Vibe High

Vibe High with the Experts: Andy Churchill, PHD, MBA

Dr. Churchill's work focuses on helping academics communicate their research in ways that are accessible yet still rigorous, as well as engaging and still professional in order to maximize impacts both within and beyond academia. This work includes teaching classes, running workshops, and individual coaching. He is the primary speaking coach at numerous events including the international 3-minute thesis research competition where, in 2022, one of his students Atia Amin, won the North American championships after winning the Canadian National event. His work has also been recognized by McGill University with an “outstanding teaching award.”

Vibe High with the Experts features visionary coaches who are committed to results. In this edition, we speak with Dr. Andy Churchill. Read on to learn about Andy’s top tips when starting and running a coaching business, plus what he finds to be the most rewarding and challenging parts of being a coach.


August 21, 2023

What’s your area of expertise and who do you help?

My focus is working with mostly, but not exclusively, researchers. I help them become more effective communicators, specifically in the presentation space. So, there are two ways that I help them. The first is to make their work accessible but still stay rigorous, and the second is to be able to deliver in ways that are engaging but still professional. The goal is to maximize their impact. This is done by maximizing both the audience’s understanding of their story and interest in their work.

Tell us about yourself

I’m a transplanted American, and I love it. Montreal is the first city I’ve ever lived in, and I love that. McGill is the first university that I’ve worked at, and I love that too. I came to Canada for the reason that lots of people sometimes move, and that was my spouse. We have a great home and a great community where she grew up in Montreal. Our daughter’s about to celebrate her 10th birthday. I’m getting ready for it as we speak.

I never intended to stay in Montreal or academia. My original intention was to get a Ph.D. and then go back to the work I had been doing before, which was with high school students. But, I love working with adults and helping adults learn to become more effective communicators. Part of the reason I love that work is because I get exposed to the work they’re doing, the research going on in universities, and the work of the professionals I work with who are beyond academia. I get to work with people doing really meaningful work. And that, to me, makes it special.

What do you find to be the most rewarding thing about being a coach?

My coaching work happens at two levels. One is the workshop level with groups where I’m really teaching concepts. I love doing that because it allows me to work at scale. But the work I love doing even more is the individual, one-on-one work. When I’m unpacking a particular presentation that someone wants to share, when I’m unpacking a particular message that someone wants to share, and then finding the words that make them smile because they know it’s exactly what they want to say.

What is the most challenging thing about being a coach?

I’d say two things. The first is that I’m not a systems coach. And because I’m not a systems coach, it takes 110% of me in every moment of every call and every interaction, and it’s exhausting. I love it. It’s incredibly fulfilling, but it takes a lot out of me. The second is all the stuff that you have to do in order for the coaching to actually exist, being a solopreneur and managing a business. My hope is that I’ll be able to turn the dial so that 70% of my time is spent working with clients and 30% of my time is spent running a business. I’m not there yet.

What are your top tips for starting, running and growing a coaching business?

I think everyone’s path is different. My path has been a gradual shift. Five years ago, I was a contract sessional instructor at McGill, teaching 18 credits a year with a very part-time workshop presentation teaching business on the side. And in 2023, I’ll only teach two credits at McGill and then have a very full-time workshop and coaching business, very much not on the side. So for me, it’s taken five years. It’s been a slow transition that I’ve worked really hard at. And I feel very lucky that I never had the financial insecurity that many people deal with in the transition. But, that’s not the path that is best for everyone, and it’s certainly not the fastest path. But, it’s the one that worked for me.

The advantage of a slower path is that it can be very organic. My growth on LinkedIn has been organic. My growth of the workshop business within McGill was organic. My growth in the workshop and coaching business beyond McGill has been organic. And, I haven’t had to try and fast track, manipulate, speed up, or artificially accelerate that process, which is both good and bad. I wish I had gotten here sooner, but I think because there are no artificial stimulants if you will, it feels very solid – the place that I’ve gotten to. I think another advantage of going slower is that solidness in my own evolution and in the capacity of my network and the people who understand me and understand what I’ve done. They’ve had time to be on this journey with me as well.

One tip I’d offer would be to get help when you get stuck, or maybe even slightly before you get stuck, because people have been there before and getting people unstuck is one of the things that solopreneur business coaching people are really good at doing. The other tip would be to figure out if there are things that you can delegate. And that’s sometimes a question of cost and sometimes a question of just being willing to do it.

One of the things is recognizing that it really is about the journey and that the end goal is going to shift before you ever get there anyway. So celebrate your successes, however small they feel, and realize that what you’re doing is learning and growing and getting better at what you do, even if it feels that things may not be happening as fast as you want them to be.

Where can people find you and your business?

Information about my business can be found on my website. I’m also on LinkedIn. 

Are you feeling inspired to take action in your own coaching business? Reach out to us to discuss our guided accountability and project management package or project management services for coaches. Book a complimentary consultation today.