Making A Big Impact on Small Businesses

Episode #1014: Navigate entrepreneurship, high-growth small businesses, exit strategies, effective questions, lifelong learning, and responding to "I don't know," in a conversation with Tim Fulton, a small business coach, executive coach, former Vistage chair of 16 years (2003-2018), and a Kauffman Foundation FastTrac Program facilitator.


About Tim Fulton


Tim Fulton is a small business coach, executive coach, former Vistage chair of 16 years (2003-2018), and a Kauffman Foundation FastTrac Program facilitator. Tim’s path to coaching stems from his experience in the entrepreneurial world and his love for coaching in general. After completing his education and co-founding an internet company that made the INC 500 list, he started his own consulting company called Small Business Matters. As Tim’s career progressed, he developed a passion for high-growth small businesses. His passion for helping other entrepreneurs has been evident throughout his career and is now the core of his coaching practice.


Tim seeks to be a master questioner and strives for curiosity in his practice. When coaching clients, he always believes they know the best answer to their own questions, it's just a matter of bringing that answer forth through conversation and questioning. Tim has authored the book, The Meeting, which brings to life a peer advisory group and the challenges covered by its members. Currently, Tim is a coach, CEO of Small Business Matters, and continues to be an active, influential, and effective member of the coaching and entrepreneurial community.


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Key highlights


Tim’s journey from entrepreneur to coach

Timestamp 01:37


Tim began his academic journey at Tulane University with a focus in economics. One of the driving factors for Tim was his never ending thirst for knowledge. As soon as he graduated, he began reading books and learning as much as he could about being the best entrepreneur he could be. This drive further led him to co-founding a large internet software company with a former fraternity brother. After leaving the company that he helped grow to great success, he continued his career in entreprenership until he was introduced to the Kauffman Foundation FastTrac program. The experiences he had and helpful teachers he came to know led Tim to his career of coaching.


“I have always had a thirst for knowledge…" -Tim Fulton

In looking back at Tim’s life, coaching was always a passion of his. Whether it was coaching little league games or helping colleagues achieve their objectives, he’s always had a liking for helping others achieve their goals.


Clients with the answers

Timestamp 13:39


When asked what coaching means to him, Tim responded with his concept of questioning. Tim believes that all of his clients have the best answer to the question already in their grasp, and it is the purpose of the coach to find these answers with them.


As Tim reflects on his time as a consultant, he makes the distinguishing difference between coaches and consultants. Consultants tell clients the best method of action based on their knowledge and experiences; whereas, Coaches help clients find the answer using the client’s own knowledge and experiences. The belief that clients hold the best answers to their questions is key to Tim’s coaching practice.


“Coaching to me is a mentor. It’s someone who’s willing to listen… to put their own ego aside and really engage…” -Tim Fulton

Tim’s book: The Meeting

Timestamp 23:47


Tim wrote his book, The Meeting, to offer insight on the effectiveness and overall practice of a peer advisory group. In his book, he describes a fictional chair member and several peer group members that are all a part of a one-day meeting, and each peer group member has their own hurdle to face. Tim captures the essence of peer advisory groups and the role of a Vistage chair as he develops the characters and story of the group. Tim takes inspiration from his six years of experience and combines it with what he has learned from best-selling authors, Vistage chair members, and impactful business leaders.


Trusting your instincts and taking the high road

Timestamp 27:24


“My purpose is to live life on the high road. It's essentially, to do what's right…” -Tim Fulton

As Tim looks back on his coaching career, he wishes he had known to listen to his gut more. He states that it is important to “trust that little voice that we all hear in the back of our head” and to act on its promptings—even if it means asking the hard questions and encouraing clients to face them with insightful answers.


Throughout his career, Tim has also held to a notion of taking the “high road” versus the “low road.” This concept has encouraged Tim to follow his moral compass, have a growth mindset, ask questions, and make lifelong friendships. Taking the high road in life has served Tim well throughout his personal and professional life.


Questioning when clients say, “I don’t know”

Timestamp 33:26

When clients in Tim’s coaching sessions state that they “don’t know” the answer to a question, Tim further encourages insightful thought by asking, “Well, if you did know, what would it be?”


Tim states that his clients have always had an answer to this question, even though it may require a silent pondering to reach their answer. This concept of encouraging honest and thoughtful questions supports Tim’s goal of bringing the best answers out of his clients.

The importance of an exit strategy

Timestamp 36:02


In coaching clients with a small and high-growth business, Tim reinforces the idea of having an exit strategy for the business. Tim learned this lesson in his own experience as an entrepreneur and continues to address its importance in his practice.


By creating a clear and legal exit strategy, nobody is at an unreasonable loss. In his experience with Vistage, he began practicing the use of “premortem” questions with the CEOs he coached. These questions cause CEOs to visualize the possibility of the business failing and predict why it failed. By confronting potential issues and causes to failure head on, CEOs are given the opportunity to address them before they can negatively effect the business.


Curiosity that drives success

Timestamp 43:13


One of the attributes that Tim has used to propel his career forward is his genuine curiosity of others and the entrepreneurial experience. Tim’s curiosity has driven him to learn about business and coaching strategies, business developments, and new coaching tactics. His desire to learn more and know more has given him a foundational wealth of knowledge for his coaching practice today.


Tim also states that his patience has helped him in his practice as well. Even when working with clients that are more difficult to encourage than others, Tim is “willing to take a step back and listen and not act too quickly.” His patience allows clients to grow in their own understanding and make their own decisions towards their goals.

“They’ve got the answers, just help them on their journey…” -Tim Fulton

Being a healthy coach

Timestamp 46:45


In developing his coaching practice, Tim has learned that it is important for coaches to lead healthy lives. This covers being mentally and physically healthy. Tim believes that he is “only as good as the ground” that he is standing on. Having a clear mind and a healthy body is essential to being present and focused for his clients. Part of Tim’s belief in being a healthy coach includes trusting the group he leads. By openly communicating with his peer advisory groups, Tim is better able to make more effective decisions for the group.




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