Few would suggest that anyone should take up welding, potholing or skydiving without a teacher or a coach showing them the essential skills they need to progress, develop their technique, and how to avoid injury.
In a similar way, I sometimes find it baffling why anyone would want to go into business without an expert to share their experience and ensure they are making the best choices. After all, while welding, potholing and skydiving put you at risk from severe physical injury, stumbling blind into your small business plan puts you at risk from severe financial injury. Without the right guidance from an experienced entrepreneur offering you their time, experience and attention, you can find yourself failing to develop at the rate you should be, or even making mistakes more likely to damage your business than to see you meet your targets and progress towards your goals.
What is a business coach?
There are some entrepreneurs who believe that if they have a good mentor they will have all the benefits of a business coach. However, while a mentor may offer their wealth of knowledge over a long-term period, theirs is a more informal arrangement than the methodical, goal-based terms of a business coach.
A business coach is also a different beast to a business advisor. While a business coach should have an intimate understanding of the business world, their role is less “nuts and bolts” than an advisor, and generally involves a more rounded attitude towards your experiences as an entrepreneur and a person. Some business advisors will even go so far as to tell you what you should be doing in your business, while a business coach’s role is to learn what you are seeking, and to help you plan to achieve this by guiding you to and beyond your company’s targets.
What can a business coach offer you?
A business coach can fill a variety of possible roles, and each entrepreneur will want a different kind of relationship with their coach. However, here are just some of the ways that a business coach can benefit a small business.
– This is the most obvious, and possibly most desirable of the advantages a business coach can provide. A good business coach will have many years of entrepreneurial experience, during which they will have gained the foresight that only completing tasks, hitting targets and making mistakes can offer. Each entrepreneur’s journey through business is different, but there are also certainly parallels that can be drawn between almost every business person’s career path. A business coach will know the stop points that every entrepreneur is likely to encounter, and will guide you past them in a quicker, more profitable manner than you would manage alone.
– Unlike your peers or business partners, a business coach will be an unbiased party that has no reason to lie or speak to you in a watered-down, overly-diplomatic manner. They will have the advantage of being detached from your company, and their relationship with you will be less complex than those you share with people associated with your company. Lovers and friends may not understand your business in the way that those involved will, while those who understand the business but are invested in it may not be able to speak to you in an objective manner, for fear of offending you. A business coach can be a reassuring but realisticcontact to discuss your most important matters with.
– A business coach’s experiences will have informed them of the beneficial ways in which an entrepreneur can proceed, as well as the telling behaviour patterns and ventures which are less likely to lead to success. A business coach is an objective party you can bounce ideas off without concern that they will reject them for biased, misguided or ego-driven reasons, and can offer a much freer dialogue in which to explore new ideas without fear of judgment. Even with your most outlandish, risky ideas, you may find that a good business coach can help you move your small business plan from a fanciful notion into concrete reality.
4. Networking contacts
– Business arises from your own momentum, but can only take place via communication and the setting up of new contacts. This point cannot be emphasised enough: a good coach will have amassed a vast network of contacts, each with their own unique experiences, knowledge, and further potential contacts to mine. If they are successful within their field – which any good business coach should be – you may be amazed at how many more opportunities arise from being introduced to new faces by a respected name.
5. Holding you to account
– While it can be easy to break promises you make to yourself, it may be surprisingly more difficult when you have made them to someone else, too. Sharing your goals with a business coach is also different to sharing them with business colleagues and partners, because once again they are not directly involved with the business so their lack of investment allows for objectivity. It is also not a business coach’s role to be judgmental, or to chastise, or to make you feel like a failure. It is more their responsibility to guide you in whatever way necessary to bullet-proof your small business plan and direct you to the level you have both agreed that you should be.
– Running a company, especially during its chaotic early stages, is a stressful experience. A good business coach, who will understand what you are going through because they will have been through it themselves, will help to ensure that you do not feel overwhelmed, whatever your small business plan. By keeping you on target to tackle each new stage with foreknowledge as well as dogged determination, a business coach can act as a pressure release for a hardworking entrepreneur.
So – do you need a business coach?
As with any kind of business decision, the answer as to whether you and your small business plan would benefit from a coach will depend on the entrepreneur and company involved. Some will think of themselves as “natural” entrepreneurs, who consider any kind of outside assistance unnecessary. Others will have been born into entrepreneurial families, and have been primed from an early age to possess a keen business sense. Others still will be so bursting with confidence due to their own prior successes that they simply feel that another entrepreneur’s input is unnecessary.
It is, however, difficult to deny that the greatest sports stars in the world, the best actors, and, arguably, the finest entrepreneurs have coaches to help them shape their techniques and enhance their craft. No one is beyond assistance, and even the most talented individuals often need advice and guidance from time to time.