Phil Khor

How should a small business owner pick a business coach?

How should a small business owner pick a business coach that’s right for them? Is there such a thing as a ‘perfect’ coach?

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8 Answers

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..

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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.

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Melissa Sharman

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.

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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!

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Warren Harmer

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 big-small-business.com.

Dr Warren Harmer  

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David Solomon

David Solomon , Business Performance Strategist at Quiddity

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 :).

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Hadrien Brassens

Hadrien Brassens , Co-founder at Reef Digital Agency

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 , Owner at The Business Plan Company

If you have a good business network, start with that. Between your accountant, lawyer, bookkeeper, graphic designer, web designer and any other business colleag... read more
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?
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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.

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