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Should you hire a business coach?

Ted Blackwater |
With the advent of social media all kinds of "gurus," "ninjas," and "advisors" started to offer their services. One kind of consulting services with particularly suspicious success outcomes are business coaches.

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Now, let us first see what a business coach does. A simple definition would be a "person who helps the business owner clarify the vision of their business and how it fits in with their personal goals." More or less this is the accepted definition of business coaching.

Coaching may cost you up to tens of thousands of dollars so it is wise to see what do you get for that money. Coaching is also time expensive because the business owner must talk to the coach far and wide - and we know that time is money.

So, is this investment something a business owner should jump into?

Let's go step by step. First, notice that we are not talking here about consulting. Good business consultants are very valuable and there is one crucial characteristic that makes them valuable: they are coming from their businesses.

They were involved in day to da operations, be it at their own company or as highly positioned managers in large corporations, and their advice have clear focus backed with a lot of expertise. And they call themselves consultants, not "ninja" or "guru" or "coach."

On the other hand, business coaches you may find today on the internet are offering you a mix of business advice, inspirational quotes, and self-help sentences.

In other words, they are trying to mix a range of advice, from sales techniques to personal branding to "live you life to the fullest" and "how to live happily in Hawaii while your millions are multiplicating."

As we all know, millions aren't pouring in by themselves no matter how many quotes you read. But, let us dive a bit deeper into coaching.

Business coaches are extremely connected to lifestyle coaches, people that are trying to sell you advice how to be happy in life, do what you like, make other people happy...

To put it simply - and mildly - a life coach is telling you things your parents should've been telling you when you were in a primary school - and even if they didn't you learned them by the time you finished your puberty years.

If you are a grown adult and don't know what to do in life, well, then you have a problem. You may solve it by sitting down and thinking about it a bit or you can ask a psychiatrist for help. Not a "life coach," a psychiatrist. They are trained to help people in situations like this and this is a task for them.

Next, contrary to a good advisor or psychiatrist, a business coaches usually sell "one fits all" advice and that's not working. They claim they can help you - no matter what kind of a business problem you have. As long as you pay $20,000 for personal sessions, of course.

There are numerous examples of good businessmen that didn't succeed in one field of work but did in another. People who tried different things until they discovered either the field they are the best in or a product that will shake the market.

And they spend their time working hard, not wasting it on "You can do it! You can do it!" talk. They knew they can do it, they just needed to find the right thing and they were working on it.

Next, good consultants will never tell you "You will earn $xy following my advice." There is no magic in business and there is no magic advice that will make your product the best in the universe and your life the best it can be.

The problem with coaches is that they are selling you a fabulous lifestyle using stories and quotes without any practical meaning.

"Be good and help others!" That's good but how can I help my company firs? "Live your life to the fullest!" OK, but I must work first and make some money, right? "Make an outstanding product!"

That's good too, but what do you really know about engineering, a mobile phone factory, car tires or _____ (insert your field of work)?

The problem is, with every goal in mind you must have a strategy how to achieve it. And there is a lot - a lot! - of coaches trying to sell you the life style without going too deep into how can you achieve that.

And the reason for that is simple: they don't know. In fact, there are two reasons for that. First, they don't know. Second, they are trying to be your business advisor and a friend and a shrink. That simply doesn't work.

Take a look at your board of directors. They are persons with years of business experience and they are specialized for their own field of work.

Some are good in engineering, some in sales, some in accountancy. And vice president of accountancy will never give you advice what kind of screw to put in your new machine - and it will never cross your mind to ask her that.

If you have some doubts in your life, maybe you are boring at work or maybe you'd like to change the job - you will ask your friends and colleagues. Or you can even have a small talk with a headhunter.

If you need a business advice or a business mentor you will find an experienced business person and talk with her.

However, business coaches are trying to be all that in one person. The result is that their advice range from silly talk for six-year old ("You must work hard") to total nonsense ("You just keep helping other people and your products will sell just like that!")

That's why you can find a lot of business coaches in business-to-business environment because they know that they can't help an individual to achive anything remarkable and they stay away from business-to-consumers market.

And those who do, are mainly offering "ready to go, one fits all" courses and webinars, without thinking about your specific business needs.

So, if you need a business advice, ask someone from your board or find an accomplished business person. And stay away from anyone who's trying to sell you a set of well-known quotes for a nice amount of money. And from anyone who didn't own their own company - ever - and it's trying to sell you a story how to succeed.

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