How To Pick a Business Coach
Before we discuss how to effectively and efficiently employ a business coach, you might be wondering if a business coach is, in fact, vital to the success of your business. This is a reasonable question, which I will answer with a question. Do you wish to master your business?
I will get back to that question shortly. First, I would like to point out that there is an important difference between picking up a hobby and creating a lifestyle. This difference is highlighted when we consider the following.
Would one who wishes to master tennis in order be a gold-medal olympian tennis player employ a coach? What about one who wants to find a fun and easy way to burn calories by picking up tennis once or twice a week?
Would one who wishes to master swordfighting in order to face Arya Stark in a duel employ a coach? What about one who has a sword they bought from the toy section at Target who likes to try mimicking along during the Sunday night airing of Game of Thrones?
You see my point. When it comes to your business – whether you are a seasoned businessman, or new to it completely – if you take it seriously and wish to master it, a coach is vital to your success. This applies whether you are looking to turn your side hustle into your full time gig, or starting from scratch with a new idea. When there is a lot on the line, a business coach is critical in providing tools and guidance to get you to a place where you can master it.
When considering the coach that would be the best fit for your needs, start with these four guidelines.
- Get Specific
- Value Objectivity
- Do Your Research
- Trust Your Instinct
These four guidelines will be discussed at length throughout this post. As your build your business, consider how finding the right coach, coupled with clearly defined goals and valuing the right things, can vastly transform the trajectory of your business.
During it’s 60-second guide to finding a business coach, Entrepreneur.com lists “defining what you need help with” first.
This is because a person who knows what they want is virtually unstoppable.
“It’s not hard to make decisions once you know what your values are.” – Roy E. Disney
A business, or a person for that matter, without a clear direction is almost certainly bound to fail. When you approach a potential coach, do not expect them to define your business, your values or your goals. These must be defined prior. Once these are defined, you will know exactly what kind of guidance you need.
Enrepreneur.com recommends that “a business coach can assist with things as specific as making sales presentations or as broad as developing a long-term growth plan for your business. Determine those areas in which you need the most help, and make a commitment to finding a qualified expert.”
During this phase, it is important to remain honest with yourself. Humility is knowing your strengths as well as your weaknesses. Own what you know with confidence, and allow a coach to fill in the gaps where necessary.
This is where the next step comes in:
It is understandable to have reservations about letting someone in as a coach as you build your business. It is equally understandable to be sensitive to criticism in the early stages of your business development. We are likely to believe the best about our original business concept as it stands, as well as the trajectory we see our business taking. It is human nature to seek out advice that confirms our preexisting biases.
This is known as confirmation bias, or ” the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs.” In a business context, this can put you at risk of missing out on advice that can push you towards greater profit.
This kind of thinking might prompt you to either avoid outside opinions altogether, or perhaps seek out a coach who is heavily invested or a friend.
Instead, Entrepreneur.com advises: “entrepreneurs count on friends and family members for many things, but don’t expect honest criticism to be among them. Your business coach should be someone who is fair, reasonable and interested in your success, but also willing to tell the truth, even if it’s not what you want to hear.”
An objective perspective is invaluable in every stage of a business’ success.
Do Your Research
Forbes.com contributor Dena Kouremetis suggests the search for a business coach must be multifaceted.
“Most agree it’s best to begin with getting a sense of their knowledge level,” she says. “There are no certifications required to become a business coach, so an important tidbit of information to learn is: what propelled them into doing this for a living to begin with? Was it because they successfully ran their own business?”
Kouremetis advises not to associate personal success with coaching ability. Running a profitable business does not necessarily translate to effective coaching. Instead, she notes to pay attention to communication style and the ability to listen.
There are many databases where business coaches can be found. Use these resources and use references, google searches and your own better judgement as to whether their experience and your concept would be a good fit.
Trust Your Instinct
The decision of who will walk alongside you and ensure the direction of your business is in tact is as important as selecting a physician, an attorney, a financial advisor. You can do all the quantitative research in the world, but in the end it comes down to your gut.
Once you have narrowed down your research to a few, conduct interviews where you test out the kind of chemistry you have with the potential coach. Ask questions that can reveal emotional intelligence, experience, commitment and communication levels that are on par with what you require. It comes back to the very first step in the selection process – what do you want? Make sure this is communicated to the coach so there is no false pretense.
Here are a few examples of questions that might bring out the most in a potential business coach:
- “What would have helped you?”
- This provides a glimpse into what they feel accelerated their own success. If it matches what you believe drives you and gives value to your business, they might be a good fit.”
- “Why do you want to take me on as a client?”
- Listen carefully to the answer. A good coach will provide you with a sense of security and trust in their counsel. When a valuable coach believes in you, you end up believing in yourself and your business more.
- “What is your typical process?”
- This will help align their coaching style with what you envisioned or prefer. If it does not match, ask if it is flexible.
Be sure to ask for references and credentials, but remember that all the credentials and references won’t matter if it is just simply not a good fit. Trust your instinct and the chemistry you feel. Almost like a first date, you might have a tiny suspicion of whether there is a future right away.
Michael S. Seaver of Seaver Consulting says, “A great coach facilitates self-discovery, continual learning, and positive change.”
This is something no businessman or woman should risk missing out on. If your business is taking off and you suspect you might benefit from a coach: start specifying your needs, remember to value objectivity, do a lot of research, and trust your gut. You can find more information about how a business coach can help here.