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What are the telltale signs of a great business coach or consultant?

For small businesses looking to hire a business coach or consultant, how can you tell if someone is worth it? What are the telltale signs of a great business coach or consultant?

Top voted answer
Evan Rubenstein

Evan Rubenstein, Owner at Evan Rubenstein Business Growth Strategies

Business coaches and business consultants are two very different animals.

A consultant provides higher level expertise that the business possesses, the application of which helps the business make progress. It can and does happen that businesses get great advice from a consultant, but cannot effectively implement it.

A coach's approach is to use synergy with their clients to help them to become more resourceful, think more clearly and powerfully, grow, and ultimately become better business people. As such, a good coach does not necessarily need to have the same levels of business expertise that a consultant needs but can generate bigger outcomes by mobilising their clients and their teams to act more powerfully and effectively.

If you take sports as an analogy, the coach's skill set is more about approach,  mindset and teamwork than gameplay itself, although it often does incorporate it. A team will generally do better with a good coach than by getting better players.

The best result comes from someone with both skillsets. Great business knowledge and acumen, as well as high levels of coaching skill mastery. 

A great coach will know the answers to a wide range of business questions and issues, but take the client through a process of discovery and learning, so that they properly learn, understand and own the answers for ever. 

Jon Michail

Jon Michail, CEO and Founder at IG International Pty Ltd

I think there are 7 things to look for in a business coach

The personal coaching industry is booming right now, and no wonder. Our government is incentivising entrepreneurship and innovation, and these business entrepreneurs and innovators now need somewhere to turn for mentorship and advice.

Unfortunately, anyone can call themselves a coach. Whilst I don’t think industry regulation is necessarily the answer, I would like to see healthy scepticism from clients alongside better training for coaches.
First, ask yourself, do I want a coach who ticks all the “politically correct” boxes, and sounds good on paper, or a real world practitioner who knows the real game with all of its unwritten rules and is brave enough to express this?

With this goal in mind, I have put together a brief list, outlining some of the key points business coaches, especially, should be focussing on when taking on the challenging task of coaching this generation of business leaders.  
1. Transforming you for leadership in business.
Running an enterprise will put a lot of weight on your shoulders. Your coach is not there to lift that weight from you but to help you build the self and business leadership muscles needed to carry it. You may be skilled in your industry – the best at what you do, even, but leadership is a whole new sphere.
If you are in business (even if that’s a small business of one) then you are a leader. And with leadership comes responsibility and accountability. You are at the helm when it comes to decision making and you will need a coach who can help you take your leadership skill set to the next level.  
A truly great coach will help you to grow your confidence that has a direct effect on your self-esteem which will, in turn, transform you into the best leader you can be.
2. Helping you generate greater income for your business.
Firstly, every business MUST be profitable so it can serve its clients. Offering great customer service at a profit NOT a loss. (If only our big banks truly understood this…)  
Entrepreneurship is one of the most fulfilling decisions you can make, but it’s not child’s play. Developing a growth mindset is essential to making your business successful. Don’t make the mistake of thinking small, simply because you run a small business.
John Grundy, owner of Grundy Consulting Group had this to say.
“My business conducts productivity and performance reviews, and after all these years I still find myself surprised by business owners either failing to plan ahead or failing to review their processes adequately. Far too many follow the adage ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’”  
3. Putting personal branding before marketing strategy.
If you are running a business, where customers are associating the business name with the service provided, you have both a personal and a business brand (and they may even be incongruent).
An incongruence means money being left on the table or running out the door. It devalues everything you represent.
The next step is for you to capitalise on your brand’s strengths. Developing an authentic brand positioning so the connection between the service and the business is strengthened. And growing in customers a stronger understanding of the “why” and “what” of the organisation’s purpose.
Follow the Richard Branson model, and morph your personal and business brand to create one unstoppable entity.
Remember if your coach isn’t helping you to develop and manage your own brand it will be done by someone else. As Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos so famously quipped, “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” The marketplace is brutal, and unfortunately, you mightn’t be pleased with the result.
4. Coaching you to build a great team.
It is vital that you find a coach who will encourage you to demonstrate real leadership and abundant thinking when building your team – either internal or external. As I noted before, leadership is a heavy weight, if it wasn’t, everyone would be doing it.
You will need to adopt the growth mindset (versus fixed mindset) that a team is there to help you. If you find your team an added burden then something is very wrong.
And remember, don’t hire a leadership coach. Hire a leader who coaches.
5. Coaching to your strengths.
A good coach will help you to develop your existing strengths. A great coach will do this plus also help you to develop new ones.
First, they must help you find your unique place in the marketplace. So many people are focused on growth, growth, growth. Growth is good, even great, but it doesn’t mean that every small business needs to become a large business.  
These days, when trust is at the lowest level in living memory, people want to work with a live human being. They’re tired of businesses that are simply too large and impersonal for their own good.
The advantage of a small or new enterprise is that you can present that personal, personable face to the world that no AI bot or robot can ever replace.
6. Coaching so that you don’t miss opportunities.
We all know the value of hindsight. A good coach offers insights during a coaching session, but a great coach offers this sort of valuable insight, as well as knowledge, ideas, and most importantly wisdom that the client is not even aware of before it is too late to capitalise on it.
For example, does your coach introduce you to new business trends and changing economic conditions, and help you to discover “what you don’t know that you don’t know”? Do they help you expand your network and find the right connections? How about introducing you to new financial partnerships?  
You deserve to get the maximum value from all your hard work. Coaches are there to encourage you to repurpose ideas, and make you aware of new product launches that you hadn’t even dreamed were possible.
If you look to repurpose whatever you can (reinventing success stories and salvaging the viable kernels of failed projects) then everything, even supposed failures, serve to grow your business.  
As Doug Wright, the survivor of a head-on vehicle collision, and now an award-winning motivational speaker always tells me, “Opportunities occur out of adversity.”
Doug Wright, founder, Will Never Give Up.
Wright was a truck driver and amateur ballroom dancer before the crash that left him with severe injuries. He was told that he would never walk again, yet his positive attitude meant that he made the most of even devastating circumstances.
“Adversity is a gift,” Wright says. “If you are struggling for inspiration in the face of harsh circumstances, look to the Paralympics or people with disabilities who not only get on with life but achieve greatness. Create a positive narrative around your negative circumstances, and you’ll soon see that opportunities for growth are everywhere.”
7. Advising with openness and authenticity
Before you hire a coach don’t listen to only what has been said but more importantly NOT been said.

Do they offer a guarantee? Coaches with the runs on the board, the experience and integrity will back their word. If they’re serious about their promises let them back it with a 100% money back guarantee. The guarantee generally sorts out the fair dinkum coach from the spruiker.
Your business coach fills a unique role; support team, think tank, cheer squad, mentor, partner. If in the past you have found coaching just “one more thing to fit into the day” then you haven’t been getting the value you deserve. The opportunities, insight and encouragement a great business coach gives should help you to clarify your goals and consequently make your hard earned money and precious hours stretch further… realising your investment.

Denis Oakley

Denis Oakley, CEO at Denis Oakley Strategy Consulting

A great coach or consultant or coach should get you and what yu are trying to achieve with your business.

If they don't first seek to understand then everything else that they say or do is built on weak foundations.

This can feel somewhat frustrating. If you want to do X to achieve Y, a great coach will say "Slow down and tell me why".  They'll unpack your decision making process and help you to find a better way forward. Some times you'll realise that X isn't actually the answer. Sometime 10X is the answer. 

Jeremy Britton

Jeremy Britton "Flick Your Rich Switch", Business Coach at

  • A mediocre coach will have a paper certificate (which they may have studied theory to receive)
  • A good coach will have experience in running a business (practice not theory), hopefully in a similar industry to you
  • An exceptional coach will have run a business through all stages, from startup, to scaling, building and selling it
If you're not in business to ultimately sell your business, then you basically have a job ;)