When is "critical" for a small business owner to call on a business coach?
The simple answer is when you're feeling out of your depth and overwhelmed and don't have anyone else to turn to for advice - in the same way you might turn to a relationship counsellor. They help talk through key problems in your business and give you some guidance on how best to deal with them - when other sounding boards (family and friends) start tuning out to your constant need to talk about your business! And it's not only when things are going badly - a successful business can be overwhelming too. But you certainly don't have to turn to a 'professional coach'. Most business owners should have a strong network of contacts - use them. I sell to other businesses and regularly bounce ideas off a handful of our best customers - most of the time they know exactly what you're going through and a lot of issues are common between industries.
A small business owner should seek expert advice and support when they are considering major investments, making key decisions fundamental to the direction and future success of the business or when they are just not sure what path to take. Other drivers could be weak business performance or encountering business complexity and challenges which the owner does not have the experience to confidently address and where the stakes/risk are high.
Simple test: if small business owners outer world - his business, is not matching his inner world - his thoughts how his business should be, then is usually very good time to call on a business coach.
Good business coaches can play different roles depending on what is needed. Those with little experience will be more limited. At various times I have been a sounding board, motivator, mentor, business consultant, teacher, task master, spiritual guide and friend to each of my clients. So my tongue-in-cheek answer is that it's always critical :)
There are several reasons to go out looking for help. One is when you know things need to change but are not sure what or how to achieve it.
City of Ryde are running a free Business Mastermind for exactly this next week.
(I happen to be one of three facilitators).