Professional athletes know that you can’t reach peak performance on your own. It helps to have someone pushing you to be the best version of yourself: someone who can watch what you’re doing from the outside, identify the mistakes you might not even realize that you’re making, and suggest adjustments to help you break through to the next level. A coach. The truth is, a lot of us could use that level of scrutiny in our work lives. Luckily, there are professionals out there trained and certified to offer the same level of tailored attention and feedback to help break through professional barriers: business coaches. Read on to learn more about finding the best business coach for your company.
Like a sports coach, a small business coach consultant can assess your strengths and weaknesses, devise strategies to use your skill set more effectively, and ultimately help you realize the vision for your business. Just as every NFL team has more than a dozen assistant coaches specializing in specific aspects of the game, there are a wide variety of business coaches, each with a unique set of tools, skills, and experiences. Some offer strategic planning to help you figure out your company’s goals or guide its growth, while others might help you acquire leadership skills and refine your management style.
The first question you should ask yourself is why you are considering hiring a business coach in the first place. If you’re seeking a coach out, the chances are you already have a sense that you have work to do in certain areas. Before going any further, spend some time reflecting on what you want from a coaching experience, and ask yourself whether you are ready to internalize the kind of advice that you might get — not unlike feedback from a therapist, it might be difficult to hear.
There are as many types of coaches out there (for example, leadership coaching) as people have different needs, and each will all have different skill sets to bring to the table, different strengths and perspectives informed by their own business experiences, and different methods they use to achieve results. Generally speaking, though, a business coach will analyze the ways your personal style is impacting your business and offer advice on how your decision-making, leadership, or communication style could be improved. Together, you will identify areas of improvement, track your personal progress, and understand how your actions resonate across your business.
A consultant scrutinizes every aspect of your business’s operation—from your fixed and variable costs to your management structure—and tries to find ways to make your organization more efficient. The best way to think about a business coach is as a consultant, but for you personally, it’s someone who assesses your attributes and offers advice with the goal of optimizing your professional performance.
The cost of hiring a business coach can vary widely based on a variety of factors. The difference in price will depend on the coach’s experience, the amount of time the coach has committed to working with you, the type of services they are offering, and your own specific business needs. The depth of coaching and the level of attention you require will help determine whether you want a coach who works on an hourly basis (rates can range from $75 to $500 per hour) or whether you’re interested in making a longer-term commitment. Some coaches offer a monthly rate (starting as low as $300 and going up to $2,000), while others may market their services on a package basis, with the understanding that you’re working toward a specific goal together—preparing for an initial public offering, for example.
The commitment you’ll want from a coach will depend on your professional needs. Perhaps you’ll only need one or two sessions to work through a specific challenge. If you are eager to see dramatic results from a business coach, you might want to consider a longer commitment. It’s reasonable to expect it could take anywhere from three months to a year to achieve a set of mutually agreed-upon goals. It is likewise not unusual for the price of sessions to change as your coach comes to better understand you and your specific needs. As your relationship progresses, they might offer additional services: group sessions, business introductions, or workshops to hone specific skills. It may be worth asking a prospective coach if he or she offers a discount on their hourly or monthly rate if you are committing to a long-term partnership.
Don’t be afraid to negotiate a coach’s fee! They should know the value of the services they’re offering and be able to justify the price they are charging. Once you’ve agreed on a fee and payment schedule, be sure to get a contract with the costs of services in writing so that you are both clear on the scope and goals of your partnership.
1. Tap your network!
Talk to friends, colleagues, and people whose success you admire, and ask if they have recommendations for how to find a small business coach or advice on how to choose one. If you find someone who has had a good coaching experience, find out what they found most helpful about the experience and what, if anything, they might do differently if they were seeking a coach out with the knowledge they have now.
2. Always ask for referrals.
If no one in your immediate personal or professional circle has ideas, try social media. LinkedIn or Facebook groups geared toward your industry can be a good resource for suggestions.
3. Make sure your coach understands your business and your goals.
When you meet with a prospective business coach, bring a clear sense of what you are asking that coach to help you achieve. And make sure you bring a list of questions to ask a potential business coach. What are the concrete goals you’re trying to achieve in your business? What do you recognize as your weaknesses? How can your strengths be put to better use? After you figure out what you want from a coach, ask them to be honest about whether they have the time, resources, and capacity to help you realize your goals.
4. Never commit to anything before talking to them directly.
Any business coach worth their salt should be confident enough in the services they are offering to meet with you and explain them in detail before charging you. Talking with a prospective coach will help give you a sense of your chemistry and compatibility. Are they a good listener? Do they seem to understand your particular goals and can they articulate a clear plan to help you achieve them?
5. Analyze if your personalities are a match.
Every successful relationship is built on a foundation of mutual trust and respect. Is this prospective coach someone whose advice you value enough to pay for it? What is their coaching style, and is it a style that works for you, personally? Do you feel an innate confidence in this person? Will you be able to be honest with them about your own shortcomings and receptive to their feedback? Are they a good listener, and are you willing to listen to them?
6. Ask for success stories.
Your business coach should be able to provide real examples of individuals they have helped realize their business goals. They should be able to explain the difference they made in a person’s career, how they helped that person break through obstacles and achieve success, and how long it took them to do it. You should ask yourself what these stories have in common and whether the strategies your coach employed in those scenarios may be applicable to your own situation. You might also consider asking your coach for examples of failures. Have they ever had clients who weren’t receptive to their coaching style, who didn’t get what they needed from coaching sessions, or other examples where the coaching relationship fell apart? A good coach will be able to analyze what went wrong in those situations honestly.
7. Analyze the tools and resources they use.
When a coach offers an example success story, think critically about the situation that is being described. What are the tools, resources and strategies the coach is employing in these scenarios? Are they applicable to your own situation? Discuss with your prospective coach the different types of success they’ve had and what strategies they think might be most useful for the specific set of challenges you are encountering. Consider the financial commitment they are asking for and whether the benefits to you and your business will be substantial enough to account for the cost and time you’re putting into being coached.
8. Speak to references.
In addition to success stories, any prospective coach should be able to provide you with references: the names and contact information of individuals they’ve worked with who have been satisfied with the experience. Get in touch with those people and ask them about the difference that coaching made for them and their business. What were they like when they began coaching, and how are they different now? Ask them what they found most useful about their experience with the coach and whether there were parts of the experience they found less valuable. Take notes on the feedback they are offering, and think critically about how their situation compares to your own.
9. Don’t limit your search to local business coaches.
There was a time when your choice of business coaches might have been limited to the business coaches who work in your immediate vicinity. The magic of technology has virtually eliminated those concerns. You can cast a wide net knowing that almost every business coach in business today will provide sessions by phone or video. If you’re interviewing business coaches in distant places, keep the time difference in mind and ask about the hours they may or may not be available for coaching or questions.
10. Keep in mind that a business coach doesn’t have to be all-knowing.
Business coaches don’t necessarily need to know everything about your business—that’s your job! What they do need to be able to do is get to know you and the specific challenges and obstacles you face on a daily basis. They can talk you through tough situations, help you change your perspective, challenge your assumptions, poke holes in your logic, ask you questions you might not think of yourself, and encourage and support you to actualize as your highest and best self.
11. Narrow down your options and trust your gut.
Once you’ve assessed the options available to you, had a long discussion about your needs and your potential business coach’s experience, and the benefits of working together, narrow your options down and make a choice. Listen to your instincts—you will know when you’ve found a good match.
Not sure where to begin looking for the business coach for you? Start by checking out the curated marketplace at Rocketplace. With a precision matching algorithm and rapid responses, you can have a shortlist of candidates tailored to your specific needs faster than ever before. Click here to get started today!