These terms are used by many people in different contexts. In some cases people simply mean having a drink / visit / phone call now and then to catch up. In others they mean embarking on a multi-year improvement program which hopefully will equip you to run your business "better". We see it as a bit of both - hopefully the best bits of both. The one thing it doesn't mean is that we have all the answers to your questions. Rather we have some experience in enhancing your business skills.
An analogy of a sports coach
Imagine you are a good rugby player and you want to be an All Black, or a good netball player who wants to be a Silver Fern. For many this (or something similar) will be something you have imagined in the past.
For a very small group of players it might just be possible to become a world class player on your own. However the majority need coaches to help them become the best they can possibly be. In another sport, it is almost impossible to think of Peter Snell without thinking of Arthur Lydiard.
Coaches can focus on aspects of the players' games that the players themselves can't always see. Having extra help and support from an expert helps take the player to a higher level.
Even the captain of the team needs the coach. Actually the captain often needs the coach more than the rest of the players. The coach works alongside the captain to get the best performance from the rest of the team. The captain is the leader who directs play, the captain is usually one of the most experienced players, and the captain makes the speech at the end of the game.
The coach thinks about the overall vision and how it relates to each game that the players are facing - but not from a player's perspective. The coach doesn't have to have been a great player. They just have to have an open mind, and to ask the right questions and throw down challenges. They have to keep the captain and the team focused on the objective of the campaign - the vision, not just on each individual game.
The overall success of each player on the team rests with the team and the team's performance as a whole. Each player needs to have a clearly defined role and to understand how their role relates to the team's vision.
The captain, coach and key players have to sit down and decide together what factors are crucial to achieving the team vision. Then they have to work out some way of measuring their performance against what they consider crucial to achieving the vision and how to share this with the team.
Each individual player needs to have some way of measuring their performance against some standard. The players should use standards to monitor, measure and then improve their personal performance. Players are more likely to take action if they have had the opportunity to be involved in the writing of their standards. After all, they are the team's current expert at what they do.
Little ideas and changes in the way the player or team plays the game can be measured against the standards to see if the changes have brought about improvement. Remember though if things don't show immediate improvement the first time it doesn't mean the idea was a dud. It might have been the execution of the idea that needs improvement.
If everyone understands and communicates frequently with each other, the TEAM will succeed because "Together Everyone Achieves More".
A business coach
As a sports coach has a vital role in the team's success, so a business coach has a vital role in business success. So much so that today the term business coach is used by a wide range of people who have surprisingly little in common.
Advice - good or bad? I think of two clients who were given damaging advice by coaches they chose simply because they were free. Fortunately both talked to us before implementing the advice. These coaches were nice people but had no training or plan. They just chatted about the general state of play. Some coaches who work this way will have a natural ability to identify key issues in some areas, and maybe even the ability to help fix them. A business is only as strong as its weakest link - and often people who are experts in say marketing have little skill in say HR, or systems, or finance. If your main weakness matches the strength of a mentor, they may be a great help. If not, then your business will still be left with its weaknesses.
I also think of other clients who paid a lot of money each month over a long-term for a programme that was used with every business that signed up. It was a very good programme - but its value in some areas that were already strong was limited.
We take a structured approach to business coaching, in that first we help the owner(s) identify the key issues to be tackled first - fairly obvious but nevertheless important. Then we help them identify ways to tackle the key issues. Finally we help them implement these solutions.
That's fairly basic stuff - which fits with our philosophy of keeping things simple. You don't expect a doctor to treat you without first performing a diagnosis. Once that is done correctly, the decision about treatment is usually very simple. We find the same in business - once the core issues have been identified, the solutions are usually very simple to identify.
This is actually the key. Just as identifying medical conditions and treatments does not in itself heal anything, so too identifying problems and solutions does not solve business problems. That's why before we take on clients we ask for a commitment to implement whatever decisions the client makes during the diagnostic and solution identification stages. In our experience this is the hardest part of the whole process.
It's so easy to make decisions to change things, but so much harder to implement them. Yet without that stage, the rest of the effort is wasted. We know first hand what it's like running a business. The phone rings. A supplier doesn't deliver on time. A computer breaks down. Staff don't turn up. And on and on it goes.
But it doesn't have to be like that - which is why we only work with clients committed to making their business really fly.