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SOAR Institute: Riaad Isaacs and Gavin Friedman

Two entrepreneurs devise a whole new approach to business coaching.

Juliet Pitman

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Riaad Isaacs and Gavin Friedman

In a competitive business environment, a good business coach can make all the difference to a corporate manager or an entrepreneur. But as the business coaching market experiences unprecedented global growth, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for coaching companies to differentiate themselves – and for customers to know which coach to choose.

Starting small

For a small start-up that challenge is amplified. This is why Riaad Isaacs and Gavin Friedman, founders of the SOAR Institute, made it their goal to come up with a unique, and uniquely effective, coaching model.

“When we formed the SOAR Institute, our goal was to help individuals, teams and organisations uncover new possibilities. We believed that by changing the way they observe themselves and the world, and by shifting their attitudes and beliefs, we could help them create new contexts for success and sustainability,” says co-founder Riaad Isaacs. SOAR stands for the four core principles of Success, Opportunity, Action and Result, which Isaacs and Friedman use during a specialised coaching process. “Essentially, we explore why and how human beings do what they do and whether they can be and do things more effectively,” says Isaacs.

Doing it differently

SOAR uses a specific coaching methodology called called High Velocity Coaching™. As Isaacs explains, it’s short, concise, gets to the point quickly and helps clients reach set outcomes and actions very fast. Most of the foundation research for SOAR was gleaned from the partners’ own exposure to traditional coaching methods, and their sense that there was ‘something missing’.

Isaacs outlines the drivers behind High Velocity Coaching™: “We worked with many people and felt that in many instances, traditional methods of coaching were long and laborious and took ages to help someone reach a set of outcomes. Many people require coaching because they are stuck on a particular issue. Our process helps them to become unstuck and reach a
solution quickly.  

“Today’s business executives constantly find themselves in high velocity situations, where swift, impactful decisions must be made without much data or precedence. It is in these scenarios that a coaching approach must be direct, honest, effective and above all be able to cut out all extraneous information and hone in like a laser to only what is relevant and pertinent,” he continues.

Signing a partner, doing the groundwork Isaacs and Friedman knew that they’d need to get a solid partner behind them if they wanted to create a company with the kind of credibility that would attract top business clientele. “We partnered with a US-based company that develops the specific set of diagnostic tools needed, and signed for the agency in South Africa,” Isaacs says. The pair then invested many hours planning which markets to target and investigating which products would be best suited to each. “We use a host of diagnostic tools that are designed for individuals, organisations and teams, all of which can benefit from High Velocity Coaching™. This also allowed us to cover a more diverse market,” Isaacs explains.

Launching the business

He describes High Velocity Coaching™ as ‘different by experience’, explaining that people often have to experience it before they understand how effective it can be. To this end, the business organises free 15-minute coaching sessions targeted at entrepreneurs.
“Entrepreneurs face highly specific challenges, and laser-targeted coaching can help them enormously. At these free sessions, they get to experience first-hand how powerful the High Velocity Coaching™ methodology is,” Isaacs adds. Like many start-ups the business’s marketing strategy is centred on PR campaigns and ‘earned media.’ “For example we’ve appeared on radio shows talking about the methodology and then given away free coaching sessions to listeners as part of a competition,” Isaacs explains.

Successes to date

Since its launch in 2008, SOAR has already signed on some impressive clients. “We’ve been coaching the Exco of a JSE listed company for the last six months and they have just renewed their contract for the next year as they are very excited about the progress they are making,” says Isaacs.

SOAR Institute

Players: Riaad Isaacs and Gavin Friedman
Est: 2008
Contact :+27 11 566 2000, www.soarinstitute.co.za

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

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Early-stage South African entrepreneurial activity is at an all-time high of 11%, according to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, and entrepreneurial intentions have also increased to 11.7%. With both activity and intentions growing significantly year-on-year, there are more businesses opening up around South Africa than ever before.

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