The right Small Business Coach can challenge you to set and achieve bigger goals in 2012, while helping you navigate the obstacles. Know what you are looking for in order to choose the best candidate. Read on for some practical advice for choosing the right candidate:

Let’s start with what you don’t need in a Small Business Coach:

  • Nice is not a virtue. You want someone to hold you to high expectations. If you think you are a good manager, then, you probably have a skill in holding employees to performance accountability. You will best benefit from the advice of someone who practices the same demands. Expect to be pressed to the edge of your comfort zone.
  • Expertise is not a priority. You need someone who is a good coach. What you need is cross-disciplinary skills: communication, planning, training, etc. These are valuable transferable skills that help you see the short and long-term.
  • Avoid a therapist. Don’t pay someone just to listen to you and all your problems. Look for someone who will turn your path around. You need someone focused on action, plans, and deliverables. You don’t have the time for the coach to worry about your feelings.

So, what do you need?

  • Someone you can afford. Bargain basement coaching is not worth the money. It will cost you time and money, and some outcomes may require additional investment. So, you need to be at a point where all this makes sense: the need, the expectations, and the price. Shop available coaches; seek word of mouth; look for referrals. It’s a big decision, and deserves focused investigation.
  • Someone you can listen to. Coaching is partly a matter of style. If – and only if – you are ready to take a close look at what you are doing, you need to find someone with the rapport you need to take a few hits. You are paying to be told things you may not want to hear, to get tough about what you have been doing, and to push your face into some bad decisions you may have made. For this to work, you need someone you can work with.
  • Someone with a plan. Demand a schedule and agenda in writing in advance. Expect the coach candidate to demonstrate goal-setting and effective planning. Ask to see models and samples of what the coach has done for other clients, and make him/her connect the dots between plan and results. Ask the candidate to introduce you to previous clients with your intent to seek their story of the relationship. And, be sure you talk to more than just one.
  • Someone who knows what you don’t know. Remember, you are looking for someone to bring something new to you. Much of this should be in the form of plans and direction. But, you also want insights, product knowledge, marketing strengths, and fresh perceptions about your business. I am reluctant, for example, to recommend a coach who claims to be “all things to all people.” You’d be better off with someone experienced in your line or business or business sector.

A final caution is that you do want to see the track record or credentials of a coach who does this for a living. I am reluctant to recommend the coach who is an out of work MBA. Interview candidates with their experience in mind.


by Steven Schlagel