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How should you choose a business coach?

Investing time and money in working with a business coach can be a daunting but exciting prospect. There’s no denying the huge benefits that can come from these partnerships but how do you know you’re choosing the right coach at the right time?

After a year of working for myself, I reached a point where I had a clearer idea of where I wanted to go but I just wasn’t sure how to get there. I needed help with a range of areas in my business, including mindset, social media and branding, so I started looking for a coach who could get me on the right path.

I spent a couple of months doing online research and speaking to other business owners, before I committed. In spite of having done research, I still felt incredibly nervous – Would I see a return on my investment? What if I felt no different at the end of our 3-month run? What if we didn’t get on when we met in person and it was all a bit awkward?

None of those concerns became a reality thankfully but a recent conversation with a friend got me thinking about the fact that my clients are likely to feel the exact same way before they work with me. So, in this post, I’m suggesting some things you should consider before you work with a coach.

Although I specialise in content marketing, I think these questions apply across the board in almost any coaching or mentoring scenario.

What experience do they have?
This can include experience within their own industry as a coach but also your industry, whether that’s creativity, entertainment, sports, finance etc.

What knowledge do they have and do they continue to learn?
I don’t think certificates and letters after your name always mean you’re the best person for the job. In fact, I think sometimes hands-on experience can be far more beneficial and you can learn a lot more from it. However, it won’t do any harm to check out your potential coach’s credentials, including university degrees or industry-specific qualifications. It’s also worth looking at whether they continue to learn and grow thier own knowledge via continued study, online courses, industry memberships and attending conferences etc.

Do they work with similar-sized businesses to yours?
If you run a small business with only 3 staff and a handful of clients each year, it’s probably not appropriate for you to work with a coach who specialises in working with multi-million turnover companies. Generally, people look to work with someone who is a couple of steps ahead of them rather than someone 40 years ahead.

Do they work with businesses like yours? Do they have a niche?
Not all coaches have a niche industry that they work in but it can be worth considering a coach who focuses on a specific industry, or who specialises in one area of business, like I do with content marketing.

Do they offer a free discovery call or initial meeting?
Emails can be great and very convenient but having a proper conversation with someone is when things really start to flow and you get a sense of what the person is like. Discovery calls or meetings also give you a chance to ask the coach questions about their business, the way they work and to find out what they can offer you in terms of support.

Do they support your goals and vision?
You’ll most likely get a good sense of this from your discovery call. Make sure you tell the coach what your plans are for the future and where you’re like to take your business. Pay attention to how they react – Do they ask more questions? Do they seem excited? Do they make suggestions of how they can help you achieve your goals if you do decide to work together?

Look to work with someone who is a couple of steps ahead of you, rather than someone 40 years ahead.

Are they a good fit? Do you like them?
This may seem obvious but some people do end up working with coaches purely based on their qualifications, status or the promises they make. Of course, you can be influenced by those things but coaching relationships tend to last a minimum of a few months, so you really don’t want to end up working with someone you don’t feel a connection with. There’s potential for you to dread calls and meetings, you won’t feel comfortable and are likely to not open up or be honest. Try to find someone you feel you can trust and who conversation flows easily with.

Will you get support outside of any calls or meetings you have together?
This was a big thing for me when I was looking for a coach. I think it’s really important that you don’t just have your scheduled conversations with a coach and then get left to your own devices until the next one. What happens if you have questions? What if you have a confidence wobble and need someone to set you back on the right track? Look for a coach that offers contact between coaching sessions, either via email or some are contactable by phone between certain hours too.

Try to find someone you feel you can trust and who conversation flows easily with.

What hours do they work?
This isn’t always an issue but it’s worth bearing in mind, particularly if you are considering working with someone in another country. If there’s a big time difference, are you happy to accept that there may be a delay in your coach responding to emails? Also, if you’re having calls with your coach, what time of day will they be at?

What’s their coaching style?
A few years ago, at one of my corporate jobs, I remember having a conversation with my manager and I said, “I’m a carrot person, sticks don’t work with me.” I was referring to the fact that I respond much better to praise and rewards, than I do to having someone tell me off or constantly set me new targets, thereby implying that the previous target I’d hit wasn’t good enough. You need to consider things like this with a coach.

Obviously, you want someone who will ask questions and push you but how that’s done can vary from person to person. So, for example, are you the type of person who would respond well to having a personal trainer be a bit shouty with you at the gym, or are you more likely to be do better if you’ve got someone cheering you on?

Trust your gut instinct.
Ultimately, I think your gut instinct will be right. You’ll know if you like someone and whether your personalities gel but nonetheless, you should consider the questions I mention here too, to help you make an informed decision.