Daniel Koffler, BS is President of New Frontiers (www.nfil.net), an executive functioning coaching organization.
NF provides academic, social, transitional and career supports to clients with a range of abilities and interests, allowing them to maximize their potential and become the most successful, independent, self-advocating members of society they can be.
Originally working in his family’s special education business, Daniel founded New Frontiers, in response to a recurring pattern of young people of different abilities transitioning to post high-school life experiences without being fully prepared.
Clients range from elementary-school aged through seasoned adults looking to push themselves to be the most optimized version of themselves and increase their independence.
Daniel is a member of Young Presidents Organization and holds a BS in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing from George Washington University.
Personally, he is happily married with three children, including a set of twins.
Daniel is sharing what the word “empower” means to him with The Corporate Escapists.
Thank you for joining us here at The Corporate Escapists. Please introduce yourself to our readers. They would love to know about you, your passion, and how you came to find and follow your passion.
My family has been in the education world since before I was born. I grew up around it, and joined the family business (building/operating independent schools in/around NYC) when I graduated college. Over the years, we managed programs that ran the gamut of educational environments–general to special education, early childhood to K12, funded to private pay programs.
Amongst our special education programs, we had students preparing to graduate who were not 100% prepared for the transition to post-secondary environments (socially, and perhaps academically in some cases).
We thought the best way to address that issue was to develop an individualized coaching program that could support their transition to (and through) college. As time went on, we expanded the definition of our client to include essentially anyone with an interest in expanding their potential and a willingness to accept the support to do so.
Currently, we have hundreds of active clients across the globe, and literally run to work every day because we are changing lives in a profound way and nothing could be more motivating or exciting!
As a successful entrepreneur please share your viewpoint if you believe that entrepreneurs are born or made?
We are made. If you look at entrepreneurs across any/every industry, you’ll find they come from every possible background there is.
Academically, socio-economically, politically, demographically, it doesn’t really matter where you start on the journey–it’s much more about your curiosity, and your perspective on circumstances that can be improved on (and of course, the will to execute on a vision).
Nelson Mandela once quoted – ‘I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.’ What has been one fear you have overcome?
Tell us what the word “empower” means to you?
To allow people to use their talents and capabilities to achieve a particular outcome. The subtext, in a business sense, is to TRUST that they will do what’s best for the organization when given the opportunity to make a decision that can have an impact on themselves and beyond.
What has been one of the biggest business ideas you have had and how did you have the courage to implement it?
I was exposed to the concept of EOS (Entrepreneurs Operating System), which is a small business management approach that really takes into account people, process and profit—and how they intersect.
The foundational premise of the approach is establishing CORE VALUES, which I had previously thought of as a very “crunchy” concept that didn’t have anything to do with our P&L. In taking the time to understand what being very intentional/thoughtful around our values was all about (in short order, it not only helps define how you hire, but who you work with (partners and clients), and critically, how to navigate difficult situations of all stripes), I recognized that SO MANY of our previous problems were a direct result of not having our values codified and followed carefully in every aspect of our business.
Courage may not be the right word to use in terms of why I decided to take the step to implement this. It was more like being unplugged from The Matrix–now that I was exposed to this concept, I could no longer bury my head in the sand and plead ignorance (which isn’t an excuse, but has been used as a justification)
Running your own business can be scary. Success requires moments of courage to push through to the next level, please tell us one of the moments you have had to push through to take your business to the next level?
Well, there’s the time when I had to max out my credit card to take a cash advance out to make payroll. Pushing through on this one wasn’t really an option. If I didn’t take this step, it’s lights out.
That was years ago, but the trauma has never left me and completely changed how I project out for my business, how I manage my own and my team’s expectations.
It provoked me to firmly establish downside protections that will never be broken (both because we’ve built up reserves and we now track everything much more thoughtfully, allowing me to make decisions well in advance of any sort of calamity).
THAT, in turn, has given me the confidence to encourage my team to take calculated risks we may not have been confident enough to take previously–which has led to even better results and opportunities, and the cycle continues…!
Tell us what attributes you feel make a good leader in business today?
I think you need to truly enjoy the art/science of running your business. If you don’t believe in what it is you are doing, it will be very clear to those around you very quickly.
Clear communication (in both directions!) is a non-negotiable. People need to know where they stand with you, and be comfortable speaking their mind as well. The absence of that can lead to assumption, misunderstanding, and a whole host of issues that don’t bode well for positive outcomes.
In my experience, the most successful leaders function as coaches (and cheerleaders!) for their team. You hire the most talented/capable people (who are also a good fit for your core values) available, establish the vision/strategy/expectations, and then let them do what they were brought onboard to do! When you are able to see things from a higher elevation, you can lend a different perspective to the smart and talented people closer to the trenches who may not see the full picture. There are never ending tweaks and adjustments and improvements to be made to processes in an effort to accomplish better outcomes, and I think asking questions rather than sending down edicts is the best way to get people who you know to be capable to consider what might be done differently to achieve those results.
What is your favourite quote about empowerment?
“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” — Calvin Coolidge
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to start their own business?
Establish a concrete and tested set of Core Values before you make your first hire.
Without that, you are lacking (in my humble opinion) a guiding set of principles on which to base hiring decisions. Especially (but not at all exclusively) in the early days, those have the potential to change the entire evolution of your business, for better or worse.
I learned this the hard way, hence I feel comfortable offering this perspective. It took us years to get this right (which was preceded by additional years of understanding this is a thing to do but not doing it because it felt hard or different or unnecessary).
The quality of our people, our processes, our decisions around who to work with, our communication style, and (perhaps most importantly to some) our RESULTS have all benefitted from the implementation of Core Values.
That said, not a day goes by when I don’t think what could have been had we started earlier.
There will without a doubt be challenges when growing a business.
Save your energy for things that are unique to the particular problem you are trying to solve.
This concept is univesal.
What would be one (1) question you would you ask the person who most inspires you? Also, share with us about this person and why they inspire you?
Was it worth it?
That’s what I’d ask Abraham Lincoln, who’s life I’ve studied and of course who’s accomplishment’s I admire. (Frankly, Abe could be replaced with anyone from the past or even the present who’s success we admire without fully understanding the toll it has taken on them beyond the limelight…but for purposes of this exercise, let’s stick with him)
A SIMPLE but not EASY question to answer (or ask)!
What I mean is, looking back at all the highs and lows, and how different situations provoked particular decisions (and outcomes), which ones justified the effort?
I guess it’s a version of “what would you have done differently”, but with an emphasis on the value of the effort vs. the pure ends.
Historical figures are often remembered for their accomplishments, but what we don’t always focus on is the cost of their efforts on their personal lives.
For context, VALUE is the determining factor in basically every decision I make. I don’t always make the right decision (either willfully or otherwise), but it’s a guiding principle and more often than not helps me get to where I’m trying to go at that moment in time. I have come to terms with the fact that I may not change the world on my current trajectory, but there are still people in my immediate orbit—my family, my team, amongst others—who are directly impacted by my decisions and attitudes. So I think constantly about how my decisions may be impacting (influencing, inspiring, or conversely, hurting) those who rely on me…and how that stacks up against what I think is important for my own experience (as these things can be in conflict).
One might think that in the case of someone who changed the course of history, the ends justify the means. I don’t disagree, but I also don’t blindly make that assumption—and that’s why I’d want to ask Abraham Lincoln if it was all worth it.
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