In January 2015, The Alternative Board released a survey revealing what business owners wished they had done differently in the beginning stages of their business. Many of the entrepreneurs wished they had spent more time on strategic planning, and many regret not spending enough money on marketing and advertising. Yet, perhaps the most revealing answer business owners shared was that the large majority of them wished they had better mentors when they started their business.
According to a Stanford Survey on executive coaching, “Nearly two-thirds of CEOs do not receive outside leadership advice, but nearly all want it.” What’s stopping them from seeking out that much needed advice? For many, it’s the hardship of choosing the perfect mentor or coach. Considering the time and costs associated with mentorship, you’ll want to make sure you identify the very best executive business coach for your business. To make the selection process easier for you, we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 things to look for in an executive business coach.
- A track record of success Do a little research before contacting anyone. Consult with other business owners about who they’ve worked with, read online reviews, and consider coaches from established mentorship companies that have built strong reputations on years of success. Good business coaches have a proven record that they will be eager to share with you.
- Experience A great business coach has experience both as a business owner and as a business coach. Find someone who has worn both hats (preferably for several years) and who can address your business challenges from both angles. A business professional who has experienced a lot of success and a lot of failure will have a lot of good advice to offer you.
- Specific expertise in your field While your coach doesn’t necessarily need to come from the same industry as you, you’ll want to find a business coach that is relevant and specific. Be wary of someone that advertises too many services or works across too many industries. There’s a good chance they lack specific expertise and are likely spreading themselves thin.
- Accessibility This should be apparent from the get-go. If you’re having trouble scheduling an initial consultation with an executive business coach, it’s only going to get worse once they’ve signed you as a client. Ask them about their other commitments and projects. Find out what their client base and workload is like to avoid being one in a million. Business coaching requires custom strategies. Pass on any coach that treats their business like a coaching mill.
- Willingness to challenge you Of course, you want a coach that exhibits goodwill and support towards your business, but a little opposition is key to any professional relationship. A great business coach will challenge you outside of your comfort zone and make you look at challenges in new ways. A lot of business owners have the best luck with coaches who are strong where they are weak. The opposing viewpoint allows them to fill gaps in their business processes.
- A large network Seek out a business coach that is well-connected, so in turn you become equally well-connected. An effective business coach can open doors for your business by introducing you to the right people. Likewise, if a business coach has a large network, that’s a good sign that they’ve had success with other clients.
- Accountability Your business coach should be equally concerned with you achieving your goals as you are. They’ll check in regularly to make sure you’re accomplishing tasks and sticking to your agreed upon path towards success.
- Generosity The best coaches become coaches because they want to help others. That should be at the core of their mission. Your mentor should love teaching, because it means giving back, and it should be very obvious in their approach to coaching. If it seems that they are dragging their feet, or that they have contempt for their clients, you don’t want to deal with them.
- Trust You don’t have to be best friends with your business coach, but you should have a friendly rapport. If you don’t feel comfortable or don’t trust your coach, you can’t make any progress.
- A concrete process The Alternative Board promotes the power of planning for every business owner, and the same holds true for every executive business coach. When TAB member Rick Maher, CEO of Effective Human Resources, Inc., first decided to seek out a mentor, the critical piece he was most concerned with was “a process that had to be followed, a regimen.” According to Maher, “I wanted to see it and understand it before I chose my coach. The Alternative Board has a very deliberate process. The process is the only way I can see success.” Avoid mentors who are shooting in the dark; seek out someone who has a specific plan for helping you achieve your goals.
When Susanne Meyers of Daily Affiliate Tasks decided she needed an executive business coach, she had a hard time finding the right person. “I wasn’t at a point yet, where I was comfortable spending a couple of grand on a coach, plus many of the coaches I came across just didn’t seem the right fit for me and my business.”
Meyers is not alone. It can be extremely difficult to pinpoint the perfect counselor, even when you know your business really needs one. Don’t be afraid to shop around and meet with more than one coach before making a decision. The Alternative Board’s Business Coaching Sessions simplify the process by providing you with a trusted advisor who can help you work through business challenges and opportunities to increase performance. TAB has perfected its proprietary coaching process over the past twenty-five years and continues to build its track record of satisfied business owners.
Running a business is a dynamic endeavor. There are ups and downs, highs and lows, and long stretches of plateau in between. Fortunately, even when you find yourself in a rough stretch, there’s always a way up and out.
Oftentimes, the best approach for identifying the root of what’s holding you back is engaging an outside perspective. Business coaching services offer an unbiased view of your company, giving you the insight necessary to help you overcome your business’s greatest challenges. As professional service providers, their success is your success, which means they have a high stake in helping you get it right.
If you’ve been considering hiring a business coach, there’s a good chance you already need one. If you’re still feeling hesitant, here are 8 telltale signs your business needs coaching services:
- Your direction changes from week-to-week. The single most important thing you need to run a small business is a unified vision. This is especially true if you’re not the only captain of the ship.Even if you’re running solo, it’s important that your vision remains constant. If you find yourself waffling between business models or markets, or if you’re always wondering whether your product is good enough, it may be time to consult a business coach.
- You don’t have a clear set of priorities. Without clear priorities, it’s impossible to get where you want to be. A business assessment tool can help you identify weaknesses in your operations, so you can position them for additional attention. While an assessment tool has the power to diagnose gaps in your business model, it cannot find solutions. That’s where a business coach comes in.
- You don’t have a strategic plan. Do you find yourself at your desk in the morning wondering what to do for the rest of the day? When choosing between multiple important activities, do you have a basis for picking the most crucial one? Do you feel like you’re fighting fires all day long rather than working towards a greater plan?If you are steering the ship without a compass, it’s time for you to focus on where your business is going. A coach can draw on years of experience developing long term strategies for businesses just like yours. While you may be fluent in your business’s day to day operations, they’re more equipped to help you see the bigger picture.
- You aren’t getting things done. No matter how proactive or industrious you are, there will be tasks you’ll want to put off and moments of near burnout. Chances are, those are the times you most need to pull through for your business. Whether you find yourself procrastinating from day to day or need help sticking to big picture goals, a business coach will hold you accountable to getting things done.
- You can’t remember the last time you took a vacation, day off, or had a 40 hour work week. If this sounds like you, there’s a good chance you aren’t delegating properly. According to The Alternative Board’s 2014 Work Life Balance Pulse Survey, 82% of entrepreneurs are working over 40 hours a week, but only 44% want to be. Why? Because business owners feel there are certain tasks only they can handle.A business coach can help you identify tasks that can be assigned to someone better suited to handle them in a timely manner. Even if that person doesn’t exist at your company, a coach can help you find the perfect person for the job. After all, if you are doing tasks that someone in your position should not be doing, you are likely working below your pay grade. There are many ways to get out of this cycle – a business coach can help.
- You can’t tell the difference between a hashtag and a retweet. In the 21st century, the Internet is where small businesses go to thrive. With an active web presence, your business builds reputation, partnerships, and most importantly, sales. Between SEO, social media, and paid advertising, there are countless avenues for your business to make a name for itself. A business coach can help you determine where and how to most effectively spend your business’s marketing budget, while providing you with the tools for maintaining an ongoing strategy.
- You feel stuck. Business owners are an ambitious bunch. Even when their businesses are maintaining smooth operations and a healthy revenue stream, they are always seeking to expand. Disrupting your business in order to create growth can be costly and scary for you and your employees, but it is a necessary step if you want your business to reach the next level. Business coaching services are an excellent route for smoothing the transition. Your coach can assist you in devising and implementing a strategic plan for easing your company forward.
- Your company has grown out from underneath you. While growth is the ultimate goal of any company, it can often come on too fast and all at once. Suddenly, your staff, processes, and perhaps even physical space have become too small for the demands of your customers. This is a dangerous situation that can quickly lead to overworked employees (and costly turnovers) and poor customer service. A business coach can help you rethink your strategy to accommodate your growing needs.
According to the IFC, 70% of small business that hire a coach see improved work performance, 67% experience better work-life balance, and 86% see a return on investment — and virtually all entrepreneurs (99%) are satisfied with their decision to hire a business coach.
Business coaching services come in many shapes and sizes. Corporate consultants, personal mentors, and peer advisory groups are all viable options for taking a second look at your business. TAB’s peer advisory model puts you in a room with non-competing business owners who’ve faced the same challenges your business faces everyday and allows you to learn from their experience. If you feel your business can benefit from the power of business coaching services, contact your local board for an introductory consulting session.