By Robert Imbriale
Have you ever found yourself alone in your office late at night staring out the window pondering questions like how to get more business, or how to improve customer service, how to cut your expenses, or how to expand into a new market? I know I used to do just that. The problem was, who could I really turn to for answers?
If you are a sole proprietor, you might turn to your spouse, but that will only help you out for a while. If you turn to your employees, you may be breaching your confidentiality between you and your employees. If you have partners, they might be of some help, but often times they are seeing the situation from the same viewpoint, and they may not have any better answers than you.
In the past several years, there is a whole new profession that has emerged to help with just these types of situations. They are called business coaches, and they do just that, they coach you. They differ from consultants in that they are not interested in tearing your company apart only to rebuild it again to solve a problem.
A business coach is there to look at your company and use their knowledge and experience to help guide you to solutions that will work best for you. Let's look at an example of a client I once coached to give you a better idea of what a coach can do for you.
I first met this business owner about five years ago. He had just bought his first business, which was a retail packing and shipping store. He was excited because he had been working for a large firm as manager of their shipping department. Buying this retail store meant that he would no longer be taking orders from "people who just did not understand shipping."
When he took over the store, he made significant changes to the layout and functionality of the location. He spent money on advertising and within three years, he had built a nice little business for himself. My role through these first five years was limited, as I only stepped in when he needed to bounce ideas off of somebody.
At about the four year mark, his troubles began. Sales began to drop off, he hated dealing with "certain" types of customers, and he had a hard time getting himself to work on time to open the store when it was expected to be opened. He was the last one in every morning and he was the first one to leave, often closing his store before the posted closing time.
What had gone wrong? I was called in to help out. I spent some time observing his operation and found nothing dramatically wrong with either his basic operation, or his employees. In fact, those things were working pretty much as they always had.
I dug a little further and found the root of the problem. The owner had literally burned out. He had lost his drive and instead of seeing his business as an adventure, had begun to draw images in his mind of his business being a "ball and chain" around his neck.
Upon further investigating, I found out that he had gotten into the packing and shipping business mostly by accident and that what he really wanted out of his life was to be able to work in real estate. I had him begin to take real estate classes at night and had his employees close the store on those nights he had to leave to go to his classes.
I had him take a day off during the week to begin to get active in real estate, but also to be away from his packing and shipping store. It worked. His attitude became much more positive, and within weeks, sales improved. He was smiling now when he greeted clients and that made all the difference in the world.
Another company I worked with was a hair replacement center. Sales had begun to fall off and they wondered what they could do to get the company back into the black. They thought they had tried everything and nothing seemed to work. I worked with them and reviewed what they were doing, and I had even come in as a client once just to see how I would be treated by the sales staff.
It turned out that their problem wasn't a technical one, but it was one that many companies fall victim to over time. They had become complacent. Instead of looking at each new customer with fresh appreciation, they had begun to "assume" that the customer knew certain things and they began to leave out vital portions of their sales presentations!
In essence they had done the presentation so many times, they had grown bored with it, and began to cut corners. The problem was that, over time, they had cut so many corners, that the presentation just wasn't effective. It had been a good presentation, but it was missing so many vital pieces and it just wasn't being delivered with enthusiasm or caring.
After a few sessions with the sales team, I was able to motivate them to work harder and pay more attention to each and every client by delivering the best sales presentation they could. Sales immediately improved. But I didn't stop there!
I had to make it last so that they would never again grow bored of the sales process, so I added an element of fun to the mix. I used a weekly sales competition between the sales people to motivate them to sell more, hence making them work harder at each and every sales presentation. I also added a few other fun elements to the presentation that also made it fun to deliver!
You can see how using a business coach can really help you improve you business, but you should also use one when things are going as planned because they are usually able to spot negative trends in your business long before you even see them!
I once worked with a company that thought they had everything under control. In fact, it appeared that they did! Sales were growing at a regular and comfortable rate and there really weren't any internal problems to speak of. What they were missing is that there was an external trend beginning to emerge that would surely affect the way they did business.
I found out about it early enough to help them make the necessary changes so that by the time it became mainstream, they were not only ready, they had already been using this new technique for months! That's the value of having a business coach on your team.
So, what does a business coach do. I mean really? Their job is to be the eyes and ears you don't have. You're primary job is to make sure your business is running smooth everyday. You may not have either the time or the ability to spot trends that might hurt your business. A business coach is that second set of eyes that is unaffected by internal company politics and who is far enough removed from the business not to be blinded by it.
A business coach is the person you turn to for non-biased advice on business decisions, but they are also a friend you can turn to for advice on virtually any topic that you might need a hand with. I've often been involved in coaching business owners in areas from emotional challenges to family matters! Not your typical business coaching assignment, but a good business coach can help you out in many areas and that's our primary outcome; to help you succeed at whatever business venture you desire.
Now that you know what a business coach does, here's a few tips on how to find one that's right for you and how to work with them once you find them!
First, business coaching is a relatively new field so there are still relatively few business coaches to choose from. Look for a coach you like as a friend. You might need to have lunch with several business coaches before you find one with whom you have really good rapport.
I'll typically offer the first visit for free and I use it to get to know my potential client and for them to get to know me too. After that first meeting, we'll both be in a better position to decide whether or not we can work together over the long term.
When you do find a business coach you are comfortable with, take a look at who else they work with. Make sure they do not work with any of your direct competitors and be sure that they agree, in writing, never to take on a direct competitor as a client as long as your agreement remains in effect.
Next, decide on how often you'll need to meet with your coach. I typically meet with my regular clients at least once a month during the good times, and as often as necessary whenever there are challenges. It's vitally important to keep up a good relationship with your business coach, as this is the only way they can really be of any service to you! So, make sure to meet at least once a month to talk about anything that has changed, been added, or removed from your business. This is also the perfect opportunity to be with somebody who really cares about your success and can offer you sound advice on reaching your goals in both your business and personal life.
When I first began coaching business owners, there was very little known about what we were really there to do or how we would support our clients. The key is to have somebody who you can check in with, somebody who will help you stay focused and who will help you clarify your goals and then reach them.
Now that you know what a business coach does, can you see how you can benefit from having your own personal business coach? The best part is that with e-mail and the Internet, Faxing, and telephones, your business coach doesn't even have to live in the same city!
If you'd like a free coaching session with me, send me your name, address and telephone number and I'll contact you to schedule your free consultation either in person, or over the telephone. You've got nothing to lose, and lots to gain, so try it out for yourself and see for yourself if coaching can be helpful to you! You may be surprised to learn that you can have a top-of-line business coach for about $250 a month! Can you really afford NOT to have one as part of your team?
Mr. Imbriale is a nationally recognized Business Coach, Speaker, Copywriter, and Author of "Internet Marketing Secrets." Many companies nationwide have used his marketing techniques to dramatically expand their businesses without spending a fortune. If you would like a Free Business Check-Up for your business, a seminar schedule, or would like to order a copy his book, contact Mr. Imbriale's office toll-free at 1-888-226-8109 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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