On Growing His Executive Coaching Business 231%

Published: January 22nd, 2020
Andy Bailey
Founder, Petra Coach
Petra Coach
from Franklin, Tennessee, USA
started January 2011
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I’m Andy Bailey. I’ve pioneered several companies over the years, but most recently, in 2011, I started Petra Coach – an executive business coaching firm based in Franklin, TN. We work with leaders, teams, and organizations across North America, coaching them on the Rockefeller Habits and how to apply them to set and achieve measurable goals through a system of accountability.


In the past 3 years, Petra Coach has grown 231 percent (an average of 52 percent year over year) and has also been recognized on the Inc. 5000 list three years in a row.

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit – as a teenager, I founded my first company, a landscaping business, and started a car phone installation business while in college. Also during college, in 1993, I began NationLink Wireless, which I grew into one of the top 200 fastest-growing privately-owned companies in the U.S.

It can be easy to decide to give up and disappoint yourself, but it’s much harder to do that when someone else is on your back and counting on you to get it done.

However, in the early years of NationLink, I achieved success by micromanaging and working around the clock, which wasn’t sustainable. After significant research to find a better way of doing business, I started to focus my life and business on developing strategic plans, setting goals and delegating tasks. This allowed me to scale NationLink even more rapidly and to successfully sell the company.

I also began sharing with my entrepreneurial friends what I had learned. With my coaching and the materials I’d created, those companies grew dramatically. I then realized that my desire to share my expertise was not only a calling but could be a lucrative business. That’s when I founded Petra Coach and began putting my experience to work to help other businesses grow.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

Almost 20 years ago, I was in the wireless telecommunication business, in which we were always looking for 18-months ahead because of the fast-moving nature of the communications industry. One day I was in a meeting in New York, and we were reviewing a product known as a “black box,” which was essentially a system they’d installed in trucks that allowed people at a home base to see where the trucks were, reroute, etc., and they cost around $1,000. My big question was how do we get these below $100? They said there’s no way. I didn’t accept that answer though, because all of the components in the box were the same as in a phone, just installed in a vehicle, and cell phones were extremely affordable at that time. From there, the question became how do we manufacture a kit that allows a cell phone to be concealed in a vehicle?

We found a local company that built a plastic box to wrap around the cell phone, and also found a wiring manufacturer, and began playing around with how to wire it to a vehicle permanently. We built prototypes and we tested and tested and tested. It was ugly and bulky – the first product basically looked like a lockbox. We took the prototype to market locally and sold it to three or four companies, but we wanted to go bigger with it – as in real mass manufacturing, not just the “built in a garage” feel. We found someone in Shanghai for this and sent them a bunch of prototypes. They’d modify it and send it back via DHL, and I’d receive it a few days later. Then I’d record a video talking about our vision for it and drawing out changes, which I’d send back to them, and they’d build and send the next prototype back. It went on like that for about three months before we got our first big shipment of hard products.

Describe the process of launching the business.

Jim Collins has this concept of bullets and cannonballs. What he says is, essentially, before you pack all the powder and start firing cannons, shoot some bullets first to see if you can hit your target. Once you’re hitting your target, you know most likely where it is, and you can launch the cannonball. That’s essentially what I did when I was starting Petra – I spent a year playing around with the market.

Once I’d honed in on what the market needed and ways I thought I could fill those needs,* *I wrote the plan out for the decade, then five years, then one year, and then worked to refine it over the course of time. We certainly have a long way to go, but the market responded well. Luckily, I was in a position where I could afford to fail repeatedly, and, every once in awhile, hit a success.

Demand was high the first year because the price was low, as I was just beginning. Then, as we started to hone our craft, build our team and offer more services, we’ve kind of hit a sweet spot of people who both need and can afford us.

Two years ago, I found a couple of coaching organizations that weren’t doing the exact same thing we do but were able to provide me with insight into the industry that I’d been looking for since I began Petra in 2011, but I couldn’t find them. Now I have this great community, but eight years ago that would’ve been an absolute game-changer. The lesson: find someone who plays at the level you want to play at or higher and figure out what the hell they’re doing. Make friends with them. There’s so much to be absorbed from being around people who have achieved a level you aim to reach.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Word-of-mouth and referrals are the main way we bring in new business, but we also have many leads come from our marketing and social media efforts. Both the other Petra Coaches and I regularly contribute to many business publications which help position us as experts in what we do, as well as boost our target market’s awareness of our brand.

We’ve recently put an emphasis on getting hands-on with companies interested in Petra Coach through workshops, which are essentially a sample of a planning day to get familiar with how our process could impact their organization.

We also engage our audience on social media channels, namely Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. We use an email marketing platform, Emma, to keep our audience informed on newly published articles, upcoming learning events, and book releases, as well as an AI program which pulls together top headlines from our company, member companies and more and sends a “roundup” email twice a week.

Our existing members stick around because what we teach them works. We give them our best service and tangible results, so they can see the value that we are providing them.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Petra Coach is a profitable business. Our year over year revenue growth has been an average of 52%. We grew from a $200,000 company to $7.5 million in less than a decade. To date, Petra Coach has coached over 400 member companies and 25,000 team members in North America. Plus, demand from business owners overseas led us to open our first office in England in 2018.

As of now, we have 10 other full-time, Certified Petra coaches besides me, as well as seven accountability coaches to support them and our member companies.

We hope to expand our reach even further through what we call “Virtual Interactive Planning,” which utilizes the communication technologies we now have available to us to coach companies remotely, so they feel like we are physically in the room with them, even though we aren’t.

One of our biggest short-term goals was to create what we call the “Petra Playground,” a state-of-the-art coaching facility, complete with all the amenities our team members want: a full kitchen, full gym, ample collaboration space and more, as well as amenities for our member companies. We have officially reached this goal as of Q3 this year.

Our biggest, longer-term goal is to positively impact over 10 million people with our work, and our current count is steadily climbing.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

The habits I’ve developed over the years are very deliberate, and it boils down to setting measurable goals for the day, week, month, year, 5 years and 10 years that I hold myself accountable to reaching. I couldn’t teach this philosophy to other leaders if it wasn't my way of living, too.

I’ve learned immeasurably about running a successful business not only from my own experience but from that of the companies I coach, too. They teach me every day because each time I’m handed a new roadblock to help overcome, I have to think differently to reach a solution with them and how to execute on it. It pushes me to keep growing as a leader as I’m pushing other leaders toward their own growth.

There was quite a bit of time with Petra Coach when we had too much demand for business but couldn’t hire the right coaches fast enough. While “too much business” is a great problem to have, it definitely put a strain on our resources, and we were all being stretched pretty thin. However, we kept forging forward, put the right people in the right seats and found equilibrium again.

We partner with a few different organizations, which have been great for the business. For one, I work very closely with Verne Harnish, author of the best-seller Scaling Up (upon which most of my Petra’s philosophies are based) and head of Scale Up, an entrepreneurial support organization that hosts annual Summits for business leaders. He is a mentor, colleague and great friend, and our partnership is invaluable.

We also have a mutual partnership with our PR firm, the Bradford Group: We coach them, and they make us look good. They are largely responsible for engaging editors who may be interested in running our columns and coordinating any interviews that come out of those efforts or from any media source – fueling our position of leadership in the industry. They most recently helped me with the publishing of my new book, Vitamin B (For Business), a page-a-day, business guide bringing together all mine and other Petra Coaches’ top tips.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

The main platform we use is actually my brainchild. A few years into running Petra Coach, I recognized that having a custom online platform to accompany our coaching methods would be really helpful to both the coaches and our member companies. That’s when Align Today was born, and it has become a staple for our members as well as outside companies for tracking goals, priorities, and KPIs. It is now running as its own independent company.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Scaling Up: Mastering the Rockefeller Habits is the basis for our business. The Rockefeller Habits are the business principles used by legendary mogul John D. Rockefeller to build the Standard Oil Company. They center around finding alignment throughout organizations and setting up systems of accountability in order to grow and improve.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

My biggest piece of advice for entrepreneurs starting out is just setting goals and actually seeing them through. It sounds so simple, but so many leaders set out to do things and then give up as soon as it gets hard. If you have a great product or service, why not give it all you’ve got to make the business as successful as possible?

If you find yourself continuously setting goals you don’t keep, it’s time to re-evaluate whether those goals are S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound). Then, make sure you have someone to hold you accountable for those goals. It can be easy to decide to give up and disappoint yourself, but it’s much harder to do that when someone else is on your back and counting on you to get it done.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

We are currently hiring full-time Accountability Coaches. Visit Petra Accountability Coach for more information on the role and to apply.

Where can we go to learn more?