The decision to engage the services of a professional business coach can be a big investment for any business, but more so for someone starting their first business. Coaching is often viewed as a nice-to-have, rather than an essential requirement for business establishment and growth.
The value in the investment is often not well understood when you’re already walking the steep trapeze of learning, costs and requirements your new business has. Choosing the right business coach for your business is the difference between how long and how steep that trapeze is. The right coach makes your life easier, they are your go-to when things get challenging. I am in many instances both coach and the water-cooler colleague, the person my clients come to when they want to bounce an idea, get advice or nut something out.
So, how do you determine the right coach for your business?
Firstly, let’s recognise there are lots of different types of coaches for lots of different purposes. Generally, you can adjust the qualities I describe to the different purposes, however, to be clear, I’m specifically talking to people looking for their first coach for their small business.
When choosing a business coach to support the growth of your small business it’s important to look for these qualities to guarantee you’ll get the results you need:
Mindset: Small Business vs Big Business Thinking
When I use to offer business coaching, I would help employees, mostly women from a professional services career, start their first business. They came from corporate careers who had a plethora of experience of big business and the way the system operates.
When you begin strategising and working in your small business, there is a mindset shift that needs to adjust to what a small business requires. Suddenly, there is no one to support you, you are it. And that can take some getting used to, especially when you do not have experience in all the departments of your new business.
Your business coach needs to understand the mindset shift you’re going to experience. From Monday-itis through to how to prevent shiny object-itis, procrastination and the management of negative emotions. Your coach has to have experienced these so they know specifically what to get you to do in the times when you’d rather watch back-to-back episodes of some random Netflix crap.
Experience: Proven Results
Your coach’s experience needs to be reflected in their own business – the proof must be evident. Are they operating a successful and sustainable business? Do they have, and are they open to sharing, their business growth strategy with you?
In order for your coach to facilitate your business growth, they must be able to demonstrate they know how to grow a business from scratch. Experience is demonstrated from the story of how they started and grew their business, in addition to testimonies publicly displayed on their website and LinkedIn profile. Are they able to articulate the ups and downs, the technical requirements, the emotional health and mindset requirements? Can you clearly see that they have experienced starting and growing their own business?
Beyond Strategic Planning: Implementation
Many coaches spend an exorbitant amount of time on strategy, vision-creating, purpose-stating and mission-statementing but fall short on how to implement these foundational business elements.
A great small business coach knows specifically how to work with you to focus on your business while you’re working in your business. Your coach will have a ‘method to their madness’ that will incrementally increase your knowledge, experience and revenue for your business. Their methodology is one they use themselves so they know precisely how to tailor it to your needs. And, their methodology has a clear, measurable, achievable, progressive approach that implements your strategy and enables you to experience the results they bring.
While you are focused on the here & now, it can be very hard to focus on the long-term goals simultaneously. A great small business coach is focused simultaneously on your long-term strategy as well as what is important to focus on weekly. And, they coach you on how to break down a long-term vision into milestones for one year, one quarter, one month and weekly. This frees your brain-space to grow incrementally and makes the learning trapeze a lot less steep.
Accountability: The Kindness Kick Up the Ass
In my personal experience hiring my own coaches and from my experience as a small business coach, if there is one quality that a great coach does incredibly well is specifically how they hold their clients accountable.
Accountability isn’t just an occasional whoop-up-the-arse when things are beginning to fall to the wayside. It’s a standard they place on you that’s set high and never lowered.
My clients get phenomenal results in their business specifically because I set the bar higher than they believe they can achieve. I know that their mind is going to want to keep them in their comfort zone and so I strategically put them in positions that push them to be slightly uncomfortable, but not so uncomfortable they’ll baulk and not succeed, just uncomfortable enough to see them squirm.
Being held accountability is about having expectations placed on you in terms of your time (when things are due), your work product (what needs to be done), and your value (ownership and demonstration of it) so your coach needs to demonstrate they have standards higher than what they’re setting for you and they are walking the talk. A great coach knows you’re holding them accountable too, they rarely if ever let you down and they always own their shit.
A great coach knows that they bring value but they also know that you bring them value. They know they’ll learn just as much from you as you will from them because they understand that every client is a reflection of themselves.
Value is not just quantifiable, although, it’s worth mentioning that you can easily measure your coach’s results by your bank balance. If it’s increasing – give it a minimum of nine months – they’re earning their keep. I go one step further – I prove my worth to my clients quantifiably by ensuring they understand the value in real terms.
Early on in our engagement, I let my clients know that when they generate more revenue, they can decide if my value is worth more to them and invite them to decide by how much. To be clear, I don’t increase my fees because they are growing their business, they decide to pay me more because it motivates me to do more for them. It’s this weird and wonderful empowering result of success.
The real value, though, from a great coach is qualifiable. Are you developing yourself personally and professionally from this relationship?
Personal development is about improving who you are as a person both in business and in your personal life. Are you increasing your communication skills? Have you got a provision in your strategy for self-improvement in the form of mindset, emotional health and emotional intelligence? Are you gaining more confidence? The success of your business is a direct reflection of your success as a person. This needs to be at the core of a great coach’s method because like the airline safety instruction states, ‘you need to put the oxygen mask on yourself first’. If you don’t take care of yourself internally and externally, your business will fail. Every. Single. Time.
Occasionally, a client may begin to outgrow me. I am always the first to tell my clients when they’re coming close to outgrowing their need for me. A great coach wants you to experience this because it means they have fulfilled their responsibility to teach you all they know and they have empowered you to find someone for your next level (if they don’t already have someone to refer you to).
The truly fascinating thing about this though is that my clients refuse to move on. They know I don’t stop growing or learning. Before I’ve even had that conversation – and I always have it – I am empowered to go and learn more that will take them to their next level. A great coach has to have the awareness of how much you’re growing and how quickly, and they are progressing themselves faster than you are.
Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance.
It’s helping them to learn rather than teaching them.
Ultimately, when it comes to finding the right business coach for you, it needs to boil down to one single factor: Your Instinct. At the core of who you are is your unconscious mind when charged to listen and feel for its message, you’ll know you’ve made the right decision.
What qualities do you look for in a coach?