Phil Khor
Phil Khor Founder at

How do I pick the right small business coach?

When it comes to choosing a business coach, how should a small business owner pick a coach that is the right fit for them? Is there such a thing as a ‘perfect’ business coach?

Top voted answer
Sacha Kaluri

Sacha Kaluri, Co- Director and Founder at Australian Teenage Expo

You have to feel comfortable with them and be able to open up with them. Often its like being in therapy, just therapy for your business. Starting a business is very personal and takes hard work, so it will have n element and reflection of who you are. So you will have to look at you... so make sure you like the coach..

Melissa Sharman

Melissa Sharman, Director at Grow to Succeed

Here are a few of my recommendations for choosing a coach that is right for you:

1. Know what you want to achieve from the coaching and what you're willing to invest (a good coach will then add new possibilities that you had never thought of!).

2. You should be comfortable with your coach, but also challenged and inspired by them.

3. Your coach should be interested in, and able to understand, your goals, talents, passions and values, and how they relate to your business. A small business is very personal, and therefore coaching is more relevant and effective if it has a holistic and personable approach.

4. Choose a coach that communicates effectively and makes the process as simple as possible. This includes their business advice, as well as offering clear payment terms and prompt, succinct feedback.

5. Your coach doesn't necessarily need experience in your industry - that's your expertise. Choose a coach with skills that complement your own.

Damir Butkovic

Damir Butkovic, Director at Damir Butkovic

Hey Phil,

In my opinion small business owner should know what he is looking for, what kind of challenges he has and what would be a good proof that he has also found a good coach. Also they should both be a match for each-other and feel comfortable about the collaboration. Choose a coach who can really understand his clients needs, help connect his personal values with his business and check if those are in aligment.

Anthea Cahill

Anthea Cahill, Director at Real Chai Pty Ltd

I have a Business Mentor who I have worked with since starting my business in Oct 2008. What makes him the kind of coach I would highly recommend is - an ability to look at the internal and external aspects of my business.  The internal being my beliefs and patterns that can help or hinder me and the external being the strategic direction of my business. Having a coach with this ability has enabled me to overcome many blocks and blindspots that could have potentially caused my business to fail OR me to burn out. Instead I've set up my business to run without me and generate great passive income while I take time out to have a baby over the next few years.  SO my short answer is;

Choose someone with a brilliant strategic mind, an excellent track record for success in their own business AND above all someone who can help you play to your strengths and overcome any weaknesses. Good strategy is not enough if you are going to get in your own way!

Warren Harmer

Warren Harmer at Crecer

To get the best business coach/consultant to suit your needs, ask the following questions from a number of possible suppliers before you decide.

1. Has the consultant ever owned or started a business before their consulting business? Many coaches and consultant join networks, franchises and organisations without hands-on small business. It is vital that they understand your issues and challenges from personal experience. Corporate experience has limited application.

2. Was the previous business a success? Define that success. We all define success differently, so it is important to understand what your consultant values and how they think. Also find out if they have ever had a failed business and what they learnt from it. 

3. How they would run that business differently now? This will show you how they have grown and developed.

4. Will they seek equity share or profit share in your busienss, now or in the future? If they want profit share or equity in your business, say “No!” - unless they are willing to invest their own money into it. This is your business and the rewards are yours.

5. How much additional cost do you expect to incur during the program? There will usually be additional costs associated from items such as design, web sites, legal agreements, marketing, etc. that are required for a business development program. You need to have some idea how much. 

6. Ask to speak with some of their existing and previous clients. Testimonials are fine, but you need to really understand how they work.

7. Ask what areas of business management they are strong and weak in.We all have weaknesses! Ask how they manage those.

8. Look at how they run their own business. Ask for evidence. Look at their systems, procedures, website, business cards and other evidence of their professionalism.

9. Is the initial commitment large or small? Many companies ask for large up-front payments and long-term commitments that you can’t get out of. Choose one that gives you an opportunity to see how they think, their work practices and attitudes before you make a big commitment.

10. Are they available any time? Will it cost any more? You will have many questions as you go through your projects - they must be available.

Ask yourself - Is it about them or you? Do they just talk at you or listen and take great interest? 

Check out my blog post on small business advice at

Dr Warren Harmer  

Don Gregg

Don Gregg, Director at Advice 4 Growth

There are all kinds of business coaches out there. Choose one that fits your needs and style. Some coaches have more senior management and real business leadership experience which means they are experts at setting overall direction and long term vision and can help with many aspects of business. Others have less more management experience and may have only worked in a narrow set of organisations or industries and may rely on a franchise for knowledge.

The sort of help you need relates to the challenges in your business now and the foreseeable future.  What are your strengths and shortcomings? Hire a coach who can complement your skills. Hire a coach who has experience dealing with the sort of issues you are facing.

Finally, hire a coach who you feel will truly work well with you - one who communicates well with you and will give you honest feedback and input.

Hadrien Brassens

Hadrien Brassens, Co-founder at

Top 10% Website

Great answers, very helpful.

Before even finding out if the business coach is suitable for you, how do you initially search for one? A google search for 'business coach' returns many results, but would you rather reach out to personal connections in your network instead?

Can any of you share your experience on how successfully found your 'best match'?

Warren Harmer

Warren Harmer at Crecer

If you have a good business network, start with that. Between your accountant, lawyer, bookkeeper, graphic designer, web designer and any other business colleagues you should be able to find one. Where are you located?

David Solomon

David Solomon, Business Performance Strategist at

These are all good answers and I feel a bit redundant weighing in to the discussion. However, I'd like to summarise it to 3 things you should be looking for:

1) relevant experience of the coach,

2) superior communications skills and the ability to teach,

3) a relationship built on mutual rapport and respect.

Where do you find a great coach? The best source is referrals from people you trust and who have had a positive experience. But you MUST be satisfied yourself on the points above and not just accept a straight recommendation - everybody's needs are different. It's an important relationship so take the time to make sure it is right. You'll know in your gut if it is or not :).

Bruce Patten

Bruce Patten, Director at

Top 10% Business Grants

I had the same issue myself. I had money from a grant application to spend on a business coach. 
The sales pitch and pressure from some was intense. The end result to p[ick a good business coach was simple:
Look at their business. What does it look like?
If they cannot successfully grom and manage their own business, how can they do it for yours?
If they are a one person business working from home and that is your goal, you have found your coach.  Would you work with a fat lazy personal trainer?
Don't forget the NSW business connections program for 4 hours free coaching.
Other states have similar mentoring programs. Use them. 


Tim Stokes

Tim Stokes, Managing Director at Profit Transformations

Very carefully is what I recommend. 
In the industry and in business there's not much substitute for experience. Having invested over $120,000 in my own education I'm surprised when I meet business coaches and ask who they have spent money with to learn and they reply, no one. There are layers and layers of understanding on any topic in business and there are at least 8 major topics related to business. 

To learn all 8 topics requires decades I believe having been in the industry for 22 years and having built 7 businesses in my 36 years in business.

If you're looking for a business coach, find someone experienced in your type of industry. By type I mean retail, service, wholesale or manufacturing. There's so much to know in any one of these it can be hard to learn a lot about all of them. 

A major ingredient I recommend to consider if looking for a business coach is their track record, testimonials (of real businesses you can find online), referrals/endorsements - do they have any from accountants who see actual results and then business owner clients who talk about their results.

Ultimately you're looking for an ROI on what you pay a coach or mentor, so specific financial, income and/or net profit increasing results are essential to look for. Not just feel good ones, unless you want more of a coach to improve your state of mind without a financial improvement.

The industry has changed enormously since I started in it in 1997. Keep in mind anyone can be a business coach and anyone is, often with no business ownership experience before going into the industry. Keep that in mind and ask loads of questions of any business coach. 

Look to see what value they give you for free too. If they can't give you valuable tips and suggestions for free, perhaps what they charge you for won't be great either. 

Finally, don't agree to any 'lock-in' periods. I'm a big believer that all business coaches need to provide value as a means of maintaining the relationship, not a contract. I don't use contracts for that reason, plus I don't just take on anyone and good business coaches from my experience are the same. 

If you have any questions I'm happy to answer them.

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