Business Coaches: Making a Smart Choice

If your business is everything you ever dreamed it would be, read no further. If, on the other hand, your growth is stalled, you keep having unexpected setbacks, or you’d simply like to enjoy your day-to-day work more, maybe dialing up a business coach is a smart idea.

Hey, we’re proud of all of our free stuff at StartupNation. But when free resources just won’t cut it, you may be well served to explore fee-based assistance in your efforts to create a successful business, in which case you may want to consider getting a business coach.

PriceWaterhouseCoopers recently performed a survey of the highest ranked benefits people claim to gain from business coaching. At the top were things like a higher level of self-awareness and self-confidence, a more balanced life, smarter goal-setting and lower stress levels. But still, is it for you? If you think coaching just may be your answer, your path to success, then here’s some advice to help you choose the right one.

What To Expect from a Business Coach

In concept, a business coach is supposed to enable you to gain a better understanding of yourself, your business and the action items necessary for you to move your business forward in a way that benefits you most.

Pamela Slim, a business coach who helps corporate “cube farmers” trade in the corporate life for entrepreneurship, says of coaching, “you gain assistance with strategy, structure and the process of designing a business.” Advice in these areas comes in handy especially if you’re a first-timer.  

Coaches are there to remind you to do things like outsource when it’s more efficient, register your trademarks, get that email marketing campaign in gear, or get your employee contracts in line. Every step along the way, you’ll have the wisdom of someone who understands priorities and how to follow them. And when you don’t follow them, you’ll be held accountable, giving you greater impetus to actually deliver on promises made.

Another benefit is on the efficiency front. Slim points out that the coach’s just-add-water Rolodex can be invaluable when trying to get important stuff done. Need good legal advice? Ask the coach for a name. Time to upgrade that website? Maybe your coach can make a referral based on another client’s positive experience. Whenever and wherever you can get stuff done without time-consuming fact-finding, and get it done with more confidence, your peace of mind and business performance will improve.  

But coaches come with a price, literally and figuratively. It comes as no surprise that coaches charge you for their time. If you’re not careful, those hours can add up. So it’s incumbent on you to make sure you’re using your coach selectively. Sessions can range from a half hour to 90 minutes at an hourly rate anywhere from the mid-$100s on up to the high $300s per hour. Some coaches charge a fee for a set number of months, while others are willing to charge by the hour with a set minimum.

The less obvious price is the “dependency habit,” which, Slim warns, can leave you relying on your coach for every phase of your business development. Not only is it costly in dollars, but it’s costly in capability as well. If you don’t learn how to become self reliant and self sustainable, you’ll always be dependent on your coach for your success.  

A good coach will teach as they go. You should feel your own skills and confidence increasing during the process. Instead of a coach doing your homework for you, they should be there to outline what needs to get done and then you do it.

Key Questions to Ask a Prospective Coach

If getting coached sounds appealing to you, then by all means go for it. But take this last advice to heart. We tapped Jeff Williams, independent business coach and StartupNation blogger for his tips on selecting a coach that’s right for you. While he focuses primarily on the 50+ age group, here are his three universal recommendations: 

  • Look for experience. You’re the one learning on the job, not the coach. “This is no time for experimentation, so look for at least five years of hands-on experience in small business or corporate management,” says Williams.
  • Get a formal proposal. Make sure that you receive a detailed write-up of what’s going to be provided to you. “Be sure it includes a description of the number of hours of coaching,” he advises, “and the cost per week or month plus the expected outcomes by week or month before you sign on with a specific coach.”
  • Take a test drive. Lastly, Williams encourages you to meet the coach in person before starting, but even if that’s not possible, ask for a free session or two before signing up for a longer term engagement. Things like coaching style and personal chemistry must click and you don’t want to be stuck in a relationship before you’re comfortable with both of these variables.

Listen and learn

Check out these interviews with real-live business coaches to get additional perspective on whether a coach—and what kind—is right for you.

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