No professional golfer was ever more dominate at such a young age, yet Tiger Woods went to his coach and completely re-structured his swing. That coach was no where near as good a golfer as Tiger Woods, yet the changes they made have sustained his dominance. Effective business owners understand.

The needs of small businesses are very different than the needs of large companies. Fortune 500 companies have long hired consultants to complete studies and reports. These companies are blessed with numbers of competent people capable of implementing the concepts and therefore they can use consultants to bring outside ideas to the table. Small business owners have tried consulting. Those with an immediate need that the intensive development of a “deliverable” can address have found it a worthwhile experience. Unfortunately, most owners found that although the consultants were knowledgeable, it was an expensive exercise that developed a number of procedures that the company was unable to continue to implement. Small businesses do not have the breath of management required to sustain the implementation of change. Within a year most owners would say that they would have been better off just keeping the money. What they needed was not “consulting” but “coaching.”

A coach is someone who works with you to help you achieve your full potential. The coach does not have to be an expert in your industry—you are. The coach is an “outsourced executive” who has a breath of experience in business, brings ideas to the table, provides a “sounding board” for your own ideas, and doesn’t let you fall into a comfort zone. By definition, the most effective coaching relationships are on-going, long-term relationships. The coach gets to know you, your company and your organization. They use this knowledge to systematically allow you and your organization to continually reach the “next level.” You determine where you want to go; the coach facilitates the journey.

After unfavorable consulting experiences many owners shun any sort of help. This audacity rarely benefits the owner. Tiger Woods could easily say that he is the best golfer in the world, “Why do I need help?” And if he had had a bad relationship with one coach he could say, “Coaching doesn’t work.” But any professional attempting to achieve extraordinary results needs a relationship with someone that they can trust. Someone knowledgeable who can keep them focused on their goals. The coach must be empathetic but not afraid to “call a spade a spade.” Traditional consulting experiences involve a consultant developing procedures and then “telling” the organization that they must be implemented. Coaching experiences involve the coach facilitating the organization in the discovery of their needs and in their own implementation of procedures that they develop to accomplish those results, assisting as needed.

One should not commence a long-term coaching relationship until they have met their business coach and are comfortable with them. You must allow for extra time during the commencement of the relationship for the coach to become sufficiently familiar with your operations. The coach should either be local or have a consistent travel schedule so that face-to-face meetings can be a regular part of the process. No one should be considered who has not spent some time upon your site. Lastly, don’t even consider a coach who wants to “tell you what to do” in the first day or so of a relationship. Many coaches know what has to be done by then, but it is their job to make you realize it and change it. Dictated change does not stick. Once chosen, the relationship should be flexible enough to allow you to address your ever changing circumstances.