Do You Need A Business Coach?
Scott D. Clary | Mental Models, Performance, Business & Entrepreneurship
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Do You Need A Business Coach?
As entrepreneurs, there are a few things we really like. One of those things is independence. Another is creative control. We're working to see our ideas come to fruition, and so to be in charge of our creative vision is a big draw.
But as anyone who's gone through the entrepreneurial ringer will tell you, the idea of 'doing it all on your own' quickly dissolves when sh*t gets real. You lose money, your marketing strategy falls through, and the customers you thought would love your product just don't seem to care.
In moments like these, you might receive this advice: "Get yourself a business coach."
The fighter within you – the one that screams 'but I can do it on my own!' – immediately rebels at the suggestion. But should it? Why is it that we repel this idea of outside assistance? Why are we so reluctant to share our goals with the people who can help us reach them?
I've got a few theories to share, followed up by some stellar advice from today's inspiration, Randy Haykin. Let's dig in.
The Gratitude Network: Investing In A Better Future
Randy Haykin was a super cool guest to have on my show. He's a serial entrepreneur, angel investor, venture capitalist, and philanthropist. Most notably, he founded and runs The Gratitude Network, a 501c3 not-for-profit that provides coaching services to social entrepreneurs around the world.
Haykin has been an angel investor for more than 20 years, investing in more than 30 early-stage companies, including early stakes in AOL, Yahoo, Voquette, eTeamz/Active, Sharie's Berries, Napo Pharmaceuticals, Solazyme, EyeFluence, Table.co, FastPencil, LesConcierges, EnerAllies, CrowdOptic, Apploi, QASymphony, ePharmix, and Sculptology.
(So, yes. He's been around the block a few times.)
After all of that experience as an investor, though, Randy did something incredible. He started a non-for-profit that invests in world-bettering ideas; businesses that have the potential to change lives and flip social issues on their head.
If that doesn't speak to the quality of this man's character, I don't know what does.
Something the Gratitude Network really focuses in on is this idea of business coaching, which is what gave me the idea for today's newsletter. The Network provides subject matter experts to any of the people they invest in – completely free of charge.
The results are nothing short of amazing. Here's an excerpt from their website:
"To date, Gratitude Network has worked with over 140 Gratitude Leaders impacting children and youth in more than 60 countries. While focused on the broad categories of Education, Health & Well-being, and Children’s Rights, our Fellows are impacting children in Education Access, Teacher Support, Online Education, Poverty Alleviation, Girls’ Empowerment, Child Safety, and so many more critical areas."
Where Coaching Comes Into Play
I've got to admit, I had no idea that an organization like this existed. The entrepreneurial space can feel so surface-level at times; it was refreshing to speak to someone who is looking to effect real change in the world.
And if you're an entrepreneur, that's probably what you're after too. You want to make a difference. You want your business to have impact.
But here's the thing: Impact doesn't happen overnight, and it definitely doesn't happen in a vacuum. It takes a lot of hard work, dedication, and – yes – coaching. There's no way around it; if you want to be the best of the best, and if you want to see all your hard work come to fruition, you need to learn from the people who've done it before you.
Then there’s the factor of expertise. Entrepreneurs will always reach a point where their own expertise simply isn’t enough to support the growth they want to see. You might have the grit and determination and winning mindset, but sometimes, you really need guidance on specifics. Think marketing, HR issues, budgets, long-term plans, etcetera.
But Does It Really Work?
This is a fair enough question to ask. While I was researching, I found a fair few articles claiming that business coaches were a massive waste of time and money.
The pattern I saw in these articles, though, was that the trouble started when people looked in the wrong places for coaches. They'd go for the cheapest or most popular coach, without taking into account things like personality fit and shared values.
So, assuming you find a good match, what do you stand to gain from a coach?
- In a 2020 study of 87 companies, it was found that 99 percent of the people surveyed experienced a return on their investment in coaching.
- Another study found that 70 percent of entrepreneurs with coaches last 5 years longer in business than those without coaches.
- Google and Apple both employed the help of a business coach in order to reach the trillion-dollar valuation they enjoy today.
- The International Society for Performance Improvement found that business coaching has a 221 percent ROI. That's insane!
It was so interesting to come away from the critical articles and read these statistics. Clearly, there's a way to do coaching well – and those are the Googles and Apples of the world, the ones that see great returns on their coaching experience.
So what was going wrong for the others? Why are there so many articles about the devastating waste of money that is business coaching?
It could be because, as with anything, there are bad coaches out there. And when someone hires a coach without doing their research, it's likely that they'll end up with someone who isn't a good fit for them. Personality mismatch is one of the key reasons why coaching fails.
I also realized, though – and this is where my chat with Randy Haykin came into play – there are actually a few more factors to think about when you're considering getting a coach.
There Are Different Ways To Receive Coaching
In speaking to Randy, I was interested to find out that coaching isn't so cut-and-dry. There are different ways to receive it, and the one you choose will depend on where your company's at.
At times, all we really need is a bit of a kick in the backside. Maybe we need a lesson in productivity or a refresher on how to stay on top of our finances. At this point, you don't necessarily need a coach – you need a course.
“One option if you're looking for learning is to take a class. Do an online class or an in-person class. In that case, it's the group soaking in the lecture, soaking in the reading, maybe discussing amongst the group," Randy explained.
I can imagine taking this approach for personal and leadership development. I'm sure plenty of entrepreneurs would love to build their confidence and public speaking ability, or gain a better understanding of how to manage employees.
Randy made a great point about the group setting, too – it's super valuable to be able to bounce off ideas with other business owners.
Consultants vs. Coaches
In the discussion of business coaching, it's easy to get confused between coaches and consultants. What's the difference?
“A consultant is someone you hire to solve an issue that you're not able to solve yourself," Randy clarified. This made sense to me; it's almost like a mini version of BPO. You recognize a gap in your skillset, and you hire someone to fill that gap until the issue dissolves.
"The difference with coaching is that you're doing the work as the individual leader; the coach is asking all the right questions, assuming that you have the knowledge about your own space, and about the work you're doing, that they're trying to get you to realize what's the next step in what you need.”
Here it is. The perfect explanation of what a coach actually does! So often, we assume that coaches instruct us on exactly what to do and how to do it. Coaches aren't an instruction manual, people. They're there to help us figure out what our next step should be.
This is so valuable because it allows us to retain our independence and ownership of our business. We're not blindly following someone else's advice – we're taking their guidance and working it into our own plan.
“If the coach is asking the right questions, you decide on your own what is the right outcome.”
Are Coaches the Same as Mentors?
Great question. Randy explained that, because the two are interchangeable at times, he's had to make a clear distinction.
“At Gratitude, we call mentors Expert Advisors, because we found that the mentor word was confusing for folks. Some people view a mentor as a coach, some people view them as an expert – it’s sort of all over the place. But by calling people Expert Advisors, it's clearly about the subject matter expertise that they have.”
I interpret this to mean that mentors are simply one type of business coach; the type you consult for very specific guidance on, say, marketing or finances. Some entrepreneurs might prefer more of a holistic, all-encompassing coaching relationship.
When To Take the Plunge
It's a good idea to be coached at some point in your journey as an entrepreneur – but when should that point be? Should there be multiple points, also?
Randy explained it in an incredibly simple way: when you see a gap, it's time to fill it.
“With a general coach, you'd be you'd be realizing, ‘we got a gap here. We are lacking knowledge on foundations’, for example. So at that point, you're going to need to bring in some expertise.”
By taking this approach, you won't be bogged down by unnecessary overhead. You'll also have a clear goal and timeline in mind.
“It's at the point where you realize that you just don't know what you don't know, or that you're going to need some short-term expertise to bridge the gap and get you to the next step.”
Where Should You Look?
Ah – the next challenge. Where should you look for a business coach?
For the people within Randy's organization, he provides coaches free of charge. But in the real world, you may find a fair price tag attached to quality coaching. That's why it's super important to do your research.
"You could use LinkedIn or you could use friends and connections. You’d reach out and say, ‘Hey, we are doing great work with kids and education. We don't have a lot of money. But we love your background. Could you give us a couple of hours of your time to help us with this issue?’”
I'm often amazed at peoples' generosity when you ask for help in the right way. The best people want to see you succeed, and they're willing to offer their time and expertise to help you get there.
But How Do You Avoid the Bad Eggs?
You'll inevitably come across a coach or two that just isn't the right fit. Once you've gone headfirst into a coach-mentee relationship, though, it's gonna be hard to back out.
Prevent this by doing your due diligence upfront. Look for the red flags!
The Overly Prescriptive Coach
This is a coach you want to steer clear of at all costs. They're stubborn and narrow in their solutions, and they'll likely rob you of your own creativity and intuition.
“Overly prescriptive folks who immediately jump to a prescription when you're trying to explain the problem is usually a red flag, because they're not empathically listening to what your challenges are before making a suggestion. It's like they have an idea already before they even get going.”
The Self-Absorbed Coach
Then there's the issue of people who think they hold all the answers. These coaches are so convinced that their way is the right way, and won't change directions for anyone.
“Another red flag would be someone who seems to be leading you toward their service. To the hammer, everything looks like a nail. And so you're trying to tell them about your issue, and they keep moving you toward the thing that they do. And it doesn't feel like the right fit.”
Finally, you've got the coach that only thinks of what they can gain from you. This is the person who appears to offer their services for free (since you're doing such amazing work) but will inevitably push you toward buying into their product or service.
“If they move you towards trying to sell you on their services as opposed to just helping you solve an issue out of the goodness of their heart...” Uh-oh. Get out of there quick.
It might seem too simple, but the best way around these red flags is asking around. Do more research than you need to. Reach out to people you know and trust, and see if they have any recommendations.
Then, take the time to interview a few coaches before making your decision. This is an important investment in your business, after all – so you want to make sure you find the right one for you.
So here's the bottom line: if you see a gap that needs filling, now's your chance to find a coach. You don't have to wait until the need arises, though. You can also proactively seek out a business coach to help you get where you want to be.
If you're at all interested in the area of socially responsible businesses, investing, accelerators, and entrepreneurship, make sure you head over and watch Randy Haykin's full podcast episode. He's had many years of experience in the space, and it was a pleasure to hear his insights.
Thanks for being here!
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