A small business owner should always be looking for ways to refine their craft and grow. To that end, entrepreneurs often seek to hire a small business coach or consultant to provide insight and advice on successfully scaling their operations.
However, there are significant distinctions between a consultant and business coach, and they’re not necessarily interchangeable. Most small business owners will benefit more from a business coach than a standard consultant.
In this article, we’ll examine the advantages of hiring a small business coach, and show you exactly what to look for when you begin your search.
1. What Does a Business Coach Do?
A business coach provides practical and emotional advice and support for businessmen and women. The role of the business coach is to help guide the business person toward their goals, help them overcome obstacles and to be an anchor of rationality in a sea of complex business decisions.
Some business coaches specialize in a particular niche, such as marketing, taxes, personnel management or something else. Other business coaches take a more generalist approach and use their business experience and acumen to advise a small business owner on almost anything they’ll face.
2. Why Hire a Business Coach?
Expertise is the real value a business coach brings to a small business owner. When considering, “Do I need a business coach?” ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I frequently encounter obstacles that impede the growth of my business?
- Is my personal life suffering because I try to tackle everything myself?
- Am I getting the maximum ROI out of my marketing budget?
- Do I lack anyone in my life to turn to for professional advice or support?
- Do I sometimes have difficulties communicating with employees, contractors or vendors?
- Am I still trying to figure out the basics, even after being in business a few years?
- Am I confused about how to scale my business?
There are all kinds of valid reasons to hire a business coach. A small business coach can act as a business mentor, the person you turn to when you need to talk to someone who “gets it.” Your coach is the person with the ideas and resources you need to make changes to some aspect of your business.
You can think of a business coach as a secret edge you have over your competitors. And if you hire one, you should feel like the relationship does give you that advantage.
3. How Does a Business Coach Work?
There’s no set way that all business coaches work. They typically work for themselves, so they don’t have the procedural constraints that an instructor might have at an educational institution, for example. You should consider how you’ll work with the coach’s individual methodology before you make the final hiring decision.
One business coach may work with a formal agenda for your collaboration. This could be the case if you communicate specific business goals you wish to achieve with his or her help.
Another small business coach may open themselves up to your needs as they arise. Your sessions might consist of discussions about issues that you encountered since your last meeting, with the business coach advising you on possible solutions.
Introducing you to their business network so you can make valuable connections, or attending trade shows with you to show you how to find new vendors, are other potential strategies they may suggest.
In-Person Versus Online
Since it’s so easy to Skype or chat online, a lot of business coaches offer that option. For busy small business already pressed for time, the online option makes sense. But keep in mind that a situation like this may make it harder to develop the kind of close relationship that you’d get with an in-person business coach.
When your business coach lives nearby, you’re more apt to have meetings over lunch, attend business functions together and build a lasting relationship. In-person business coaches also get the chance to visit your place of business, which may help them better serve your needs.
4. Basic Attributes to Look for in a Small Business Coach
You’ll want to look for several basic characteristics in any small business coach you consider.
Communication will be the foundation of anything you hope to get out of your relationship with a small business coach. A good rapport should be the bare minimum. Even better would be a business coach whose personality meshes with yours.
Consider time zones when you choose a business coach. Will this small business coach be available when you need them, or will you have to alter your schedule to suit theirs? You don’t want a business coach who spreads themselves too thin among clients, either.
There are all kinds of ways of doing business. Not everyone has the same ideas of what’s fair. It sounds unlikely, but don’t assume that a business coach would never recommend questionable business tactics.
Make sure that the business coach’s values align with your own.
5. Specialty Expertise to Look for in a Small Business Coach
The expertise to look for in a coach depends on your needs at the moment. If you’re in the throes of learning how to automate your marketing efforts, then someone with a lot of experience making those decisions could suit your requirements better than a generalist.
If you’re having issues with abrasive business relationships, you could learn important skills from a communications specialist business coach.
Are you seeking a business loan to buy needed inventory or hire more personnel? A financial expert could help you find funding sources and put together the necessary paperwork for your loan.
Keep in mind, you may have a certain need for a specialty business coach now, and in a few years, look to another kind of specialty business coach for something else.
Alternatively, you don’t have to choose a specialty coach at all. You can seek a small business coach who’ll help you in more general ways to achieve your small business goals.
6. How to Interview a Professional Business Coach
Most small business coaches are happy to submit to an interview so each of you can ascertain whether it will be a good fit. The interview may or not be free of charge, so be sure to clarify any fees ahead of time.
Put together a list of questions to interview the professional business coach with, such as the ones listed below. Don’t let the list get in the way of a back and forth conversation, though. You have an opportunity to evaluate rapport as well as to get the answers to your questions, and should take advantage.
- Do you have specific business experience that compares to mine? – helps to see if the coach has relatable expertise
- What’s your coaching process? – helps you to see what it would be like working with the small business coach
- Can you provide me with a couple of references? – all good coaches should be able to give you at least two
- Do you offer in-person or online coaching or both? – speaks to the accessibility of the coach
- What business achievements do you have, if any? – helps you to confirm that they were outstanding in business
- Can you tell me a time when you helped a business owner overcome an obstacle? – listen to how they tell the story; do they take all the credit, or do they acknowledge the efforts of the business owner?
- May I share some of my immediate needs to see if they’re within your purview? – to ensure alignment of expertise and need
- Can you tell me a little about your history as a business coach? – insight into who they are and how they got here
7. How Much Does a Small Business Coach Cost?
The cost of a small business coach is not insignificant. They tend to charge a minimum of $75 an hour, and up to several hundred dollars an hour. The experience level of the business, the size (revenue) of your business and the services you receive are usually factors in the fee.
You might find that the business coach offers package deals; like sessions for a reduced fee. You’d have to pay more upfront, so be sure you’re happy with this particular coach before committing.
You’ll need to personally weigh the value you could get out of having a business coach against their fees to determine if it makes sense for you.
In the end, if you decide to hire a small business coach, be sure to consider all the points mentioned above. According to a study conducted by the International Coaching Federation, coaching has increased by 20% over the last several years, and there are more business coaches on the market than ever before. The value a good coach brings to the table is considerable, but make sure you find the right coach for your business needs.