Small business owners typically have skills to work in their business. When you first begin in business, sometimes you can get by on these skills alone. However, if you are successful, you realize it takes more working on the business side of things to support growth.
Small business owners are pretty skeptical of consulting. Consultants have the bad rap (which is mostly true) of dropping off their cookie cutter solution, collecting their check, and getting out of there. If you can’t execute their recommendations, that is your problem.
Business coaching or coaching in general is still pretty vague. It is not only vague to business owners, it is also vague to coaches. There isn’t any regulation in place, although federations and associations have voluntarily established themselves to try and add credibility to the industry.
But it isn’t working. It isn’t working because there is no research, no theories, and really no techniques behind coaching.
It is a little scary to me that anyone can hang out a shingle that says they are a coach and they can even get a certification that says they are a certified coach. But small business owners don’t really know what makes up this certification and the certifiers don’t have research, theories, or interventions to teach for certification. It’s still a circular.
Should Small Business Owners Hire a Business Coach?
With such a varied industry, how can a small business owner know if they need a business coach?
I have been a business coach for almost ten years now and I have actually hired several business coaches over the years. Here are reasons to hire a business coach:
An Executive Sounding Board
Many small business owners don’t have partners and usually when they are small, the other employees are lower level support positions. They are not interested in your cashflow or your stress. They can’t help you salvage a customer or decide on what your organizational chart will look like in 5 years. Who do you talk to? Who do you share what is going on with? Who can you share with who will understand and care, but not be personally stressed? Who can you share with that will have a point of view, offer suggestions and play devil’s advocate?
You may feel funny hiring a coach just to talk to and wonder how this will pay off for you. It is worth every penny if having someone to talk to will:
- Save your health. Everyone knows that stress impacts our health and the cost of poor health is astronomical, not only financially, but relationally, emotionally, and physically. High medical bills, missing work, poor decisions, and poor interrelations costs much more than a coach.
- Improve your creativity. Having input to your own ideas can help generate more ideas. Collaboration, other point of views, and different backgrounds can create better solutions and innovations than a single point of view bouncing around in one head.
- Enhance your communication. Owning your own business makes you a leader and strong communication skills is essential in leadership. Working with a coach is all about communication. You have a trusted person to run things by first. You can practice difficult communications or role play your upcoming negotiation. When I run a communication by someone first, it always changes for the better. It may just be a little tweak, but it is usually a positive adjustment.
- Act as a buffer. Let’s face it. Owning your own business can be difficult at times. The last thing you want is to have your stress, fear, anger or frustrations overflow to your team, your vendors, and even worse, your customers. Having someone to express your fears to that is not personally invested in the business outcomes helps a lot. If we share too many fears with our team, someone may leave because they are worried about the health of the business. Even if the fear is just in your head. They don’t know that.
A Business Advisor
Business coaches can provide business advice. The key is to find a business coach who has expertise in the area of business you need help with. It could be a functional area like accounting, marketing or human resources. It could be an expert on vision and strategy.
These business advisors are not the same as consultants. They are more like your personal board of directors. They are there to listen to your situation, understand your business, and help you work through what will be the most advantageous path for you and your business.
They don’t have a cookie cutter solution. They are interactive. They use their own business expertise to participate knowledgeably in the conversation. They want to help you to achieve your goals, enhance your solutions, and provide insights and ideas based on their own experience in business.
A Business Expert
Usually a business expert has significant knowledge in one area or field of business. It may be as a social media guru, a financial whiz, an operations ninja or some other area of expertise. Usually these individuals are brought in to lead the way. They may lead and advise you on what your marketing strategy should be and help you to create a marketing plan and find vendors to execute.
They are still a coach if they are coaching you on how to manage the process and the resources. As a business owner, we have to know how to hire the expertise we don’t have, whether an employee, a vendor or a freelancer.
A Leadership Coach
This is a catch-all coach for soft skills in business. We are all leaders in some facet of life, but as a business owner it is imperative to be a good leader, because like it or not, you are the leader. Soft skills include time management, delegation, communication, conflict resolution, emotional intelligence, prioritization, motivation, and other skills necessary to inspire and lead a team towards a common goal —- your goal, your vision!
There are a million other names for a variety of types of business coaching. There are vision coaches, growth coaches, productivity coaches, and more.
Choose Carefully: Make Sure the Coach Matches Your Needs
The key to hiring a business coach is to know what you need and then make sure the coach has the background and experience to help you with what you need.
When I first started out, I hired a business coach who was doing the type of coaching I wanted to do (Dr. Larina Kase) My second coach was an expert in public speaking because I needed help with my speaking before I started taking money from people for workshops. Felicia Slattery was just the expert I needed. Then I needed help in product creation (Jon Humberstone) and soon I wanted some advise in online marketing. I needed someone who would help me with my brand and hold me accountable to follow-through on some activities outside of my comfort zone. That someone was Pam Slim.
All of these coaches had different areas of expertise and I chose each of them based on my needs at the time.
Coaches have been a big help to me in growing my business.
The key is understanding how coaching can help you and what you need at each stage in your business.
What is the secret to finding the right business coach for your business?
Understand what your needs are and match the type of coaching and coach to your need.
Remember, all business coaches are not created equally!