All world-class athletes have an experienced coach to pull the very best performance from them - game in, game out. Their coach gives them an edge to prepare better, plan smarter, and execute more powerfully.
What's not as well known is that top business owners often also have a coach, in their case a "business coach".
Your business coach is an experienced entrepreneur who's been where you want to go and 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. Your coach's role is to help your company focus, plan, execute, and regroup so that you make consistent progress growing your business and building an owner independent company.
Too many business owners build their businesses in isolation, lacking the outside perspective and feedback from an experienced mentor. What's more, most business owners don't have anyone in their business lives to challenge their thinking and question 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 hear, but desperately need to hear.
As my friend and co-author of SCALE, Jeff Hoffman (co-founder Priceline.com) put it this way, "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 most 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."
Here are my top 12 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. We recommend every two weeks as the optimal interval. This is often enough that you get effective accountability (monthly is generally not often enough for this), but not so often 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. Our business coaching clients use a proprietary "Big Rock App" each week to automatically update their business coach on their progress for the prior week.
• 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.
• Pick a program, not just a coach. You want and need more than just a great coach, you want a solid, proven coaching program. Remember, structure plus talent always outperforms talent isolated on its own. In effect, the right coaching program makes sure that your coach balances your company's immediate day-to-day operational needs with its longer-term development strategy. If your coach just helps you deal with your current operational challenges but doesn't give you a clear map to consistently reduce your company's reliance on you by enhancing its systems, team, controls, and culture, you just may end up more firmly trapped in an owner-reliant business.
• 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 paychecks.
• Don't rationalize or explain away reality, because even if you "win" the discussion, reality will still win the war. I can't help but smile when I think about all the exceptionally smart and articulate business owners I've known over the years who at one point or another thought they could explain away a challenge or situation with a well-rehearsed argument. Reality is what reality is, and the objective facts are the objective facts. Your coach will help you cut through your own rationalizations and fantasy thinking, helping 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.
• Challenge your coach. Don't just blindly accept his or her advice. Chew on it. Wrestle with it. When needed ask for exactly what you need from your coach. The most successful coaching relationships are two-way streets.
• 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? 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 36 months or longer of focused, directed, intelligent action in scaling a company. Time's going to pass either way. What will you be saying 3 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.
In fact, earlier this week I got the below email from Shirley, owner of a $5 million per year regional group of Montessori preschools in California.
She shared, "One of my biggest breakthroughs came when I was talking with my business coach Patty and she challenged me in a new way about why I felt like no one else could do the things I was doing as well as they needed to be done. Patty had me take a close look at the price I was paying in my life by holding on to that limiting belief. It wasn't easy, and I still struggle with letting go to my management team, but the key difference is that now I have not only started to build a capable and talented management team, but have delegated responsibility for the administrative functions to others. Additionally, I have learned to not settle for sub-standard performance from my managers and have hired capable Directors and Assistant Directors at both schools that can handle most every issue."
Shirley made real progress scaling her business and reducing its reliance on her by following these ten tips and leveraging her business coach. Now it's your turn so get to work.
For more ideas on growing your business, including a free tool kit with 21 in-depth video trainings to help you scale your business and get your life back, click here.