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The Importance of Business Coaches
Yoon Cannon is a seasoned entrepreneur. Since 1992 she’s started, grown and sold three businesses. Her first business was in the direct sales industry where she had the opportunity to hire, train and develop managers to open and run six new branch locations and leadership coaching was a big part of being able to make that happen. “You can’t retain people or have any kind of talent development without having a constant focus on leadership coaching,” she says. Today Yoon is a business coach expert and the founder of Paramount Business Coach. We recently asked her for some of her professional insight on the importance of business coaching. Here’s what she had to say:
Why do you think coaching can be so beneficial to small business owners and entrepreneurs?
As a small business owner, you feel like you’re isolated on an island, trying to grow your business all alone. Whether you’re an entrepreneur flying solo or you have many employees on your payroll you still have hundreds of important decisions you need to make every day. It is dangerous to navigate through every decision by yourself. It’s like being a pilot trying to land a plane without getting any guidance from the people in the control tower who have a 360-degree view of where you are and where you want to be.
Choosing to not have a coach is like a pilot choosing to fly blindly without their control tower. That’s not to belittle an entrepreneur’s competency. Not at all. It’s just a fact that as people we all have blind spots. The right business coach can help you make timely course corrections in your business which will save you from making costly mistakes while speeding your success. Working with a business coach also pulls you away from working “in” the business, so you can work “on” the business. This alone is worth double the return on your investment because this is a common success habit that so many small business owners skip right over.
What types of insight do business coaches offer small business owners and entrepreneurs?
That depends on the specific areas of expertise the individual business coach has. Business coaches are similar to lawyers in that you should choose someone whose expertise (practice area) is in the area you need the most guidance. Some business coaches have one specialty while others may have multiple areas of expertise. For me, as a business growth expert I specialize in helping entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial companies to: Increase your sales (grow externally) and to increase your people assets (grow internally).
When should professionals seek the help of a business coach?
I firmly believe the sooner the better. You’re never too beginner, nor too advanced to benefit from working with a business coach. For business growth, no matter what size business, the most important investment to make is in your people. As a small business owner that starts with investing in yourself. The decision to invest in a business coach for yourself as an entrepreneur is no different than an athlete who decides to hire a sports performance coach. For professional athletes working with a specialized coach is pretty standard practice. Similarly, working with a business coach is standard practice for entrepreneurs who are serious about their businesses.
How can business professionals make the most of their relationship with a business/leadership coach?
Like anything else, what you get out is in direct proportion to what you put in. So, the way to gain the biggest ROI from your investment in hiring a business coach is to decide you will commit to take action on those ideas and decisions you collaborated with your coach to do. A coach can help hold you accountable, but in the end it is you who needs to actually do what you said you would do.
Also, be honest and practice direct communication with your coach. You need to be clear what specific outcome result you’d like to achieve from working with your business coach. You need to tell him or her how you like to be coached. Do you want more collaboration or more direct guidance and feedback? Some discussions you may want your business coach to just listen to you or brainstorm with you while other conversations you want to get their advice.
What are the most common mistakes business owners make when working with a coach?
The first common mistake is hiring the wrong business coach. The classic trap where I find shortcomings most apparent is hiring a business coach who may have gone through a coaching certification course, but never had firsthand experience starting and growing their own successful businesses. Textbook knowledge without proven experience just doesn’t produce the same level of insight and results.
The second biggest mistake is lack of commitment. You won’t be able to build any momentum or make significant progress if you cancel or reschedule your coaching appointments every time you have a fire to put out in your business or you’re feeling like you have too many urgent tasks you’ve got to get to. The greatest transformations that happen from working with a business coach occurs as a result of consistently working on the business together. It may seem counter intuitive, but, taking even 30 minutes to talk to your business coach is often the fastest way to resolve those fires and conquer overwhelm more effectively.
What advice do you have for business professionals on finding a reputable coach who will not only help grow business, but who’s also a good fit personality-wise?
Asking other small business owners who they liked working with is a good way to start. Searching on LinkedIn is also a great way to find business coaches. Especially, since LinkedIn makes it easy to check out their recommendations and the profiles of real people who wrote them. Then talk to a potential candidates asking each the same list of questions. Talking to each business coach directly will be the easiest way to see who you click with.
What are some red flags that a potential coach might not have the experience or expertise necessary to help a business owner?
Ask your coach whether he or she has ever faced the same challenge(s) you are looking to overcome and/or successfully helped others overcome your specific challenge(s). If their answer is no, this is a red flag. Share what your goals are with the coach. Ask them to rate themselves on a scale of 1 to 10 how confident they are in knowing exactly how to help you achieve your goal(s). Of course, a low score will tell you this is a red flag. Third, use common sense. If you’re looking to hire a business coach mainly to help you get more clients from your website, but their own website is lacking, this is a clear red flag. Fourth, look for client testimonials on their website and LinkedIn profile. If they only have one or two or none, that is another red flag.
How long does the typical coaching relationship last?
What is typical for me is one year. But, it all depends on the nature of the goal and the gap between where you are and where you want to be. My initial free discovery session is where I can better estimate of how long it may take to achieve the result each client is looking for based on their unique business and situation. On the short end, I recently coached another coach who simply wanted me to diagnose why her marketing wasn’t getting results. It only took three sessions for her to feel equipped to be able to take it from there. On the longer end, another client continued to work with me for four years. He was thrilled that in those four years of having me coach him and his team their sales increased by $6 million.
What advice do you find yourself repeating to clients over and over again?
“If you want to sell more you’ve got to serve more. How can your business better serve your customers, your team, your community?”