5 tips to getting the most out of working with an external coach.

Business plans don’t always work out (as planned …sorry!). It’s been our experience that the most common reason why plans fail is – poor implementation! In many cases this unsatisfactory outcome is easily avoidable by having someone, a trusted coach or adviser, to help implement your plans. A coach can objectively critique, offer constructive comment and guidance, and most importantly – keep you on track towards the plan’s outcomes.

As Carl Richards recently observed: “You don’t hire a coach because you’re stupid. You hire a coach because they’re not you. Other people can see things you clearly cannot see.”*

An analysis of our database reveals 45% of Australian practices are currently utilizing the services of an external business adviser/coach (or, for larger, more complex businesses, an advisory board) on a regular basis and meeting at least quarterly.**

Here’s who the 45% of Australian advice firms are turning to for business advice and coaching;

  • PDM/BDM/Relationship Manager (70%)
  • Personal acquaintance/respected peer (41%)
  • CPA/accountant (30%)
  • Business coach (paid) (26%)
  • Peer or study group that meets regularly (9%)

But what about the other 55% of firms? Why, in such a disrupted and challenging environment as today, do the majority of business owners believe they can navigate their way through without any form of external input and support?

As 2024 beckons, if you’re not already, why not consider working with a business coach?

Two pre-requisites for using a coach

Before you start to look for someone, there are at least two requirements you will need. Firstly, an open mind – a willingness to listen, consider and generally accept the advice being given. There’s not much point seeking feedback if you’re not prepared to listen and action accordingly.

Secondly, there must be a game plan for you and your coach to follow (all the better if they’ve helped you to put it together). A clearly documented, current plan for the business must exist with defined goals that are measurable and achievable, and actions with allocated responsibilities and timeframes.

Choosing the ‘right’ coach for your business

Just as every business is different, it follows that some coaches are better suited to work with some businesses over others. You don’t have to like your coach – but you have to respect their views and advice.

Why not start your search for a coach by talking within your network – find people who are already using a coach successfully. How is it working for them? What led them to choose who they did? Do they have any tips and suggestions for you?

Your BDM/PDM is a great resource for you here, they’ll be aware of who is currently using a coach and having success. And, of course, they may be willing and very capable to act in such a capacity with you.

Working together – top five tips

As with any other professional business relationship, the result/outcome will be directly proportional to the effort put in.

  1. Decide up-front what you want to get from the arrangement. Both owner and coach need to be on the same page regarding the objectives of the coaching relationship – otherwise how can success be measured?
  2. Ideally your coach will bring experience and knowledge gained from outside your practice. After all, if you both think alike, one of you is obsolete.
  3. Meet regularly, no less frequently than quarterly, and preferably monthly to begin with for new relationships. These meetings should be hard baked into the calendar and not deferred or cancelled without good reason. Supplement with ad hoc meetings if needed.
  4. Ensure all discussions are kept private and confidential. It’s up to the business owner to decide what can be communicated post meeting and to whom.
  5. The arrangement is commercial as well as professional, the practice should pay a market rate fee for the services the coach is providing. This applies even if you are using your B/PDM as your coach (you’re still paying for it one way or another).

The payback

Engaging with an external adviser (business coach or advisory board) should always be viewed as an investment of your time, resources and money. And, as such, an ROI should be expected. To this point – advice firms actively engaging with a business coach are achieving a higher level of profitability (+39%) compared to their peers who aren’t.***

Surely it’s worth your serious consideration?

Terry Bell, Business Health Pty Ltd.

*Carl Richards is a Certified Financial Planner and creator of the Sketch Guy column, which appeared weekly for a decade in The New York Times.

** HealthCheck database as at December 2023, Business Health Pty Ltd.

***Results of our latest industry analysis, Future Ready IX, Business Health Pty Ltd.