How Food-Driven Family Businesses Primed an Entrepreneur to Coach through COVID
As last spring’s shutdown orders were lifted, business coach Delia Marin was persuading one of her clients to come up with a solution to stay open. The small coffee shop and bakery was not large enough to meet safe-distancing regulations; the entrepreneur, amid all the other pandemic stress, saw no option other than to close.
But Delia drew on her own experience as an entrepreneur and as a business consultant to help her client see the possibilities. Through their conversations, they decided to install a special door at the shop’s entrance so customers could be served without entering the small space. The shop owner scheduled orders and pick-up times to manage customer traffic and promoted food offerings on social media. The straightforward solutions have generated enough customers to keep the coffee shop in business.
“Last year, many owners have lost businesses, lost employees, and faced difficult choices,” Delia says. “Sometimes they need someone to listen, to support them, and say, ‘It’s going to be OK. We’re going to get through this.’”
Delia is a business development consultant with the Missouri Small Business Development Center at UMKC and is the Missouri SBDC’s only Latina, bi-lingual coach in the state. She is also a procurement specialist, lending her expertise on government contracts, with the Missouri Procurement Technical Assistance Center. Additionally, she coaches entrepreneurs in the Growth360 program, giving those she works with the connections, perspective and expert advice to grow their businesses.
Delia uses her entrepreneurial experience and her training as a certified transitional coach to assist her clients. (If you’re looking to grow your business, that could be you.) She encourages entrepreneurs to become lifelong learners, work on their business (and not just in them), turn strategic relationships into a network, and reminds owners to take a little time for themselves.
“My life’s mission has been to help others,” she says. “I wanted to help businesses that couldn’t afford large consulting businesses. I especially like working with sole proprietors and small, family businesses.”
Business coaching from personal experience
Delia’s love for family businesses hits close to home. Her father, Roberto Marin, started a tequila importing business, Maria’s La Fiesta restaurant in Kansas City, Kansas, which was in business for 35 years, and two more restaurants. Delia and her six siblings all grew up working in the family business. While her brothers and sisters chose different directions, Delia embraced business. She was the first in her family to go to college, graduating with a human development degree from the University of St. Mary.
Her educational experience started her on the path of being a lifelong learner, both inside and outside of the classroom. She went on to be certified in contract management, as a CVE Verification Counselor, a GrowthWheel Certified Business Advisor, a Pandemic Compliance Advisor, and in fundraising management, and she brings that experience to her clients.
She gained knowledge outside the classroom as well. Delia represented Kansas City, Kansas, in Mexico for the North American Free Trade (NAFTA) Summit with other city representatives from Canada down to Mexico.
“It was an incredible opportunity to represent the city, participate in discussions on international trade, and build relationships,” Delia says. “I acquired knowledge that I was able to pass on to others. It’s something I strive to do every day for my clients.”
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Work ON your business, not IN it
Learning becomes effective when entrepreneurs take the lessons and internalize them into positive habits. Delia says many entrepreneurs wake up in the morning fired up and ready to start their day running their business. Before they know it, they spend the day working in the business without lifting their heads up to see the big picture.
In some cases, she says working in the business is a way to avoid challenges the entrepreneur doesn’t know how to overcome. She encourages her clients to schedule time on their calendars each week toward growing their businesses.
“I have had clients who have kept the same day and time they attended my class to work on the big picture and look at their business from the coach’s box,” she says. “This allows them to focus on growth, focus on the numbers, focus on critical measures to scale their business.”
Build relationships authentically
Growing up in the Argentine area of Kansas City, Kansas, Delia saw the power of building business relationships. Her family was active in their church, St. John the Divine, and in their tight-knit community. Delia learned event planning through hosted events for dignitaries from Mexico, city officials and other private events, which helped promote her father’s restaurants. To connect with others and promote his tequila business, Roberto Marin started a Tequila Club and went on to develop a Sister City relationship with Uruapan, Michoacan, in Mexico with then Kansas City, Kansas, Mayor Jack Reardon in the 1970s.
Not every entrepreneur has Roberto Marin’s instincts for networking. Delia, like some of the people she coaches through Growth360 and ScaleUP! KC, knows networking events can be intimidating. She learned the secret is to be authentic when approaching and to focus on the “relationships” part of business relationships.
Several years ago, she attended a networking event that some entrepreneurs would likely find stressful. Delia decided that she wasn’t going to hand out any business cards that day. She could easily get a list of those who attended. Instead, she asked those she met to tell her something about themselves—not about their business, but about themselves. The event then became productive and largely stress-free.
“By the end of the event, I had people handing me their cards and asking me for mine,” she says. “People are cautious about people coming in with their own agenda. Being curious about the people you meet starts that relationship.”
Finding a business mentor
Developing relationships with mentors can be game changing for entrepreneurs, and Delia encourages her clients to surround themselves with mentors. She suggests being strategic in searching for business mentors and occasionally connects her clients with someone who she thinks would be a good match as a mentor.
“When I introduce an entrepreneur to a potential mentor, I’m thinking strategically about the entrepreneur’s goals,” Delia says. “I want to connect business owners with like individuals in same industry or with the same level of experience to develop a support system.”
While strategy is important to identifying the right mentor, developing confidence in the relationship may be more important. Growing up in an entrepreneurial Mexican-American
family, Delia sees the value of having role models who understand the specific challenges minority entrepreneurs face. She believes more minority-owned businesses would benefit from more diversity among coaches.
“Being able to build a trusting relationship with who you are coaching is so important,” she says. “Culturally speaking, entrepreneurs want to make sure you understand not just their business but their struggles as a minority.”
Being a mentor means being candid, which Delia experienced during a period in which she was working non-stop. Delia is a multi-tasker. During her workday, she can be looking at four different screens at once in her home office.
“Multi-tasking is not for everyone,” she says.
Everyone can get fatigued at times and need to recharge.
“I’ve had conversations with one of my mentors that helped me slow down and remember to take a breath,” she says. “That’s always been hard for me because I’m usually thinking about helping others.”
Stopping to take a breath helps to recharge, Delia says, and it can give entrepreneurs some time to think about solutions to a challenge. Better yet, she recommends talking over those solutions with someone who has an interest in your business and wants to help.
“The best part of coaching Growth 360 classes is building relationships,” she says. “I want the people I coach to know I’m here for them. No matter what challenge they are facing we can find the right solution together.”
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