Teaming up with a business coach can really help fuel growth in a small business, but you’re more likely to achieve success if you first determine what you want a coach to help with, and then find the right one. We spoke to Makenzie Chilton (pictured), a career and business coach, to get an understanding of how the process works and what factors you should consider when choosing a coach.
Small Business Center: Small business coaching seems to be increasing in popularity these days. What’s behind that?
Makenzie Chilton: People have always wanted to grow and progress. Coaching facilitates this and has become more known as a profession, although it is very similar to any sort of mentorship. Coaching isn’t a new profession, but it is becoming better known.
What key benefits can a small-business owner gain by working with a coach?
The main benefit is growth. I always tell people they will be able to reach the destination they want without a coach, but they’ll get there faster and learn more with one. The principle behind sports coaches and business coaches is essentially the same. If you want to have a better golf swing, you can practice a lot, read about it, and watch videos. But if you have someone who will watch you, teach you what they know, and create individualized exercises for you, you’ll reach your goals faster.
And if you’re running the business solo, a coach can also offer accountability. Some coaches can also act as mentors if they have experience doing what the client is trying to accomplish.
What are some signs that it’s time for a business owner to bring in a business coach?
That’s really subjective, depending on the business and on the goals of the owner. I’d say at any point in running a business a coach can help you. For instance, you can hire a coach if you are just starting out in your business, if you have reached a stagnant point in your business, or if you are excelling in your business and want to further expand. I have a business coach, and my business coach has a business coach. It’s cyclical for a reason. We all want to continue to grow and evolve.
Are there different specialties within business coaching?
Yes, there are online business coaches, brick-and-mortar business coaches, social media coaches, conventional media coaches — the list goes on. There are as many different types of coaches as there are parts to running a business. One business coach can’t possibly tackle everything there is to know about every type of business. When deciding which type of coach to hire, think of areas in your life that are affected by your business, such as how to have a work and life balance, how to deal with relationship issues when you are first starting a business, how to transition into more of an online market, and how to grow your product reach. All of these topics require very different coaches. Find a business coach that has an area of expertise for the specific aspect of your business you want to develop. What is the main problem you feel you have in business? Find a coach who focuses specifically on that area.
What are some characteristics of a great business coach?
It depends on what you want out of the relationship. They should offer accountability, such as making sure the business owner completes tasks when they say they will. They should also be honest. Coaches aren’t hired to be a cheer squad to tell you how great everything is. Hire someone that will be tactfully honest with you, find your blind spots, and not be afraid to say where the holes in your business are. They should also be knowledgeable. Do they have the testimonials, schooling, and street cred that you feel is necessary to grow your business, or to do whatever else you hire them for?
It’s important to remember that coaching isn’t a regulated profession, so technically anyone can call themselves a coach. That’s why I think research is important when looking for one. Some coaches have attended schools that have programs accredited by the International Coaches Federation. Another great way to gauge if a coach is legit is by looking at testimonials from previous clients.
What are some warning signs that might alert business owners that they might not be talking to the right coach for them?
Look out for coaches who are being too salesy or are promising what seems to be the impossible. There are a ton of coaches who promise you’ll make a specific amount of money in a specific amount of time. For me, personally, that doesn’t vibe well. The process should revolve around the goals of the client which should be worked out in the first few sessions. Business owners should pay attention if they get annoyed by the coach or coaches who question everything they’re saying. If so, they probably won’t be excited about working with them.
How much should a business owner expect to pay for coaching services?
That can vary quite a bit. Some coaches charge by the hour, and those fees typically range from $200 to $600, or higher. Others, like myself, prefer to create packages for their clients that include sessions, emails, homework, and check-ins, and for my clients, that averages out to about $250 per session. My advice is to hire a coach who you can afford so the stress about money doesn’t keep you from what you can accomplish together, but also make it a big enough investment so that you’ll take it seriously.
What sort of time investment is necessary for the process?
That depends on the specific goals of the business owner. On average, if I’m working with clients to build their business, I work with them for four months. But I’ve seen both shorter and longer time periods with excellent results.
Can you provide a brief overview of what the process looks like?
The process is different for every coach so I can only speak to how I work. I work with people mostly on Skype. We meet for a set amount of sessions and I help them create a picture of their future business, with specifics pertaining to career satisfaction, their contribution back to society, and business growth, monetary or otherwise. We develop a plan together, and in our sessions we make progress. It’s different for each client I work with because they are all working toward different goals. I tap into why they want to reach the goals, break assumptions of what they think their business should look like, and make sure I keep them accountable so they can see progress.