Questions You Must Ask Before Hiring a Business Coach or Consultant

BEFORE HIRING A COACH OR CONSULTANT FOR YOUR BUSINESS

I’m about to tell you that I don’t want you to hire me.

I really don’t. Which may seem an odd statement for someone who makes a living out of and more importantly, derives great pleasure from making small businesses better.

Let me explain….

The coach/consultancy industry is going through a tricky time right now. Which is common amongst young industries as they establish their future direction. I see far too much “I can teach you how to make 6 figures in a weekend” and far too little of due diligence that you as a business owner should be undertaking before you hire someone to support your business.

Which is why I want to encourage you not to hire me, until you can confidently answer the following questions:

1) Why are you thinking of hiring someone?

If you only ask yourself one question before hiring someone, make it this one; “Why are you considering hiring a coach or a consultant into your business?” Unfortunately, this is often the last question that people ask themselves. And trust me, from personal experience, “because I don’t know what else to do” is always the wrong answer.

Approaches to coaches and consultants are rarely made because everything is running absolutely wonderfully in your business. Usually, when you start to consider an outside advisor it is because you are feeling more than a little lost or you believe you lack a skill set necessary to develop your business. It may be that you have reached a tipping point you don’t know how to move forward from, or you’ve lost direction and want to get back on track or you are ready to stop puttering along in the slow lane when you know that what you have to offer could help so many people.

Whatever your answer, “why” is your first, and best, question. Then make sure you bring in someone who can give you the best support in solving that specific issue.

2) What are your goals?

This ties directly to your “why”. Once you know why you want to hire someone into your business you need to drill down into what it is specifically that you want to achieve. That doesn’t mean that you have to have it all outlined into week-by-week actions. Most of the time you are bringing someone into your business to help you define your next direction and that necessitates a flexible, fluid approach to where you are going. Overall, though, you should know what you want to eventually achieve.

There is a reason that the SMART method of goal setting has stood the test of time. It just works.

Let’s say you think that your goal is more growth. “More growth” is not a goal in and of itself, though. As an example; if your goal is growth then you need to make sure you can answer the following questions fully:

What does growth mean to my business? Is it customer growth, mailing list growth, financial growth?

How will I measure that growth? Numbers? Revenue? Profit? Gut feel?

How will this growth actually happen? What will I have to do in order to achieve it?

Is that a realistic growth target, if so, what is it based on? If you don’t already have historic data from your business to refer to, at least do your research on similar businesses at similar stages.

What is the time period I wish to achieve this growth within, is that a plausible time frame? What are you basing that on?

Because, believe me, asking you to define your goals is the first thing your coach/consultant should be doing and it is better for you to think about this ahead of time so that you are not caught by surprise when it happens. 

3) What is your budget?

If you are hiring on the hope that “this” will be the thing that finally makes your business profitable or because you’ve been sucked in by the “you have to spend money to make money” mantra then hit pause immediately on your search for a consultant or coach.

There is no magic bullet. I cannot say this enough. Nobody, no matter how brilliant, is going to be able to come in and make an immediate, measurable difference to your business. Everything takes time. And that time is going to cost you money. Please do not cross your fingers and hope. Work out what you will need to make in order and how you are going to do that before you sign the contract.

4) Do you need a coach, a consultant or something else?

This may seem obvious but, do you know what you are hiring? Do you know what your business needs? Coaching, consultancy and business strategy, these are unregulated industries. What does that mean?

It means that anyone can set themselves up as any of those businesses, call themselves whatever they like and they are answerable to no one but themselves (except, hopefully, their clients).

Even within the industries of coaching and consultancy experience, training and standards can vary wildly. It doesn’t help that many coaches call what they do consultancy and many consultants are, in fact, offering coaching. To break it down to basics for small business coaching and consultancy as I understand them:

Coach = Someone who works with you to help you personally to remove the blocks which are stopping you from getting to where you want to be from where you currently are. Coaching usually has an individual focus.

Consultant = Someone who brings a level of expertise to one or more areas of your business. This is usually tied to the strategic development of your business and will involve analysis, goal setting and taking action. Consultancy usually has an organisational focus.

Again, these are my interpretations, and as a hybrid of a consultant, who is also an accredited coach, I consider myself a consultant first and foremost, who uses coaching as one of the many tools in my arsenal to help my clients achieve the results they want. You only have to Google Coach vs. Consultant to see how many different interpretations there are of those terms. Which is why you need to do your research. 

5) Have you done your research?

I love a good sales page. They are siren songs to struggling business owners. They promise to solve all your problems. Before you know it, you’re hovering your cursor over that PayPal button ready to give up a significant chunk of money that you may not have in the hope that this time, this is the thing that will solve your problems.

WAIT.

Before you click that button, I need to tell you to step away from the sales page. There are some questions I want you to be able to answer before you hit “pay”

Do you know why you are hiring them? (go back to question 1 if you are not sure)

Have you consumed enough of their free content (website, social media, blogs, downloads, podcasts etc.) to be aware of their working style? Is it a good fit for you?

Have you checked out their testimonials, and if you are being ultra thorough, have you contacted people they have worked with to make sure that they were happy with the results?

6) Are you prepared to be the boss?

When you hire a coach or consultant you are bringing someone into the inner circle of your business. They are going to need to be able to ask you about every area of it in order to help you facilitate the change you want. 

But, and this is important, you are still the boss. You are still in charge, you are still directing where this relationship will go, you are still responsible for setting and monitoring the goals. A coach/consultant who is not being managed by the client cannot effectively help you to make the changes you want in your business. It is not their business to run your business for you.  They may become your right hand, your trusted advisor but they are not your replacement. Set goals, establish regular check-ins and ensure that the lines of communication are fully open between you.

Final Steps

There is no substitute for getting on the phone or setting up a meeting and speaking to your potential coach/consultant directly but it will be a much more productive meeting if you have already considered the above questions so that you know exactly what you are asking for during the meeting.  

Don't ever feel that you have to commit during or directly after that meeting. Ask for a proposal, take your time, ask follow-up questions.

If the coach/consultant is not the right fit for the goals you want to achieve then they should have no hesitation  Taking on a coach or consultant into your business can be a game-changing move, but before you take that leap of faith in the future of business, make sure you are making a calculated leap.

Time for Action

Let's recap those questions:

1) Why are you thinking of hiring someone?

2) What are your goals?

3) What is your budget?

4) Do you need a coach, a consultant or something else?

5) Have you done your research?

6) Are you prepared to be the boss?

Get these questions straight and then get ready to make your next step to drive your business forward.

And if it is me you are looking for, you know exactly where to find me.