or whatever it is that is required.
Jodi KatzIn the beginning of the call you mentioned connecting and being a connector and connecting. This is something I knew nothing about until meeting you. Can you talk to our listeners about what that means and what that takes?
Alan CohenYeah, so most of us who are in business wear a business development hat in some way, shape, or form, and old school has us really out there adapting kind of a hunter mindset. So, we walk into a room, and we see everyone as a potential client or customer, and we go kind of into sell mode. And, sometimes that's necessary because there are just some realities. We've got to keep the lights on in our business.
But the really ... The more evolved way of business development and of networking is to think of yourself more as a farmer, which is really cultivating crops and the crops in this case are people who can become potential referral partners, strategic alliances. Maybe clients over time, but the more we can kind of relax into those relationships and think about what are the kinds of deposits we can make into those relationship accounts? Who can we introduce other people to? How can we refer business to them? What resources can we share in a sense that we can invite people to ... the more that ... And which requires us to really know people at a deeper level, then we can add value to the relationship and ultimately things are going to come back to us. Not necessarily from that individual, but the law of reciprocity says that the more that we kind of are in that energy of giving, the more that we'll find ourselves in the energy of receiving, and that has really catapulted so many of my client's businesses in a very shore time because you're nurturing relationships with, what Jodi knows, the V-I-P's. The people who are V-I-P connectors in your network. The more you can really show them love in terms of referrals, in terms of resources, the more they're going to return the favor in kind over time.
But, it takes patience, because the crops ... some crops take longer to grow than others, but it's totally worth it. And your business will explode if you really stay intentional and committed to developing relationships slow and steady.
Jodi KatzYou know, when you told me about all this in one of our first meetings, I had no idea what you were talking about. It was such a foreign idea for me because for 10 years I was just sniffing like a wild wolf. Like where is the meat, right? So someone would be like "So and so is looking for package design." and I'd smell that meat and I'd try to go to that person, and I treated them like they were a steak, right? Like they were a piece of meat ready to be eaten. And ... so now, with I guess the simplify ... the farming ... In my head at the time it was just like "I'm going to talk to you and not think of you like a piece of meat. Just think of you as an interesting person who knows other interesting people." And that really helped me. In any kind of meeting. Any kind of casual networking. Just to think of people not as meat anymore.
Alan CohenYeah. And then things ... You'll have people asking you how they can help you. That's what's kind of a natural response. When you ... when you're ... when you put so much of your energy into helping other people, they're going to want to help you to and then ... but you're kind of in the driver's seat because you can tell them what it is that you need when they're ready to be given.
Jodi KatzI have a friend who runs a small business, probably similar size to mine, and he just out of the blue one day told me that five or six people in his network give him 80% of his work. Right? They just ... that's the farm, right? They're the ... I guess the flourishing bushes and trees and carrots giving him meals.
Alan CohenRight.
Jodi KatzAnd it was so cool to hear him say that because it was ... when I was new to this process with you and unprompted he just talked about his process working, and it's your process. And, it was just like a big A-ha moment for me. Like I get it. People do this. They like you. They trust you. They share your name and it just goes on, and on, and on.
Alan CohenAbsolutely. Absolutely. They're really ... It really shortens the sale cycle time because you're moving people through that process so quickly. They already know and like you.
Jodi KatzAnd I think this process works for anybody. I don't ... I mean I could not be in business development for my agency. I could have ... I don't know ... I could just be a Creative Director at another agency, not owning my own business and I could still use this technique to develop relationships and nurture relationships and have a strong network of people helping people.
Alan CohenAbsolutely. And, it could even ... It's even effective when you're looking for a job to ... A lot of times I'll hear people saying they don't know what they could possibly ... How they could possibly add value into their relationships with people who they're trying to get jobs from. But, you'd be surprised who you might know that ... or what information that you have, or events that you are attending that that person may want to know about. It just requires you to be curious to really learn what drives that other individual. What really ... What they're really passionate about.
Jodi KatzSo at this point in our relationship, I think of you has one of our team members, you know? Just like our directors and our writers, there's Alan on the team. And, what's so interesting about working with you is that you're not just helping me kind of sort through the muck in my head. You've really been such a tremendous creative force in how we market and think about the agency. For example, this podcast series was your idea. Our collaboration with "Warpaint" the musical was your idea. So, you are as much a part of this business as anyone else on the team. How do you do that? Why does that work? How are you able to meet me one day and then a month later be so integrated into the way we do our business?
Alan CohenWell the two examples you used are great ones. I think I am ... Creativity is so much a part of who I am and the fields that I've always been in and always been attracted to. So, I ... That doesn't turn off when I put on my coaching hat. But, I think what happens is you become ... you become so interested in your clients and what's important to them and really hear from a very, very deep place what it is that they're looking for. And then it's just hard to hold back on a great idea or something that's intuitively is telling you this could be a game changer in your client's life.
So, you know I meditate, and a lot of my best ideas come through meditation, and some of the ideas that you just mentioned about the book came through ... through a medita ... in a meditative state. But, I just feel like it's just a really intimate partnership, and I ... which is why also I don't work with everyone and I don't ... I can't ... I keep sort of to a select number of people and one ... at any one time because I want to give my whole heart and soul into my relationships. I ... With my clients it's just that important to me. And so I think that's how ... that's how I am welcomed into the family I guess. And yours is very special family and I'm very, very proud to be a part of it. Of beauty.
Jodi KatzOne of our other guests-
Alan CohenI'm around beauty.
Jodi KatzOh yeah. Thank you. Thank you Alan. One of the other guests on our podcast, Alana Zypher, when she was recording her episode, she talked about ... She had a coach once and that coach got soft on her so then she found another coach. So, I said to you one day "Don't get soft on me." What like ... what does that even mean? Like how do you ... What ... How would you be interacting with me if you were soft on me versus what's the opp ... Whatever the opposite of soft is?
Alan CohenRight.
Jodi KatzChallenging? I don't know. I don't even know.
Alan CohenRight.
Jodi KatzWhat does that ... what does that mean?
Alan CohenYeah, so I think that I'm ... that I ... That the one area that I show some tough love with my clients is when I see them playing small and I know that that's not really what they want. But it's some ... but, they've gotten some sort of message or some sort of conditioning, or they're operating from some sort of a limitation ... self imposed limitation, that's telling them they can't have everything that they want, and they can't really swing for the fences because of the whole story they've created that tells them they can't. They don't deserve it or they could never maintain it or whatever. So, where I'm tough is to really challenge people but from a place of complete, complete love and support is to say "How true is that really?" And "Why does it have to be that way?" And to remind people of what they said they wanted. And, I'm not confrontational in that way, but I will ... I'll call people out on their ... on the B-S, right? It's like I call bullshit sometimes, and it's just ... But the bullshit is more just like a story that's been created to keep you safe.
Jodi KatzRight.
Alan CohenOr, the illusion of safety, and to keep you ... keep you in a small place. And, most of my clients are not ... They don't really want to be small. They want to be big and powerful, they just don't necessarily want to have to turn their lives upside down to have that.
Jodi KatzRight.
Alan CohenDoes that answer your question?
Jodi KatzSo, I ... Yeah. Totally. I just said it as a response to what Alana said. As a warning. Don't get soft on me. I don't want to lose you. But, I didn't really know what it meant. What would that even look like?
Alan CohenRight.
Jodi KatzSo, the last topic I want to talk to about is ... 'cause I think that we could go on for hours and hours as we do, but this idea of being vulnerable. I cam really see a demarcation line in my business as the before being vulnerable and then after being vulnerable. Like pre-vulnerable, after vulnerable. So, there was a time in my career where like everything was fine. Everything was shiny, and yeah we're so awesome, and spinning the story. And, the truth was, I felt like it was total chaos every day. Sometimes we didn't have money in the bank. Sometimes my heart was racing because I just couldn't shove everything into just a few hours of the day and then I'd have to work. And things changed for me when I actually ... I think I reached a breaking point. I couldn't keep it all in anymore and I just started talking to people about how much it sucked to run a business when you're hanging upside down on that roller coaster ride.
And that was like two years ago that I actually said those things out loud to people and then all of the sudden I started getting new clients.
Alan CohenThat's crazy, right?
Jodi KatzAnd a lot of these new clients were entrepreneurs in their own brands having a very similar experience, if not even harder. I don't hold any inventory in a distribution center, right? I have it a little bit easier. So, what do you think it is about being vulnerable and really, really honest that can change the game for someone like me?
Alan CohenWell, I think that ... I think people want to do business with people who really get them, and you work with a lot of entrepreneurs like yourself, and almost every entrepreneur I've ever known has experienced ... has gone through many of the things that you've gone through, that I've gone through. It's just what makes us ... it makes you relatable, and so you can really speak the same language and empathize with where they're at.
And ... I don't think that people want to do business with gurus and people who just ... who seem to project like they've got all their shit together all the time. It's just not real. And, I think that most people put a high value on being real. It ... I trust you more because I know that you are going to let me know what's really going on. You're not going to hold back just because you want to look a certain way or because you ... It's just ... yeah, it's just ... It's transparency.
I think that there ... It's knowing when and where to show what. I think there's some people out there who can kind of go a little bit too far to the ... too far or kind of vomit their whole lives on social media, and everything, but I think that there's a way to really share where you're at and let people see the journey and ... Hey, we're all works in progress, right? Then how can I share my experience with someone else and give them encouragement? Let them know that it's going to be okay. I think that's what we all want.
Jodi KatzYeah. I do. I think that I tricked myself through the years of thinking that everybody wants perfect when that doesn't exist, right?
Alan CohenNo.
Jodi KatzIt shouldn't even be a word.
Alan CohenYeah.
Jodi KatzIt's not a reality.
Alan CohenYeah.
Jodi KatzWell Alan, thank you number one for the genius idea of a podcast a few months ago. We are at, I think it's been about three months of the podcast being live and we're already at over 7000 downloads-
Alan CohenFantastic.
Jodi Katz... Which is ... That sounds kind of insane to me. And amazing. And thank you for your wisdom today.
Alan CohenMy pleasure and thank you and best of luck, and Happy Anniversary.
Jodi KatzThank you.
AnnouncerThanks for listening to Where Brains Meet Beauty with Jodi Katz. Tune in again for more authentic conversations with beauty leaders.

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