Selecting A Business Coach – What You Need To Know

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Lots of very successful business owners have, or have had, a business coach. While a bit of a rarity 20 years ago, it is now quite common to have a business coach. 

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Just what is a coach? How is a coach different from a mentor, or a consultant, or a trainer? 

A consultant is someone who does a piece of work for you, usually something relatively complex, and specific and short term. In essence they are working in your business, not on it. You have delegated some function to them which you either don’t have the knowledge to perform, or don’t have the time. 

A mentor on the other hand, is someone who has been there, done that. Someone who has done, ideally, what you are trying to do. They are someone you can go to with a problem and ask them if they have seen the same problem and what was their experience. 

A trainer has a specific body of knowledge, and their job is to impart that knowledge or skill to the trainee. To be an effective trainer, it is not enough to simply have that knowledge, plenty of people are highly skilled, but their skill-set has become an unconscious competence. So that limits their ability to teach it – they leave too much out. A really good trainer has unpacked the skill-set and made their competence conscious, so that they can imparted the skills and knowledge required thoroughly to the trainee. 

Next is a coach. Someone who does “pure coaching” uses a specific methodology to help the client get clarity around their issue, explore options for resolving their issue and then committing to specific actions to solve it. This pure coach doesn’t have to know anything about the subject matter, they believe that the client has within them the solution, they simply help them find it. This can be quite effective, but not as good as a really good business coach for your business. 

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So a business coach should be a coach who does have specific expertise around business and can not only coach, but also understand complex business issues and make helpful suggestions for solutions. Even better they should have great business experience running a substantial business. 

business consultant

What is business expertise?

I would divide business expertise into three main areas. Firstly finance and accounting, secondly sales and marketing, and thirdly managing and leading people. 

So to assess a potential business coach, I would ask them for an hour of their time to have a chat. If they can’t give you that, then I would suggest they don’t even make the first cut. 

In that hour, I would be assessing them on three main areas. Their ability to coach, their business expertise, and their experience in running a business. 

To test their ability to coach, I would ask them to give you some ideas to solve a business problem. If you’ve been in business for more than 5 minutes, you will have plenty of problems that are vexing you. You don’t have all day, so a really complex problem is not a good choice; a people problem is probably going to be easiest to describe and quickest to assess their ability on.  

What you are looking for is to see how they ask questions and whether those questions give you insight and move you closer to solving your problem. If they simply “tell you what to do” then they are not a coach (don’t have coaching skills) and are unlikely to be that helpful to you or your business. 

To assess their business acumen, you may want to concentrate on one particular area, or all three. 

business coach
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1 – Finance & Accounting

In regard to finance and accounting, some useful things to find out about a potential coach would be: 

  • Can they help you read your financial statements? If yes, what reports should you ask your bookkeeper to prepare. Ask for some quick tips on understanding those reports. 
  • Can they help you understand your costs per client, or per job, per product line etc? If yes, how would they do that? What tips do they have? 
  • Can they help you work out how the business makes money, and therefore how to increase profit? How would they do that? 

2 – Sales & Marketing

For sales and marketing I suggest you ask

  • Can they help you define your market segment(s) Ask them to help you define your target segment(s) and target psychographics. 
  • Can they help you position your product/service in that market? Can they help you develop your value proposition? 
  • Can they suggest lead generation activities you should be considering? 
  • Can they train you in selling skills? 

3 – Managing People

When it comes to managing people, if you’ve got people, you’ve got people problems. So test out your potential coach: 

  • Give them two or three past or current employee problems and see if they can give you some good insight into how you can, or could have solved them 

And finally, to assess their experience, ask them what kind of business they have run. A big indicator is how many people they managed, and the size of the revenue they were responsible for. Also, were they responsible for sales and marketing and delivery, or just the delivery of the product or service. 

At the end of that hour, the questions you need to ask yourself are: 

  • Did they give me any insights and ideas I can really use, or did they just do a ‘sales job’?  You should really have some good ideas to take away and implement, if not, move on. 
  • How are my energy levels? Have they given me energy, or sapped it? (this is a good test when you interview prospective employees too) 

A final tip is to not get locked into a term contract. If it’s not working for you, you need to move on. There is already too much to do in your business, you don’t need someone sapping your limited time and energy for no gain. 

Business is a high stakes game. You have a lot to gain, but also potentially a lot to lose. A really good business coach can stack the odds in your favour of success. Time is ticking, and time is money. Find a really good coach and make a real success of your business. 

What’s Next?

Mark Jackson plain

Putting my money where my mouth is, I offer any business owner an hour to help them with any issue they care to bring. It is rare that I can’t help them come up with an idea which will make a real difference immediately, and possibly a profound difference in the long term. 

Want to find the best business coach?

Are you a business owner who is struggling to grow and looking for expert advice? We can help find the best business coaches matched to your specific needs. Click below and fill out the form and we will be in touch!

If you’re interested, make contact with me via my site

Mark Jackson – Business Veteran

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