How to choose the best business coach (PART 4 of 4)

In part three of our blogs about choosing the best business coach we covered questioning your prospective coach.

This blog looks at the relevance of a coach to your situation, and the difference between different types of coaches.

Different types of business coach – horses for courses!

What are the different types of business coach?

As with most industries, there are business coaches with specialisms and relevance, and there are ones with less direct relevance.

Here are four sub-categories that should help you (as small business owners) choose someone relevant to your situation…

Big business coaches – not always a match

Big business coaches

This group tend to be ex-high-flyers from the corporate sector. They often have worked in large banks or multi-nationals or as a C-level executive. They are well educated and were highly capable in the large business environment.

The focus of coaching tends to be towards the high level systematic side of things. They tend to be more consultative; providing direction based on years of experience working in big businesses. They are used to managing and directing in boardroom environments. They are happy to act as a sounding board and can help you define relevant goals and strategies in that setting.

So where do they best fit in?

If you are also running a medium to large scale enterprise, the insight and experience can be highly valuable and effective. If you are running a smaller scale business or have a more regional focus the advice can be interesting. However it may not be fully effective as the options for growth in big and small business are different.

Often the complaint from SME business owners working with this group is that they were really nice, but didn’t understand small business.

Executive coaches are great for developing individuals within larger organisations or for career coaching.

Executive business coaches

This group focuses more on leadership and management topics. They work with individuals who are often not business owners themselves. Often the help is for career development, or preparation for more senior roles. Sometimes it is for the development of boardroom culture and teams.

If you are working out how to choose the best business coach, it’s important to understand that this format has a different remit. The skills for business growth focused coaching, or coaching towards business autonomy are very different.

Executive coaching is a fast growing area, and often includes specialists in topics. NLP, team dynamics, psychometric testing, team engagement and often involved.

Great learning, and relevant to anyone in business, but they focus more on the person / role than on overall business results.

If you want to learn more about executive coaching click here

SME Business Coaches – Practical and relevant for that environment

SME business coaches

There is an ever growing number of individuals, franchises and small groups within this sector. This is set to continue as the business owner mindset moves away from the old mindset of “broken businesses hire coaches to fix them”.

It is those who want to improve and reach the apex of their environment who hire coaches.

In the SME world, lots of people hire a coach to help them reach their potential with less learning through trial and error!

SME business coaches tend to fall into one of three camps:

a)     These are business owners who have gained experience from their given sector. They now want to share their expertise with others who want to learn from and have their insights.

b)    Bright people who have learned a system designed by someone else (e.g. a franchise model / employed by a coaching firm). They have skills in coaching to deliver that framework.

c)     A healthy balance of the two. These individuals have developed or learned a coaching system. They also have the experience and insight from running businesses of their own.

It is helpful if a coach has / does run their own businesses as it gives them an empathic understanding of what it is like for their clients.

Is it essential that the coach has run a business themself?

When it comes to the question of choosing the best business coach, it isn’t essential that a coach has run their own business.

However, it is certainly a useful experience for them to draw upon and it will give a sense of ‘empathic understanding’. This experience of business ownership and how it feels isn’t present within the theorists.

I say this from personal experience having been a coach without prior business ownership experience, who now owns and runs two businesses in addition to a coaching practice. I know I am a better coach for the experience that direct business ownership and involvement has given me.

Niche business coaches bring specific knowledge of the industry sector of their clients, but can be too consultative as a result.

Niche business coaches

These coaches are similar to SME coaches, in that they tend to work with a system they have developed. Because of this, in many cases they will also have experience of one specific industry. They use this as the basis of their specialism. In your process of choosing the best business coach, it’s worth understanding that there are pluses and minuses for this group.

The pluses

The pluses are the immediate contextual understanding that they can bring to a company. They often have experience of solving specific industry challenges.

The minuses

As a result of this specialism, their thinking can be rather ‘narrow’ and less likely to bring something fresh or innovative to the table.

This can make it harder for businesses to differentiate against competitors as the advice is only coming from within that one industry. There is a lot to be said for cross-pollination of ideas from different business types and sectors as a coach.

The other minus is that because the coach ‘knows the industry’ well, the tendency can be to become too consultative and directive. This can stunt the rate of personal learning and problem solving skills for the business owner.

Next Steps:

If you would like to explore your coaching needs and situation with me direct, please get in touch with me at UK Growth Coach. I have been helping business owners across Sussex and the South East of the UK for more than a decade as a business coach. I also own two other companies personally, and feel well set to guide you through this difficult decision.

You can reach me at tim@growthcoach.co.uk or find more information about SME business coaching at https://growthcoach.co.uk/growth-focussed-small-businesses/

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