Hiring a business coach is a daunting prospect for many.
Actively and willingly accepting help is tough enough – add to that a fear of ‘what they might find’ and it’s no wonder many business owners put up barriers and never get round to it.
Business coaches don’t always help themselves either. The worst ones are ultra critical and lack empathy or real experience to support their assessment of your business; they blindly follow a formulaic process which lacks judgement. Even worse, some have no process at all and offer unqualified opinions – or no realistic solution – about how they think you should run your business.
You may even wonder if you need a coach…
Well let me say this to you: If you were a talented athlete (or the parent of one) with ambitions, surely you would want as much help – i.e. from a coach – to help you get there rather than just trust, luck and talent?
Successful businesses don’t just happen!
So what is it you are looking for? Many business owners want to find the magic key to business success and prosperity. They’ve tried the obvious solutions – work harder, spend heavily on marketing support, hire a sales person, tweet and post, cut costs, invest in machinery, invest in more staff, reach out on LinkedIn…. and so the list goes on.
But these big gestures fail to deliver the results. Other people seem to be able to grow and make money and have a good quality of life. So perhaps it’s time to see if someone else can help you find the formula for your business. It isn’t easy – if it was you’d have already done it – so what do they know that you don’t?
This quick guide will help you to evaluate your readiness for business coaching…
Whilst you may wonder about the processes and the credentials of your prospective business coach, you also need to understand your current business position and your ability to benefit from the intervention of an outsider.
If you’re at the end of your tether/ end of the line (basically bankrupt), then you might be better to get out quickly. There’s a great Richard Branson quote; “fail quick, fail cheap”. If you’re here seek help quickly. Not with a business coach but with an accountant (not your normal accountant – get an independent view) this may cost a couple of quid, but you will get an unbiased assessment and it will help you quickly.
Ok so we’ve got the fairly blunt bit out of the way and you’re still with us….
You’ve got to take a look in the mirror and ask yourself if you are ready to open your business up to a stranger. Unless you can do this and truly be prepared to make positive changes, there is no point it embarking on a programme of business coaching. That said, provided your business has potential and you have energy and aptitude – a business savvy critical friend could just be the most valuable investment you could make.
Do you know what kind of coach you need?
Follow these tips to help you find the right person for you and your company:
Choose a coach with care
They come in all shapes and sizes so make sure you challenge any prospective coach about how they intend to help you. You can’t expect all the answers there and then. Be very careful if they do start giving advice immediately. You should be able to expect them to clearly describe the process they will follow to help you to develop the right strategies for business growth and the plan for tactical implementation to ensure the plans become reality.
A clever person tells you things whilst a wise person asks you the right questions
Make sure they are asking plenty of questions, not just telling you things. Although the problems that businesses face are often similar, the solutions, in reality, are more varied.
A coach who relates everything back to their own past experiences or tries to push you to develop the business as they want to rather than helping and guiding you to develop the business as you want, should probably be given a fairly wide berth.
Make sure he or she is someone you like
Don’t underestimate the importance of likability – you’ll get to know your coach well and they will get to know you even better. If you have uneasy feelings from day one – listen to your gut and perhaps seek support elsewhere. On the flip-side, if the rapport feels good and the relationship feels professional and comfortable at the same time, then that’s a great reason to go ahead.
Find someone you trust and respect
Credibility is really important – make sure you’re not their experiment. Make sure they have owned and run a business – not just their one-man coaching company and or a management position in a company. The fact that they too have experienced the anxiety and sleepless nights associated with being your own boss (or as we like to say “they know the cracks in their bedroom ceiling”- just as you know where the cracks are in yours). Unless they’ve had to take that leap for themselves and grab opportunities – and then stared into the abyss when problems come thick and fast, they can’t possibly coach you effectively in how to deal with stress issues effectively.
Only work with someone who is focussed on YOUR success
The most important thing to a good coach is your success – listen to what they are saying and to the questions they are asking – check they are identifying the level of your ambition and seeking to understand your personal drivers. Whilst it is important that your coach challenges you and sometimes even pushes you – success is a very personal thing. It’s your dream – not your coach’s dream – that matters. So make sure you stay in charge.
There are key questions you should ask:
You will think of plenty more questions, but these should be the minimum:
Q. How do you know what help I need?
A. The coach should offer to complete some detailed analysis of all parts of your business – a health check – before offering a diagnosis.
Q. Do you have a proven system or process you follow?
A. What you are really asking here is whether the coach has done this before and do they have a best-way-of-working OR do they fly by the seat of their pants and make it up as they go along?
Q. How will this improve my life?
A. Everything the coach describes should be focussed on improving the profitability and sustainability of your business whilst also improving your life so that the business is able to reward you sufficiently for your blood, sweat and tears
Q. What specific goals will we be working towards?
A. It’s your business and they are your goals – your coach should help you to set your goals BUT don’t let them set them for you
Q. What happens after we reach these goals?
A. Your coach should be keen to work with you for a good length of time – sure there will often be ‘low hanging fruit’ or quick wins, but real change takes longer.
Q. How much time and money will I need to invest
A. Your coach should be respectful of your time (you’re already busy!). Make sure they can work efficiently so you are coming away from the job in hand as little as possible in the short term. Also, be prepare to invest in the best coach you can afford. Expensive coaches are not necessarily any good but good coaches are never cheap. That said, if the coach is smart, they will have found the most effective way to work with you so they can tailor their fees to the scale of your ambitions and the magnitude of your challenges.
Q. When should I start to see a return?
A. This is really part B to the answer above – if your coach is good, they will map out milestones so you can understand how and when you should see a return. It’s unlikely to be immediate, but you should certainly be confident and see a return within the first two to three months. And the level of return should be understood – this should be several multiples of the coaching fees.
As a start point, this short video presentation (less than 1.5 mins) should give you some ideas about how Good2Great tackles the points above – remember if you’re ready to grow, we’re ready for you. A free initial business health check is a great place to start.