Have You Hired a Business Coach?

Though I’ve been freelancing full-time for two years, and I’m happy with where I am in my business, I’m a big fan of personal development. I read books, follow blogs, take classes, and attend conferences in my field. After all, everyone has areas where they could improve. Recently, I had the idea that I should hire a business coach to help me rethink some of the strategies I use and help my business climb to the next level.

A colleague suggested several business coaching candidates, so I contacted a smaller subset of that group and discussed my needs over the phone. The first coach seemed friendly, yet professional, and we clicked almost immediately. As our conversation concluded, she agreed to send me a proposal of what our coaching relationship would look like.

The second coach seemed equally friendly and professional, but after we chatted for awhile, she did something that few self-employed professionals do: discouraged me from becoming a client. “It sounds like you have solid strategies in place, and the few issues you’ve had were unusual circumstances,” she said. “I hate to turn away business, but I’m just not sure you need this right now.” I told her appreciated her honesty and that I’d get in touch if I really did need her in the future. When the first coach got back to me with her proposal, I responded similarly. I’d also been thinking about hiring a personal assistant and that seemed like a better use of resources anyway.

Though I didn’t end up using a business coach, there are others who went the other way.

Have you hired a business coach or a life coach? What did you look for? How did they help you?

Susan Johnston is a freelance writer/blogger who has contributed to publications including The Boston Globe, Mint.com’s blog, WomenEntrepreneur.com, and Yahoo! HotJobs. Her own blog, UrbanMuseWriter.com, covers tips on productivity, brainstorming, and more for fellow writers.


  1. James on the 22nd July

    I haven’t used a coach because I’m so small-time, but I was thinking of finding some sort of advisor to help me get serious about my business. I could use any resources I can get to help me find such an advisor/coach/consultant.

  2. Well, yeah you could say I have a business coach. Sort of a mentor, and a guide to doing an online business.

    It does help a lot, and is a great source of inspiration and motivation.


  3. Alicia Marie Fruin on the 23rd July

    There is alot of misunderstanding about coaching. Having been a business coach for more than 10 years I get calls from coaches asking how I built my practice. Often the “coach” inquiring will discover they have neen consulting or training the client, not coaching.

    Coaching is not consulting and it is not training. Get an International Coach Federation certified coach ( PCC or MCC) . These coaches have been trained, have been orally tested as well as passed a written test. These coaches also have years of experience. Beware of so called coaches who claim to be an “expert” . They are consultants and trainers , not coaches.

  4. Peter North on the 23rd July

    I’ve never hired a business coach, but I did hire a personal trainer, and he showed me that I could do things that I was 100% certain I couldn’t. One moment, I’m positive I won’t be able to do it; the next it’s finished.

    It was very empowering, and it’s translated well into other areas outside the gym.

  5. Lindy Asimus on the 23rd July

    As a business coach, I am always interested in what ‘business coaching’ looks like to someone who might find working with one useful.

    Hiring a VA can be a good idea and that would cover off on a lot of tasks that can be delegated and free up time for more work that can only be done by the business owner. A complaint from many VAs that I know (and other services that work with business owners) is that the clients don’t know what they want them to do and often don’t give clear directions, or understand how to fully use their services. This is not surprising, because it can be difficult to know what’s possible when wee’ve never done something before, and articulating “what I want” can be strangely difficult.

    Ideally, the business coach can help the client to identify issues within the business that can be improved and empower the owner to tackle issues that they have not considered till now, but may impact on the ability to reach most desired results that the client would prefer to achieve.

  6. Marius van Niekerk on the 26th July

    As an executive coach, the distinction I draw between business coaching and consulting is that a consultant will help the client draw up a business plan and a coach will guide the client to draw up the plan based on the client’s own understanding. The coach will push a bit, so that the client also looks at the areas they would typically avoid (finance and marketing 🙂 )

    A good example of coaching v consulting is the illustration Susan herself uses. PerhapsSusan will support this (or not): Through the conversation with the first coach, her ideas started to crystallise, and by the time she spoke to the 2nd coach, her understanding of the issue had changed to where she had defined a solution.

    James, you don’t have to be big time to have a coach, but it might make your journey to get there easier.

  7. andrew on the 27th July

    Business coach sounds like a great idea! But its hard to find one that has your best interests in mind. How do I know if what I need is a business coach or a mentor??

  8. Alicia Marie Fruin on the 27th July

    A mentor is someone who has been where you are at and can provide guidance and advice. A coach will help you accelerate your results as well as learn and grow. Most coaches offer a complimentray coaching session so you can get an idea of what it would be like to be coached.

  9. Marius van Niekerk on the 27th July

    Hi Andrew,

    Fundamentally, both the business coach and the mentor act as your guides. The coach will guide you based on your own choices (alongside you).
    The mentor will guide you based on their own experience (in front of you).

    The coach will allow you to explore your own future with the risks, but also the rewards, that involves.
    The mentor will help you to avoid mistakes that they might have made, and realised. However, then you are not walking your own path and you might not have the successes you could have.

    By definition then, the coach might not have a similar background to you; The mentor would often be a more senior person with a similar background.

    There are of course business coaches who are actually consultants and many of their tools are effective to manage your business. But that sort of planned growth does not allow you to explore your full potential.

    Hope that helps.

  10. Myriam Callegarin on the 2nd August

    Hello Susan,

    I decided to post my comment because it sounds like you put your decision about hiring a business coach on hold, even though you had found a potentially good coach to work with (the first one as I understand).

    As I read your thread I understood that you would like to move your business to the next level, so I’m not really sure about why the second coach turned you down. What other reasons could she have had for turning you down?

    I definitely see the value of having a business coach. I am a business coach myself, and I do have a coach. When I don’t have a coach I tend to lose focus, since I have so many things to manage and to think about. When I work with a coach everything flows much more easily, no matter if it’s about developing a new service, changing a strategy or managing my finances and time.

    What would you find most valuable about working with a coach?

    I have no idea who the first coach was, but would it help you to discuss your concerns with her?

    All the best to you, I wish you an exciting and successful business!

  11. Rebecca on the 31st August

    Hi Susan,

    I had a similar situation at my previous company, where the management team were looking for business coaching to refine their strategy and create an implementation plan.

    We found it difficult to find a company to work with, as many ‘coaches’ actually came across as consultants. Though once we found a coach the team clicked with, everything was a breeze. It was helpful to have a fresh pair of eyes look at our team and strategy, and push the team in the best direction for the company.

    We had 6 months with the coach, and afterwards, the management team seemed much more aligned and the implementation plan was very effective. So, the whole coaching experience was positive for my old business, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the experience to anyone else!

  12. Steve Leach on the 13th March

    Some really interesting viewpoints here. I’ve been a coach for over 15 years, joining ActionCOACH in 1997, I became their first coach and still coach and train full time.

    Many coaches tend to be ‘reactive tacticians’; that is they identify what’s going wrong and fix it. This might have been the case with the coaches Susan spoke to, who couldn’t find anything ‘wrong’ to fix and didn’t have the experience to inspire her with the specific strategies that help her to develop to the next level.

    The problem with this very common form of coaching, is that after a while, hanging out with their coach for an hour a week, becomes the clients’ favourite’ procrastination and makes them feel empowered and ‘connected’, whilst avoiding what needs to get done, to grow.

    Is IS important that you ‘click’ with a coach; but you also need to be confident that they understand the psychology of business, not just the tactics. They also need to be experienced across all disciplines of business. They’re not there to be ‘technicians’, helping you improve ‘how’ your business is done; they’re there to teach you the skills of business ownership.

    Finally and most importantly… Only ever take advice from people you aspire to be like! So make sure your coach is at ‘peace’ with who they are; enjoy significant wealth and financial habits (beyond the ‘bull’); are positive; have a successful family unit and place priority on ‘balance’.

    I’m happy to talk to anyone that’s considering getting a coach, or would like a second opinion. Good luck! Steve.

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