I was nearly six years into my business, when I started noticing an interesting, new trend in my work. Through LinkedIn, mutual contacts, and even word-of-mouth, I had been asked several times by a variety of people, for an hour of my time, to talk through their business plans. While I had never considered myself an expert or any sort of business coach, it was after several of these meetings that I realized how beneficial these conversations were for both the business owner and myself. The market was dictating this new venture for me, in an area of expertise, I didn’t even realize I had accumulated over the years.
But, the more I thought about it, the more it started to make sense. Several years ago, I was asked to create a PR Entrepreneurship course for the University of Florida. I obviously had some knowledge, mainly from my own lessons learned over the years, to share with others. I had simply never thought to leverage it into coaching.
There are thousands of business coaches in the US, 17,500 to be exact. And while this is a step of starting a business that many overlook, or think they don’t need, including myself at one point, it’s an experience you’ll wish you had taken part in.
But, even if you are interested in talking with an entrepreneurship/business coach, how do you decide on one that’ll actually be an asset to you and your business?
My first suggestion would be to find a coach who specializes in your field (if there is one available). For example, while I do coaching for those within the field of communications and in general, my work experience is focused in public relations, media relations, and consulting/freelancing. Finding a coach in general is great, but identifying one that has experience in your field, or area of business, will be much more beneficial to you.
Along with that, identify a coach who has credibility in what they are saying. For example, do you know someone else they’ve worked with? Are they a thought leader or published author in their space? Do they have reviews or case studies? Sometimes the best mentors are hidden gems, but the right coaches should utilize their voice and have some sort of reputation, especially in my industry.
Don’t spend thousands of dollars on coaching. You can always find people to network with in your field, who will have a conversation with you. Hiring a coach or mentor is only necessary when you are seeking specific guidance, or if you’re looking for someone with expert-knowledge in your field to bounce ideas off of. Think of it as paying them for their expert knowledge, and in the long run, it might end up saving you more money then you spent.
Look nationally at potential coaches. We are living in a time where nearly all of our interactions are virtual. You can find the best “fit” for a coach by opening your search to all over the US.
Although many who are new to entrepreneurship are actively seeking coaching, remember that you don’t have to be a brand new entrepreneur to hire an entrepreneurship/business coach. I would say about half of the people I’ve worked with are several years into their business. They simply wanted to take an hour of “gut check” time and get advice from someone who’s an expert in entrepreneurship and who has seen a variety of ways small businesses have been run (what works/what doesn’t).
“When looking for the right coach for you, make sure you identify one who is an entrepreneur themselves.”
And lastly, when looking for the right coach for you, make sure you identify one who is an entrepreneur themselves. And by that I mean, who isn’t ONLY a business coach. True entrepreneurs are constantly hustling. There’s never going to come a time in business where they feel settled or done with work, and if they do, they probably don’t have a true entrepreneurial spirit.Others may disagree, but I would recommend choosing a coach who is working just as hard as you are to see through their own businesses success. They are living it, while also coaching it.