How to Find the Right Business Coach, Consultant, or Advisor
Partnering with the right business coach can take your startup or established business to the next level through insight, strategy, and clarity.
The best coaches or consultants will be the first to admit that they aren’t the right match for every client; a great connection is a combination of experience, approach, and personality.
Do You Need a Business Coach?
First, let’s pregame by getting clear on these three points:
Know What Type of Guidance You Need. Get clear on the challenge you are looking to solve, and then educate yourself on the types of advisors that are qualified to fix it. For example, if you need a cash infusion for your business, you may assume you need someone to perfect your VC pitch, but your first stop may actually need to be weighing all the funding options that are available to a business at your stage.
Set Realistic Expectations. Real, lasting change is often incremental and the result of hard work. If you’re looking for an overnight solution at a bargain-basement price, it’s doubtful that you’ll get meaningful results. Try to find someone who’s been through the process and can share their experience.
Stay in the CEO Role. You are hiring someone to work for you, so ultimately, you call the shots. You don’t have to agree with everything an advisor says in order to have a successful engagement. In fact, you shouldn’t. Trust your instincts and proactively discuss any reservations.
How to Interview a Potential Business Coach
Here are some specific questions you can ask a business coach before you commit to a multi-month engagement:
Are you a specialist or a generalist?
Find out if he or she uses the same process with each client, or tailors the experience based on a broad range of factors. Both are valid; it just depends on the approach that is appropriate for your needs.
Many coaches, especially online, serve a specific niche. They base their coaching business on having found success in their own business and then teaching others that same process. This can be a great option if you have the same business model and goals.
However, if your situation is different, you definitely want a coach who has worked with a variety of clients.
How have you helped people like me?
We don’t believe that a consultant needs to have worked with a business exactly like yours, because no business is exactly like yours! In fact, it can be an advantage to work with someone who has advised complementary and/or different businesses; it will bring a fresh perspective and new, innovative ideas for how you can grow.
Who are some of your past clients, and how did you help solve their challenges?
Don’t judge just one case study or a signature win; evaluate their portfiolio based on whether different clients’ problems were solved in responsive ways that improved their business.
What kind of results should I expect, and when?
Identify milestones to evaluate progress. If the potential coach says that it depends on you, find out what is expected of you in order to maximize results so that you can get the most out of the coaching commitment.
How would we handle it if the engagement isn’t going as expected?
Most contracts have a clause that explains the responsibilities of both the advisor and the client, including timelines, payment, and deliverables.
How to Pick the Best Business Coach for You
Here are a few questions to ask yourself once you’ve narrowed it down to a few top choices.
Am I interviewing several potential advisors?
Don’t choose someone based on panic or desperation! Comparison shop so you can find out what is available to you and make an informed decision.
Am I making a decision based on price or value?
When it comes to your business, value must come first. Engaging a professional consultant is a financial investment, but it’s also an investment of your time and money.
Which coaching program will make the most of my time?
When I break down the cost, where am I getting the most for my money?
What are the other benefits of this program?
It’s better to hire the right person who can help you get a return on your investment than have to start over due to lackluster results.
Do I trust this person with full information about my business?
If you find yourself reluctant to disclose, that’s a sign that you may not full trust the advisor or that you may have some more work to do before starting the relationship.
Do they have more than one success story?
While it’s impressive to see some big-name logos on a consultant’s website, if you have a small business with limited resources, they may not be able to scale that magic. Make sure they have experiences leading multiple clients to a win.
Am I making a decision based on grounded optimism or fear?
Fear chooses the false path of overnight transformation; the magic bullet. Grounded optimism chooses the best person for the job who brings the most value. Balance your optimism with research to make the best investment for your business.