There are 7 criteria that you’d want to consider before making a selection. Keep in mind that coaching is a two-way street, so it’s possible that the first coach you speak to won’t be the one you end up going with. Most professional coaches will make that clear to you upfront, so don’t be surprised if the coach asks to speak to you a few times before either of you make a decision to proceed.
Here are the qualifying criteria for a good business coach:
1 - Are they a non-business and business coach?Life coaching, success coaching, confidence coaching - these are all really powerful…but not the same as business coaching. Life coaches help you live more fulfilling lives, success coaches help you to focus on your strengths, confidence coaches show you how to speak to people better, passion coaches encourage you to follow your dreams. All of these will help you be more successful in your life and your endeavours…but Business coaches have one core goal: to help your business improve. This is through business systems, strategies, and processes. It’s not about making you a better person or loving yourself, which are also important…it’s about business results.
Pro Tip: Ask how they will get you results. If it’s by ‘finding your passion’ or ‘creating harmony’, it’s not business coaching.
2 - Do they have a proven system, or will they think up next steps as they go along?“If you can learn to run one business successfully, then there’s no reason you can’t run any number at the same time…the principles are all the same.” - Richard Branson
Ask the coach, early on and without notice, what system they will be using. If they can’t reply immediately, or don’t have any system at all, you really want to think twice. This business is your blood and sweat, will you risk losing it because of someone’s bad advice?
A good coach has a proven system that they use. Having said that, the steps should not be so rigid that you are forced to do activities that you don’t understand, just to tick a box. A good coach will have a proven structure, as well as the experience to take you through all the necessary steps in the order that will work best for you.
Pro Tip: Look for any demonstrable structure or process on their website, and ask them what process they will use.
3 - How many businesses and industries have they worked with?
The lady asks the truck driver who is about to tow her car: “Do you have a clean record?” He replies, “Lady, I’ve only had one accident in my career”. Relieved, she asks, “Well that’s good…how long has it been since you started?”. He nervously replies “This is the second car I’m towing!”
We’d all stop the driver right there and find an alternative, not willing to risk our possessions in the hands of someone inexperienced. What about choosing someone to help lead your business forward? How much experience would you want them to have? And it’s not at all about years in the game; there’s a huge difference between 5 years experience and a 1 year experience 5 times!
Ask the coach how many clients and how many industries they’ve worked with. What you’re paying for is the opportunity to pick their brains and learn from them. Get someone who has specific-industry focus only if you want consultative advice, not coaching (for the difference between consulting and coaching, please click here). However, if you want to grow your overall business abilities, and perhaps even consider other businesses to go in to, get a coach with a wide-range of industry experiences. The outcomes will be much more powerful.
Pro Tip: If the coach has worked with less businesses than you’ve been in, don’t work with them. They should be able to bring lots of experience to the table, knowledge that you can draw from.
4 - How many businesses are they (or have they been) part of?
If you’re looking for financial advice, you wouldn’t seek it from someone who has never invested - and perhaps even lost money - before. If you want someone to show you the best ways to run businesses, look for someone who has run businesses. For the most part, the challenges of businesses are similar (including time/money/people/marketing), and a person who can demonstrate that they’ve overcome these time and again is someone worth bringing on board.
Pro Tip: For team building, or CFO advice, or recruitment, you can find a good employee in a firm to help you. For building a great business, find someone who is building/has built great businesses themselves.
5 - How long have they been doing it for?
Every coach will have their first client, their first year in business, and their first steps. If you can find someone who is starting out but looks good, and you want to work with them, go for it. If you don’t want to risk your business by being someone else’s ‘first time’, then go with a coach that has been around for a few years, and has significant experience under their belt. A good rule of thumb is to look for at least 2 years of coaching experience, that way you know they have been through at least a few major changes and are equipped with the knowledge to help you.
Pro Tip: Don’t be someone else’s ‘first time’… it may not be an enjoyable experience.
6 - Can they share testimonials and success stories?
If a coach has a system, has experience with many industries/companies, and has been around for a while, it would only be reasonable to assume that they have been doing something right. Assumptions are not enough to make decisions on, however, so verify assumptions by asking for testimonials. By nature of their work, getting testimonials is tough: getting successful business directors and owners to admit they were not doing well on their own is almost impossible. However, the coach should be able to at least give you one or two people you can speak to regarding their experience. Make sure you ask about the process, the outcomes and if they would do it again - a ‘no’ on the last question can uncover volumes!
Pro Tip: Ask for testimonials, and also be aware that your situation may be unique.
7- Are results guaranteed, or will it be a one-sided risk?
All said and done, there is one last criteria: if this doesn’t work out, what then? Your coach is accountable to you, but not accountable for you. Given that you keep up your end of the deal, is there a guarantee that the coach can offer? You will not only be spending significant amounts of money, but also be giving a lot of time and trust to this individual - and you shouldn’t give it away based on hope. The best coaches are confident about delivering results, and will be happy to guarantee their work.
Pro Tip: Check the “what if…” scenario. How reassured do you feel about the coach’s ability to get you results?