The Business Coach

Have you been spinning your wheels? Is your business stuck in the mud?

Relax. It's to be expected.

"Very few contractors are hard-wired to run a business professionally," claims Ron Roberts, author of and President of The Contractor's Business Coach. "Most contractors know operations, but don't really understand the nuances of selling, customer service, human resource, financial management, and so on."

Maybe you should consider getting some professional help.

The Business Coach
When considering your options for outside assistance, you should look into the following four avenues:

  • Peer Group
  • Functional Specialist
  • Management Consultant
  • Coaching Program
  • Business Coach

Peer Groups: You meet with 4 to 8 out-of-town contractors of your kind, one to four times a year to compare business systems and offer suggestions. Usually a hired facilitator leads the day long meetings.

Functional Specialist: You retain a consultant who is an expert in a single area of your business. Examples would be a sales trainer, marketing consultant, or a CPA.

Management Consultant: You retain a consultant who will analyze your business and then design custom systems for it. Usually these systems are one or more of the following: job descriptions, performance evaluations, compensation plans, strategic plan, and budget.

Coaching Program: You purchase a packaged program that includes a combination of videos, seminars, telephone support, and home-study courses.

Business Coach: You retain a coach who teaches you how to grow, organize, and systematize your business. The coach works with you hand-in-hand to develop your leadership and business skills while systematizing your business and building your staff.

Coach or Consultant
Business coach has become a popular term of late and some consultants are taking on the name of a coach. As Roberts points out, there is a big difference between the role of a coach and the role of a consultant. "Consultants usually get hired to analyze the business, write a recommendation report, and produce system(s) to address the weak points of the business." Consultants create and implement the systems with minimal assistance from the owner or staff. Basically, the business owner outsources the problem to the consultant who returns with a finished solution. Skill development is rarely part of a consultant's scope.

Explains Roberts, "A problem can arise once the consultant is no longer involved in the business. The systems often falter over time because they were designed for a condition that no longer exists, the owner does not understand how they were designed to work, and never developed the skills needed to adapt them to the changing business."

Business coaches usually focus on teaching and decision making. "The business coach has a dual role: provide advice and train people to do their job better, including the owner," says Roberts. "The coach's charge is to help the client make sound business decisions and to develop the owner's ability to run the business successfully." A coach does this by developing a feel for the business and its employees and helping them deploy time-tested systems and solutions.

"True business coaches are extremely well versed in running all parts of a business," explains Roberts. "As should be management consultants." Both should outperform the functional specialist when the business is struggling across multiple areas.

The case for a business coach
According to Roberts, most coaching models are relatively affordable, costing less than $10,000 a year. Roberts puts the investment in this perspective, "How many $10,000 business mistakes is the typical contractor going to suffer each year?" asks Roberts. "Once you've got a coaching relationship going, the owner is likely to avoid catastrophic mistakes. The coaching investment is not always how much did you make me, but how much did you keep me from loosing?"

As you can expect to have in the range of 50 conversations a year with a business coach, they are well suited to be an impartial sounding board. "Purchase decisions are very emotional," says Roberts. "If you have someone who understands your wiring and skills, they can be the trusted voice of reason."

The Goal
One thing most all management consultants and business coaches do is ask the Owner to identify his or her long term goal. His or her exit strategy if you will.

Most contractors have not taken the time to thoroughly think through and figure out their ultimate goal. Without identifying and working towards a long term goal, the majority of business owners end up heading down a path that tends to have a harsh ending: breaking their back to maintain their current lifestyle.

This habit often leads to dissatisfaction with their job. As Roberts points out "Contractors are usually unhappy with the hours they work for the income they generate and are blind to the high risk of losing everything. Few understand they are working without a safety net."

If you've exhausted all other options to the best of your ability and are not in the place you want to be or at least heading in the right direction, it may be time to look for assistance, and bringing in a coach might be the right move for you and your business.