A foundational principle in life coaching says, “The answers to all questions lie within.” In other words, you have the answers. Think about it. If you’re struggling to lose weight, you know you need to eat right and exercise. Why hire someone to give you an answer that you already know?
This is where some business owners and business coaches go wrong.
The business owner’s error.
Hire a coach with superior knowledge to give you solutions to your problems.
The business coach’s error.
Criticize and expose weaknesses in your client’s business to increase your perceived value.
In this blog post you’ll learn how to leverage a business coach to grow your business and avoid business coaching duds.
If You Need Knowledge, You Don’t Need a Coach
Let’s start with the notion that you don’t have appropriate business knowledge or experience. I call this knowledge “business mechanics”. New business owners don’t know what they don’t know. These newbies need business training, not business coaching. I offer such a training course called Starting Your Business from Scratch. This course teaches basic business skills for any service-based business. The internet is a great resource of knowledge as well. Search any topic that you’d like to learn and get all the knowledge you need. Other great places to gain knowledge at a low price is SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives). This is an organization managed by the SBA (Small Business Administration) to help startup entrepreneurs.
While many business coaches have experience and can teach you most of what you need to know, you will go broke paying a quality business coach to teach you how to do business.
The Problem Business Coaches Solve
If you’ve owned a business for a length of time and have achieved some level of success, you will experience heightened levels of stress. Why? The stakes are higher. An established business owner is now responsible for the lives of many employees. Your leadership gaps become more pronounced. Money decisions seem more onerous. Your organization structure is not working as efficiently as it once did when you were small.
All these stressors create doubt and indecision… which leads to more stress; and eventually affects the growth and survival of your company. This is the problem that business coaches solve.
The Business Coaching Process
Business coaching processes can differ. However, this is a common business coaching process:
Discovery Session: This first meeting is a casual meeting for you to become familiar with your coach, and for your coach to become familiar with you, your business, and your challenges. There’s often no charge for this first casual meeting.
Onboarding & Orientation: The onboarding process is typically a generic assessment of your business or your decision-making processes. The outcome of this first paid session is to establish goals you hope to achieve with your new business coaching relationship.
Coaching Sessions: The next step is to coach. Coaching sessions start with the question, “What would you like to work on today?” This question gives you control of the session. Once you state the topic of the session, coaching begins. Here are tactics that coaches use in coaching sessions.
Clarification: Clarification is exposing your opportunity or challenge with clarifying questions. It astounds me how simply vocalizing answers to these questions brings clarity to the business owner. When they hear themselves describe their problem out loud, they either dismiss it, or better understand their own challenge without the coach saying another word.
Exposing Limiting Beliefs: You’ve experienced failed solutions in your past. The solutions were often right, but the execution was wrong. Or vice versa. These past experiences create “beliefs” that are not fully true. A good coach can quickly see an inconsistency in a coaching conversation. Once exposed you can also see the inconsistency and correct course.
Build Confidence: Indecision is often a lack of confidence in the right course of action. In a productive coaching conversation, right decisions become much more obvious. Once the solution is obvious, indecision goes away, and you can proceed with confidence.
Objective Perspective: You view your business from the inside of it. It’s difficult to get an objective perspective from your customer, employees, or vendors because these actors have their own biased agenda when it comes to your business. A business coach offers an objective perspective that’s critical in making the best business decisions.
Coaching Tools: Depending on the topic, business coaches have several tools that aid in making better decisions. A few tools I use are the Energy Leadership Indicator assessment (ELI), life wheel, business wheel, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), problem solving process, continuous process improvement, financial planning tools, climbing the ladder, and many more. These tools are often completed between coaching sessions.
Ending Coaching: Once you’ve experienced a positive business coaching relationship, it’s unlikely you’ll ever end it. Why? Because as your business grows, new opportunities emerge requiring the same clarity you gained early in your coaching relationship. Likewise, if you have a dud business coach, or you need advice and not coaching, you should end your coaching relationship immediately.
Business Advice Doesn’t Solve Doubt & Indecision
I mentioned that a business owner makes an error of wanting to hire someone to tell them what to do or give them advice when they’re feeling lost. This is a natural inclination that fails most of the time. When you get advice, you rightly criticize the advice as a bad fit for your situation. The best business consultants fail to give relevant advice in a business for which they have little direct experience. They’ll either...
mimic generic advice that worked for someone else (cookie cutter advice); or
create solutions out of thin air (faking it); or
give you advice that worked for them back in the day that's not relevant to you today (obsolete).
Every once in a great while consultants give you gold nuggets of knowledge that you'd never have learned otherwise.
Beware of Results-Based Business Coaches
It’s hard to not feel a twinge of hypocrisy as I write this paragraph. Many people who call themselves business coaches feel they must advise you in some way. This means that the coach knows something that you don’t know; and they’ll enlighten you to the point of success. Many coaches of these coaches have devised programs that take you from Point A to Point B. They claim that they can increase the revenues of your company from $1M to $5M per year, or some such thing. They guarantee they’ll solve your problems.
I’m not saying that you don’t hire such people. I’m saying that you evaluate claims with a healthy dose of skepticism. And please don’t confuse these folks with true business coaches.
As I described in the business coaching process, a true business coach is helping you gain clarity and make the best decisions for your company with knowledge you already have.
My hypocrisy. I do give advice and knowledge from time to time. As I mentioned, I’ve created leadership and business training programs for this very purpose. This is the reason that I call my coaching practice Mechanics & Mindset Business Coaching. The mechanics are advice and training modes of educating new business owners. The mindset component of my business coaching practice is in line with the traditional business coaching that I’ve described in the business coaching process.
While relevant experience in your specific business is impossible, it’s helpful to hire a coach who knows your industry. In my case, I’m highly familiar with the green energy industry. I know many of the regulations; grant programs; customer needs; technical solutions; financial challenges; and other nuances of this industry. This knowledge and experience give me a foundation to ask the best questions of my green industry business owner clients.
I hope that you’ve learned the value of business coaching and how it may help you grow your business. I hope you’ve also learned how to stay away from bad business coaching relationships. If you feel business coaching would be of value to you, schedule a discover session with me. You can also learn more about my coaching practice by visiting my website at www.mmbizcoach.com.