How to choose the right business coach

Veteran coach Peter Boolkah says it's not about advice, it's about helping the entrepreneur find their own answers
Peter Boolkah

The business coach industry is booming. A ‘business coach UK’ google search heralds 290,000,000 results. Linkedin shows there are currently over 370,000 coaching professionals registered on the site in the UK. Figures from 2019 suggest that globally the industry is worth 2.4 billion dollars and is expected to rise by 6% annually. A survey also found that 72% of UK organisations expect to increase their spending on coaching in the next two years, for both external and internal coaching. Despite these grand figures, business coach services are still under utilised in this country. 

More people are familiar with the concept of a business coach than they were 15 years ago. There has been a switch. Having a business coach is now seen as something to be proud of rather than a weakness. However, there have been reports of some people feeling scammed and not receiving value for money from their business coach. There is a general mistrust of business coaches. The issue is that it is an unregulated industry with no codes of ethics and anyone can set up as a coach within hours. It means there are some coaches who are out of their depth. They haven’t had the correct training or development. They may have taken a 12 hour course and do not operate within a proven framework. Former business owners often set up as independent business coaches. However, running a successful business does not necessarily equip you with the skills to coach. In a worst case scenario the wrong business coach could be detrimental to your organisation.

Like any coaching, the success of it relies on finding the right coach for the individual and their business.  A business coach should have the relevant expertise to guide you through important decision making processes. There is a general misunderstanding of what business coaches do. It isn’t about giving advice. It is about guiding an individual or organisation to find strategies. Ultimately you are helping the individual to reach the answers themselves. A good business coach will operate on your blind spot.

Coaching is about helping the client to find mechanisms to solve problems, consider ideas and make decisions which affect the running of their businesses and enable them to move forward and grow. In business coaching we look to see where the sticking point is. Why the business, although successful, is not growing as rapidly as the client would like. Together we find the pinch point. Quite often it is because a senior leader or CEO is too involved in the company and isn’t delegating or hiring the right staff. There are around 5.1 million small to medium size enterprises in the UK with CEOs and leaders who are time poor. Their knowledge and expertise are often in the product or service they are selling. They are not marketeers or recruiters but in many cases they are dealing with these parts of the business. They don’t have strategies in place or a team behind them. This can be overwhelming and limiting. If a CEO is trying to keep up with admin, they do not have the time to drive the business forward.

The co-founders of one of the businesses I work with were putting in 100 hour weeks when I started with them. They were going out to all the jobs themselves. They hadn’t built a team and were struggling to stay on top of their paperwork. Together we worked on mastering time management and developing a team. They have grown the business from a £300,000 a year turnover to £2 million. 

A survey found that 92% of small business owners agreed that mentors have a direct impact on their growth and businesses survival. A coach should help a CEO or individual to improve their skills. The top three things business owners ask their mentors for help with are HR issues (61%) growth/business expansion (59%), and start-up assistance (53%). Every coach should be able to demonstrate they are doing at least 80 hours of professional development a year. They should be part of a coaching network and be constantly building their own path of development. We learn from others. In the same way that councillors have councillors, coaches need their own coaches to challenge their development, growth and ability to coach others. A coach should have a proven track record and operate with a structured framework that the business owner can follow. A survey found that 30% of business owners who had just one meeting with a mentor, reported growth. The right business coach can safeguard and grow your business.

Peter Boolkah is a business coach and mentor with 30 years experience. He is also a speaker and entrepreneur with offices in the UK and US.

Written by
Peter Boolkah
January 4, 2022