How to Find the Right Business Coach

Business Coaches come in all shapes and sizes, from a multitude of backgrounds and with many different skills and qualifications. So how do you navigate your way through all this to find the right coach for you?

This guide suggests the key questions to ask.

Selecting a business coach is a little like recruiting anybody else that is going to work for you.

There are three basic steps to go through:

  1. What is the job description?
  2. What knowledge, skills and experience are necessary for the job?
  3. What personal qualities and attitudes do you want in the person?

The questions to ask therefore, can be considered under these categories.

1. Job Description

Before asking any questions about the coach, the first question to ask is: “What do you want to get from the coaching yourself?”

For instance, are you looking for:

  1. Someone to help develop a strategic vision for the future
  2. Guidance on sales and marketing plans
  3. Improving staff motivation and performance
  4. Growing and re-structuring the business
  5. Getting better financial control and increasing profitability
  6. Implementing efficient and effective systems
  7. Producing a clear exit strategy
  8. Developing yourself and/or others in leadership

It doesn’t really matter whether you want one or several of these, or whether in fact you are not clear exactly what you want. It is just that you need to have some idea of the answer because it will depend what you need from the next steps.

2. Knowledge, Skills and Experience

Once you have got an idea of what you want from ‘A’, then you will be better able to find out whether the coach has the right expertise for you. Since Business Coaches come from a wide range of backgrounds this may not be an easy area to assess accurately.

Questions in this category include:

“What qualifications do they have?” Coaches can collect many different qualifications in and around coaching, with varying levels of theoretical and practical training involved, making this a complex area. In addition, people have very mixed views about the real values of paper qualifications. Nevertheless it is still a question worth asking because once you know what they have, then you can decide for yourself how much emphasis to give that.

“What is their background?” Good coaches come from a variety of backgrounds, so it is not necessary to require that they come from any particular background, but you need to satisfy yourself that they have developed some significant understanding of the areas in which you want their assistance.

“Have they dealt with any similar situations?” This allows you to find out whether the coach has specific coaching experience of the field in which you are interested. It is important to appreciate that business coaches are not purporting to be experts in your particular business or industry – they leave that to you. They are experts in assisting you to create the kind of business that you would like, so experience in similar situations may be useful, but not necessarily essential.

3. Personality of a business coach

In many ways this is the most important category. A business coaching relationship, particularly one than endures over time, can be very personal. In an effective partnership you will be discussing confidential commercial information as well as exploring your own personal strengths and preferences. It is therefore vital that you feel at ease with the person you engage. You do not need to like them socially, but you do need to be comfortable with them on a business level.

The kinds of qualities that you are likely to be looking for include:

Professionalism How do they treat you when they communicate with you? Do they present themselves well?

Integrity Are they discreet? How important is confidentiality to them? Do they encourage honesty and straightforwardness? Do their actions match their words?

Confidence Do they have sufficient confidence in their abilities without appearing over-confident?

Empathy Do you feel a rapport with them? Do you get a sense that they are listening to you fully, and that they understand your situation?

Reliability Do they do what they say?