Six Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Business Coach or Leadership Trainer
As a veteran entrepreneur, I'm a huge proponent of business coaches. I've worked with several through founding, scaling to seven-figures, and exiting my first startup. Now, as a keynote speaker, I continue to work with coaches on a regular basis.
Why? Because I believe the most important thing any entrepreneur can invest in is personal growth and development. If you're willing to acknowledge your weaknesses and work to improve them, there's no limit to where you can go. The problem? Humans are notoriously bad at recognizing their own weaknesses. It's also hard to hold yourself accountable when you're trying to run a business. Without a coach to keep you on track, personal development often takes a backseat to more urgent issues.
The good news is there have never been more resources available to small-business owners. Whether you're looking for development for yourself only, for your key executives, or for everyone at your company, there are thousands of qualified coaches and trainers who can help you improve in nearly every discipline. If you're considering a coach, ask yourself these questions before you speak with coaching candidates.
1. What am I looking for?
The roles of coach and trainer are different: While coaches primarily work with business owners (and sometimes a few high-level executives), leadership trainers often tackle things from a team perspective. My recommendation is that every founder or CEO should have a business coach. Top athletes don't reach their potential without coaches, and top leaders don't, either.
Once you reach 15 employees or at least two levels of hierarchy between employees and the CEO, you may want to consider adding a leadership trainer.
2. What are my top objectives?
Different executive coaches have different skills and areas of focus so it's help to clarify why are you looking for a coach?
Examples of objectives include:
- Prioritizing business goals and knowing where to start
- Growing your sales team
- Creating a growth plan for the next five years
- Making it more seamless to juggle work and life
When you speak to a coach for the first time, ask for specific examples of how they've helped business owners like you overcome challenges that align closely with the objectives you've identified.
3. Who can I ask for a recommendation?
You wouldn't hire an employee or vendor without checking references. Likewise, don't commit to a business coach without doing the same. Ask leaders in your peer groups — from your local Chamber of Commerce to Facebook and LinkedIn group for leaders in your industry — for highly-qualified recommendations.
If you don't have good leads on coaches, ask any candidates you find (from a web search, for example), for references. Any reputable coach should be able to provide the contact information of past or current clients they've helped reach their goals.
4. How do I want to structure this relationship?
Almost every coach I've ever worked with has been based in another state so my business coach meetings have been virtual. But you may feel comfortable with meeting your coach in person.
Decide what works for you and how often you want to meet.
5. How much am I willing to invest?
Sometimes small-business owners confuse coaches with mentors and seek out coaches who will work for free. Mentors serve many purposes, but cannot replace the important role of a qualified business coach who has a fiduciary responsibility to your personal and professional growth.
The best business coaches charge hundreds per hour for their time. If you're wondering if you can afford that, I would challenge you to ask yourself: "Can I afford not to invest in myself and my business?"
6. Am I willing to commit to this long-term?
Like most things in life, you'll only get as much out of a coaching relationship as you're willing to put in. Just like buying a gym membership doesn't mean six-pack abs the next morning, hiring a coach or trainer isn't a quick-fix for all your business (or life) problems. You've got to commit to actively working toward your goals — and being open to tough feedback — to yield the best results.
Most coaches will insist on a commitment of six or more months (although some offer a no-obligation introductory call) to ensure they have enough time to help you succeed.
Make the call
Many small business owners find that business coaches are a worthwhile investment in their success, but hiring a business coach is a significant commitment.
Have you made the decision to go for it? Start interviewing to see who is the best fit. And congratulations, you're well on your way to improving your business — and yourself!