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He’s 6 foot 7, so it’s easy to guess that Mark Tobiassen was big into basketball when he was a kid and on into his college years.But it was his coaching of the sport that eventually launched him into his current career of helping local businesses and organizations thrive.

Tobiassen is a certified business and executive coach who does such things as helping with cash flow problems and the nittygritty of running or expanding a business. More important, he says, is the mentoring and human connection he provides to help business owners overcome their fears and move forward with confidence.

“It’s helping individuals, usually business owners or executives or management teams, first as human beings, with their personal growth,” says Tobiassen, CEO/owner of Action Coach business coaching. “Companies grow or don’t grow, mostly based on the growth or lack thereof of their owners. It’s what I did with high school kids on the basketball court, helping them become their best person, the best leader. And then the results follow.”

Tobiassen has worked with hundreds of clients, including local veterinarians and doctors, the New Mexico Cancer Center, attorneys, restaurants and clothing companies and at least one funeral home.

He and his wife also hold a workshop every quarter at which their clients — and anyone else who wants to attend — listen to guest speakers and “reset the next 90 days of their business and personal life.”

Tobiassen says he speaks from the heart — he nearly died three times due to an autoimmune disorder that once landed him at the Cleveland Clinic for three months.

“That has changed me in a way that I can’t say anything else could have,” he says. “I can be more real with people.”

What makes you think personal growth is so important for a business owner?

“What I had to learn the hard way — I could read a profit and loss (statement) in my sleep. When I got started in this business, I thought, ‘I’ve got to teach that stuff.’ And I did, but they (clients) weren’t changing. It was a big learning experience. Why are they not doing stuff I’ve taught them to do? It (requires) focus, accountability, confidence, teaching them the human side, the psychology side so they’re empowered to go out and do it.”

Is there a client you’re particularly proud of?

“For coaching to work, the most important thing is that the person must be coachable. They have to be OK with airing out their laundry and taking advice, taking help. There’s a (woman) who owns a consignment boutique company who is one of the most coachable people I’ve worked with. I’m still working with her today, eight or nine years later.

What I’m most proud of is her ability to overcome adversity. For instance, the pandemic hits, she’s got these three stores, and one day they get shut down completely. So literally she’s in tears in my office.

We started coming up with a plan: ‘Hey, guess what? You’re going to build an online business.’ Today, her online business is really close to being bigger than her in-person business. And she’s selling stuff all over the place, not just here in Albuquerque.”

What makes you good at what you do?

“I can pretty much look anyone in the eye and tell them, ‘I’ve been there.’ Although Enterprise (Rent-a-Car) is a multi-billion dollar company, every branch is independent so when I was there, it was just me and my branch running it. In my 20s, I was becoming a leader and developing others around me and then I (kept) moving up.

So whether it’s having a tough conversation with that employee, a huge competitor coming in, whatever it is, I’ve gone through that. No. 2, I humanize the experience.

Personal development is the key and staying really true to that. Third thing is when somebody sits down with me and we set their goals, their goals become my goals.”

What are your pet peeves?

“Say what you’re going to do, and then do what you say. Another one is setting your goals too low. Not going all in, just going halfway in.”

Please tell me about your near-death experiences.

“In 2017, I collapsed in the bathroom and almost lost consciousness. It was a massive internal bleed. That started a downward slide of events that landed me at Presbyterian (Hospital) for two weeks. The bleeding stopped, and I was sent home. It happened again. I spent three months at the Cleveland Clinic, where the best person in the world who deals with this disease is a resident. It’s a derivative of lupus. I had a couple of surgeries.

Got through all that, but dropped 60 pounds, couldn’t walk, had to go through rehab. I had been in remission, but it flared up, and I was on (a blood thinner) and my numbers were off. I’m driving down the road, and a 19-year-old broadsides me. The impact of that started this whole thing happening, so surviving that was a big one. It was the final straw that broke the camel’s back. But I’m more healthy now than I was before. We made a lot of discoveries of what was going on and fixed things.”

And please elaborate on how that affected your business.

“My wife and I talk about this a lot … the belief that it wasn’t my time. And this business was a big part of that. We were dead serious about this. The idea that we hadn’t finished yet. This wasn’t supposed to happen yet. So I believed that. When I tell people, we build a better business so you have a bigger life, I know what that means because I’m living that. I connect the dots to life. This is not just something we say. It’s who we are.”

For Albuquerque Journal