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Coaching your Small Business to Success

No matter how large or small a business you operate, hiring an executive coach is no longer a luxury – it’s a necessity in today’s highly competitive business environment. No matter what your management and personality style, there’s an executive or business coach for you.

Let’s face it, most business owners’ stick to the tried-and-true methods. We’ve all discovered, by trial and often costly error, what works best for our companies. However, a business owner stuck in that mentality may be missing out on great opportunities just by keeping the status quo.

That’s where a coach comes in. A business coach is a trained third-party professional who helps clarify a business owner’s goals and helps chart a path to meet them. A coach will offer a fresh perspective to your daily challenges and hopes for the future.

Coaching may seem like a frivolous expense, but at least one study has shown otherwise. A study of 100 executives, primarily from Fortune 1000 firms, who employed coaches from Florida-based firm Manchester, Inc., found that return on their investment was nearly six times what each firm spent on coaching. Companies retained executives, had fewer customer complaints and saw more productivity from their coached employees. What doesn’t business owner want that?

So how do you choose the right coach? The key is to find one you trust and who challenges you without having unrealistic expectations. Some business owners see the stereotypical coach as a slick, motivational manipulator who will seek to turn them into a business mixer schmoozer. The truth is there are as many styles of coaches as there are people. Here are some tips to help you find yours:

•Know yourself and what you want. Before you even begin the process of looking for a coach, ask yourself some honest questions. What do I want? What do I expect? Are there some things about my management style that probably need to change? Am I willing to consider making these changes? What am I willing to do? What am I not willing to do? Where do I want to be in five years? In 10 years?

•Call several coaching firms and individuals. Talk to others in your field to get referrals.

•Meet with at least five possible coaching candidates. Find out how they work.

•Don’t’ be too concerned if your coach candidates don’t “get” your business immediately. Sometimes it’s best to have a coach that knows absolutely nothing about your field so that you can get some fresh approaches and ideas.

•Be sure your coach is willing to be honest with you. In fact, if a coach candidate isn’t willing to tell you things you don’t want to hear, you probably haven’t found the right coach.

•Tell your coach candidates what you perceive your goals are right now. Also tell each candidate what you are willing, and not willing, to do to meet them. Ask them what they can do to help.

•Discuss upfront how you and your coach will work together when you don’t agree. A good coach will push you in directions that you don’t agree with or that make you uncomfortable. Sometimes a good coach will tell you about certain negative behaviors you have that you don’t necessarily want to change. Ask how you and the coach will deal with these issues.

•Trust your gut. Some business owners prefer a coach with a similar style, while others want to possess characteristics they observe in a coach who has a different personality. Go with the one you think you can best work with.

So you’ve selected your coach. What comes next? Most coaches will want to re-evaluate your goals with you first. You’ll also discuss strengths, weaknesses, problems and concerns. Next you will likely develop a plan of action. Here are some things to remember when working with a coach:

•Nothing will change overnight. Commit to at least a year of coaching before you re-evaluate its effectiveness.

•Make coaching a priority. Business owners tend to put the business at hand over every other function. However, coaching can help you cut down on the time it takes to do business. Make coaching the priority.

•Be willing to consider doing things differently. Note that I’m not saying to actually DO things differently. There’s a difference between that and considering the possibility. Most of us need to ease ourselves into transitions and changes. Being willing to change is the first step.

•Be honest with your coach. You’ve chosen a coach who you feel will be honest with you, and you must reciprocate. In fact, not being honest will most likely be a waste of time for both of you. It’s important that you develop trust with your coach.

•Take crisis issues to your coach. As the top person in your organizationScience Articles, your coach can be your sounding board for dealing with tough problems. It never hurts to get a different perspective.

Working with a business coach is a rewarding experience. You’ll learn about gifts and talents that you never even knew you possessed. You’ll face issues that you hoped would never see the light of day. And both you and your business will grow in ways you never thought possible!

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