Making the most of a business coach

January 03, 2011

Whether a remodeling business is new or established, it’s not uncommon to find times when the owner needs some advice. One of the most successful ways to improve your business is hiring a business coach.
Just hiring a coach is no quick solution, though. You have to make a lot of important decisions before you hire one, and especially once you start the coaching process.

Finding a coach
You’ve got to make the right choice at the beginning, or you’ll just be throwing your money away. There are thousands of folks out there calling themselves business coaches, all too happy to take your money.
Ben Thompson, president of Thompson Remodeling in Grand Rapids, Mich., has worked with a number of coaches over the last several years. He recommends talking to other remodelers or business owners to get their recommendations on coaches. If you can’t find anyone who has hired a coach, ask for references.
“I want to get testimonials,” Thompson says. “I’m looking for somebody that has worked with them and gotten good results.”
Thompson says almost all of his coaches have helped him improve his business. The exception is a firm he hired years ago in response to telemarketing without getting good enough references.

Know what you want
An important part of finding the right coach is knowing what you want to fix about your business. Are you trying to get a better handle on your finances? Do you want to improve sales? Or do you want a better work/life balance?
Without that, there’s little point in looking for help, says John Rogers, owner of John Rogers Renovation in Roswell, Ga. Rogers has been on the receiving end of coaching, and has been a coach himself for the last two years, working with other remodelers.
“What specific aspect of your business is it that you’re looking to improve?” he says. “I think many coaches can hit that wide array, but sometimes there is a distinction where you need a more specific type of coach.”
For example, early in his career, Thompson wanted to improve his sales skills, so he worked with a Dale Carnegie trainer.
“I could have perfected it with 50 sales calls, but I’d rather do it in a controlled environment than in a sales environment,” he says.
A good coach should ask very specific questions about what you want to accomplish, Rogers says, but at the same time a remodeler needs to clearly communicate those goals.
“The few times I was not happy, I wasn’t specific enough about what I wanted,” he says.

Fully commit
Hiring a coach is not a quick fix, but a longer-term way to improve your business. In his experience, the best coaching relationships are long-term ones, Thompson says.
“The process takes time,” he says. “There are no magic bullets, but the ROI is there.”
Besides committing to the time it takes for coaching, remodelers need to be willing to hear some advice they may not want to.
“Most of us who are business owners are very opinionated and we’re marginal when it comes to receiving opinions,” Rogers says.
Many times, Rogers has been tempted to dismiss what coaches were saying, thinking it didn’t apply to him, or that he wasn’t interested in the topic. Even if that seemed like the case, though, there were nuggets of useful information to get, he says.
The other common mistake, and one Rogers says he has made himself, is to gather great ideas, whether it be from coaches or peer groups like Remodelers Advantage, and not implement them.
“If you determine to begin this process of working with a  coach, don’t waste money,” he says. “You really want to get the results and you want to execute whatever you deem you should, and not just put it all by the wayside.”

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