What makes a good business coach? — and how to become one.
Being a business coach is way more than giving feedback and offering opinions. It’s about sharing an experience with business owners and guiding them to success.
Sound intimidating? Don’t worry — we’ve collected our best tips on how to be a good business coach, inside and out.
A good business coach…
#1. Thinks of challenges as learning experiences
Being a good business coach means being completely invested in your clients’ success. And, in some cases, that means seeking out new challenges for your clients.
There’s always going to be outside factors affecting your clients’ business; (the economy, supply and demand, tech advances, etc.). So, the more prepared you can make them now, the better off they’ll be in the long-run — and preparing for the long-run is where you shine.
Here’s a secret: These challenges don’t need to be real. Presenting a theoretical challenge to the leadership team, and working together on a response procedure, is a huge win.
#2. Loves teaching and learning
At its core, business coaching is a teaching gig. But a good business coach also knows that, to be a teacher, they also need to be a diligent student.
How can you be both a coach and a student? Well…
Keep up-to-date on industry trends, and share your insights with clients. Don’t be afraid to discuss risky approaches, and provide honest advice whenever you can. Cater your advice to that business’ specific needs, whether you’re coaching a small business or a large-scale enterprise. Be patient, set expectations, and get ready to answer a lot of questions.
#3. Doesn’t hold back
Productive conversations rarely start with “It is what it is.” A good business coach holds their clients accountable and knows how to frame constructive criticism in a way that protects your ally status while improving the business.
It seems tricky, but honestly, it’s easier than you’d think. Business owners care about their companies, and as a result, they generally place a high value on identifying areas for improvement. That means your feedback (even the kind that creates an awkward moment) holds a ton of weight.
Tactfulness and respect are must-haves, but sugar-coating has a time and a place — and in business coaching, it’s never and nowhere.
#4. Avoids unnecessary bias
A good business coach is experienced in their client’s industry. That being said, your experience shouldn’t keep you from providing unbiased advice.
When clients hire a business coach, they’re usually looking for an external, third-party resource. You’ll probably be privy to sensitive information or situations, and you should use your industry knowledge to inform recommendations rather than assuming your clients’ will have an identical experience. Of course, industry insight is super valuable — but never let it overshadow the specific needs of your client.
#5. Knows that “regular business hours” might not apply to them
In a lot of businesses, work starts at 9am and finishes at 5pm…but a good business coach knows that’s not always the case.
Things come up. Plans change. A business coach is there when their clients need them, even when it’s inconvenient or unplanned. It’s important to be both accessible and flexible with your clients, whether that means giving them your personal cell phone number or hosting remote meetings on the fly.
Have an availability policy and discuss it with your clients when they hire you. Make sure they know you’re there for them (and that you’re willing to skip a happy hour to help out 🍻😉).
Putting it all together
There’s no dictionary definition for “good business coach.” But there are a few qualities successful business coaches tend to share:
- Valuing challenges as an opportunity to learn
- The desire to both teach and be taught
- Prioritizing transparency and growth over sugar-coating and indecision
- Avoiding bias when it doesn’t offer value
- A willingness to go the extra mile to offer guidance
Combining these traits with your extra-sharp business intuition goes a long way in being a fantastic business coach. And, with the right application, you’ll be well on your way to a career full of overjoyed clients who don’t just appreciate your guidance — they look forward to it again and again.