When you want help with your business to survive, compete, grow, or substantially transform, the idea of having a great business coach working beside you is appealing. The key word in that sentence, of course, is “great“.
How do you find a great business coach among the hundreds available? Here are 12 questions that really sort out the field into leaders and also-rans:
Q1. DOES THIS COACH COME RECOMMENDED??
If you know people who have, or have had, a business coach, ask them if they can recommend one. And then ask why. Has their business coach added value at least five times what they cost in fees?
Q2. IS THIS BUSINESS COACH ACCREDITED?
If you don’t have a trusted referral, it is much harder to tell a good coach from a good salesperson. (And some, of course, are both.) Business coaching is an unregulated industry in Australia, and as such, anyone can call themselves a coach. There are also organisations that grant membership to anyone willing to pay a membership or license fee; and they do that without regard to the quality of coaching that will get delivered.
Other organisations, such as our own, The Network of Consulting Professionals, set high professional and ethical standards; and we only accept individuals with demonstrated success in business.
Q3. DOES THIS COACH HAVE BUSINESS SKILLS?
Some coaches are trained just to ask you questions until you come up with the answers yourself. Then they get you to implement those ideas, and if they don’t work, go back to brainstorming again. But you are paying for results!
So, picking a coach who has been successful before is a great indicator that they can be successful again. Ask them to describe how they have successfully overcome significant challenges in the past. You should feel free to probe them as if you are interviewing them for a job. Let’s face it, in many ways, you are!
Q4. DOES THIS COACH HAVE THE KNOWLEDGE TO HELP YOU?
While all independent businesses face similar issues, such as how to get the right product in front of the right people at the right price, every business is different; they all come in different shapes and sizes, with different industries and different challenges.
When first checking out a prospective coach, ask what this person knows about your industry; and ask what he or she can tell you about some of your biggest challenges.
This isn’t the same as expecting the coach to know absolutely everything. No-one can, and to be fair, you should know your industry better than they do!
However, a coach should be open in admitting the limit of their knowledge to you. And at the same time the coach should still be able to convince you that they have access to networks and resources that can resolve your challenges.
No-one can be an expert in everything, but a great business coach will know where to find the right expert to help you. How comfortable do you feel with their answers?
Q5. DOES THIS COACH HAVE CURRENT KNOWLEDGE?
Check out your would-be coach’s certifications and other demonstrations of currency. These days, most professionals can demonstrate continuous learning. (check their LinkedIn profile).
While not in itself a ‘proof,’ at least knowing that your prospective coach is still actively learning new business methods is valuable. It does bring some comfort that you’re not getting stale, out-of-date advice.
Can your prospective coach, for example, talk knowledgeably about social media marketing, automation and outsourcing?
On the other hand, don’t underestimate experience. Having been there and done it before makes a very solid foundation in a coach, because they know what’s worked in the past, and this can be a great indicator for what will work today. Ideally, you want a balance between old and new ways of doing things.
Q6. WILL THIS COACH AND YOU BE ABLE TO WORK TOGETHER?
It is really important to try before you buy. Even when you have great referrals, you still need to ensure that your prospective coach and you have compatible personalities. This doesn’t mean that you think and act the same; it does mean that you find each other easy to communicate with, because that’s the basis of this relationship.
And the responsibility for that lies with your prospective coach. If they don’t have the skills to build rapport with you and communicate their ideas well, how likely is it that the two of you are going to be able to do great work on your business together?
Crucially, make absolutely certain that who you’re engaging is who you’re getting! Check that you’re not going to be fobbed off with a junior. It does happen!
Q7. IS THIS BUSINESS COACH TRYING TO LOCK YOU INTO A CONTRACT?
You absolutely should not have to sign up for an expensive programme that you find after some time is just costing you money and not delivering results.
If the coach believes he or she really can help you, then they will give you freedom to cancel if you don’t feel you are getting value for money. This transforms your relationship to a real Business Success Partnership where both parties have skin in the game.
Q8. ARE THIS COACH’S FEES CLEAR AND SIMPLE?
Are you clear about price you will pay, and what level of service you’ll get? Does the coach have an easy to explain fee structure with equally easy to understand payment terms and options?
Q9. IS THIS COACH GOING TO BE AVAILABLE FOR YOU?
Since this will be your coach, their availability to you is what is important. Can you contact them out of hours if you absolutely need to? Can you contact them and get help in between scheduled sessions?
And remember, make sure you will be working with the person in front of you, and not their junior.
Q10. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THEIR TESTIMONIALS?
Be wary of testimonials on a website. It is not that they are going to be fake, but simply that they are always going to be the ones the coach picks.
Social media testimonials (Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) are harder to manipulate from the coach’s side. Take careful note of any less than great reviews and how the prospective coach responded to those. Social proof is very powerful. Does what you read about the coach make you more, or less, comfortable?
Q11. IS THIS COACH’S OFFERING NARROW OR BROAD?
In addition to coaching, can your coach help you with other products or services? This can be a good indicator of their specialty skills or at least their stronger preferences. No coach can do everything. Equally no coach worth their salt should lack a good network of experts to help you with whatever you need – from a business plan to a business sale.
Q12. WILL THIS COACH CHALLENGE YOU?
A coach is not a friend. Sometimes she or he will need to give you some tough love, so to speak. While the prospective coach should be friendly, they should also have what it takes to challenge you, push you, and hold you accountable. You are paying for results, and while many of the insights will come from your coach, much of the heavy lifting usually comes from you and your team. A ‘yes man’ (or woman) is no good to you.
SO, Do YOU HAVE A GREAT BUSINESS COACH
When you choose the right coach, you need to feel confident that you have access to an experienced, capable, executive decision-making team, available when you need them. Overall, for all this experience and expertise, packaged as a couple of days a month, expect to pay about the price of an entry level clerk. You may need more, or you may need less, but this is a useful rule of thumb.
You should feel really comfortable and confident that your coach has the skills, experience and resources to help your business succeed. And if the partnership is successful, you should see five times your investment or more back in results.