Five Qs: Kathryn Baker, AdviCoach in Sterling Heights


After working for 10 years in business development, sales, and marketing, Kathryn Baker opened an AdviCoach franchise in 2009. Today, Baker provides coaching and advisory services for small to mid-size businesses in her Sterling Heights-based office, located in the Macomb-Oakland University INCubator. This month she was named “2013 Franchisee of the Year” by Franchise Source Brands International for her ability to maintain strong client-coach relationships and the role she plays in helping clients reach their goals. Baker spoke with DBusiness Daily News via email to share her tips for building a successful business.

DDN: What are the most common mistakes small business owners make?

KB: Business owners commonly fall into two key traps. First, they make the mistake of not defining the time and process needed to continually improve their business in all functional areas over time. Time passes, and year after year, they are putting out fires and running operations, without developing a strong team and establishing the right processes and systems that allow the business to run and sustain itself without (the owner) being the “center” of the business.

Secondly, business owners fail to focus on what we call ILWE (income, lifestyle, wealth, and equity). Specifically, many owners are not enjoying the lifestyle that they first had in mind when they went into business. Missed vacations, too many hours working, too few hours spent with family and loved ones, and too much stress often plagues the business owner. Many struggle with reversing these challenges and cannot seem to create the lifestyle that they want.

DDN: What tips do you have for dealing with difficult or unmotivated employees?

KB: Eighty-five percent of job satisfaction is about the right “fit” for the individual within the organization. This means (they) fit with the business as a whole, the culture of the business, a fit within their department or functional area of the business, and their immediate team members.

When we find unmotivated employees in the organization, sometimes it is about getting them in the right role and aligning compensation around performance in the right way, but often it is a deeper problem in the organization. There are foundational components that must be in place for a business to expand and grow in the proper way with the proper employees. By creating a strong foundation, employee engagement increases. Without a strong foundation to support the business, everything throughout the system — including leading and managing employees — becomes more difficult.   

DDN: What advice do you have for small business owners who are just starting out?

KB: Surround yourself with an informal board of advisers. Many business owners who have found success will tell you that they have strong advisers and supporters in their CPA firm, their lawyer, other business owners, a coach, and others. Detroit offers many resources that are free to start-ups. Owners need to make sure they are knowledgeable about what is available to them and that they leverage those resources. Education is key.

New business owners will need to develop and grow, personally, as their business grows and matures. The skills needed to start a business and those needed to grow a business are different. Owners need to continuously be educating themselves and surrounding themselves with employees and advisors that can complement their skills.

DDN: What advice do you have for struggling business owners?

KB: Most simply, do something different, and get help immediately. Too many business owners wait until it is too late to try something new or get help.

DDN: Do you have any success stories you can share?

KB: When I think of success stories, what immediately comes to mind are specific business owners who are currently less stressed, those who have built a team to help them run their business, and those who have gotten their passion back for business ownership.  It is very rewarding when I talk with employees and they make statements about actually wanting to come to work now, where in the past they dreaded the environment where they worked.