What I have Learned from Working with a Business Coach (Part I)

Recently I started working with a business coach.

The last time I worked closely with a coach, it meant twice-a-day football practices.

So you can imagine why I would be reluctant to suit up again, so to speak.

But when I started my law firm in 2011, I was struck by the amazing array of new and seemingly limitless possibilities.

When you work for yourself, there are two ways you can react to this new working reality: you can be inspired and motivated, or you can be paralyzed and petrified.

I knew I wanted the former, and not the latter.

I also knew I wanted to build a bigger business and achieve a bigger vision. I knew I wasn’t going to be satisfied staying small.

More than all else, I knew I needed someone to help me get there. I couldn’t do it alone.

How I Was Introduced to Business Coaching

When I started working on Business Profit Academy with entrepreneur and business coach Kevin Waldron, I saw first hand the value of a business coach.

I saw how Kevin had both benefited from working with a business coach while building his disaster recovery business, and I saw how much value he brings now that he is doing the coaching.

Kevin started working with a business coach when his fledgling disaster recovery business was bringing in less than $500,000 worth of revenue per year and had just a few employees. He continued working with the same coach straight through to $24 million a year in revenue and 230 employees.

Kevin’s coach helped him work through crucial decisions from adding employees and letting employees go, to acquiring businesses, expanding service offerings and moving into new geographic markets.

He credits that coaching relationship for a large amount of his success in growing and ultimately selling his business.

That’s a pretty good endorsement of working with a coach, don’t you think?

How Business Coaching Has Gone Mainstream

Working with a business coach used to be frowned upon as if it was a sign of weakness. But lately it’s been hot.

Many famous business leaders and entrepreneurs have worked with a business coach, including Sir Richard Branson, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Oprah Winfrey.

Here’s Eric Schmidt talking about the value of working with a business coach:

I figured if a coach was good enough for those guys, it’s good enough for me.

Never having hired a coach before, the first thing I needed to do was to educate myself on the process.

How to Interview and Select a Business Coach

Choosing a business coach to work with is a very personal decision. You need to pick someone you feel comfortable working with but who will also challenge you and stretch you to help you grow.

A crucial distinction at the outset is understanding what a coach is and what a coach is not.

A coach does not provide all of the answers for you. Your coach does not have all of the answers. In this sense, a business coach is different from your typical high school football or basketball coach.

A coach does help you to envision the future you want for yourself, for your family, and for your business, then helps you move towards that goal.

That’s one very simple generalization of what a coach does. Like most things, there’s a lot more complexity once you start diving into the details.

Your coach may help you do basic work you have never done (but probably should have), such as identifying your ideal clientele. The type of client who you should be serving and who makes you happiest to show up to work each day.

Your coach may also help you identify and recognize your strengths or where your weaknesses are holding you back.

One very tough initial decision was the choice not to work with Kevin, who I really admire and respect. I really struggled with this decision. Although I would have loved working with him, I also knew I wanted to work with him further on Business Profit Academy and other projects, and I didn’t want anything to get in the way of that.

Before I started interviewing coaches, I laid out what I wanted from a coach.

Here’s generally what I wrote down:

  1. My big goal is to diversify my revenue sources – to transition from a solely service-based business (like most lawyers) to offering more products as well as services. I wanted the security of knowing I could continue to make money when I’m not working, like when I’m on vacation or sick.
  2. I also wanted my efforts to snowball. With a typical one-on-one services-based model, you slice up your week into hourly chunks and sell them off to the highest bidder. There is no building of one hour or one project upon the next. I wanted the product of my efforts to build, and to pay off into the future.
  3. I wanted help building SmartBusinessRevolution.com as a platform for future products and services. In the short term, my goal for the blog is for it to be a lead generator; to attract new entrepreneur and business owner clients for my legal practice. In the long term, I want the platform to serve as a useful resource which attracts new entrepreneur and business owners and offers them products they want to purchase, like Business Profit Academy.
  4. I wanted a coach who could keep me focused on long term goals and avoid the perils of a business which is reactive rather than proactive.
  5. I wanted to continue to develop my referral base, which has been a good source of business so far.
  6. I wanted a coach who was open-minded enough to embrace these unconventional ideas.

A Funny Thing Happened on the way to Finding a Coach

It’s funny how life sometimes seems to seems to deliver exactly what you are looking for, right at the time you are looking for it.

Around the time I had decided I wanted to work with a coach, I happened to meet Lee Burgess, another lawyer and entrepreneur.

Appropriately, I met Lee at a book signing for Chris Guillebeau’s The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future (affiliate link).

Lee has a tutoring business, but I also loved how she teamed up with Alison Monahan to create the BarExamToolbox.com and the LawSchoolToolbox.com, two new online resources for law school students and law school graduates studying for the bar exam.

Lee just happened to have a business coach who she absolutely loved working with: Judi Cohen of Warrior One, LLC.

Lee told me a story about Judi that really resonated with me. A few months earlier, Lee had been “stuck.” She had some key decisions she needed to make about the direction of her business and she hadn’t been able to break through the mental logjam.

Judi told Lee she needed to get out of town to clear her head. She recommended that Lee check herself into a small Bed and Breakfast in a small coastal town for two days and clear her head through writing, solitary walks, and time away from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Lee took her up on the advice, and she told me it was like the clouds had opened up above her.

Not only did Lee have one of the most productive two days she’d had in a long time, but she returned home with a clear head and clear vision of what she wanted to do and where she wanted her business to go.

I thought that advice was awesome.

I interviewed Judi over the phone and I got a great feeling from our conversation as well.

Judi had clearly spent ample time reviewing my website and blog and appeared to “get” what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go.

She was very enthusiastic and genuinely excited about working with me and helping me to achieve my goals. I liked that.

Other business owners might want a coach from the Bill Belichick school of coaching, but not me. I got a great feeling from Judi and her enthusiasm and support felt great.

But I still thought it was important for me to do my due diligence and interview a few other coaches as well.

You can read Part 2 of this post here, in which I share my experiences interviewing other business coaches and tell you about my first six weeks of using a business coach.

Photo credit: Microsoft office online

 

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