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What Is A Business Coach?
When I tell people that I am a business coach I am quite often asked things like “What does that mean you do?”, or even “Does that mean you tell people how to run their business?”
Business coaching is a relatively new profession, and the terms “coach” and “business coach” seem to have become quite trendy buzzwords in recent times. There are many people who provide a whole manner of different services to small business that are quite often referred to as “coaches”. With mentors and consultants also providing a similar range of services to the same small businesses, I can certainly understand why some people might be a little confused.
So, let me try and clear up some of the confusion and explain exactly what a business coach is and does.
What is a business coach?
A business coach is a person who works closely with a business owner (entrepreneur) at the strategic level of their business. When I say “strategic level”, I am talking about the bigger picture, longer-term view of the business’ journey. It is all about getting the things done that will help the business on its journey.
And to get things done, and to ensure it is the right things that are getting done, a business coach will follow a business coaching process, or framework. The process of business coaching (certainly the Small Fish process) starts with the business owner and the business coach mutually assessing the situation. This assessment (at Small Fish we call it an Audit) is in terms of the business owners goals and frustrations, the business issues and risks, the overall financial considerations as well as the dreams the business owner has for their business (and often for their lives too).
Taking these things into consideration, the business coach and business owner build the picture of where the business is today, and define the entrepreneur’s vision of where they would like it to be at some point in the future – taking note of the changes that need to take place in order to realise that future vision.
The next step is to make a plan, or a comprehensive list of strategies – broken down further into specific and prioritised tasks, that need be done in order to realise this vision. As business coaches, we tend to call this a business plan, or business strategy.
Business coaching, and specifically the role of the business coach, is holding the business owner accountable to the business plan. Basically – making sure that things are getting done. Because it is business coaching, we generally look at the drivers of profitability to ensure the focus remains on getting the right things done for the business.
How is a business coach different to a business consultant?
A consultant is exactly that – a “consultant”, meaning someone that is consulted to provide their expert advice or services. We are quite familiar with this model – many businesses have a multitude of consultants on a whole manner of different services. The consultant is engaged to apply their expertise to some specific task (think accountants, lawyers, advertising, PR).
The key difference between a coach and a consultant, therefore, is that a consultant is someone who does the “doing” part, whereas a coach is responsible for helping the business owner determine what needs “doing” in the first place, and then making sure it gets done. (Having said that, at the end of the day the coach’s responsibility is to ensure progress against the business plan – so sometimes the business coach does indeed get involved in some of the “doing”).
Further to this, the relationship that a business owner has with a business coach compared to that with a consultant is a little different as well. The consultant is being paid for their expertise and becomes responsible to complete a specific activity, and as such they are positioned as someone to look to, or refer to as “experts” in their field.
A business coach is not an “expert” at everything to do with business (how could anyone be?) – they are an “expert” at the process of business coaching. A business coach may indeed be (and usually is) an expert in a specific field, however in their role as business coach, their relationship is more of a peer relationship with the business owner – one of working together to get the job done.
Now in case you are thinking that means that a business coach does nothing, then that is definitely not the case. The primary “doing” parts for the business coach are leading the business owner through the coaching process, driving accountability for activity against the plan and then measuring results along the way. It is therefore fair to say that in a business coaching relationship, the business owner defers some accountability for getting things done onto the business coach.
And just because the business coach is involved at the strategic level of the business and takes on some accountability for getting things done – they are certainly NOT someone to whom the ultimate strategic responsibility for the business can be referred to. That responsibility will always remain with the business owner or entrepreneur.
Working with a business coach as opposed to a consultant also has the added benefit of providing an opportunity for a transfer of knowledge or learning. Because the business coach is continuously engaged on different business scenarios with many different businesses in a variety of industries, the business coach brings with them a different suite of tools and strategies that can be applied to a vast array of business situations, that a business owner can then leverage in their own business.
So how is a business coach different to a business mentor?
The key distinction here comes in the definition of a mentor. A mentor is defined as a “wise and trusted counsellor or teacher.”
While a business coach may indeed be a “mentor” based on this definition, that is not their primary role. Their primary role is to lead the business owner through the process of business coaching, and make sure progress is made against the plan. It is therefore not essential that a business coach also be a mentor.
Often a mentor is an “older” or “wiser” person with considerable experience, possibly even in the same field or industry. A mentor is someone that a business owner can defer to as a sounding board, or to benefit from their wisdom.
This leads me to another question I am sometimes asked by business owners, which is: “How can you possibly know more than I do about my business and my industry?”
The answer should by now be clear. “I don’t!” Business coaching is not about the coach knowing more and the business owner doing as they are told. Business coaching works by combining the skills and experience of both the business owner and the business coach with a structured process and a suite of tools for addressing common business situations.
The combination of all of these things acts as a multiplier in the effort towards realising the vision for the business.
So in summary, while a business coach may at times act like a consultant and even a mentor – they are primarily a coach, something which is quite different.
If you would like to experience what business coaching is like and how it can add value to your business, please click here now. Best of all – it is FREE!
In the meantime check out the whole Small Fish Business Coaching team.
There are four ways you can engage with me:
1. Subscribe to these emails and get them once a week in your inbox so you never miss a video from me.
2. Join the Trades Business Toolshed Facebook Group where you can watch these videos, ask me questions or talk to your peers.
3. Attend my next Tools Down workshop.
4. Book yourself a 10-minute chat with me. We’ll talk about whether coaching is right for you now and if it is, we’ll go further into the process before you have to make your mind up.
See you later.