With the economic downturn sustained by the U.S., many dis-placed workers sought to start their own businesses, hence the upward swing in providing coaching services. These are people who have an expertise in a certain field and sought to take their talents and call themselves coaches rather than consultants, advisors or counselors. There is a difference between the two.
- Consultants/Advisors/Counselors – have a certain level of expertise in a certain field and provide businesses with their expertise in that particular field, providing advice and/or information.
- Coaching – is partnering with clients in a thought provoking and creative process that inspires the client to maximize their personal and professional potential. The coaching functions on a process level to help people understand who and where they are in their lives and in their work/business. It is a healthy, positive and enabling process that develops the capacity of people to solve today’s business problems. The role of the coach is to help the individual to think about and identify strategies for success, and helps the individual to create goals and helps to keep them motivated so that they realize their goals.
Often, coaching is mistaken for counseling. Coaching is not counseling. The role of the counselor is to take an individual back in time to a place of unresolved issues so that the individual can revisit and resolve them. Coaching is about present and future forward movement; helping people to become unstuck in where they are.
There are many coaches out there that claim to be “business coaches”, unfortunately, they actually haven’t been through a certified educational coaching curriculum that would allow them to be able to call themselves “business coached”. So, how do you know if the person you are retaining to coach you in your business is legitimate? You ask for and verify their credentials!
A certified professional coach will have gone through a rigorous training program endorsed by the International Coach Federation (ICF), the only current accrediting and governing body for ensuring that coaches are actually practicing the skill of coaching in an ethical and professional manner. The individual will have learned core coaching competencies and coaching skills and processes that help them be effective in their coaching practices. Coaches that go through the coach education process will be established as Certified Professional Coaches with a credential of CPC and will have the hours necessary to be accredited with the ICF, which has three (3) levels of certification:
- Associate Certified Coach (ACC) – with over 100 coaching hours under their belt and the requisite additional training and coach mentoring
- Professional Certified Coach (PCC) – with over 750 hours of coaching under their belt and the requisite training and coach mentoring
- Master Certified Coach (MCC) –with over 2500 hours of coaching under their belt and the requisite training and coach mentoring
Asking for credentials and references is not enough, you must also determine if the person, their style and personality are a fit for you. A coach that you come in contact with should be helping to determine this as well to ensure that you, the client, have the best coaching experience. If not, then they should offer to help you to find a coach that’s right for you. However, there are resources that you can avail yourself to, so that you find a certified coach that is right for you. Our suggestion… start with the International Coach Federation, they have large offering of coaches and their specific niche. There are also trade associations and magazines and local coach associations.
If you do the research and select the coaching relationship that works for you, the results you yield for you and/or or your business can be priceless!
You’ve been successful in sales and made an impact in your business but now sales are starting to fall off. So what went wrong and how can you get back on track? Activity!
We all know that people help to drive and sustain business. You may have the best product or service but if people don’t like your product or service, you may have a problem. If people don’t like you or any aspect of your business, you may have a problem. As small business owners, we often get so caught up after the sale and in the details that follow in providing our products or services that we may forget to continue the activities necessary to drive and sustain our business. Those activities involve people! Marketing your business still requires that you keep the momentum going on networking, meeting new people, follow up and closing new deals. They all work hand in hand and they all involve people.
Whether you prefer evening events, specific networking groups, etc., networking is key. Create a goal for networking each month that will help you get in front of people and spread the message about you and your business. This is where we find that many people slack off because they feel that they have clients now and they’re okay. But the fact is, while you’re off working with your new clients, people may be forgetting about you and your business. Setting a goal to attend certain networking events each month will help to keep you and the name of your company stay out there and remembered by all. If you truly don’t have time to attend, then perhaps hiring someone to help you market can help, or even working with a company to market you can be of help. Here on Long Island, many small businesses utilize networking organizations groups such as 516Ads, an organization dedicated to promoting Long Island small business. 516Ads and organizations like it can help customers link to your website, advertise for you and host events where you can speak about your business as you appeal to the masses. Another great place to network is with your local Chambers of Commerce (COC). COC’s aren’t passé as most might think, they are however, a great resource for building business relationships and credibility. But, don’t just join a COC for the sake of joining, become an active member, join a committee and offer to speak, host a seminar, etc. A good COC has a host of events, activities and committees to keep you involved as you build relationships to grow your business. People will remember you when you participate as an active member and that means that you are on their minds and that means potential business. But networking is not enough, you also need to meet with people and cultivate relationships.
You’ve gotten their business card, now what?
If the person you just met interests you, ask if they would like to meet one day over coffee, breakfast or lunch, or a send follow up email or make a phone call to set up a one-on-one meeting. One-on-one meetings help you to understand others and their businesses and how there may be potential synergy in working together. Whether there is synergy or not, the person that you are meeting with has the potential to also help you by referring you to others. But don’t stop there, you may also have the ability to help them and refer others to them as well. They’re called strategic connections and strategic connection mean potential customers so don’t just meet with them once, plan to follow up to continue to cultivate the relationship.
After attending a networking or other event, make sure to follow up and follow through on your commitments. There is nothing worse than promising to provide a contact or connection, or collateral material about your business and not following through. This is where most people lose credibility. So, set a goal to follow up after an event within a certain period of time to keep you on task and actively pursuing new business. So let’s sum this all up.
- Meet people
- One-on-One meetings
- Follow up
- Cultivate relationships
All of these activities point to growing your business!
Recently, I met with a client to discuss how to effectively manage the performance of her staff so that she could effectively measure the results of her business. Sounds simple enough right? Read on!
My client didn’t understand that while her staff was working, she truly had no idea as to whether or not the work that they performed had a significant impact on her business’ overall profitability. Each person had a role and they pretty much did what they thought they should do each day, and the company made money but there was no way to measure the effectiveness of the work performed and its impact. So my role was to help her put structure around accountability for her organization. So what came first, the chicken or the egg?
In her case, it was the chicken, her business. She had a structure in place and people working in the roles, for which she hired them, but she had no business goals, so what were they driving to? Apparently nothing! First and foremost business goals need to be established in order to achieve the success you want for your business. You don’t need to have staff to establish goals but you do need to create a roadmap for where you want to go. Goals are essential to achieving…anything! You also have to know where you’ve been in order to know where you want to go. Past performance does dictate future success. So, we looked at profitability the years prior and I began to ask her questions about the work that she and her staff performed. I asked questions like, what percentage she wanted to increase her profits by, how she anticipated increasing them and what she needed to do in order to get to the number she quoted. I also asked her what drove business results the prior years; in other words, what activities had been performed to get the results she achieved. Taking it a step further, I asked what percentage of those efforts actually brought in business. Understanding the things that drive your business results is essential to measuring success.
My next task was to take those items that brought in business and create business goals. We identified approximately how many of those items were actually done and how often, then we outlined how many should be done each month and how many for the year. The next step was to identify which of her staff should be included in helping the business to achieve those goals. This is where we were able to establish goals for her staff and how their goals tied to the company or organizations goals. We gave each business activity a timeframe for achievement and quantified each of them. Then there is accountability.
I know what you’re saying right now, she has her own business, she only needs to be accountable to herself, it’s the reason she stopped working for someone else. The truth is, when we as business owners worked for someone else at one point in our lives, we needed to be accountable to someone and the same holds true when you own a business. There is always someone that you need to be accountable to in order to drive results. For instance, your customers, without them your product or service would never be recognized. Then there is your staff, without them, you don’t have a business because someone needs to help you with the work; and if you are a solo-entrepreneur, you need to be accountable to yourself because you are the person doing the work. And ultimately, you need to be accountable to your business; treat it like your baby and nurture it, after all, it does provide you with income to sustain your life. So what does accountability look like?
In my client’s case, I met with her bi-weekly to coach her on the activities that she needed to perform in order to drive business but we also met monthly to go over where she is with her business goals. This means that she was meeting with her staff, weekly, or bi-weekly to manage their performance and understand where they are with their contributing goals. I know, you’re saying right now, “that’s micro-managing.” Call it want you want but it helps to drive accountability and achieve desired results, and its only one example of how you can create accountability in your business. My business partner and I follow a similar formula in terms of organizational goals, how profitable we want to be and the activities that we need to perform consistently to get to where we want to be. We meet monthly to go over our individual goals; we call it an “accountability session.” Just the word “accountability” alone drives us to do the things that we need to do in order to create the success we want in our business. Neither of us wants to get to our individual accountability session not having done the activities necessary to drive results.
So what have our results been and what can my client expect as the result of measuring results, a strategic approach to business growth, a structure that ensures business growth, processes that drive activities to get to our goals, people engagement in the work and the rewards of profitability and recognition for a business that is successful!
So, what does your measurement dashboard capture when measuring the results of your business?
Building your business and developing yourself are both growth processes that will occur over time. Building a business implies having to develop your skills and/or manage other people who can build the necessary processes to perform necessary business functions. While many people equate success with working, truly successful people attribute their success to having a strategy, setting goals and working smart. In the beginning, you will need to do all of these. And if you do them all,, in the end you will find you have built something that will endure. So, what are your strategy and goals for your business? Have you communicated them to your staff? Are they aware of their roles and responsibilities and how they tie to the goals of your organization?
The value of your business lies not in what it can do with you, but in what it can do without you. If no one else can do what you can do, then you don’t have a business that will endure. You have a business that is restricted by its inability to use its creative juices and expand into something bigger and more successful. Business is and should be a systematic series of processes linked to the overall goals of the organization disciplined to exceed internal and external customer expectations. Each aspect of your business should be process mapped, so that in theory, other people can perform other roles including yours. The functions and processes should be crystallized in writing, so it’s important to document everything! But process isn’t enough. People, make the difference, even if you are a solo-preneur.
When activities can be accomplished by others or the process is systematic, then your creativity can be utilized for continuous improvement, increased sales, improved market share, and new business development. In other words, you working on the business rather than being in the business. Recognizing an opportunity and being in position to take action is one of the keys to success. If you are busy doing, you may be too busy to take advantage of opportunities, and chances are you working harder and not smarter.
The benefits and rewards of planning are many. Planning helps to prioritize your activities. You already know you will be wearing several hats and the functions you will perform under each hat are different. Planning helps you to see beyond the immediate issues and remain focused on the desired outcomes. This will help to ensure that day-to-day activities are in line with your long-range objectives and vision. It will help you avoid getting involved in seemingly endless crises, and even prevent crisis-stimulated activities that seem to be important and necessary but in fact may be neither. With this understanding you are better able to focus your energies on getting where you want to go. A comprehensive plan that includes strategy, structure, process, people and rewards is an important tool you can utilize to build a successful and sustainable business!