Why You Should Hire A Business Coach (And How To Find A Good One)

If you don’t have a coach, you’re putting a serious cap on your own potential.

As a business coach myself, I’m obviously biased on this one. And I can’t know how well coaching will work for you specifically. But one thing is for sure: coaching works.

How do I know?

First, because I’ve seen the impact of coaching on my own life. I’ve invested more money in coaching than in any other area of my business. And it always comes back ten-fold (like when I hired my first coach, left my job, and doubled my income in the first month).

Second, because I’ve seen the impact of coaching on my clients. I’ve helped people find work they are passionate about, start businesses from scratch, and increase their income by working less. Here are some of their stories.

Why Business Coaching Is So Powerful

As entrepreneurs, we often forget to to step back and reflect. This leads to building a business that isn’t in alignment with the life we want, isn’t suited to our unique strengths, and isn't meaningful to us.

I see so many people molding their life around their business, instead of the other way around. It's a shame. They successfully break free from someone else’s prison only to build themselves a new one.

A good coach will make sure that this never happens.

And if you are a coach yourself, it is absolutely essential that you hire the best coach you can. Why? Because a coach who hasn't been coached is a walking contradiction, asking people to believe in a process that they themselves have not invested heavily in. This is equally true of consultants, trainers, and other service professionals.

What A Business Coach Can Help You With

Coaching as a profession is largely unregulated. This means you’ll find all different types of people calling themselves coaches, each with their own process. For example, one of my past programs was focused on 5 key areas, which I called my "B.R.A.V.E. Business Formula":

  • Business skills. Depending on your level of business experience, there may be certain foundational skills that you need to upgrade in order to be successful. The most common areas I help my clients in are marketing, sales, and productivity.
  • Results. Success in business is ultimately determined by the results you get, not the time you spend. We'll help you clarify your goals and then identify hidden places where you might be holding yourself back from achieving them.
  • Action. Once we know the specific results you want to get, we need to break those big goals down together into smaller actions. That way, when you wake up each morning, you know exactly which high-leverage tasks to work on.
  • Vision. We want to make sure that everything you're doing is aligned with an overall vision for their business and life. We'll create and expand that vision by pushing you outside of your comfort zone and reminding you got started in the first place.
  • Energy. What might prevent you from accomplishing your long-term vision? We'll want to optimize your habits, environment, and mindset so that you can focus only on the things that give you energy, not the ones that take it away.

These are basically the five things you need in order to be successful as an entrepreneur. If you are missing one of them, it is very hard to start or grow a successful business.

You may notice that business skills are only one part of the equation. These should be an added spice to the coaching, not the main dish. Which brings us to our first distinction:

Mentoring vs. Consulting vs. Coaching

Some people call themselves coaches, but in reality they are mentors or consultants. This is especially common online. So, what’s the difference between the three?

A mentor is someone who’s already done the thing that you want to do. They’ve gone before you on the journey and you want to follow in their footsteps. They’ll give you perspective and help you avoid the common pitfalls in a specific type of business. Some mentors are free, some are paid.

A consultant or advisor is someone who you hire to solve a specific problem in your business. They typically do some sort of diagnostic to find your areas of weakness and then implement part or all of the solution. You hire this type of person because you need answers that you can’t or don’t want to find yourself.

A coach is someone who empowers their client to develop themselves and find their own answers. In other words, a coach teaches you to fish instead of giving you the fish. Coaching is a unique skill-set in and of itself, which is why the best performers often don’t make the best coaches (and why the best coaches can be massively effective even if they don’t have experience doing exactly what the client wants to do).

Of course, there's plenty of overlap here. The best coaches usually do a bit of each. But if all you want to do is learn a specific skill, or be told what to do, you are better off getting the help of a mentor or consultant.

Personal vs. Business vs. Executive Coaching

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There are three main brands of coaching. Here’s a rundown of all three:

Personal coaches (or life coaches, although I don't love that term) work primarily on developing the person they are working with. This development is almost always tied to an external outcome specific to the client (health, relationships, career). When I started off in my business as a personal coach, I focused on helping people find work they were passionate about.

Business coaches help people start or grow their business. While most of their work still focuses on developing the business owner or entrepreneur as a person, the primary goal of the coaching is usually to achieve a positive and significant revenue increase for the business. Because this type of work generates a clear financial return on investment, business coaches tend to charge more than personal ones.

Executive coaches work specifically with executives of large and medium sized corporations, or those on their way. The main focuses of this type of coaching are leadership, communication, and conflict management. This type of coach typically charges more money than the other two (though some business coaches may charge more) because they are working with larger businesses with more available resources and more growth potential.

There is often overlap here as well. Most entrepreneurs have a tight integration between their business, leadership, and life. Powerful coaches are able to dip into all three buckets when needed.

Private Coaching vs. Group Coaching

Coaches typically work with clients in one of two ways:

Private coaching agreements are typically co-created by the coach and client in order to meet customized goals in a specific amount of time. Sometimes there is a set program but this is rare for 1:1. Private coaching is usually more expensive than group coaching. It usually allows the client to move faster and go deeper because the coach’s focus is entirely on them.

Group coaching agreements involve more than one client at a time. Group programs are most effective when they are designed for a specific type of client wanting a specific result - that way the 1:1 coaching that takes place is relevant to everyone. The main benefit to group coaching, besides the reduced cost, is the sense of community that comes from being around likeminded people.

Each of these models can be done in person, on Skype, or over the phone.

How to Find A Great Business Coach

If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably interested in working with a coach. Unfortunately, there a lot of bad coaches out there. The barrier to entry is so low.

Here are 3 ways to make sure you get one of the good ones:

  1. Referrals and Testimonials. Referrals and testimonials are king in the coaching world. Is this person used to coaching others with your background and goals? Have they gotten results for their clients similar to the ones you want to achieve? 
  2. Thought Leadership. Most good coaches are also writers and/or speakers. Check out their body of work. It will tell you a lot about their style, personality, and philosophy. A great place to start is with the thought leaders you already follow. Please note: just because someone is great at teaching, executing, or creating new ideas does not mean they're also a great coach.
  3. Strategy Sessions. I feel strongly that you shouldn’t pay for a coach until you’ve experienced their coaching in some form. Why? Because there’s something even more important than referrals, testimonials, and thought leadership: FIT. Coaching is, at it's core, a partnership. I wouldn’t hire a coach before having a conversation in the same way I wouldn’t marry someone before going on a date. As the coach, I need to make sure that I am inspired enough by this person to hop on the phone with them multiple times a month.

Notice that certifications are not on the list. These days, you can literally get certified as a coach in a matter of days. I haven’t noticed a very strong correlation between number of certifications and quality of coaching. Certifications do not guarantee a high level of training or experience, and that's what really matters

What To Expect When Hiring A Coach

The pricing, length, and frequency of a coaching engagement varies widely. A good coaching agreement will be based on the needs of each individual client. But here’s a general idea of what you’re in for:

Length: Experienced coaches usually charge for 6–12 month packages, or on a retainer basis, instead of by the hour. Some programs are shorter and can last between 8 weeks and 3 months.

Pricing: Depending on the type of engagement, business coaching can cost between $500/month-$5,000/month or more ($1000/month is probably the average).

Frequency: 2–3 times/month is typical. But again, it all depends on the client. And the coach (I am in touch with some of my clients almost every day). The time you spend is less important than the insights and results you generate.

So, is coaching worth it? That will depend on how willing you are to take action as a client. If you believe that coaching works (and it does), then a better question is this:

How much time, money, and energy are you willing to waste trying to build your business alone?

(Photo credit: David Goehring via cc)

Greg Faxon

Greg Faxon, 2829 Connecticut Avenue NW (Apt 513), Washington, DC 20008, United States