Should You Have a Business Coach on Your Team?
Blowing the Whistle on Inexperienced Gurus
A decade ago, in a fit of entrepreneurial desperation, I hired a business coach who greatly enhanced my ability to utilize my natural talents and secure clients. While his services were pricey, the knowledge I gained continues to pay dividends. However, having navigated the business owner’s ups and downs and interviewed numerous coaches on my business podcast, I urge caution when considering the expense and time investment of hiring a coach.
My personal experience with a business coach was invaluable, but I have heard some horror stories. It’s crucial to examine the warning signs and potential considerations that come with choosing a coach. Let’s see if the guy or gal with the whistle on the sidelines is worth your finite dough and attention span.
The Temptation of Assured Success
Business coaching often woos us with the guarantee of lightning-fast triumph. Many coaches portray themselves as the magic wand that will effortlessly unlock the secrets to riches. However, let’s not kid ourselves; business success is a complex tapestry of effort, strategy, and adaptation. Believing in overnight riches can blind us to the real-world complexities and the sweat equity required for every entrepreneurial venture.
Good gravy, there are 116,547 people employed in the Business Coaching industry in the US as of 2023. The business coaching industry is a rapidly growing sector, with the global market size valued at $11.6 billion in 2019 and projected to reach $20.9 billion by 2030. North America accounted for 48.3% of the global market share in 2019, while the United States held 37%.
It has been reported that the average conversion rate for coaching clients is 41.67% which demonstrates the tangible results that can be achieved through coaching.
The Pitfalls of Simplification
A problem I see in my interaction with and research on business coaches is they often peddle one-size-fits-all solutions. While these might work for some cookie-cutter problems, remember that every business is a unique snowflake. What worked like gangbusters for one might be a colossal flop for another. Relying on generic solutions can lead to missed opportunities and unexplored potential customers.
As an aside, I literally just fired a marketing firm for taking months trying to jam my firm’s square peg into their tried-and-true round hole. The results were not only disappointing but downright bad. My mistake was not in hiring them, but in failing to quickly recognize they considered me another widget they could work on an assembly line. Learn from my mistake; when interviewing a prospective coach, ask them about process and pivots, and see if you can detect creativity or just rote box-ticking.
Beyond the Surface Experience
Before we dive any deeper into this maze, let’s unravel the true essence of a business coach’s role. It’s not merely about doling out advice based on their past successes (or failures). Coaching delves into uncharted waters, challenging clients to explore unorthodox ideas they’d never venture on their own.
This skill is honed through dedicated training, often under the umbrella of credibility of organizations like the International Coaching Federation (ICF). Established in ’95, ICF claims to be on a mission to uplift the coaching profession, setting lofty standards, and certifying those who “meet the grade.”
Just remember, a certification is nice, but anyone can study for a test. A proven track record of results is gold. Ask for testimonials and case studies.
Snow on the Roof
Having interviewed some well-meaning, but clearly inexperienced folks who offer coaching services, I’ll admit it: I’m just not going to even consider hiring a business coach who doesn’t have a little snow on the roof. If you are a coach who doesn’t get that reference, you are probably not going to get my business. Youth and vitality are important, but experience and good judgment are much more so.
A major factor contributing to the failure of many business coaches is their lack of credibility. This often stems from their limited real-world experience in successfully managing a business. To thrive as a business coach, it’s essential to not only articulate sound advice but also demonstrate a proven track record of practical success.
In simpler terms, a record of successful actions speaks louder than words on a website.
Writer Sophia Sunwoo sums the caveat up succinctly:
“Real talk: there are business coaches out there that don’t know what they’re doing and take a lot of innocent businesses down with them through their lack of experience.”
If you’re not careful, you may be taken in by a coach’s glossy website and a personal story of turning their business and personal life around. Also, if a business coach seems bent on teaching others how to be a business coach, I look elsewhere.
“I’m wary, to say the least,” says business coach Becca Tracey. “We have all seen this pyramid-scheme-style sh*t, and some coaches out there even TEACH it (the worst form of all of this) — they turn health coaches, life coaches, yoga teachers, you name it — into business coaches on purpose because the only model they know is how to help people make money by helping people make money.”
Stay Off the Couch
According to Clay Clark, founder of the business coaching platform Thrivetime Show many business coaching programs today fall short of delivering real value. In a Forbes article, he states the issue lies in their excessive focus on the mindset, motivation, and emotions of entrepreneurs rather than the practical implementation of proven best-practice systems and strategies for business growth. Instead of addressing critical aspects like product development, marketing, and sales, these coaching programs tend to devolve into quasi-psychology sessions aimed at providing emotional support to often isolated entrepreneurs.
“A business coach can change your life and your business, but it‘s important to take the time to vet your coach. Make sure you do your due diligence to find the program that is right for you,” Clark said.
Considering the Alternatives
Now that we’ve unraveled some of the secrets and pitfalls of business coaching, let’s take a moment to explore the alternatives:
Mentorship programs are like having a seasoned guide by your side. Experienced mentors provide personalized advice, share their own journey, and help you navigate the treacherous waters of entrepreneurship. I have found, however, that having a “kitchen cabinet” of two or three wise heads I can informally call upon for advice has been the best way to go for my business.
- Tailored Wisdom: Mentors offer personalized guidance.
- Industry Wisdom: Tap into your mentor’s deep industry knowledge.
- Networking Opportunities: Expand your network through your mentor’s connections.
- Finding the Right Fit: Identifying a suitable mentor can be a challenge.
- Dependence Factor: Your mentor’s availability may limit your learning opportunities.
- Informal Structure: Mentorship programs might not offer a structured curriculum.
Industry associations are like clubs for professionals in a specific field or industry. They provide resources, networking events, and a voice for their members. But be careful; associations tend to pull good people in for volunteer jobs, and if you are a small business trying to grow, say it with me: you do not have the time!
- Networking Galore: Rub shoulders with peers, experts, and potential partners.
- Resource Heaven: Access industry-specific publications, webinars, and events.
- Advocacy Muscle: Associations often advocate for their members’ interests.
- Membership Dues: Some associations require membership fees.
- One-Size-Fits-All Resources: Resources might not cater to your specific business needs.
- Quality Varies: The quality of resources can vary widely among associations.
- Time Suck: I’ve found that while I am rubbing shoulders with colleagues, I am also spending valuable time talking about the business when I should be out beating the bushes for new clients.
Online Courses and Training:
Online courses and training are like having a personal tutor on your computer. They offer structured education on various business topics, often taught by industry experts.
- Accessible Anytime, Anywhere: Take courses at your own pace and from anywhere.
- Wide Menu of Topics: Choose from a diverse range of business subjects.
- Affordable Learning: Many online courses are budget-friendly or even free.
- Missing the Personal Touch: Courses might not address your unique business challenges.
- You’re in the Driver’s Seat: Success relies on your self-discipline and motivation.
- Limited Interaction: Some online courses lack the interactivity found in coaching.
Business Incubators and Accelerators:
Business incubators and accelerators are like the pit crew for startups and early-stage businesses. They offer resources, mentorship, and sometimes even the fuel (funding) to propel your business.
- One-Stop-Shop: Programs provide holistic support for business development.
- Investment Opportunities: Some programs offer access to investment and funding sources.
- Networking Playground: You’ll be part of a community of like-minded entrepreneurs.
- Tough Entry Ticket: Gaining acceptance into these programs can be fiercely competitive.
- Equity or Fees: Some programs demand equity or fees in exchange for their services.
- Time Bound: Accelerators often operate on strict timelines, which may not suit everyone.
Self-Study and DIY Learning:
Self-study and DIY learning are like being your own teacher. You independently research, experiment, and acquire knowledge and skills.
- Budget-Friendly: Self-study is often the most budget-friendly option.
- Flexible Learning: You have full control over what, when, and how you learn.
- Self-Reliance Building: You develop essential problem-solving skills and resourcefulness.
- Lack of Guidance: You may miss out on valuable insights and industry best practices.
- Time-Consuming Endeavor: Self-study can be a time-consuming process.
- Risk of Isolation: You might miss out on collaboration and networking opportunities.
Is a Business Coach Right for You?
While business coaching offers valuable opportunities for growth, it’s important to remember that it’s just one option among many in the business world. Think of it as a tool in your toolkit rather than the sole solution. Your path to success may involve various approaches, including mentorship programs, industry associations, online courses, or self-directed learning.
Remember: be wary of putting inexperienced coaches on your team who may lack the practical experience needed to guide you effectively. By thoughtfully integrating these alternatives and carefully vetting your coach if you choose that path, you can create a customized strategy that best fits your unique journey in the world of business. This diverse approach can enhance your chances of achieving your goals and experiencing success.
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