20 Years in the Making: The Impact Story

Impact Coaches – Sandra Oliver, MBA

We’re celebrating our 20th year in business!

All of us at Impact are proud of all we’ve accomplished over the last two decades and wanted to celebrate, take time to reflect on how far we’ve come, and share our plans for the future with our colleagues and clients. We couldn’t do what we do without the help of this great community.

“Just do the right thing.”

People are often surprised to know that Impact Coaches wasn’t the thing I always wanted to do. Coming from a working class family where not many of us went to university, I graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration, followed by two Master’s degrees. And then spent the next 17 years leading HR teams primarily at two organizations – one in manufacturing, the other in professional services.

Early on, two things changed my business life: I had a mentor, who took a lot of chances on me because he had confidence in me and wanted to give me an opportunity. And I had a coach, who helped me understand how to succeed in business. They had a huge impact on my career.

I also had a strong work ethic, was team oriented, and cared a lot about my work and the people around me. I worked with amazing teams who supported me and helped me succeed – and I wanted them and the organizations I worked with to succeed as much as I did.

I was fortunate that I was promoted pretty rapidly, until I was overseeing teams and sitting at the leadership table at an early age. The leaders around me appreciated that I was honest and transparent, and had the courage to put myself out there and not be afraid of making mistakes. I often took on new roles and tough challenges. And like everyone, I made a lot of mistakes and said yes to a few things I wasn’t prepared for. At times I was unsure – and I still am, sometimes. My coach and mentor were very much part of my team and helped me. I also talked to my Dad a lot. His words still ring true. He encouraged me to trust myself and stick to my values, often saying, “Do the right thing” or, “Do your best and work hard.”

The launch of Impact Coaches: Taking risks and doing great work

I took his advice and used it throughout my career. During my time as a lead contract negotiator, at the manufacturing company, sitting across the table from the Teamsters.  Or when I built brand new performance management systems, HR and recruiting teams, and a leadership development program. And, ultimately, when I decided to leave my corporate career.

While I’d had the chance to do a lot of really big, interesting and enjoyable work at the professional services firm, I wanted to do something different. So in 2003, I decided I’d take the risk and quit. I spoke to a mentor of mine and asked if she would support me if I left the firm, but stayed connected as a coach to senior leaders. And she did.

The firm gave me 20 partners to coach, which was a big risk on their part as well, because I had limited coaching experience at that point. But I talked with my own coach, bought every book on the subject I could find, and worked hard.

I engaged in a lot of courageous, transparent, straightforward talk with my clients, learned a lot from them, and really tried to help them.

And then I found leaders started to come to me asking to be coached. I needed a team so I started to create one.

I also love challenges and learning new things, so growing in Canada didn’t feel like enough. Which is why when I had the opportunity to expand into the US and then globally, I jumped at the chance. I hired great coaches to work with our clients. And then hired amazing people to help run the business out of my home, which is why to this day, even though we work in the office, our team of wonderful project managers is called the “Home Team”.

We bought our Yonge St. office in Toronto in 2017 to demonstrate that we’re a real business and that coaching is a profession, not just something people do when they retire. The office gives us a presence on Yonge Street, but it’s also in a neighborhood, because I still want it to have a homey and comfortable feeling. And our coaches and Home Team help make that happen, too. We hire people who have deep experience, are smart, diligent, willing to take chances, and really care about our clients’ professional and personal success. Together, we use coaching and assessments to partner with clients to make positive change in individuals, teams and entire organizations.

Key things I’ve learned in the last 20 years…

In 20 years of building Impact from the ground up I’ve learned a lot.

First and foremost I’ve tried to make sure we stick to our values 100% of the time. That we continue to follow my dad’s advice and “do our best” and “do the right thing”. In any situation, you’re always going to disappoint people. There are always going to be things you wish you’d done differently. But if you’re prepared to take risks, be a leader, and make mistakes, as long as you stick to your values, you’ll come out OK in the end. Probably even better.

I’ve learned to be kind to myself and others by finding people who are a good fit for me. Because relationships are the key to success. If you’re prepared to sacrifice some of your personal time, take risks, and care about people, you’ll build strong friendships with clients and colleagues. And that’s worth a lot. It’s how you get lots of opportunities to do fun work and gain lots of satisfaction from it.

There are no shortcuts. I don’t know anyone who’s been successful without working hard. Work life balance is important, but a strong work ethic is essential for success. Things will grow if you do the right thing. And if you work at it.

Hard, challenging work is motivating, fun and it builds confidence. The more you take risks – and yes, the more you fail – the stronger and happier you become. It’s a bit counterintuitive. One of my Dad’s other favourite sayings, “That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” is indeed true!

Helping people is really what life and work is about. The more we add value to others and make their lives better, the better our lives become.

And no one does anything alone. I’ve had many mentors and many amazing team members along the way. We’ve also had some amazing clients go out of their way to help us and take big risks on us.

What’s next?

We’ve tried a lot of innovative ways to deliver our services over the years. Some have served us well, and others, less so. What has always worked is being really good at what we do. We hire really good coaches, with a focus on their experiences in life and business, how smart they are, and how much courage they have to challenge our clients. It differentiates us and it’s going to continue to be the cornerstone of our business.

We’re going to continue to work with our great team and add new people to better serve our ever evolving client base. We’ll continue to hire people who want to grow and challenge themselves. Who want to work hard, take risks, and are as invested in their own success – and Impact’s – as I am.

Coaches and Home Team members who are purpose driven, proactive, professional, warm, caring, positive, collaborative, innovative, flexible, and solution oriented. People who are not afraid to try new things and are constantly searching for ways to elevate themselves and our clients’ experiences.

If someone asked me now, “What’s your vision for Impact?” I’d have to say, “We’ve achieved more than I had ever thought we would.” But going forward, I’m ready to see Impact go to the next level. Bring in people who want to lead, who have innovative ideas, and the energy to continue driving Impact’s growth. Coaching is exploding as an industry and more needed than ever in this post COVID world. We want to be part of helping people excel in the multitude of new ways they’re choosing to work together.

I’m looking forward to Impact’s next phase. It will take a team like it always has. A team of amazing staff, coaches, clients and mentors. And it will be fun and challenging.

Sandra Oliver

Founder, Impact Coaches Inc.
Impact Coaches – Sandra Oliver, MBA

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