Thursday, August 5, 2010

Should you hire a Business Coach?

We’ve all heard the expression "it takes a village to raise a child." We think it takes a village to raise your business, too. We can all use help thinking about strategy, sourcing suppliers, contemplating marketing initiatives and more. When we’re stumped at Admiral Road, we routinely turn to other mom entrepreneurs for help, as well as former business school professors and smart self-employed guys that we know, not to mention friends and family members.

While this informal system works for us, there are many entrepreneurs who swear by using a business coach to help them strategize and address business issues. Hiring a business coach means entering into a formal mentoring relationship where you pay an expert for her time and expertise. The question is, is it worth it?

Here’s what a business coach can do for you:

  • View your business through a filter of experience and objectivity.
  • Ask you questions that will help you see the issues in your business more clearly.
  • Help you make tough decisions and develop an action plan.
  • An outlet for discussing your business.
  • Can be someone to whom you are accountable for getting things done.

That being said, there are a few things they can't do for you. A business coach can’t hold your hand every second. While they can help you figure out what to do, they can’t do it for you. They won’t be responsible if it doesn’t work out. Compare it to hiring a personal trainer. Using their expertise, a personal trainer will create a plan that addresses your particular fitness goals. They will work out with you regularly and they’ll answer questions and provide encouragement. But they're not going to get on the treadmill for you. And they can’t control what you eat or how often you work out. The same goes for a business coach – ultimately the results are up to you.

Another consideration is the cost. Business coaching isn’t cheap. You can sometimes get packages of sessions, or work with an online coach via email or phone, either individually or in a group setting. A one-on-one session can run you $100 to $200 per hour (sometimes more). It’s definitely pricey, especially for a small business, but if it helps you achieve real results quickly, it just may be worth it.

If business coaching sounds like it’s for you, your best bet is to ask around and get a recommendation from a friend or colleague. If that doesn’t turn up anything, you can try the International Coaching Federation or

Finally, not all business coaches are created equal. Just as you’d want to hire a personal trainer who was in great shape, with years of experience and lots of satisfied clients, you’ll want to be sure that your business coach is the real deal. Ask lots of questions and, if you can, speak to former clients before making the investment.

Do you have any experiences with business coaching? We’d love to hear about them.

Read more of our "Ask an Expert" column on Sweetmama