Running a business can feel isolating between making key decisions, leading a team, and being the best at what you do. There is no shortage of pressure when it comes to the success of your small business, but you don’t have to make these core choices on your own. In fact, hiring a business coach can be one of the most needle-moving decisions you can make. As a scaling entrepreneur, I’ve been able to work with three business coaches in my journey as an agency owner, each in different stages of my business, from startup to growth to scaling. Each coach has given me a fundamental takeaway that has truly changed the way that I do business. Here are the top three lessons I’ve learned from my business coaches.
Business Coach #1: Starting
My first business coach taught me the importance and power of systems and processes.
I first worked with this person when I was about two years into my business. This was the Startup phase of my business where I was still wearing all of the hats as a business owner and doing most of the client work myself. I had just hired my first team member to help take on some of the burdens of the client work that I had. Honestly, I had no idea what I was doing, which I am sure most business owners can relate to in the early days of starting their company.
This particular coach was brought on to be able to help me streamline what I was doing and be more successful and productive with my time so that I could hopefully make more profit. This person taught me how to integrate systems and something called SOPs into my business practices. SOP stands for “standard operating procedure”. SOPs are customized instruction manuals that you have within your company where you write detailed steps in order for somebody else to be able to replicate that task in the future.
Personally, I have less of a systems and operations mindset and more of a visionary mindset – meaning I figured I could continue wearing all the hats in my business forever. Finally, I realized I didn’t have enough time. I didn’t have enough energy. And I was doing so much that I was getting spread thin across everything that I was doing. Being able to recognize where I needed systems and processes in my own business was a game changer for me. It allowed me to see the things that I could delegate to my new team member and future team members. It also allowed me to see the areas where I wasn’t being efficient. Part of this experience with this coach was completing a time audit. Each day I would write down everything I was doing, every 15 minutes for a week straight. This information allowed me to see: what could I delegate? What could I create a streamlined system for? What is absolutely necessary for me to do as CEO? One example we discovered through this exercise was my client relationship process. I would send the same basic email to each client but I was personally typing out that email each time I would need to send it out. To streamline this process, we created an email template that I can easily access and copy, or have my assistant access and copy to send to my clients when needed. This time audit and SOP development was essential in laying a foundation for a more efficient business practice.
Business Coach #2 Growing
My second business coach taught me the importance of knowing my numbers and getting clear on my financials and my financial goals. During the Growth Stage of my business, I had things running pretty smoothly. I had a team and a large client base. Operations were running pretty well, but one major issue of my business at the time was a lack of profit and constantly being on this cycle of cutting it close on payroll. I couldn’t put my finger on what I needed to optimize and fix in order to solve the problem long term. I was completely unaware of what my numbers were doing and I kind of liked it that way. I liked being in that “ignorance is bliss” spot and just knowing we made it that month then moving onto the next without fixing the issues.
Obviously that is not the healthiest way to run a business, especially if I’m in the business of scaling and being able to grow and be really smart about my expenses. This business coach was able to really help me put a magnifying glass on my numbers and become more comfortable with what I was doing on the back end. We would regularly analyze my profit and loss statements and expenses to see what I could cut, streamline, combine or what was necessary for my business to grow – and budget that in. We also set financial goals, in terms of how many sales did we want to make and what do we want to be making in the future? Analyzing how many people I want to hire in the future and making sure that I have enough room in my budget to be able to make that next influential hire. This process was about me getting familiar and comfortable with the way my business looked on paper.
This is something that is still a challenge for me, to be honest, I am not financially motivated. I have since discovered that I am impact motivated, which has allowed me to make a major mindset shift in how I run my business and how I function as a CEO. I realized that I can find motivation to look at the financials and make strategic investments when I know the direct correlation it will have on my team and on my clients. This major mindset shift came more recently, thanks to the help of my third business coach.
Business Coach #3 Scaling
My third and current business coach is helping me as I navigate the Scaling Stage of my business. What I’m learning is how to scale as the CEO of my company; understanding what the roles of a CEO are, being able to really embody that visionary seat again. I have been working to get back to this place of being able to forecast what I want the future to look like and be able to plan for what I want Succeeding Small to become. We are strategizing how to improve the inner workings of my company and be able to take it into that next stage of business. My current business coach is allowing me to do just that and challenges me on many aspects of what I am doing. We are talking about things like profitability and what are the most needle moving tasks that I can be doing versus what can I delegate out to others? We are planning a master organization charts and casting a vision for the next 60 days, the next 90 days, and the next five years. We’re looking at whether my current business model is sustainable things and what we can change to increase profit margin to accomplish my goals? Most importantly, we’ve been working on how I position myself now for the future that I want and how can I be a better leader for my team?
Each of my coaches have allowed me to step further along my journey. Each one has been able to enhance aspects of my personality and really put a microscope on my habits. As a business owner, I’ve been challenged on my weaknesses and have to take a really hard look at what I could be doing better as a leader, as a boss, as a provider, as an owner, but ultimately I’ve been able to get in outside unbiased perspective on the inner workings of my business. If you are considering hiring a business coach, remember that coaching is hard. Every single vulnerability of your business is laid bare, open to inspection and interrogation. A good coach will challenge you in the areas that you were most uncomfortable in and most of the action items start and end with you.
With each stage of business I’m progressing forward and every stage of business is better than the last. My recommendation to you is to find the right coach, someone who specializes in your stage of growth and who knows about your industry and the problems that you face. Find someone who matches your personality while being able to challenge you and don’t be afraid to interview several business coaches to find the right fit.