Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Entrepreneurship is one of life’s most thrilling but complex challenges. The world is rapidly changing, competition is fierce, and technology is evolving seemingly faster than the global economy can keep up. Leaders, including small company owners, need more than just business acumen to stand out and grow; they require a uniquely strategic mindset to anticipate shifts and set the right goals.
The good news is that this doesn’t have to be acquired in a vacuum: Business coaches have the potential to provide a wide range of expertise and support, including helping make tough decisions and plotting company trajectories.
Business coaching is a dynamic and personalized professional relationship, and its goal is to help individuals — particularly entrepreneurs and other business leaders — unlock their full potential and achieve specific goals. Good ones provide insights, strategic guidance and skill development techniques, and great ones offer motivational support to help maintain a positive mindset. Perhaps most importantly, these professionals serve as accountability partners by ensuring that clients stay focused and committed to goals, both personal and professional.
It’s important to understand how such coaching varies from traditional mentoring and consulting. The former is typically more of an informal relationship in which a seasoned individual shares know-how and advice with someone less experienced. Consulting, by contrast, tends to be a formal and specialized service in which an expert is paid to provide specific solutions and recommendations.
By contrast, a business coach’s mandate often embraces a non-directive approach — leading clients to find their own solutions and insights. Over the last hundred years, this profession has transformed from straightforward performance issues problem-solving to providing proactive strategies for both professional and personal growth, emphasizing leadership and soft skills. Many integrate positive psychology into a holistic approach that maximizes intellectual flexibility and nimbleness.
Leveraging a coach to enhance goal-setting
While setting performance benchmarks is essential for any leader, this can be an especially challenging feat for entrepreneurs, as their egos are often tied up in the success of businesses. For this reason, many tend to set unrealistic and overly ambitious goals. Even with the best intentions, this can backfire, leaving feelings of defeat and frustration in its wake.
One of the most effective ways to set realistic goals for a small business is to follow SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound) methodology. Still, even with such an analysis in place, an outside perspective can be invaluable. A coach’s job is to understand your aspirations, help translate them into achievable benchmarks, lead you through the goal-setting process and hold you accountable for achieving them.
The right choice
Not surprisingly, there are thousands of professionals in this sector, and it’s vital to consider carefully before settling on one. A great place to start is having a firm grasp of your unique needs or objectives, both personally and professionally. If the goal is to transform a business into a socially responsible organization by implementing ESG strategies, for example, be rigorous in establishing that candidates have demonstrable bone fides in that area. In short, evaluate credentials because there are legions out there who — though perhaps charming and otherwise persuasive — can’t back up success claims. So, a thorough vetting process must include obtaining accounts from past clients who have benefited materially from their services (or not).
Once you have a potential candidate, arrange an initial consultation. This is the perfect time to understand how completely this person understands what you are trying to accomplish and whether there is good conversational chemistry. Be ready to engage in often deep and vulnerability-provoking conversations: You must feel comfortable opening up.
You’ve spent blood, sweat, tears and funds investing in success, and seeking help to foster ongoing improvement and growth is a transformative step for any professional. Leveraging the expertise and guidance of a business coach can be the most impactful decision you make for your journey to be as fruitful and enduring as possible.