My close friend coaches a soccer team, and the team is terrible.
The players often show up to practice distracted, emotional, and sometimes not even appropriately dressed. The coach has done his best to whip them into shape: they've been running drills, spending quality time together, and practicing the basics. Still, it feels like half the time, the team won't listen.
It's because they're four and five-year-olds. Well, at least, that's my hunch.
This is the picture we often have in mind when we think of a business coach. Or worse, some version of Leonardo DiCaprio in Wolf of Wall Street yelling at us to sell him a pen.
That's not how good coaching works, though. A good coach isn't someone who sits on the sidelines and watches for 30-minutes as uncoordinated kids trip over their feet. It's not someone who yells at you when you're not doing something their way. Instead, a great business coach will help you realign your thinking to focus on fixing gaps in your business. A great coach has been in your position before and is deeply familiar with how to think about the problems you face. A great coach is a knowledgeable partner.
To work with a great business coach, you must know what to look for. You need to identify what questions to ask. Lastly, you have to be committed to following through with their advice.
What to Look for In a Business Coach
Several people can play the role of advisor as you build a new small business: your CPA or accountant, your financial advisor, a trusted lawyer... the list goes on. Regardless, the hallmark of an excellent coach is much less about their work and far more about the questions they ask.
Every great advisor asks excellent questions.
Because of social media and the internet, there's a wealth of information about building a brand new business. You're reading a piece of that information right now! The problem with this information circulating through massive search engines like Google or YouTube is that not all of it (almost none) is good advice. That's not to say there aren't valuable resources all around the internet - there are (you're reading one). Instead, great advice is tailored to your specific situation because your business is full of nuance, and there are details specific to you.
The internet's advice is often too generic to make a real impact. Therefore, an excellent advisor and business coach takes the time to understand your business deeply.
What makes you tick? Why are you operating the way that you are? How are you building systems and processes that are unique to you, and what can you improve?
As you may have discovered, when growing a small business, you eventually reach a point where generic advice no longer helps. It would be best if you had detailed, specific, actionable insights to solve some of your most complex problems.
Entrepreneurs are notorious for becoming trapped inside a prison of their own making; many business owners get stuck as operators rather than entrepreneurs because they get bogged down by the day-to-day work. This is why a business coach can be so beneficial: while they can supply actionable, detailed, specific, actionable advice, a great coach helps you reframe the struggles you're experiencing. Instead of being trapped by your problems, they'll encourage you to get out of the weeds and look at your business from 30,000 feet in the air.
Looking at the big picture allows us to identify holes. Then, we can set to work fixing them. We can work on the business rather than in it.
What to Ask a Business Coach
We know that a great business coach is a knowledgeable partner that can provide detailed, specific, actionable advice by asking questions that help you take your business to the next level. Still, how do you know if they will be an excellent fit for your business?
We ask questions.
A coaching relationship requires a lot of effort coming from both sides. If you've hit a wall in your business, you're doing everything possible to figure out what to do next.
If you're working with an industry-specific coach, you can ask how other business owners have handled similar situations.
If you're trying to identify how to solve your business's core issue, ask your coach how they addressed similar problems of their own.
If you're feeling unclear about the performance of your business, you can ask what metrics you should be tracking.
An excellent coach will help you more deeply understand the issue at hand, reframe the problem, or provide a concrete direction to move forward. In this way, an excellent business coach is like a therapist! They work to understand not only your original question but the deeper intent and motivation behind the thing you're struggling with in your business.
Your Responsibility When Working With a Coach
As I mentioned before, working with a coach is a two-way street. There's a commitment required from both you as the business owner and the coach you're working with.
On the coach's side, they're dedicated to helping you work through issues and grow your business.
Your responsibility is to listen, learn, and implement.
As you work through your questions and core issues, you have to trust that your coach has your best interest in mind. You have to believe that the things they're advising you to do, test, or track will impact your business.
An excellent coach will create a relationship built on trust and driven by results, proving that they're your best partner as your business grows. It's a partnership that can help your business incredibly, but you must be open to change.