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Is your business performing at its best? It pays to get an outside expert to assess your business – you are too close to the coalface to do this objectively.

Constructive and informed criticism is often hard to come by. In business, you need someone you can trust to give you the best advice.

In lean times, stretching your resources to accommodate a coach might be an expense hard to justify (although not seeking the advice of a business coach may be setting yourself up for a greater expense in the long term). You might find people who are happy to share their experiences with you and will do that willingly. Eventually, however, there is a need to view advice as something more than information you get for free. Business advice and coaching should not be tagged with the word ‘expense’. Coaching is an investment in your business from which you get a return.

The benefits of coaching

Your business coach will help you set goals, both short-term and long-term, and show you how to create systems that will help you achieve those goals. They will show you where you are wasting time and effort, and where your energies could be better spent – your business will be better for it.

Business coaching can make a massive impact on a business and the person who leads it. This in turn can affect everyone connected to the business, including staff and customers. Business coaching can create what I call a ‘success snowball’ – this is when really great teaching leads to really great thinking in a business. This transforms the people in the business, turning a mediocre business into a good one, and a good business into a great one.

What to look for

First, be clear about what you want. Know that a coach won’t do the actual work for you – just like a sportsperson in training, you have to get in and do the work yourself.

A good coach will help you shift your thinking about your business and gain an understanding of basic yet essential business principles and then guide you in the best way to implement them.

Ask a potential coach if they have any personal experience in business. Ask how they work – do they work from a structured program or is what they do dependent on their knowledge?

Check out the areas they cover in detail, they should include marketing, finance, leadership, delivery, service and systems. While you think you may need one or two of these, they are all interdependent. Look for someone who can deliver in all these areas.

Most coaches will tell you to measure and evaluate everything you do. Ask them how they do the same with the work they do with you.

The hard yards

Perhaps the last word is that no matter how good a coach and their way of working is, the relationship is still only effective if you do the work you commit to do in-between meetings.

Engaging a business coach and not doing the work required is like saying, “I bought the diet book, so how come I haven’t lost weight?”

The message is: be careful. If you’re thinking about using a business coach, ask questions to help you gauge the coach’s understanding of business.

While Olympic sportspeople are often coached by people who have never won an Olympic medal themselves, in business, a coach needs to have real knowledge of business and this can only come by being in there at the coalface themselves. Otherwise, they might able to give you the motivation, but not the real knowledge and empathy to back it up.

Published on: Thursday, March 19, 2009

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