As a small-business owner, the goal is to keep moving forward. But sometimes you find yourself and your business stuck in neutral. Other times, you’re going in reverse, watching as all that you’ve worked for begins to slip away. We’ve often heard about taking one step forward and two steps back, but what happens when you’re stuck in that pattern and can’t get out?
Althea Cheng Fitzpatrick was at a “make it or break it” point in her fledgling business when she sought the advice of a business coach as a last ditch effort to turn her photography businesses, NestingNYC and Photosanity, around.
According to Fitzpatrick, developing strategies and knowing how to implement change was not difficult, but she often doubted her decision-making process, which stalled her forward progress. It was her coach who helped provide clarity and confidence, and helped Fitzpatrick turn her struggling business into a viable and profitable one.
“I tripled my annual gross income from the previous year (my first year in business) and went from barely breaking even to profitable and on track for even more growth. Basically I turned a self-supporting hobby into a real business,” she says.
Why You Should Consider a Coach
Business coaches can be hired by nearly any small business and can serve as a mentor in various areas of the business including staffing, corporate morale, relationship building, marketing and day-to-day business executions.
“The reason someone turns to a coach is to look for fresh perspectives on ways to accomplish their goals. A coach cannot do your job for you or do the work for you, but can be an impartial voice of reason and help you map out a plan and keep you on course,” says Victor Benoun, certified life coach and founder of Core Essence Coaching, specializing in leadership, positive psychology, emotional and social intelligence and group dynamics.
Benoun says that anyone with an open mind can benefit from the assistance of a coach, “If we can change the way we think and feel then we have changed our perspective about what stops us from getting where and what we want in life.”
In addition to providing clarity, business coaches also work to create accountability for their clients. “I like to say that a business coach is much like a personal trainer. You know how to do a sit up. But a trainer pushes you to do more than you would on your own. A business coach can inspire and hold you accountable to a higher standard of growth and performance,” says Traci Shoblom, senior partner and chief marketing officer of Decision Systems International, a consulting and coaching business.
How to Hire the Right Coach
Finding the right coach for you and your business isn’t unlike finding a good lawyer or physician. Most business owners who have solicited advice from a coach were referred to them through a colleague or trusted source.
Shoblom suggests not relying only on the credentials presented by the coach. A certified coach can be a great choice, but she says the courses that certify life and business coaches are not all created equally and in an unregulated industry, experience is vital. Instead, she suggests considering the experience of the coach when hiring a business coach. “My best advice is to look for a coach who has a Master's level or higher university degree in a related field and a lot of experience coaching and consulting.”
Business coach Lisa McTigue also explains that it’s important for business owners to identify their weaknesses and hire a coach who can help turn those weaknesses into strengths. “A great business coach should be strong in the owner’s weaknesses and become a mentor, a friend, a coach, a cheerleader and someone to turn to when everything seems to be failing,” she says.
As for Fitzpatrick, hiring a business coach may have been one of her greatest investments as a small-business owner. She continues to use coaches in various manors in her business and is currently working with a brand manager who is coaching her on how to grow her brand and her business. “When you find the right person, you will know it. Trust your instincts and go for it, even if it feels like a scary-big investment. Trust that you and your business are worth it and that you will make back your investment several times over.”
Angela Stringfellow is a PR and MarComm Consultant and Social Media Strategist offering full-circle marketing solutions to businesses. Angela blogs via Contently.com.