Business Coaching For Entrepreneurs To Build Thriving Businesses
About Business Coaching
Imagine being able to pick up the phone to someone and have them sort out those complex and challenging business problems that keep you awake at night — someone who you can talk to about financial, technology, sales, and marketing issues, as well as help you analyze trends and predict risk and naturally help you start or grow your business, increasing both sales and profitability…and most importantly having someone who can understand you from an emotional standpoint and having to deal with stresses and strains that will floor most people, because they have “been in your shoes” and lived in the real rollercoaster world of entrepreneurial and business life.
That is my definition of a true business coaching for entrepreneurs.
When I started out as an entrepreneur thirty-five years ago, there were no business coaches to do business coaching for entrepreneurs — at least that I could find and as I had no formal education business or otherwise, I needed to beg, steal and borrow advice from anyone I could.
When the words “business coaching” is mentioned, there are mixed reactions ranging from “coaching is a waste of time” and “I cannot live without my coach” and everything in-between.
Today the world of business coaching and mentoring is huge and growing and just take a look at this article in the Financial Times, which addresses the size of the global coaching market, to give you an appreciation and after a thirty-five-year business and entrepreneurial career, I have decided to start business coaching myself to help people build thriving businesses as well as to give a little back to the world of entrepreneurship and business, which has been very good to me.
My Business story
My story is really the typical entrepreneurial one of a “rollercoaster ride” that has seen me experience the good, bad and ugly side of business and life — now I want to share those experiences with others to help them and also to make that help affordable and scaleable so people can really go out into the world and “crush it.”
They have all worked with business coaches.
In fact, Schmidt, who admitted he needed a little urging to work with a coach at first, has said that it was the best professional decision he had ever made, so there is no doubt that business coaching can definitely help you to build a thriving business.
So what does it actually take to build a thriving business today?
I will tell you — a well-researched idea, the realization that you have to get as much advice and expertise as possible, to develop a skin that a rhino would be proud of and to have the ability to disrupt markets, industries and challenge the status quo.
…Oh and of course, the commitment to work extremely hard…and not to be concerned with those who tell you to work smart and not hard, as the “smart” part comes later.
Think about this — to start a business today requires courage and that means that the person concerned would not be normal! Stay with me here and by “normal” I mean that they will not necessarily conform to the status quo — they will be difficult to work with, to manage and certainly to coach!
I have seen and survived 3 recessions and watched the business landscape change almost beyond recognition. I have also seen a new technology emerge that has slashed physical borders, enhanced global communication and totally disrupted the way we conduct business and of course here I am talking about the Internet.
We are living in an uncertain, volatile, economic and geopolitical world, where hyper-competition is normal, so any business today has to be able to adapt to that uncertainty and thrive in it — and also to be agile enough to do so and cost-competitive to maintain and win business.
And for me, it goes without saying that any business coach must also understand that environment implicitly and be able to coach clients accordingly and this is where that understanding, the ability to form the relationship with a client and of course the experience of being in business all gels together and let’s not forget the goal of a coach:
The goal of a coach is to get you from where you are to where you want to be and in the fastest, most efficient manner.
Entrepreneurial business coaching
I want to give you my definition of entrepreneurial business coaching.
For the purpose of this article, I am going to put coaching into 2 categories and they are:
- Corporate coaches
- Entrepreneurial coaches
These categories are broad in the description, but I would like to differentiate them in the way I would define a “businessman” and an “entrepreneur.”
Now on the other side of things, you have the self-made entrepreneur, who will be a totally different animal — entrepreneurs typically rely on instinct, take risks and experience a degree of failure before they enjoy success.
This is a generalization of course and there are many situations that fall “in between.”
I believe the world is becoming far more entrepreneurial simply because people are going to take advantage of the Internet economy, which brings with it a whole new world of opportunity.
Thankfully, this suits my style of business coaching, which as I am sure you can guess, is entrepreneurial.
Let’s go a little deeper:
I want you to put yourself into the mindset of a coach — I will also add the term “mentor” here as well because we all have the capacity to be mentors to people and we should use it as I discuss here in my article “Business mentor: how mentoring can help your entrepreneurial journey.”
Now the next question you have to ask yourself is “why do I want to become a coach?”
I will answer that question for you and it was so that I could share my own knowledge and experiences to help and inspire others. I built my business from nothing and turned it into a large global operation, all without any capital other than what I had, plus the usual support form banks and financial institutions to help with releasing cashflow.
I’ve had some really hair-raising experiences along the way, some complete failures and many a sleepless night — in other words, I can relate to the whole process, the experience and more importantly, the emotional aspects that always seem to get in the way.
Also, I am entirely self-taught and have acquired a great deal of knowledge along my journey that I can now pass on to others and especially to my children.
Now let’s go back to corporate coaching:
A corporate coach will be very structured in their approach and it is a good thing — in my early career, I could have done with one many time over! And this is where you have to understand the differences in styles. I often coach executives in their career development and they find my entrepreneurial approach stimulating and refreshing, but equally, some cannot understand what I am trying to say.
Just as in the same light, entrepreneurial companies need the corporate structure style of approach that I longed for as my clients were all large corporations and I needed to understand their thinking.
“Horses for courses” as the saying goes.
It is, of course, your choice to decide which type of coach you need,
Business coaching franchises
And now we move into another territory and that is the world of franchising.
Franchising is hugely popular and you can see why — people buy the right to operate under a brand because the brand has recognition. A good example of this is McDonald’s.
Getting a McDonald’s franchise is not easy and they have a rigorous selection program and demand the highest standards from their franchisees. It is a win-win for both parties in the concept of the operation. You may not like all of the terms and conditions, but I am talking here about the fact that they are trading the use of their name and success, for your cash.
Business coaching franchises are rising and you can work through the offerings in the article I have linked to. I have just one problem with these franchise opportunities and that is in some cases, the fees they charge to purchase the franchise.
Having spoken to most of them, the “lure” is that you will have a bunch of systems and proven methodologies that will give you the ability to launch your own business coaching career and this is another problem.
Whilst I acknowledge that there are some excellent franchise coaches out there, it is not in my opinion, something that will really stand the test of time with regard to those who are simply trying to shortcut their entry into the world and at worst, “buy “their way into the industry without having the experience of actually running a business or a successful corporate career.
It cannot be done.
Let me give you an analogy with regard to another passion of mine…
As a Martial Artist of more years than I have been an entrepreneur, I can tell you that when it comes down to the real purpose of Martial Arts and that is self-preservation and protection, there is no such thing as a set response to any attack and no system or methodology that will protect you.
It is determined by you and your will to survive and if you are a practising Martial Artist, you will understand the phrase “it is the man behind the art” that is more important than the art itself — and that is why you must always put yourself under pressure to be able to respond.
Learn techniques and ideas by all means, but also learn to apply them in a dynamic situation where you will pressure tested to the max and have to at least do something.
Take a look at this video that shows a recruit who is undergoing selection for parachute training in the British Army and please remember the attack is restricted to fists with gloves on and head protection. Just imagine if it was extended to “anything goes.”
This really is a perfect illustration of the world of business and you must have the ability to survive such an encounter if you are a Martial Artist and translate this video into the context of doing business.
A good business coach will do exactly that.
You have to be able to survive in a rough sea and once you are successful, then it is time to be on your guard as there is always someone hungry for your lunch. There are no systems or methodologies that will work constantly in today’s ever-changing, volatile economy and as s a coach you have to stay at the cutting edge of knowledge and be ready to adapt and change direction in an instant, your clients demand it.
Building a thriving business
You don’t need me to tell you that building a thriving business will take a lot of effort and work — this is where a business coach can prove invaluable. Your coach will bring a fresh set of “eyes” into your business, fresh thinking and most importantly will be impartial.
A good coach will not be married” to your business or idea and will maintain that sense of detachment, making sure that decision making is not based on emotion, but powered by facts.
One of the most common problems that face entrepreneurs, including myself in my early years, is that we can get too attached to our ideas and that is why I use the term “married” to them.
Remember, you are selling to the market and your clients — get and keep yourself client focussed at all times and your coach will demand this of you!
Commercial and financial matters
One of the most important factors in growing your business is to remember that each and every component of your company is interconnected and you must look at the impact of investing in a new technology system for example, and the benefits to your clients, rather than simply investing cash to follow a technology trend. That cash may be better spent on increasing your marketing budget or hiring more salespeople.
Your coach needs to also be acutely commercial and with an understanding of financial matters — they do not have to be an accountant, but they must understand how to read a set of accounts and interpret the information in a predictive sense, rather than just reading it.
Let me give you an example:
I once hired a business coach/consultant to do a deep review of my overall business operations as I wanted to have a fresh “set of eyes” independent from myself or the leadership team. This didn’t go down well with some of the team as they thought they were not being trusted or that I doubted their capability.
It was neither of the two, just that I felt the whole team, including myself, had become lazy in our thinking — we were doing well, but not really driving the business forward. The coach came to me after two-weeks and the initial assessment period was one month. He pointed out a simple flaw in our credit management and cash flow reporting, which had not been spotted by any of the leadership team including the CFO.
Our team was competent enough but had obviously missed something and that led me to look deeper into everything in the business, with some other flaws being uncovered. Even healthy companies need coaching!
A good coach is going to help you build a successful and thriving business by having a deep understanding of the following:
- global economic and geopolitical issues — It doesn’t matter how small or large your business is, you will be at the mercy of global conditions and the USA economy is the world driver. If there is a downturn in the US, the whole world will feel the pain and that affects everyone
- your industry or intended industry if you are a start-up — here the coach needs to understand the key “drivers” orf the industry, past present and most importantly the future
- your business plan if you have one and to help you create it if you don’t
- your key message and the benefits to your clients
- your business operating model
- your sales and marketing strategy
- technology and to be able to understand and evaluate it, ensuring it is the best “fit for your purpose”
- financials — what your cash flow and profit and loss looks like on a 12-week rolling basis, as well as assets and liabilities
- your support structure including both customer and internal support
- the key risk factors that are pertinent to your business including preventative strategies
…and a whole lot more!
These are just the technical factors and now we have to look at some of the emotive ones:
- your personality traits
- your true passions and desires
- your commitment
- your life story to see how you got into the world of entrepreneurship
- your fears
- your fascinations
- your ability to handle any pressure
- your ability to take criticism
…and a whole lot more!
Do you see what’s really involved?
I end up being more of a personal counsellor than I do a business coach and this is because there is a human being, a person(s) behind the business. It is imperative to get to know that person.
That last statement in itself is far more important than the business!
I will mention this again as it is so important — every aspect of a business is interconnected and I have a serious problem with those coaches, advisors, and mentors that focus on one individual aspect, no matter how important they feel this aspect is.
Let me get more specific with another example:
I had a recent client a while back who wanted to build his sales team to take advantage of what he believed was a rapidly expanding market. I agreed with the “rapidly expanding” part and my client had certainly done their homework, which was a good sign.
Next, I asked to look at the financials and was immediately assured the company was profitable, which of course was another good sign. But I knew I needed to dig a little deeper and whilst the profit and loss account of the business looked positive, the cash flow showed a very different picture.
Sales were good, but customers were not paying on time — the credit that was offered to the customers was in excess of the terms and cash was simply not being collected on time.
My suggestion was to focus on cash flow management rather than sales for the short-term, simply to build a better foundation for growth. Any increased sales could have made the problem a lot worse and even disastrous.
How I personally coach entrepreneurs
Taking what I have already written into consideration, let me explain how I coach people in the practical sense:
I work one-on-one with a handful of clients at any one time — they get 24/7 access to me and there are two very good reasons for that:
- They will have problems that keep them awake at night and these range from serious business problems that they are deeply worried about and also simple things like how to build a sales and marketing strategy to beat the competition. I am accessible because I know how I felt during those sleepless nights, so I feel their pain. None of my clients abuses this and it is because we have an understanding when we commence the relationship. But I am there if required.
- Remember what I said about volatility and uncertainty — the dynamics of business change fast and clients need to react to problems or better still, learn to anticipate them even faster. They cannot wait for the next video in their coaching program or for that weekly coaching call.
I talk to marketers all the time and they always tell mow I am not working “efficiently” and I could deliver my message to a much wider audience and earn fortunes etc.
I always give them the same answer:
I give away more free information than most “paid for” coaching programs and services — clients need me on a “real-time” basis to solve their real-time problems and to do them justice I need to be accessible and able to solve their toughest and most challenging problems in an instant.
Global companies are pushing their employees to work longer hours and for less money — take a look at this article and that may explain the sudden urge for people to start their own entrepreneurial careers and although it is about telecommuting, you just have to think a little further down the line.
Imagine if you are setting up a business to supply one of these companies — you will need to think about what demands they will place on you and how quickly you can react to change.
I remember celebrating a deal one Friday that was truly massive in my company, only to walk into a Monday morning when a customer of equal size suddenly stopped using us, because our pricing model was not “inline” with their expectations.
I had taken my eye off the ball and not given them enough attention — I should have seen the dynamics and prepared for the inevitable and that was to look at keener pricing. If only I had a switched-on business coach at that time and someone who could bring fresh, and impartial “eyes” to the table.
I can guarantee the price of the coach would have been way less than the lost deal!
I coach people and companies from the perspective of reality and my “real life, real-world” experiences. I cover everything that I have talked about above and in context to your own situation.
I am also not affiliated with any coaching organization or franchise, which is how I can keep my independence and be totally flexible with everything that I do.
Business coaching — maintaining margins
Many coaches and consultants talk about helping their clients maintain and even increase profit margins, which of course is a dream to any company. This is where they must have a deep understanding of global economic factors and be able to predict trends through deep and diverse analyses. This is the only way you can get a handle on whether the current operating margins are realistic and it is a much better way than some advice I have heard such as:
“Just hold your price because what you offer is of tremendous value to your clients.”
My point is “define what ‘tremendous value’ is in the market today and to your clients and competitors.”
Unless you are operating in the luxury items market or providing real, niche business products and/or services, the chances are that your operating margins are on the downward spiral.
This is simply “business life” and if you remember the “first” of everything, such as plasma televisions, you will know that the cost was initially high, but then dropped slowly over time and also that there were other new and disruptive technologies that were cheaper.
You only have to look at the collapse of the high street stores to see how sales have fallen because of the Internet. Falling sales can lead quickly to falling margins and ultimately uncontrolled losses.
It is much better to look at the entire landscape of the business and look at how you can lean out your cost base, operate on more competitive margins and win more customers rather than hold your ground and fight for ultimately what may not be possible and I know this from bitter experience.
In my staffing business, margins were falling and it was more than just a blip in the market — customers had worked out exactly what they were getting for their money and were facing falling margins themselves, so naturally they pass this on. I was too entrenched in my business to notice this and should have paid closer attention. This is where a coach would have again, worked wonders for me by forcing me to “get out of my own way” and simply react to what the market was telling me.
It is so refreshing for me now that I am on the “outside” of people and companies that I coach because I can truly see what is going on and offer advice accordingly.
Business coaching for entrepreneurs
Business coaching will be an essential tool for entrepreneurs who want to start and build thriving and successful companies.
Many top executives and global corporate leaders use business coaches and report that it has helped them enormously.
There are many types of coaches including corporate coaches, many who have worked their way from University through the corporate ladder and who have gone on to become top-flight executives and CEOs.
Other coaches like myself are pure entrepreneurs and both types can be useful, but it is up to you to choose which style suits you best.
There are also business coaching franchises that offer people the chance to enter the coaching profession by combining their personal experiences with methodologies and systems. Some of these franchises can have high purchase costs, which have to be recouped by the franchisee.
Research and understanding form the basis of helping you in business, with real-world experience being the key to making sure that the help and advice they give is practical and works.
A good business coach will understand your market, your industry and clients implicitly — they will be able to predict trends through analysis and advise accordingly
Your coach must be able to understand that all aspects of your business are interconnected — they will be able to talk confidently and understand all business functions such as sales, marketing, finance, technology, operations, and support.
A good coach will be accessible and will understand not only your business challenges and complex problems, but be able to empathize with you from an emotional standpoint.
Coaching and mentoring business are my passions and I would love to hear your views and comments as well as any questions — if you need any help in your business, then please get in touch with me for a free, confidential discussion.