As someone who generally likes to problem solve and takes pride in helping clients work through more complex or emotionally challenging business decisions, it can sometimes be difficult to take a step back and acknowledge certain boundaries when it comes to delivering a specific outcome that requires a very specific skillset.
As I have said on many occasions (and according to my own definition), a business coach should be a generalist practitioner, who needs to have a sound understanding of how the major functions in any business work and how they then relate to each other. I often explain to clients its like having a general manager perspective across the business, like what an MBA degree aims to achieve for those aspiring to be in executive management.
On many occasions, when performing my role as business coach, I find that imparting the knowledge and experience accumulated over the years is usually sufficient to help business owners significantly improve performance within the core business areas that involve customer dynamics, people management, financial management, systems and governance amongst others. However, very early on, clients are made aware that I bring a solid team of experienced specialists with me on the journey and that having access to a trusted network of professionals (who ideally know each other and work well together as a group) can take the business to the next level.
On this note, I strongly believe a good business coach should have very close alliances (not just referral partners) with a number of key professionals that can help clients execute on strategies that either aid or manage growth. In my opinion, the big three include a proactive accountant, a pragmatic commercial lawyer and a well-rounded human resources consultant that can wear both recruitment and advisory hats. For a small business owner to have access to a collaborative team such as this, means creating the space to plan and work on high level strategy that the business so dearly craves, rather than constantly being bogged down in operational matters 24/7. It should not stop there though. The next layer should at least include a highly skilled bookkeeper, an experienced tactical marketing expert, a creative yet commercial graphic designer and a reliable commercial finance broker– again all of whom are preferably well connected with the big three above.
To add further weight to the importance of having the right team around you, think about all those start-ups and medium to large organisations that have an advisory board specifically set up to support the directors and executive team in fulfilling the company objectives. I see no difference in the need for both micro and small businesses to have the same access. Ok, so I’m already hearing you say: “lets be realistic, its not affordable to have this kind of infrastructure in place.” Well, I beg to differ. My view is the small business coach is the equivalent to the board advisor and trusted confidant, who connects the business to the broader team where need be, while at the same time remains involved in the process throughout and so maintains a consistent and reliable support mechanism to the business owner. This carefully project managed team structure approach provides a completely different value proposition to just shooting off referrals left, right and centre.
This brings me back to the title of the blog “Beware of the Lone Ranger,” when being approached by a business coach, advisor, consultant or whatever. If there is a promise to solve all your business problems from a program or the like, perhaps dig a little deeper first and enquire as to how exactly they plan to do this. What qualifications do they have and even more importantly, who helps them, help you? This is not to say that a good business improvement program will not deliver impressive results. I offer this type of program myself and it is a fantastic tool to be used at the right time and for the right client, but business is and always will be about people and connections and therefore a business coach who makes a point to highlight the strength of his or her broader support team should be interpreted as a vote of confidence. On the other hand, those that profess to have all the answers and seem rather precious about sharing knowledge and contacts (unless there is a monetary motive), should be cause for concern and certainly justifies grounds for further interrogation.
At the end of day, the famous proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” really says it all and there is no doubt that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. While this makes perfect sense and seems logical and simple in theory, the missing link is often not being able to align yourself with or find the leading protagonist who can pull it all together. Hopefully this message can lead you one step closer to find exactly what you and your business needs to either manage growth or scale up.