NASE Blogs

From the Trenches ... Finding a Business Coach or Consultant

May 17, 2010


Question         I've been in business for three years and realize I need help in improving my business. I have read about business coaches and have done some research on the Internet but the more I read the more confused I become. I have also read good comments as well as negative comments from people who have used coaches. How can I find a business coach who can help me in my business?


Answer            Before beginning your search for a business coach (or other professional) it’s important for you to outline your specific needs and expectations (similar to a job description). This will enable you to interview professionals for the job just as you would do when hiring an employee. There are many variations in what business coaches offer and while there are some talented people coaching, there are also many with more good intentions than an ability to produce results. It’s also important to understand that a business coach might not be the best type of professional to help your business ... you might really need the services of a business consultant..


So ... the more you can identify business needs, the greater the chance you have to find the right professional. Example; do you need someone with strong business knowledge that can support your level of business experience or are you more in need of personal motivator to help you keep organized to get tasks done? Are your primary needs dealing with people (customers as well as employees) and more direction in time management ... or, are you not sure exactly what you need?


As a general guide, if you find that you need someone to help with the personal motivation of your business, a coach is a good option. However, if you need someone to help with the nitty-gritty of business ... finances, marketing, operations, employees, etc. ... you are probably looking for a small business consultant rather than a business coach.


This is not to say that a business coach might not have expertise in the day-to-day world of business. Nor does it mean that a consultant can not help with the personal and motivational aspects of business. But, as a general rule, a business coach will work on the psychological aspects of your business and a business consultant will get into the nuts and bolts. That is why it is so important to have a clear picture of what you need. I have seen too many circumstances of small business owners wasting thousands of dollars on a professional before they discover they had hired the wrong “type” of professional.


Another consideration is to establish a realistic budget for professional assistance. The costs for coaches and consultants can vary widely. While many pros fit into the small business price range, high end executive pros can cost $1,000’s in retainers and annual fees. And, paying more money doesn’t necessarily mean you will get better results.


When you get ready to start your search, look in your own area first for the right person. While you will hear that coaches or consultants can work with you long distance via telephone, emails, and webinars, having a good local pro is an opportunity to work with someone who can provide face-to-face help. It is very difficult to produce similar results using long distance relationships versus one-on-one personal meetings.


Finally ... like any hiring decision, make sure you check credentials and references before you open your checkbook. Particularly when you are working with a business coach or consultant it is critical that both of you have a good synergy and your personalities work together. No matter how good a professional is, if your personalities conflict it will probably end in a difficult and expensive relationship.

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