HR & Management

Coaches can boost businesses, but choose them wisely

7 min read

02 January 2019

Business coaches can be used to boost company performance at crucial times, but make sure you have your goals in place first.

Coaching, mentoring, teaching and consultancy have all become big business. Like all high growth areas, this means these areas are full of pitfalls and drawbacks.

There is currently little legislation standardising the quality delivered, so unless you get someone accredited by a professional body, it can be a bit pot luck.

For further confusion, some operate in all four areas, being able to offer general business experience as well as industry-specific advice. However, the business owner, too, can have misconceptions about what each of these functions delivers and, indeed, what they actually need or want.

They may be looking for someone to solve a specific problem. They may have a goal in mind but are struggling on how to get there.

They may need a sounding board, advice, or guidance. It has also become more fashionable to have a business coach, and some people get one without defining the reason why.

The goal or goals have to be defined between business owner and specialist in the preliminary discussions, otherwise, you end up, as I have done in the past, with owners paying out large sums to have someone to listen to what is plaguing them.

– While the venting may seem magical at first, it does not achieve any change.

Set your goals before you hire a coach

A coaching contract, in particular, tends to be short term, as, by the very definition, coaching should be leading to achieving a specific goal and tends to lose impact by becoming part and parcel of everyday life when continued long term.

Yet longer-term coaching relationships are now very common.

Unless goals are regularly re-set for new contract terms, this means the relationship may evolve into something less dynamic.

Many business owners aiming for fast growth run into trouble with forming the world-class team that is going to take them there and call in a coach to help at this stage.

Where coaches can be useful to founders and CEOs

If exit is their end goal, they will know that they will have to demonstrate to investors that the business can thrive without the owner in it. This is another example in which coaches can help senior staff clarify their strategy:

Plus, the right team will actually deliver the required growth. So far so good. But while at one level, the owner may want this to happen, they may only have a hazy vision of what this looks like. If the owner’s vision isn’t clear, there is no hope in the team buying into it.

The business owner also has to be ready to let their baby go, which is never an easy step. They will have to delegate and trust to a very different degree and change their own management style. Business owners can shy away from getting this for a variety of reasons.

Ensure you and your team are on board with the idea

Unless the owner is 100% on board with what coaching is going to involve, any development in the team will be hampered.

If team members are not enabled and empowered to make decisions and take ownership, they will lose interest, stagnate and ultimately leave.

Within the fire-fighting of everyday business, everyone tends to concentrate on the immediate issues and not give any time to solving the future. I am always reminded of the maxim of not concentrating on the urgent but on the important. This is an obvious scenario in which a coach could be introduced to a business to help with this.

Recruitment: Why coaching can help here

Recruitment is also done to solve current problems. With budgets tight, it would seem on the surface crazy to do anything else. However, the reality is that finding people of the quality and level that will form a top management team takes time; time to recruit and time to embed and get them fully up to speed.

The savvy approach is to recruit for the person the business will need in the future, in perhaps 18 months’ time.

The strength of the owner’s vision has to come into play again here because they need to attract applicants to a position that may initially look below their abilities. The owner has to convince them that this will be worthwhile, by merit of that vision looking so enticingly exciting.

They also have to have deep down faith in their own vision, as a healthy slice of additional money has to be invested to form a team of this calibre.

A coach can help define that vision for clear thinking. They can help find a team and that team to form. They are at their best used on specific projects.

Unsure about a coach? Go for a NED instead

For longer-term support, a mentor of a NED (non-executive director) can be what a business owner is really wanting. They can provide advice, be a sounding board, support, and help hold owner and team accountable. Non-execs are less threatening as they are absolutely not going to want to run the business.

There is a large array of people of different skills and talents out there to support the business owner. If the aim is to grow fast, scale or even to sell in 2019, a mix of them will help along the way. The trick is to get the right ones at the right time.