Written by: Corey Harris & Julie Traxler, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
We aren’t proud of it, but we once hired a business coach who was the most awful fit for our business and our personalities. It was the worst 3-month relationship of our business life, and we definitely didn’t get the solutions we were looking for when we hired the coach. We both reached a point where we dreaded every single call, and as one would assume, those calls became more combative and less productive with each passing session.
It’s not easy for us to admit this, because we offer small business coaching and small business consulting as core services, and knowing that we once had a coach who wasn’t a great fit for us is a little embarrassing, but it was also a blessing. It provided us with the perspective and boundaries we use today, helping clients make the best possible decision for their challenges. It allows us to focus on not only delivering results and solutions but on the customer experience.
So, how do you avoid having a terrible experience with a coach or consultant? Here are five questions to ask before you sign on the dotted line.
1. Am I looking for someone to do the work for me or teach me how to do it myself? The difference between a consultant and a coach is in WHO does the work. If you’re hiring a consultant, they are doing the work. If you’re hiring a coach, you’re doing the work.
Business coaches diagnose your situation by asking questions and reframing things you say to help you find a path forward. Coaches DO NOT do the work for you. They hold up a mirror to help you realize what work needs to be done and then hold you accountable to do that work.
Business consultants, on the other hand, are experts in one or more areas and come in and do the work for you. They are likely making recommendations on best practices or the approach you should consider following, but once those recommendations are made and accepted, a business consultant is doing the work of implementing your business strategy. They create the change you want to see within your organization.
2. Where does it (really) hurt? What is the very specific problem I am looking to solve by hiring an expert? Are you looking to solve a one-time problem that isn’t something you need to learn, or are you experiencing an ongoing issue where you need to learn and make decisions as you go?
By spending time assessing what the real problem is, you’re not going to waste time or money on the wrong solution. And if you’re working with coaches and consultants worth their price, they are going to help with this assessment and diagnosis BEFORE they ask you to sign on the bottom line and then fork over your hard-earned money.
As entrepreneurs, our time is limited, and we want to spend that time on the right things and with the right resources. It’s not uncommon for us to misdiagnose our own problems. Sales are dipping, so we look to the website copy. But maybe it’s the sales strategy or pricing strategy that needs work. You want to work with someone who can help you diagnose before the work starts.
3. Am I willing to give someone else control to make changes? If you are, then you’re going to be okay working with a consultant. If you aren’t, you may want to look more closely at hiring a business coach. Entrepreneurs can struggle with letting go of the reins and having someone else take control. If you aren't the kind of business owner who is comfortable with someone else making decisions or implementing changes, then admit that to yourself upfront, and work with a coach.
There’s no wrong way to approach this, the key is to know yourself well enough to make the right decisions for your business based on what you’re comfortable with.
4. Am I ready to do the work that is asked of me? Honestly, out of the five questions listed in this article, this is the question that people answer incorrectly most often. You want to believe that you are ready to do the work that a coach recommends, but when the rubber meets the road, are you willing to do it?
Will you take the time to do the work? Have you thought about the work before you committed to the coach? Have you openly communicated with the business coach what your capacity is for making changes? Is the coach aware of the timeline you are working with? As entrepreneurs, we can want to implement a new business strategy, but we may not have time to do the work, especially if we’re working IN our business and not ON our business. You have to decide upfront if you’re going to do the work.
If you hire a coach, make the payments, and don’t do the work, then you’ve wasted your money, your time, and the coaches time. Make sure you assess your readiness to do the work before you even make the decision to hire a coach. If you want changes and you don’t want to do the work, hire a consultant. Problem solved.
5. What is the most important element of this relationship? Before you sign the contract with a coach or consultant, you want to understand your end goal and what is the most important element of the relationship? Is it being held accountable (coach), or is it getting the work done by an expert (consultant)? Is it learning how to do the work, while working closely with someone (coach-consultant)?
Understanding what your goals are and how you work best will prevent a lot of unnecessary headaches.
Asking and answering these five questions can guide you towards the perfect business coach or consultant to meet your needs. We wish you much success in the process.
Julie Traxler and Corey Harris, Executive Contributors Brainz Magazine
Julie and Corey started their company, SB PACE, due to the 2020 pandemic to assist small businesses. Since then, they have expanded into helping start-ups, companies looking to improve, and small business mergers and acquisitions. They wrote the book on small business disaster preparedness and continued to help small businesses by leveraging their knowledge and experience working for Fortune 500 companies and Big Four consulting firms. Julie and Corey are the experts small business owners turn to when looking for sustainable, long-term success.