If you own or manage a business, you get it. And by “it,” we mean, a steady dose of life mercilessly slapping you in the face from the wee hours of the morning until you lock the doors at the end of each day. It’s not for the faint-hearted!
There are supplies to be supplied and shipments to ship. The invoices need to be invoiced. There are growth plans to consider, trajectories to watch. Your direct reports show up at your door for encouragement and direction. But where do you find it for yourself?
Many leaders have found relief in a business coach.
What is a Business Coach?
Simply put, a business coach is a trained professional with an unbiased perspective who examines your goals and helps business owners scale their business, getting you from where you are to where you want to be.
The idea of a business coach is a relatively new one. But its roots extend back to the 1990s when boy bands and frosted tips were all the rage. IBM wasn’t just a top brand back then, it was viewed as a “corporate influencer” like Apple, Amazon, or Tesla in today’s world. When companies like IBM adopted business coaching, companies all across the globe took note. Soon, smaller and medium-sized companies began consulting with business coaches to help minimize expenses and maximize profits.
What Does a Business Coach Do?
A business coach is a professional consultant who acts as a mentor for your business. He or she basically offers guidance, support, education, and inspiration for business owners. They are typically expert entrepreneurs or executives who know how to grow successful businesses to reach a company’s vision and goals. The scope of a business coach’s role can sometimes go beyond the business, into personal career affairs, helping you with career or leadership development. But their classic function is to advise on business processes, plans and goals.
Do You Need a Business Coach?
If you can answer yes to any of the following questions, you might benefit from business coaching:
- Do you feel you never seem to have all the right answers?
- Do you wish you could get an outside perspective on some of the daily obstacles and roadblocks?
- Do you believe your company could be operating at a higher level, but you aren’t sure how to get there?
- Do you have trouble motivating your team? Are you in need of motivation yourself?
- Are you concerned about growth and wondering if you have what it takes to hit your goals?
- Do you wish you had an outside perspective, or someone with business acumen to talk to?
- Do you wish there was someone you could consult on personnel matters, including how to scale your staff?
Any of these questions or concerns are general issues a business coach can help with.
How Can a Business Coach Help Me?
Business coaches can advise on a wide variety of topics. They can include:
- Assessing your business’s strengths and weaknesses
- Laying out a roadmap to meet your goals
- Communicating with clients to better understand their desires
- Monitoring business growth and identifying areas for improvement
- Analyzing past plans that contributed to successes and/or failures
- Implementing better systems and suggesting processes and technology to help you succeed
How Does Business Coaching Work?
A business coach works with you to establish your needs and the meeting frequency. They will more than likely start by identifying your goals, determining how you work, and what methods have worked well for your business. Then they will zero in on problem areas and/or areas where you’d like to see growth or change. A business coach then works with you 1:1 to provide accountability and vision for improvement. As a bonus, along the way, a good business coach will help you reverse any negative thinking patterns and encourage behaviors that will lead to lasting change. Expect some accountability and honest feedback! That’s what they’re here for.
Types of Business Coaches
Here are a few of the more common types of business coaches.
Experienced Business Owner or Mentor
An experienced business coach has learned from running their own company. They’ve found success after suffering through the same challenges you face every day.
Executive coaches specialize in working with senior personnel in larger companies rather than smaller business owners. They typically focus on improving communication skills, team management, and career development.
These coaches work can help your team improve sales. If you aren’t particularly strong in this area, a sales coach is an invaluable asset to your team.
Turnaround specialist coaches work with companies on the brink of liquidation. They understand the legal implications and can help turn shaky businesses around.
Financial Business Coach
Financial coaching focuses on the money aspects of running your business. Winning or losing can often be traced back to the financial management or mismanagement of companies, and sometimes a deep dive into the books from an outside source is needed.
What is the Difference Between a Business Coach and a Business Consultant?
While the two are similar in nature, there are some slight differences. Simply put, a business consultant advises you in a specific problem area, while a coach mentors you and tries to equip you with the overall business acumen you need to help your business succeed.
Say you’re learning how to drive a car for the first time. A consultant might drive the car for you and produce materials for you, documenting how to drive the car the best way so you can teach your team. A consultant may function as a GPS, advising on which routes to take, based on your pre-determined destination. A coach, on the other hand, would have you get in driver’s seat and ride in the passenger seat with you, mentoring you in trouble spots until you feel comfortable driving solo. A coach may also help you decide which road trips to take and give you encouragement along the way.
How to Hire a Business Coach
Not all coaches have been formally trained or have the skills to help you grow your business. There are several self-regulating groups like the International Association of Coaching and the International Coach Federation that certify coaches, but there isn’t a licensing requirement to become a business coach.
Here are a few tips to help you find the right fit:
- Look for chemistry. You’re not looking for a best friend, but you will need to be able to air your business’s dirty laundry and fears. And you’ll have to receive some tough talk about problem areas from your coach. Make sure you feel comfortable with whoever you pick.
- Confirm their expertise. Ask questions. Explore their website. Stalk their corporate social accounts. You want to know this person has what it takes to back up their big talk.
- Talk to past clients. You can get some gold here! Don’t be afraid to ask for a few references and then do your due diligence. If a business coach won’t provide references or gets offended by the ask, move along.
- Make sure they care. You’re partnering with this coach. You want to make sure they actually care about your business and future. It’s OK to ask a few questions to gauge their interest in your industry and the success of your team.
- Find someone good at what you aren’t. If you’re weak in team building for instance, find a coach who is strong in that area. If you’re prone to blind spots in business plans, find someone who has a knack for going over things with a fine-tooth comb.
- Check availability. Your coach should work with you on a routine schedule, but if a coach is only available by scheduled appointments, you may want to keep looking. Make sure there is a reasonable level of access to their advice via phone or email that doesn’t involve an appointment with a two-week wait time.
- Hire someone who is a teacher. The best business coaches love to teach and share from experience. They should have a willingness to explain things, not just dole out advice and bark suggestions.
- Ask for a sample session. A sample session shouldn’t be free, but it gives you the chance to take the coach for a test drive. Does their coaching style fit you? Was there value in the session? Is this something you are willing to commit to for the amount of time it will take to get results?
- Ask the right questions. What’s their process? How will they learn about your business? When are they available? Do they have a mastermind group so you can glean from other leaders? What do they consider to be their strengths, or business specialties? You get the idea.
Get Help Where You Need It
Get back to what fires you up about your business and get help with the rest. Wondering if a business coach, sales coach or leadership coach is right for you? Get a free consultation from Southwestern Consulting. Our knowledge is based on 165-year-old principles, our coaches are experts in elevating sales, performance and helping people just like you reach your goals.
It’s been almost three years since we took a leap of faith and purchased our franchise. The journey has been filled with highs and lows, but has also blessed me with amazing opportunities. One of my greatest opportunities was working with my coach[…]. From the moment our paths crossed, I knew that the experience would be a game changer. The sessions, encouraging words, text messages, and the life he spoke into speaks to his character as well as his skill. He taught me so much and I truly believe that those lessons have allowed my business to grow. As my business grew, it also allowed my husband and I the luxury of traveling internationally to celebrate the love of our goddaughter. I’m forever blessed. I’m forever blessed to have known [my coach] and to have been poured into by him.