Posted: Wed 3rd Feb 2021
At some stage, we all need a helping hand. The challenge is knowing what support you might need, who to turn to, where to find them and how to make the right choice. Do you need a mentor or a coach? Should you bring in a consultant or buy a piece of kit?
If you're unsure, try this simple process, take a few moments to check where you spend your time versus where you want to end up. Then ask yourself: What is stopping me from running my business? Is it something I can outsource? Or am I stuck and need someone to help me see a new direction?
If you decide you want to work with a small business coach, here are some things you should consider before you hire.
What is the role of a business coach?
A small business coach will help you improve your performance. They will work with you to set and achieve business, personal and leadership goals. They act as a guiding hand and offer ideas and suggestions.
However, they won't tell you what to do. You might receive some direction but, ultimately, it's up to you to do the work yourself.
A coach is sometimes confused with a mentor. A mentor is someone with experience in your industry – they've been there and done it, and can now act as a sounding board or sanity check. Like a coach, they're not involved day-to-day with the business or there to do things for you.
Neither is a coach a consultant or freelancer. These are people you hire to deliver a set task, project or goal for your business using their knowledge, experience and resources. You would pay a consultant to come up with the answers, not develop your performance or advise on your business's future.
As a business owner, you need a variety of support, and it's a good idea to have all three options if that's what you feel your business needs.
What are the benefits of working with a business coach?
There's a lot of support online for small businesses through training, events or small groups. However, most will be generic and not specific to your unique business. Off-the-shelf programmes will only take you so far. Working with a small business coach allows you to receive structured and personalised advice.
A good business coach will:
listen and ask the questions that will guide your progress
provide challenge and encouragement, making you feel excited about your next steps
help create a list of actions that are realistic and achievable
provide accountability and work through solutions if you don't meet your expectations
A coach is not there to lecture you but to provide an independent and outside view on what might be holding you back. You want to look forward to these sessions – they should give you renewed energy, encouragement and clarity.
When should I hire a business coach?
If you feel overwhelmed or don't have anyone outside your business or circles to talk to, a coach might be your answer. A good signal that you might need a coach is when you feel dissatisfied, or that your business isn't going in the direction you want it to quickly enough.
Other indicators might be when you need to re-evaluate your goals and the direction of your business. Or maybe you've recently launched, and you're stuck or unsure where to take it next. A coach can help you see what you might be overlooking and reformulate a new plan.
How do I choose a business coach?
There are many, many coaches to choose from, so find someone with whom you have chemistry and trust. You'll discuss personal issues as well as aspects of business, so you need to feel comfortable sharing these things.
You also want to make sure you're getting value for your money and hiring someone you feel confident will help you achieve your goals.
Here are some tips on how to find the right business coach for you and your circumstances:
Use discovery calls
Most coaches offer a free get-to-know-you session – this allows you (and them) to understand more about your requirements and the way you want to work.
These sessions aren't for getting free advice. They're for the coach to understand if they can help you or if you're better off going with a different style or expert.
A clear methodology
Most coaches will be qualified in a proven type of coaching (you may want to do a bit of research), so ask them to explain their methodology. How will they help you measure outcomes? What techniques do they use? Do they have examples of how they've helped similar businesses?
Past clients and testimonials
What have past clients said about working with them? Look at reviews or testimonials on their website. You could ask if the coach wouldn't mind you speaking to a former client.
What are they posting?
Do a bit of detective work. Read their blog or see what they post on their social media. Join an upcoming event or webinar. It's a way to see if the areas they are talking about are relevant and resonate with you.
If there isn't a connection, no matter how good they are, you won't be on the same page personally and there may be tensions in you working together.
Business coach and Enterprise Nation member Inge Dowden says:
"You don't need to talk to a dozen coaches to find a good fit. Look for someone who is going to be a good listener, honest and offer good ideas, not someone who is going to tell you what to do or give you an off the shelf solution. You know yourself and the kind of people you work well with, so look for that in the coach."
How much does a business coach cost?
What you might expect to pay for a coach will depend on the coach and what arrangements you make. Fees can vary from as low as £350 to £1,475 per two-hour sessions. Most will charge either a price per session price or a monthly fee, which might come with additional services, resources or added support.
Steer clear of individuals or packages that promise to show you how to replicate their business success, says Lucy Patterson, a business growth strategist who specialises in supporting female founders.
"You're following their journey rather than your own, overlooking the barriers or issues that happen in your life."
Lucy recommends finding a coach you gel with and then enquiring if they can come within your budget. And if not, what can they provide you for what you have available?
Another option might be group coaching which is often more affordable and connects you with other entrepreneurs. However, the benefit of having a one-on-one session is that it is all about your business.
How do I know whether it's worth my money?
What you get when working with a business coach is guidance. With that guidance and accountability, you're more likely to progress on the goals you've set for yourself.
Depending on what those are, you could equate a financial value, but it's a bit difficult. Often, interventions a coach uses will link to an improvement in behaviours or mindset that can lead to better performance.
Lucy Patterson says:
"You can measure return on investment (ROI) because you should always define what success will be for you. For one person, that might be to be a millionaire. To somebody else, it might be just making enough to have a nice holiday once a year.
"So, it's about being very clear about what you want to achieve and the coach helping you figure out the measurement parameters."
Your coach should write out the terms of your agreement, how you'll work together – remember this is a two-way street – and your objectives and key performance indicators (KPIs). As explained earlier, your coach will help you stay on track, but it's you who needs to put in the work.
Help to Grow: Management
A government programme to help 30,000 business leaders improve productivity and growth. Includes a 90% funded, 12-week training course then a period of one-to-one mentoring from experienced business leaders and mentors.