Business coaching is a relatively new discipline. As a result, many small business owners are probably not aware of the coaching process and why they might consider coaching as a resource to fuel their business growth and personal leadership development.
What benefits can a coach bring to you and your small business? Will a coach help you become more effective in the day to day management of your small business? What specific skills or experience should you look for in a business coach? How do you find a business coach?
Benefits of Coaching
Coaching can offer a number of benefits to those that embrace the possibilities and enter into the experience with a positive attitude. Ed Rankin, Executive Coach and Founder & President at Manera Group in Dallas Texas, believes that coaching offers small business owners an increased level of self-awareness with respect to their strengths and weaknesses, better focus, and tangible strategies and tactics for addressing real-world concerns. He also states that “coaching helps people become more effective by bringing clarity to real challenges and opportunities.”
Virg Setzer, President and Executive Coach at Performance Point Solutions LLC, has many years experience as an internal and external business and executive coach. He feels that coaching offers up the following benefits for small business owners:
- A fresh and objective view of a small business owners situation
- A unique, competent and confidential resource that may not be available within the organization
- The opportunity to have a “partner” in your small business that is focused on your success
- A confidential partner that is available to test ideas and brainstorm possibilities
- Assistance in looking at the “big picture” and long term results as well as short term goals
- The opportunity to get challenged and receive candid feedback
Opportunity for Strategic Thought
It is a well known fact that owning a small business can be all consuming – so much time is spent on managing the day to day tasks that little thought ever goes into strategic planning. Gina Duvall, Owner of Business Sculpting, expands on the benefits of generating new ideas and focusing on strategic thought. “Coaching is a great opening for this kind of thinking. Left to their own devices, small business owner won’t get off the merry-go-round of finding the next customer, or producing more widgets, long enough to engage in critical thought,” says Duvall. “Having a business coach allows this to happen and have it happen within a partnership. It’s easier for a business owner to do this kind of thinking in partnership with a coach, as opposed to locked in their office alone hoping to not be interrupted.”
One might assume that the primary benefit of having a business coach would be an ample supply business advice. Not really – the benefits of a good coach extend beyond management consulting. “Many people start a business without understanding their real motivation and a good business coach can do much more than just work o the business process – a good consultant could do that. We ask different kinds of questions and have a different quality of conversation,” says Anne Wilkinson, Managing Director at Executive Playground Ltd in Birmingham, UK. “A coaching relationship is based on skilfully guiding a client through a process of increasing self awareness backed up by solid business acumen. This has the added value of increasing confidence and establishing a better process for making decisions in the long term.”
The Coaching Relationship
In my opinion, a key benefit of coaching is the opportunity for small business owners to develop a special relationship that adds real value to their organization. Francis Laleman, International Consultant, Coach and Trainer at Beyond Borders Training and Consultancy in Antwerp, Belgium, believes that “the mere fact of having an objective outsider at hand, someone who delivers insights from experience, who asks the right questions, who doubts the answers given, who suggests alternatives and ponders over chances and opportunities, can really have a miraculous effect.” In Laleman’s opinion “the key strength is in the mutual process of the business owner and the coach, working gently together in order to understand the dynamics of growth and change.” What to Look for in a Business Coach
There are some set criteria that you should look for when hiring a business coach. As with any other position within your small business, experience, is a key factor. Gil Gerretsen, President at BizTrek International, Inc in Greenville, South Carolina, suggests that you look for a combination of business experience and a history of proven results and warns that “too many coaches shoot from the hip with counsel based on a limited set of experiences in one venue/industry.”
Anne Wilkinson advises that you look for a coach that has general business experience as well as specific experience in the areas of your business that you know you need to develop. “I personally don’t agree with some of the coaching purists that say you can be a good coach without the business experience. My clients expect me to understand their business issues and wouldn’t tolerate a coach they couldn’t respect.”
In addition to business experience, Ed Rankin reminds small business owners to not forget that coaching in itself is a special and important skill. “A coach should be educated and trained in the process of coaching. Coaching is not mentoring, consulting, advising or counselling. It’s something different.”
Coaching Case Study
Merri Bame, an Executive Communications Coach, shares the following real life coaching story:
The owner of a small business came to me with a common, yet fragile matter. He had been an owner for several years while his mother remained board president.
What “John” experienced was the demotion of his authority every time his mother was present. From John’s perspective, his staff, managers and board all viewed him with little respect in her presence. He came to me, (an outsider; a neutral third party) for fresh perspective on how to have a very honest talk with her because he was intent on releasing her from her duties. With two major relationships hinging on this outcome, “John” was at a loss on how to proceed. Since this was a single circumstance, we met for an hour to give him guidance on focusing on the intent (restoring good relations) while broaching a difficult subject, and also wanting a good outcome.
John learned he could speed up (in his career and influence) if he chose to slow down (to address things properly and with care). Without a third party coach, he didn’t feel neutrally supported. And using one, he experienced a new way to address both conflict resolution and professional growth.
How to Find a Business Coach
Your needs and comfort level will have some bearing on searching out a business coach. For example, if you prefer face to face coaching, you will need to search locally, whereas, telephone coaching presents the opportunity to engage in a coaching relationship outside your geographic area.
In Gil Gerretsen’s opinion, face to face coaching offers more value to small business owners. He suggests looking for someone in your area by checking with your local Chamber of Commerce or asking for referrals from other local small business owners. He adds “if there is no one available locally, check the nearest big city and drive to see them there. Before I first launched my business, I flew to Los Angeles once per quarter to meet with my coach. It was worth every penny!”
Another thing to remember is to ask any prospective coach for references, training background and accreditation. “The best way, really, is to find a coach on personal recommendation because then you know what you are getting,” says Anne Wilkinson, “Certainly go for a professionally trained coach, even if they are not certified.”
The Heart of Coaching by Thomas G. Crane states the following: “As coaching becomes a predominant cultural practice, it will create a performance-focused, feedback-rich organization capable of creating and sustaining a competitive advantage.” If you are open to the process, coaching can provide you and your small business with a number of great benefits – and offer a new perspective on how to plan, manage and grow your organization.