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7 Things to Look for in a Business Coach [UPDATED]

The right business coach can help you jump off the hamster wheel and make sure all that energy you’re expending is actually leading you somewhere. The wrong one is simply a waste of time and resources. Here’s how to find the business coach that’s right for you.

If you’re thinking of engaging a business coach in 2019, it can be muddy waters. The internet is filled with many claims and ‘secrets’ and ‘instant fixes.’ So how do you know what to believe? This article, of course, is totally biased because I am a business coach. But I am also a business coach who has learned much about what makes a successful coaching engagement – and what leads to heartache. I’ve been coaching business owners since 2005, and while I’m very proud of the results my team and I have been able to generate for clients, there have certainly been a few engagements that have taught me some lessons the hard way.

Here are the seven components I believe make a successful client/coach relationship. Be sure to make a list of hard-hitting questions you want to ask. This is a relationship which has the capacity to change your life and better your business and it’s too important to be left to chance.

1. Be wary of anyone claiming a quick fix

There are times when you will indeed have some quick wins, and in many cases when we start working with a new client, there is some low hanging fruit that is easily reaped and that makes everyone happy. That said, long term sustainable results often take time and hard work. There are no quick fixes in business, no matter what someone may be willing to feed you. Be willing for that. Make sure neither you or your coach have a ‘quick fix’ mindset. There is no need to make things harder than they need to be. In today’s world of business hacks and immediate gratification, shortcuts can be tempting but rarely last.

2. Find someone you actually like

You need to like each other. Sure, coaching can work without likability, but if your sessions with your coach are not enjoyable because of a personality clash, you just won’t get all you could from the engagement. Notice though, that I said some you like and not someone who is the same as you?

Sometimes it takes the abilities of your coach to help turn on the light so you can see it, but if you’re feeling despondent or emotionally drained after every session, that’s an indicator that there’s something missing in the relationship. Laughter is absolutely essential for handling any type of stress that comes with change. It’s impossible to laugh if you don’t like who you’re spending time with. Period.

infographic on what to look for in a business coach
How to find a business coach

3. Pay attention to the language they use

A personal red flag of mine when engaging any professional is when they use complex language and excess industry jargon. This is often a mask to make them sound smarter than they may be. An effective coach should be able to communicate complex ideas using simple language. At the end of the day, building a business, while certainly not easy, is not overly complex, make sure your coach sees that too. The key to success is knowing how to apply the strategy at the right time, with the right energy and in the correct way to get results. Leave the jargon for hoodwinkers. Look for results your coach can back up with case studies.

4. Look for someone who’s willing to ask uncomfortable questions

You are not looking for someone to tell you what you want to hear. In fact, in many cases, you may need the exact opposite. When you are speaking with your prospective coach, notice how willing they are to ask you uncomfortable questions. Also, look for objectiveness and compassion in the way they ask the questions.

Sometimes, you may not love what your coach has to say, but you should be confident enough in your shared values to know that the results will end up where you need them to be. You should be able to look back at every single coaching session and feel some sense of optimism about the future. This is true even if the discussions may be around something you hadn’t considered or didn’t want to address. Look for a business coach who is willing to put their head in the sand beside you, to know what it’s like, and then help you draw it out together.

5. Make sure they understand the principles of coaching

A great business coach will be able to identify the root cause of an issue quickly and help you find a path through it in a way that is doable for you. Everything in life and business boils down to the first principles of business, which are the real keys to success; and a great coach is a master of using these principles.

Aside from the basics of business done right, a great coach is able to couple their actual business experience with the ability to coach. Being great at business doesn’t automatically mean that everyone else has the capacity to coach, motivate and inspire other human beings. Ask a potential coach what they would do to help keep you motivated.

6. Look for someone who is responsive to your needs

This is really a 101 for any service provider. If you really matter to your coach, they will respond to you within an appropriate time frame. This is a simple point of respect and professionalism. Also, the ability to be responsive translates into the ability to follow-up. That can be the make or break between helping stay accountable to your goals, or letting your goals float away. Any business coach worth their salt will ensure the health and safety of you and your business is at the forefront of their minds and will know enough about you to determine when you need some extra support, a gentle reminder or a little space. Look for someone with the proof of past clients to back it up.

7. Trust your intuition

After speaking with a coach, you should feel clearer in your thinking and empowered and able to act. You should feel a degree of growth in your thinking and/or skills. At the end of a session, your gut should tell you ‘this is working.’ What I’m really saying here is, check in with yourself after speaking with the coach and ask ‘does this feel right?’. For me, every client engagement that has not gone well (don’t worry, there aren’t that many), I really knew at the start the fit was not right. You will also know, if you slow down, take a quiet moment and ask yourself the question, “is this the right coach for me?”.

While this list is not exhaustive, it is the top seven things I would encourage you to consider when hiring a business coach.

This will be a very important relationship in your business life and it will be a relationship that can and should change you and your business for the better.
Good luck.

P.S. Here’s a look at what some of our clients have had to say about their experience with me. We’d love to have you join in that experience when you’re willing and ready. 

P.S. If you’re still not sure how business coaching can help you be the entrepreneur you seek to be, consider subscribing to our Business Nutrition Newsletter, packed with just enough fuel for your fire. To access the entire Business Nutrition archive and sign up for free, click HERE

In today’s world of business hacks and immediate gratification, shortcuts can be tempting but rarely last.

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