May 24


This is what a business coach does

When I tell people I’m a business coach, the reaction is usually a quizzical look. Then a follow up question, “What do you actually do?”

That’s a deceptively difficult question to answer in the usual networking event sound-bite format.

That’s because what I actually do depends a lot on what my client is dealing with.

Let me explain the three stages of my relationship with clients and how that helps them. That will shed some light on it.

I’m willing to bet you’ll see something in here that can help you.

1. Teacher

This is a big part of why business owners come to me. They realize there are gaps in their knowledge about how to run a business.

As I’ve talked about before, most people who start a business do it because they’re good at doing something. Then, they realize that actually running a business requires different skills. Skills they’ve never learned.

This is the central thesis of the classic business book “The EMyth Revisited.”

For most of you – who know me only from my writing here – this is what you see. It’s the “how-to” topics I write about most often.

In these conversations, I’m teaching small business owners new skills. These conversations cover a range of issues. We work on how to run the business in six key areas:

  • Leadership
  • Marketing
  • Finance
  • Staffing
  • Operations
  • Sales

These are the talks that have the most visible and quickest effect on the business.

This is also the area where I tend to act more like a consultant, but without the do-it-for-you deliverables.

The owners I work with come away from these discussions and exercises with new skills. Once they follow through and implement, they also come away with real change in the business.

2. Advisor

As the small business owner’s skills improve and they start to see positive change, our conversations change.

We start talking more about current situations and strategic plans. We work through options and possible outcomes.

Sometimes, I play the brainstorming partner, helping to open up new possibilities. Other times, I’m the devil’s advocate. I point out possible consequences or tell the emperor they have no clothes.

At this stage, the relationship looks like a mentor-mentee relationship. Or the relationship between the CEO and their advisory board.

This is huge for owners. There’s rarely anyone in their life with whom they can have these conversations. It¬†provides relief from a dirty little secret of business ownership. It’s a lonely existence.

There aren’t usually people willing to listen. And those who are willing often lack the experience to offer much more than a sympathetic ear.

Having an outlet to talk about the things they can’t – or won’t – discuss with others is cathartic.

Not only does it help the owner manage stress, it provides a critical outside perspective. Without that perspective, it’s dangerously easy to convince yourself of the brilliance of your own ideas.

Over the course of these conversations, a great deal of trust develops. The relationship ceases to focus on “help me accomplish some business goal.” It starts to become “help me build my business.”

3. Guru

Actually, I hate that word. It’s been so overused and abused that it’s meaningless. But, I’m at a loss for a better one-word descriptor.

The conversation changes again. It changes from “help me build my business” to “help me be a better version of myself.”

The conversations I have with my clients are more about what’s going on inside their head. They’re conversations about limiting beliefs, fears, and blocks that are holding them back.

They’re conversations about getting back up and carrying on.

They’re conversations about cutting the crap and doing what needs to be done.

This is where we peel back the onion and get to the issues that really make a difference. This is where the breakthroughs happen.

In case you’re wondering, no, this isn’t anything mystical and, no, I’m not any sort of therapist.

This level of discovery is possible because we built trust in the earlier stages. That trust allows my client to see their reflection in the mirror I hold up for them.

That might sound like the client is doing all the work. In many ways, they are. But it’s work that wouldn’t be possible without a gentle push from the outside.

The Results

The results I’ve seen from the relationships with my clients:

  • a better performing business
  • greater confidence
  • less anxiety
  • better relationships
  • more freedom

So, that’s the answer to “what do you actually do?” that I don’t have time or space to give you in your average networking introduction.

If it’s something you want to explore for yourself, schedule a conversation with me.


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