When you run a small business, you are constantly in uncharted territory. There is no experience that can prepare you for the twists and turns of entrepreneurship; this is particularly true for small businesses.
One temptation small business owners routinely face is to try and do everything themselves. After all, the one person you can always trust is you. The problem with this isn’t just the risk of burnout — it’s also the fact that you can’t possibly be an expert in every aspect of business, so you’ll be making decisions without the expertise necessary to make informed choices.
The good news is that, even when you can’t afford to hire experts for every area of your business, there are resources available to help you make great decisions. These include business consultants, peer mentorship groups, and business coaches.
What is a business coach?
A business coach is a seasoned professional who uses their expertise to advise businesses, executive teams, and entrepreneurs on how best to build their company. Common focuses of business coaching include professional development, team organization & building, leadership training, and executive guidance.
Business coaches are not limited only to the advisory position of a traditional consultant. On the contrary, they are qualified and willing to work closely with their clients on the identification of specific problems, the planning of the solution, and the execution of that solution.
At the end of the day, small business owners don’t always know what to do next and business coaches exist to lessen that burden. Your business is your creation and it definitely “takes a village” to see it grow.
Here are some signs that you and your business would benefit from a business coach:
1. This is your first business and you want to do it right.
New to entrepreneurship? Congratulations. You are now a member of a cadre unlike any other in the world. It’s no surprise that this life is a tough one, though, so why not ask for help?
If you are running a business of your own for the first time, everything is a first. You need office space — whether it manifests itself as a coworking membership, a private office, or a home office recognized by the IRS — and you need to be sharp when going about it. A business coach suited to your strengths and weaknesses will have no problem assisting you in this search from start to finish; setting your expectations exactly where they should be.
2. You find yourself overwhelmed with day-to-day responsibilities.
CEO, President, Principal, Managing Partner — regardless of title, running a small business means you don’t get to choose which aspect of your work you want to engage in.
In many small businesses, the owner is simultaneously the head of operations, sales, marketing, finance, technology, and whatever else is applicable to their business. This understandably makes one quite busy, leaving very little room for professional development, growth planning, and strategic reevaluation.
As CEO you may be struggling with making decisions that simultaneously affect sales and customer fulfillment. A business coach can help by formulating a time management strategy and priority hierarchy that allow you to visualize the best use of your time and the sides of your business that need the most attention.
3. You are facing specific operational challenges and need guidance from a trusted advisor.
In a small business it can be very easy to discover an inefficiency, but identification is only half of the equation. When faced with as big a question as how to reorganize your staff or cut down extraneous expenses, it’s advisable to speak with someone who’s been in your position. You need hard numbers, first-hand experience, and the credibility of someone who’s been where you are and made it through. Otherwise, you are just shooting in the dark like so many of your competitors.
4. You are owner because of a change in management.
Another common scenario is a change in who runs the business, either because of a sale, a downscaling of responsibilities by the owner, or a hand-off between generations or leaders. In any event, now you’re in a really tough spot because if you rapidly try to make changes one after the other, you could upset the existing culture and flow that makes the business ‘tick’. On the other hand, if you sit still for too long, you’ll lose the window you need to drive healthy change.
A business coach can help you roadmap what needs to be done while also assisting you in assessing the priorities you face, the challenges that are critical and those that are more of an annoyance than a true threat to the enterprise.
5. You’re not sure how to position the business for growth.
Working with a business coach gives your small business the competitive advantage you need to differentiate yourself from competitors without the guesswork. If you’re trying to figure out where to take your small business in the future, this is a great opportunity to work with your business coach to create a vision for that future, and a pathway for how to get there.
In all five of these scenarios, a business coach can advise you in ways that address both the hard-nosed side of the business (numbers, budgets, forecasts, costs, expenditures, timelines) and the soft-but-just-as-critical side of the business (people, personalities, relationships, culture, leadership.