Choosing The Right Business Coach

Working with a coach is a great idea when you’re looking to improve some area of your skillset. Sure, you can google the subject, read a book, or watch a dozen YouTube videos, but nothing can replace real-time human instruction and guidance from an experienced professional who has walked the walk. 

If you’re looking for a coach to help you improve your business or your finances, you will find no shortage of people out there to choose from. The same goes for life coaching or mindset coaching. Technology has made it possible for us to connect with anyone, anytime, anywhere in service-based relationships—but with coaching, I think you really need to have a personality connection more than anything.

Trust and Straight Talk

Your coach needs to be someone that quickly earns your trust because they’re going to hold a lot of information about you and your business. You should feel comfortable revealing all your money baggage to this person. Sometimes when we’re tiptoeing through a financial minefield, we don’t tell anyone (we’re embarrassed, fearful, or insecure). Ask yourself if this potential coach is someone you could tell the whole truth to, and if you’d heed their advice in navigating a safe way out. 

After all, you’re hiring a coach because you’re looking to improve something about your business or financial situation. (If you weren’t, you’d be knowledgeable and confident enough in your abilities to handle it yourself. And I’ll tell you, as a coach…even coaches need coaches!) So you need someone who won’t just fill your sky with sunshine and rainbows because that won’t improve anything. She should be straight with you about where change needs to happen.

I do this with my clients, and I’m humbled by what they share with us in return. Sometimes, I suspect I know more about my clients’ money situations than their own spouses do. That’s a measure of not only how difficult it is to talk about money with the people in our lives, but how important trust is to the client-coach relationship.

We’ve mentioned here before that your coach, as with all members of your business money team, should have a teacher’s mindset. That’s because most business owners aren’t looking for someone to do all the work for them—rather, they want to learn how to do it better themselves. Does that sound like you?

Experience and Expertise

Of course, your coach should have excellent experience and qualifications. (If you want to implement Profit First, look for a certified professional.) In an ideal world, I think money coaches should have to share their own financial data with potential clients to prove they know their stuff. I’ll continue to dream. But while we wait for that to happen, it’s reasonable to ask for details of their experience, including numbers. If you’re vetting a coach who says she ran a business for five years, I’d ask her things like: How big was the business? How profitable? Was it similar to my business? What challenges did you face?

Because ideally, you want a coach who’s been where you are—and is several steps ahead of you. She’s experienced the typical obstacles to successful business ownership (or good financial health), so she knows how to get past the next four or five hurdles that now lay in front of YOU. She’s in a knowledgeable position to help you strategize crossing the finish line.

Speaking of knowledge, I know a lot about some things (like money—I know A LOT about money.) But I don’t know a lot about everything. Rare is the expert in multiple areas. (Be wary of the heart surgeon who says he can also operate on your brain.) I happen to work with a few coaches and consultants to up my game in business and in life, and I don’t confuse my mindset coach with my marketing specialist. 

That said, I am a thorough business coach myself. Even though we don’t bill ourselves as experts in these areas, we will address your marketing, your systems, and your team—because those things all show up in your money, which I’m looking at like a hawk. By reviewing your income statements and Profit First accounts, I can very often tell you what aspect of your business needs addressing, even (and especially) if you haven’t realized it yourself. It all shows up in your money.

Values and Lifestyle

Relatability is important for some people when choosing a coach. I have an entrepreneur client in her mid-40s who feels that Millennials won’t make great coaches for her because they haven’t had the same life experiences she’s had and won’t understand where she’s headed.

Perhaps what my client is really getting at is the importance of having a shared value system with anyone you’re working closely with. If this is important to you, have a look at how they’re showing up on social media. 

The coach who’s on her laptop on a beach in Bali? One business owner might say, “That’s the life I want exactly! I need to hire that coach immediately.” While another might think, “Hmm, does this coach embrace a career helping struggling business owners like me, or I am just a means to an exit plan?” Consider whether you’d be aligned with this person on, say, ideas about what to do with your profits.

I like to feel out whether someone is the “hustle and grind” type because I don’t put in 16-hour days. Any coach I work with should value life and work harmony as much as I do.

But maybe you love the hustle. There’s no right answer. It depends on what you’re looking for and where you want to go in your business. Don’t hesitate to have an extended conversion and ask real and hypothetical questions related to your business, your spending and saving habits, and your lifestyle. The right coach should emerge as simpatico with you.

Shannon Simmons

Shannon has been consulting with small businesses for over 10 years. After 2 years in public accounting she saw a need to work for small business owners to teach them how to grow financially healthy businesses. She has built on her Master of Accountancy degree from Manchester University by becoming a Certified Profit First Professional and a Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor. When she’s not meeting with entrepreneurs or assessing their businesses, she enjoys time with her husband and 2 children serving in their community, playing and watching sports, marveling at nature or reading a good book.

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