A business coach is an experienced entrepreneur who's been where you want to go and experienced what you want to experience who can give you the outside perspective and counsel to build a more successful business -- without having to go through all the painful trial and error yourself!
In a real way, a business coach is similar to a sports coach in that your coach's role is to help you focus, plan, prepare, execute, and regroup so that you get the results you're committed to in your business.
Too many business owners build their businesses in isolation, lacking the outside perspective and feedback from an experience mentor. What's more, most business owners don't have anyone in their business lives who challenges their thinking and questions their assumptions. Sure they have lots of employees, but it's asking a lot for a person who depends on you for their family's financial support to really challenge you with the things you don't want to, but truly need to, hear. Plus, they've "been there, and done that" and can speak to you out of their direct experiences.
Here's how my friend and co-author of SCALE Jeff Hoffman (co-founder of Priceline.com) put it: "What I get out of having a business coach is that my coach has run and worked with so many companies that they've seen that they've seen every situation. So when I don't even know how to handle a new situation, my coach says, 'Don't worry about it, I've seen this pattern a dozen times. Here's how to best handle it."
Having been in the business coaching industry for 20 years, here are my top 10 tips to get the most out of your business coach:
• Pick a coach who has deep experience set and knowledge-base to draw upon. The whole idea of leveraging a business coach is to help you avoid a lot of the expensive trial and error that most business owners take as they build a business. While many of the situations you come up against in your business (whether they be about managing your team, growing your sales, creating your next products or services, or controlling your expenses) may be new to you, your coach can draw on his or her past experiences to give you clarity on the best path forward.
• Pick a coach who can articulate and explain things to you in simple, step-by-step language so that you can integrate what they share and put it to immediate and effective use.
• Meet frequently with your business coach -- but not too often. I'd recommend every two weeks. You want to meet often enough that you can have effective accountability (monthly is generally not often enough for this), but not too frequently that you don't have time to get things done.
• Get your business coach weekly updates on your progress. 5-15 minutes spent each week to update your coach about your progress both adds a layer of accountability into the mix and keeps your coach up to speed with your company so he can give you his best input.
• Share your numbers-candidly. Yes it can be scary to share your revenue, gross margin, and operating profit figures with complete candor, but by being open you will get valuable outside perspective and feedback. Don't sugar coat anything. Your coach won't judge you. Her real desire is to help you grow and succeed, and to do that she needs accurate data.
• Don't just focus on one-off challenges -- look for systematic, global solutions. Solving a challenge is great, but solving a challenge in a way that improves and develops your company's internal systems and controls is even more valuable. Ad hoc solutions are hard to scale. Systems driven solutions are more stable and easier to grow.
• Give permission to your business coach to hold you accountable. The right business coach will always be in your corner, and sometimes this means being the one person in your business life who calls you on the mat. Your employees can't do this -- you sign their pay checks. As I've worked with my business coaching clients I've seen the impact on their business when they play full out and allow me to hold them accountable.
• Don't rationalize or explain away reality, because even if you "win" the discussion, reality will still win the war. I smile when I think about all the exceptionally smart and articulate business owners I've coached over the years. At one point or another most thought they could explain away a challenge or situation with a well-rehearsed argument. I smile. Reality is what reality is, and the objective facts are the objective facts.
You don't need to defend or make excuses with your coach. Use your business coaching relationship to be the one place where you can be fully transparent with what is going on in your business life. Your business coach will help you take full responsibility and accept the objective facts on the ground. And from this place you can both come up with an effective plan of action to harness those facts to reach your business goals.
• Let down your ego and accept the help and insights of your business coach. You don't have to posture or look good. Your coach has seen just about everything you are dealing with and worked through it. Let them save you the time, energy, emotion, and money by helping you learn from his or her experiences versus painful and expensive trial and error.
• Get rid of your excuses. You don't have to do it perfectly, but you do have to take action. Of course you're busy, but when will that ever really change if you don't do the things that reduce your company's reliance on you? My final piece of coaching to you is that if you want to enjoy the growth and freedom that the right business coach can help you enjoy, then you've got to let go of your excuses and dive fully into the commitment. Sure you'll mess up and have set backs, but I've seen the magic that can happen over 12-24-36 months of focused, directed, intelligent action in scaling a company. Time's going to pass either way. What will you be saying three years from today? "If only I had..." or "I'm so glad I did!"? So dive in and put your coach's input into action.
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