As a mentor coach, I often meet new and aspiring coaches. It is wonderful to see our community grow and give access to coaching in wider circles. Through the years, I have had plenty of opportunities to mirror myself in their struggles, and I realize there are a few things I am glad I saw early. It has helped me in building my business and given me a smoother ride along the way.
Building a Coaching Business is Building a Business
First thing I am glad I saw clearly is that building a coaching business is building a business. As newly trained coaches, we are overflowing with enthusiasm on coaching itself—the work we can do to contribute. It is then essential to remember that building a business is a different skillset. I differed my two skillset developments by ensuring I had support in both parts: a good mentor coach to support my growth in coaching and good business advisors to help me get my business right. As my business understanding grew, I went from needing the actual advice to having a business coach. I still separate mentor coaching from business coaching because goals are completely different. In mentor coaching, the goals are around developing my coaching skills. In business coaching, they are around developing my company and my skills to run it. Both are highly needed.
Get Inspiration for Other Industries
I also realized how helpful it is to get inspiration from other industries. Don’t stay in coaching networks only. Listen to other industries and pick your golden ideas. Listening to plumbers and carpenters got me out of “selling myself—taking it personal,” I adopted their mode. A plumber knows he is needed and relaxes in that. He knows his prices are fairly counted to cover salary and expenses, and he doesn’t question himself if someone complains. Using their “I wouldn’t work for someone who won’t pay me, that would ruin my business” got me out of taking things personally. Keeping in mind that if it ruins a plumber’s business, it will for a coach. This helped me charge enough to give my business a chance. Looking at the best in other industries has also given me inspiration in how to use technology, how to develop and market my services and given me a good sense on what trends are influencing my market.
Always Think One Size Bigger
My peeking into other businesses got me to see the power in always thinking one size bigger, and it has saved me from a lot of mistakes. Here is the trick: Always work in a system that can hold your business easily one step bigger. If you are new, create a system that will work when you are fully booked. When you get going, build a system that will hold for growth. When good things happen, you are already mentally and organizationally prepared to take on bigger challenges. If you decide to work your way through it, you have a lean process to support you. If you decide this is where you take in subcontractors or employ individuals, you can easily do so. The systems are already in place. Systems built to manage bigger challenges helps you step up your game when you get the chance.
Budget for Development
I am also glad I early realized development requires a budget, in time and money. As a coach, it is essential to have the time and money to continue learning. You are the instrument, and your coaching can never get better than you. Holding that in mind when budgeting helps you set prices to cover time and costs for your own training. It also makes you build your business to have coverage for time to take on the CEO role to develop your own company. Parallel development, you as a coach and your business: Neither can stand still and both parts need their resources.
It can be hard work to build trust and gain respect as a small business owner. I realized you can always look big by adding on to what already is. I joined established networks to gain credibility in business context. Coaching may be new and still a bit suspicious to some. By making myself visible in the networks of established companies, people got used to seeing me as part of business around. Create your own network, become part of your business community, don’t stay lonely.
Author Lena Gustafsson, PCC, holds a Master of Social Sciences, having majored in Psychology. She is past president of ICF Sweden and actively engaged in the development of coaching in her country. She is equally interested in the fields of method development and of building business as a coach; getting the two together is one of her strengths. She is working internationally in all sectors from sole traders to multinational companies to public organizations and NGOs. She is also working as mentor coach for new and experienced coaches. Besides coaching, she serves as an entrepreneurial startup advisor and does leadership consulting. She is the representative of coaches in the Swedish National Council of Branches and in the national board of Swedish Federation of Business Owners. The original blog can be found here https://coachfederation.org/blog/realizations-building-coaching-biz