“Business Coaching” has become an entire industry over the past 20 years. But it is still a rather unknown industry to many. So what exactly is this new-ish industry and what could those looking into working with a business coach expect?
Years ago I was in the process of selling a business. It was a bottled water company and I was selling it to Culligan. About a year prior I had decided I wanted to sell my company and work one on one with other business owners helping them strategically figure out how to do better with their businesses. I had come across far too many entrepreneurs during the process of growing my bottled water business who were not living the American Dream.
It wasn’t uncommon for my company to be buying from a vendor or selling to a customer who’s business could have been doing much better than they were. I realized the biggest reason they were under-performing was because the owners/entrepreneurs were often too busy with the daily affairs of the business. When I would inquire as to who they had helping them strategically grow their businesses, they would often reply that they used their accountant, a friend or spouse/family member, or some even said they had used a consultant at one point (and usually admitted it did them little good as the report was still sitting, unused, in their desk drawer). So it was clear that many of them lacked a good resource to help them growth and improve their businesses.
Many of these entrepreneurs got to the point where they were making money and busy, but they couldn’t seem to turn the corner from making a modest income and working a good number of hours to living that American Dream (which I consider to be making more than a modest income and not having to “earn” it by working lots of hours unless you want to, but don’t need to).
So noticing the fact that many entrepreneurs were working too hard for too little, I decided to get into business to help them. But before I did I knew what I didn’t want to do. That is, I didn’t want to be an accountant or a consultant. There are already lots of accountants and consultants didn’t seem to have a good track record of getting results with their clients. But I knew I wanted to help them:
- Figure what they should be doing (strategic work), and,
- Help them stay on track and accountable to implementing the ideas we came up with.
So I looked into what I would call doing that, and I discovered there was a very small but interesting industry called “business coaching”. I knew right away that that was what I was thinking of. I looked into a few different options as to how I could learn more, and decided the fastest way was to buy a franchise, so I did. I purchased what was at the time the most established business coaching franchise available. I’ve since left that franchise after spending about a quarter million dollars to learn what I learned. Which was a lot. Here are a few things I’ve learned in the twelve years since about the business coaching industry:
I’m typically working with about ten to fifteen clients a time. When I work with businesses I’m both educating and being educated. So along with teaching and coaching a lot each year, I learn A LOT every year through my experiences with clients and their businesses.
In this industry people either development a reputation for results and get a lot of referrals, or they don’t really develop much of a reputation at all. Those who get lots of referrals typically charge more because they are more valuable. Those who don’t get great results are usually “cheap” (which is why most of them aren’t in the industry more than a few years).
Both as a Business Coach and as a client of a business coach, it isn’t easy. Building a good company into a great company is hard. There’s a lot of hard thinking and hard application of ideas. It takes focus, creativity, and dedication to the process. If a client isn’t willing to implement the ideas we come up with together, nothing happens. And execution on the ideas is the hard part. Coming up with the ideas sometimes takes creativity, experience, focus, mental discipline, or a combination of thereof, but executing on the ideas is where the rubber meets the road. Without it nothing grows.
My wife and I have nine kids. Six of them were adopted from Ethiopia and three we had biologically. Our house is rather full of activity. Our lives are sometimes quite full. But through all of our experiences I have been happy and at peace. I have enjoyed my years as a husband and father thus far thoroughly. And a big reason I’ve been so happy is that I also enjoy my work. I learned that this is a very difficult industry to do well in. I recently told my wife that out of the hundreds of people I began working in this industry together with back in 2006, only less that about 5% of them are still doing it. That’s a high turnover rate! But it’s never really been a challenge for me. Don’t get me wrong: I own a business. There have been challenges in the twelve years since owning this company. But there’s never been a question of whether it was something I was cut out for. I’ve questioned if I wanted to continue in the industry, but that’s different. Since my first year I was very good at helping others figure out what they should do, and at helping them stay committed to doing it. And the results my clients have gotten have brought me great joy.
By choosing to work with a business coach many entrepreneurs are doing something they have never done before: trusting someone else to help come up with ideas to grow and improve their businesses, as well as trusting someone else to help keep them on track. It’s exciting because the results you can achieve when you have someone else helping to push you and keep you focused on what’s important can be incredible. It’s dangerous because if that business coach doesn’t know what they’re doing they could steer you down a bad path. So choose wisely. Look especially for people who have been in the industry for some time. That’s the biggest indicator as to if they’ve been able to help others get good results in their businesses or not. In this industry you cannot survive without referrals and you won’t get referrals without good results. So look for a Business Coach with at least five to ten years of experience. Not only will they have more knowledge and ideas, they’ll also have proof that they’ve helped a lot of people get the results they were looking for and the likelihood that they’ll also help you will be substantially higher.