Interview with Mark & Abigail, Founder of Athena Coaching Solutions Ltd.
Meet the founders of Athena Coaching Solutions, Mark & Abigail.
Mark brings with him skills and experiences gained from a distinguished military career spanning over 20 years, predominantly with the British Airborne Forces. During his time in the Army, Mark proved to be a strong proactive leader, empowering soldiers to take ownership, providing coaching, mentoring, and training in a variety of, sometimes, very tough situations, spanning career decisions, setting goals, and personal life ambitions.
Prior to leaving the British Army in 2004, Mark was awarded the Military Cross by HM Queen Elizabeth II for gallantry during the conflict. Post-Iraq invasion (2003).
Mark has worked all over the world with exposure to various industries as a risk manager, honing his managerial, coaching, and mentoring skills with employees and clients during difficult times, in some extremely challenging environments.
In 2012 he was introduced to Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), an approach to communication and development created by Richard Bandler & John Grindler in the 1970s. Over the years he used his newfound skill successfully with various clients and co-workers, enabling them to implement the required strategies to move forwards both professionally and in their personal lives.
Mark holds various instructor training qualifications as well as an MBA. In 2021 he became a Certified Practitioner of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), a Certified NLP Coach, and a Certified Timeline™ Therapy Practitioner.
Mark now offers his skills and life experience to help individuals, giving them the confidence to achieve goals and to develop a growth mindset.
Abigail graduated from university in 1990 with a BSc (Hons) in Psychology. Her coaching & training career path started in 1991 when she passed officer selection to become a commissioned officer in the Royal Air Force (RAF). There she was given the prominent position of training officer. In that role, she coached and mentored RAF specialists. This was a critical role in which she excelled and for which she was given formal recognition. Her role included the responsibility for 100 personnel, overseeing matters of a sensitive nature, and advising on the support required.
As a mother of three, now grown up, children, she continued her passion to help personal development by working as a resettlement advisor and work skills tutor. She is a fully qualified Science & English teacher, holding a PGCE (Science), RSA C/TEFLA, and NVQ Level 4 in Further and Adult Education.
Over the years Abigail has worked for several large global organizations, managing the performance and development of their national sales teams. The key function of her managerial roles has been to lead on the formulation of appropriate coaching & training strategies and subsequent delivery of programs, either remotely or face to face. She has been a key influencer in leading, coaching, and mentoring teams through periods of change during restructuring.
In 2021 she became a Certified Practitioner of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), a Certified NLP Coach, and a Certified Timeline Therapy Practitioner. She achieves great outcomes by utilising these additional skills and techniques in conjunction with her various agile strategies and experience.
Abigail now offers her years of experience and skills and is following her passion for the development of people through the coaching and training of both individuals and small groups. She does this by introducing strategies to help progress quickly through any limiting beliefs holding them back from achieving focused goals.
For more details about Athena Coaching Solutions, visit their website here.
Here we sit down with Mark & Abigail, to know a bit more about their journey as entrepreneurs.
Q. What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
Mark: Very straightforward answer, though sounds a bit cliched, we both love a challenge and wanted to control my own destiny.
Q. How did you both get started?
Mark & Abigail: Mark & Abigail both started their careers in the ‘Armed Forces Family’ and are the husband/wife founders of Athena Coaching Solutions Ltd. Abigail had an ex RAF Officer background and Mark's ex-Army SNCO.
During the first UK national lockdown, they formulated a plan to exit the everyday rat race for a more flexible work-life balance. The first step included designing and building a wide-beam canal barge, on which they now live and work. Their wedding in Iceland and a 100-mile kayak trip in aid of Parkinson’s UK charity were also planned and executed around the challenges of lockdown and the travel restrictions imposed at the time.
Athena Coaching Solutions Ltd, a Coaching & Training company, was then formed at the end of 2021 and is now live, delivering its first Effective Management Course to the British Army towards the end of Feb 2022.
Seeing people gain more confidence through our training and ultimately enjoying the life they are striving for, is a joy to experience and is extremely rewarding.
Q. What was your biggest startup challenge? What steps did you take to overcome it? What did you learn?
Mark: A few challenges spring to mind but one of the main ones we found was managing our own time effectively, reminding ourselves why we were doing what we were doing. When it’s your own business it can be all too easy to put your head down and keep going, forgetting the aim of ‘balance’. We soon got a grip of that and are now working SMART with more realistic deadlines imposed. Though we have also found that things always take that bit longer because it is our own business and we want it to be a perfect and professional experience for our clients.
Q. What is the Most Memorable Thing You’ve Done Since you Started your Business?
Mark: The most memorable thing that has happened for us both was recently finalising our Effective Management Course. With so many hours of research and work to get it right, it was a proud moment to go through the course and high-five each other at the end, both believing we have something which will benefit middle managers and aid organisational adoption of a coaching culture.
Q. What is one book you recommend, and why?
Mark: Coaching for Performance (5th Edition) — Sir John Whitmore
We both found this book to be so informative, well laid out in a language everyone can understand, and easy to reference.
Q. What are your top 3 favourite online apps, tools, or resources and what do you love about them?
- MEDIUM — Love the varied informative content
- BUFFER- We use this to manage our social media posts. Easy to use and the free version is adequate when cash flow needs managing carefully in the early stages of a startup like us.
- FIVVR — This has been a great one-stop-shop for our business material needs. It’s got some great deals, again very suitable for an early-stage startup looking for flyers, brochures, business cards, etc to be produced professionally but also cost-effective.
Q. In terms of legacy, what is the mark you’d like to leave on the world?
Mark & Abigail: We would both like Athena Coaching Solutions Ltd to be remembered for quality, cutting edge coaching solutions that people will advocate helped them to become the best version they can be.
Q. In one sentence, what’s the best advice you’d give to someone just starting out on their entrepreneurial journey?
Mark & Abigail: Ask yourself, what have you got to lose and what is to be gained?
To keep up to date with Mark & Abigail and their journey, connect with them on LinkedIn.