But even a successful small business can hit some bumps on the road or find its growth plateauing. Being deep in the trenches of day-to-day operations means sometimes it can be hard for owners to see the changes that need to be made. You may feel like you’ve tried everything or that the risks in changing course are too great.
If you’re struggling with your next steps, you’re not alone. Seventy-six percent of business owners plan to exit their business in the next ten years, but many don’t even know what their business is worth or how to make sure they’ll be able to sell it for a price that will help them retire.
If this sounds like you, it may be time to hire some outside help. As a small business owner, you may not have the internal resources and management team to steer the ship through change. In fact, more than 75% of businesses with less than $1 million in revenue, and more than 40% of $1 million to $10 million in revenue businesses don’t have a management team.
If you need to look outside your business for this kind of support, a business coach or consultant can bring a fresh perspective and can help you find answers that may have already been right in front of you yet were somehow eluding you. While hiring a coach can feel like an expensive undertaking, both in terms of your time and money, research shows that business coaching can offer a 529% return on investment.
But which kind of outside help is right for you? Do you need a coach or a consultant?
Business Coach vs. Business Consultant
Whether you hire a business coach or consultant really depends on your needs. Consultants are often set up to provide technical expertise. If you’re looking to build a new IT system or create new sales or management structures, then a business consultant can provide the necessary knowledge and resources. Many consultants focus on a specific industry or software solution so they can provide targeted services to improve your business’s efficiency and operations.
By comparison, a business coach often comes in when the strategic path is unclear or you feel generally stuck. They may not offer a prefabricated solution but instead will work with you to understand your challenges and help guide you to an answer.
As Peter Cruikshanks, Managing Director of Outside In Management, puts it, “Coaches ask questions. Consultants are asked questions.” Consultants are often brought in when you have a known problem to solve. Coaches can help you define what the problem is in the first place.
If you’ve been running your company for a while, it can be helpful to have a third party that can coax answers out of you and your staff. You may know there’s a problem, and you may even think you know the solution, but it’s easy to keep putting off formalizing growth strategies and plans for the future while you’re buried in the chaos of running your business. A good business coach is someone who can draw out the answers you already have and help turn them into actionable items so your path forward is clear.
Sounds Simple, Right?
But while any advisor with some basic business skills can set up a website and call themselves a coach, truly qualified coaches can take their skillset and turn it into an art form, knowing exactly which questions to ask, where a business owner’s pain points are, and which ones to push. If you can find the right business coach, they can be an invaluable resource and a powerful ally throughout your career.
Is It Time to Hire a Business Coach?
There’s no specific time to hire a business coach. It really depends on your business’s growth trajectory and your personal development. You don’t need to wait for your growth to stagnate or for a key employee to leave, triggering a crisis. Many business owners use a regular meeting with a coach as a health check for their business, touching base when things are going well to make sure the ship stays on course in rougher waters.
But many times you’ll find the best time to hire a coach is when your business hits a fork in the road. John Nieuwenburg, Founder of W5 Business Coaching, says, “The owners I work with start with me because they have challenges on one or all three of time, team or money.”
The theme of time is echoed by James Kirkwood, Owner of the Kirkwood Consulting Group: “Business owners reach out when they are feeling overwhelmed, are too operational and unable to find time to be strategic.”
If you’ve got key decisions to make, major strategic initiatives to take on, or a once-successful product or service that isn’t performing like it used to and you can’t find the time to figure out why these are all great opportunities to get an outside perspective to help work through the questions in front of you.
What Qualifications Should a Business Coach Have?
While accountants have the Certified Public Account (CPA) designation and financial planners can be a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) or Certified Financial Planner (CFP®), right now there is no clear credentialing for business coaches that is nationally or internationally recognized.
As James Rohrbach, Managing Partner at My Trusted Advisor, puts it, “The bar to call yourself a coach is extremely low. The bar to be an effective and professional coach is very high and requires certifications and years of training.”
The International Coaching Federation certifies coaches but offers memberships to coaches providing everything from business and communications to personal growth and health and wellness coaching. So without a clear standard for what makes a qualified business coach, there are a few things to look out for:
- External training and professional development. Look for coaches that have completed formal training through a third party. For example, coaches that are trained as a Certified Value Builder™ have completed an intensive program in The Value Builder System™, which identifies the eight key drivers that most often impact a business’s growth.
- Experience with the specific issues you’re dealing with. A business coach doesn’t necessarily have to have experience in your industry, but they should be able to speak to past experience with your concern, whether that’s dealing with suppliers, identifying opportunities for growth, or managing changes in your workforce.
While it can feel appealing to seek out coaches that come with decades of industry experience—and sector knowledge may be useful—you may want to avoid those that walk in the door with highly prescriptive advice. A good coaching relationship is exactly that—a relationship—and is based on conversations with active listening and learning from both parties.
Every coaching relationship is unique. One overwhelmed business owner may want someone to come in and tell them exactly what to do, while another wants a coach to ask the questions that will let them figure out the next steps on their own. Knowing yourself and how you like to work is important when you’re having initial consultations with coaches and assessing fit.
Are You Ready to Hire a Business Coach?
If your business is at a fork in the road and you’re unsure of how to proceed, now may be the right time for you to hire a business coach. If you’re looking for guidance on how to grow a profitable business or one that runs more smoothly without your day-to-day involvement, a Certified Value Builder™ could be the resource you’re looking for.
To access the Certified Value Builder™ network, the first step is to complete the Value Builder Questionnaire. Once we have a better understanding of your needs and challenges, we’ll be able to connect you with a qualified coach to help you take the next steps in growing your business’s value.