There seems to be an endless supply of coaches these days doesn’t there? There’s one for every sport, there’s voice coaches, writing coaches, acting coaches, internet coaches, memory coaches, enlightenment coaches, life coaches, nutrition coaches, fitness coaches and the list goes on and on.
Do only amateurs need coaches? We all had them in school right? Soccer, football, baseball, track you name it we had coaches. Now you’re a business professional and have it all figured out right? I know sometimes we think we know everything about our business because we have been doing it for so long but if we’re honest with ourselves we know that’s not true.
Take sports for example. If you started playing a sport when you’re 5 years old and now you are in the pros and you’re 25 that’s 20 years of perfecting your sport. You still have, not just one coach, but many. So what makes you any different? Just because it’s business and not sports? When do athletes stop getting coached? When they’re done playing the sport right? Are you done with your business? Most likely not, so would it help you to have a business coach and what exactly does a business coach do?
If you’re like me you’ve made a ton of mistakes along the way. Or maybe you’re new in business and just haven’t had the opportunity to make a bunch of mistakes, yet. Well stand by because it’s going to happen!
There’s nothing wrong with making mistakes, that’s part of life and business. What you want to do is, first, don’t make the same mistakes twice and second, avoid the massively costly mistakes that could take down your business.
I had a very successful business. I was awesome at what I did and was in high demand and I really thought I had it all covered. I like to refer to it as my young and dumb phase. I was truly uncoachable at that time. What was kind of funny was I had been a competitive runner, a US Marine, a champion boxer and black belt so I knew how to take coaching but for some reason being in business was somehow different. I thought working hard was all I needed. I was making lots of money so I must have been doing something right.
When things are really good you never think they’re going to end if you’ve never been through slow economic periods. With that in mind you spend heavily. Now I didn’t have any vices that I was spending money on that some unfortunate people do. I was reinvesting in my business. I was buying new equipment for cash and big cash. 50k at a pop sometimes. I was paying to have websites built that cost me over $40,000.00.
I broke the million dollar mark in gross sales with only 3 employees. I was at a 45% net margin. I created efficiency in our installation system and day to day operations. I was putting in more materials on installations then I was charging for so they looked amazing when I was finished. I was too focused on the artistic aspect then the business aspect. I paid my people very well too. I bought a house and remodeled it. The money faucet was wide open so to speak and I just let it run!
Then everything started to turn bad with the economy and the work dried up almost overnight. It was the end of 2008 and I’ll never forget it. It was November 5th, the day after the presidential election when Barack Obama won and my phone started to ring. Now I already had over a half a million in work lined up for the spring. Everytime the phone rang it was another client calling to cancel their projects. They were just going to sit on their money.
People were terrified for the financial future of themselves and the country and rightly so. By the end of the day, after I hung up my last phone call, I realized that it was over. I might be able to limp my way through part of 2009 but it was gone and it wasn’t coming back. I barely did $200,000 for 2009.
I was not alone of course, this affected so many businesses and people from home foreclosures to business bankruptcies. In November 2009 I had to make a tough decision and shut the doors to my business. Letting everyone go and telling my wife and 6 kids big changes were about to happen and we were losing everything was a gut wrenching experience. All that new equipment I bought, I could barely get 40 cents on the dollar for it.
If I was coachable many years prior to this it wouldn’t have had such a negative impact on my business and life. If I had someone with the wisdom and understanding of the possibilities that can affect all businesses, I would have been able to plan and prepare. I would have had that coach who would tell me “50k cash for a piece of equipment are you crazy?” You can rent the same thing for $450 a month for the season. It will take a lot of seasons to equal 50k. And I wouldn’t be cash strapped in the slow times. I’d be buying new equipment for 40 cents on the dollar instead of selling it.
The coach would have directed me to quality investments in my business and financial future. They could have made me efficient in my job costs and expenditures. They could have directed me to major tax savings so I was giving the government less, keeping more and living better.
A coach would have encouraged me to network more and create relationships that would be mutually beneficial. They would show me that giving back to my community pays massive dividends in the long term. They would have helped me build an even stronger brand for my business and dominate my market even more and on a much larger scale.
They would have shown me how to work ON my business instead of IN it. They would have had me work harder on my own personal development than on my business. They would have had me focus on my health so I could do even more.
These are just a few of the things a quality business coach can offer to you and your business. I’m sure you’re seeing by now the importance of having a coach. Coaches come in many forms too. It is seldom that you’re going to find a one size fits all coach. These days we are a world of specialists. That’s ok. There are a few steps you need to take before you select a coach for you and your business.
The first step is to do an inventory of your true business weaknesses. This is a difficult task. Again if you’re anything like me it will be hard admitting you’re not good at something or that you couldn’t learn and do it yourself. Even if you could learn it and do it a coach is going to get you there so much faster and will free you up to do the things only you can do.
The second step is to have that tough conversation with yourself. The conversation where you admit your own personal weaknesses and strengths. Believe me this is sometimes surprising and you find out what you thought were your strengths are actually your weaknesses. You can’t fix what you don’t know isn’t broken. So you’ll actually be asking others for their opinions on this. You can ask employees who aren’t afraid to tell you the truth. You can ask a spouse or close friends as well.
The third step is to have some basic goals established for your business. What kind of growth are you looking for? What does growth mean and look like for your business in particular? Everyone has a different idea of what success looks like to them. Some people measure in dollars. Some measure in “real estate” meaning how many vehicles, buildings, equipment, employees, basically an empire. Still others measure by market share and their ability to dominate that market.
You can’t really get somewhere if you don’t have a road map. If you want to go to California from Georgia you can’t just start driving you need direction. Don’t go over the top with goal making, keep it simple because every goal is going to require a detailed road map.
The last thing prior to getting a coach is having a sense of commitment. This is not going to be done in a couple of weeks. You may have been in business for many years or just starting out. Think of it like when someone gets 100 pounds overweight. Now they didn’t get that way overnight and they certainly aren’t going to lose it overnight either. And your business is no different. If you’re a new business you may have a slight advantage because you are still developing systems and processes and your drive to get better is fresh and determined.
Regardless of where you are today this is going to take work and the acceptance of help. It’s better to know this up front so you aren’t disillusioned when you start getting into this.
Doing these pre steps prior to engaging a coach or coaches for your business will help you select the right coach and get you results faster by assisting the coach with the direction you’re looking for with your business. There are many ways to accomplish the same task so be open to new ways you may not have thought of. It is afterall, why you’re hiring a coach.
If I could turn back the clock for myself in business, hiring a coach would be a priority. One other thing along these same lines is creating a board of advisors. These are trusted friends and business owners that have been where you want to go. When you have big decisions to make regarding your business these are your go to trusted advisors. They are not emotionally attached to your business so they can offer unbiased advice based on their experiences and your best interests.
You’ll find that people who have already been through the struggles that you are going through are more than willing to help you and they will be excited to see you succeed. For me that is true networking. Also know that you should be doing the same thing for others who are just starting in business. Always have an upstream and a downstream. You’re being helped by others (your upstream) and you’re helping others (your downstream).
The upstream / downstream attitude will keep you humble and driven at the same time. You should never outgrow this philosophy. It will keep you sharp and winning in your business.
We started this article off with a sports - coach analogy so it’s fitting to end with one also. Every athlete needs a coach from the amateur to the elite professional. The difference with a pro sports player is their career is actually limited whereas your business can thrive for generations if done right. Be willing to accept help. That is all a coach is...a helper. Accept help and you will be astounded at the speed at which you improve your business and yourself.