Here’s What I Think About Business Coaches: Part 1.

Here’s What I think About Business Coaches – Navigating the ‘Business Coach’ Maze: A business coach dialogue. Part 1.

Are you confused about how to find a great business coach? Does the world of business coaching ever have you befuddled and confused? Do all business coaches appear to “look the same, sound the same and blog the same” to you? If so, then welcome to the “I’m Confused about Business Coaches Club.” My name is Gaye Crispin, and I’m the current President of this Club.

I’ve been looking at the world of business coaching as an outsider, and I’m seriously questioning everything I see and read.

My goal is to source innovative and original coaches, who are at the forefront of their game, to refer my clients to. If a coach isn’t occupying that space in their industry, how can they help my clients occupy that space in their industry. Sound too simplistic? Why does it? Sound heretical or offensive? That’s a shame, because it’s not.

I’ve recently been on a journey to try to discover what makes for a good business coach, and how to identify them.

This is an important journey for me. If I’m going to recommend any person or service to my clients, friends or associates I need to be 100% confident that the people I’m recommending are up to delivering a superior quality product or service that’s in line with my own.

While trying to identify good business coaches I’ve trawled through possibly hundreds of coaching blogs and posts, and guess what I’ve discovered? Most of them say the same thing, just in slightly different ways.

That was useful in establishing what coaches obviously consider are important points, but too many of these blogs were too similar.

That alarmed me and raised issues in my mind concerning originality of content:-

  • Are the similarities simply unoriginal thinking? If I suspect so, then I won’t refer that coach.
  • Are many of these blogs and websites simply ‘copy, cut and paste’ from other people’s blogs and manuals? Well, I’m certainly not recommending those.
  • Are some of these ‘coaches’ actually students in training, working through similar coaching material? I suspect so.

This type of thing is common in many unregulated industries…but in business coaching too? Unfortunately, it would seem so.

That could mean the coach may only ever be just one step ahead of the client, if we’re lucky. Now that’s a worry! It seemed the more I read, the more I was seeing re-shuffled wording taken from someone’s hard work. But whose?

So how are we, who don’t have the inside running on this unregulated industry, supposed to know how to locate the real McCoys in this high-dollar ‘Sea-of-Sameness?’ I’m still not 100% sure, but a picture is emerging.

With any unregulated industry, and particularly business coaching, where anybody can open shop we need real disclosure:-

  • Real disclosure on their business and coaching experience, and
  • Real disclusure on their client testimonials and success stories, and especially before paying over enormous coaching fees, or investing any time and/or money based on their leadership or ideas.

We need legitimate successful coaches to lead the way in providing greater transparency in relation to their own results and claims to fame.

We, the consumers, have a right, and a duty to ourselves to investigate the validity of the claims of testimonials made on a website or blog. We need to begin to investigate them thoroughly.

The business coaching industry owes us the truth if it expects any small business to pay multiple thousands of dollars for a brief meeting/weekly phone-call/webinar service… which doesn’t guarantee tangible returns.

I believe this industry needs a regulatory body, and there needs to be consequences for false and misleading advertising.

Currently, the business coaching industry seems to be writing its own rules. 

Apparently a good coach charges quite a  few hundred dollars an hour, which is fine if they achieve superior results. But we need to remember that’s a highly professional fee, and is as much as a good lawyer charges.

Plus, a good lawyer studied for years, had to qualify in a very heavily regulated field, work their way up the ladder, continue with professional development, and abide by certain scales of fees according to their experience and expertise.

From what I’ve been able to gather, many coaches have just come out of  nowhere after failing in a business or two, read a few books, set up a coaching practice, created some testimonials or had their friends write them, and began charging an ‘industry standard’ of a few hundred dollars an hour.  And it seems many in the industry know this, are quite happy for this to remain the case, and are quite happy to remain silent about it as well.

But it’s we, the consumers, who pay the price for any incompetence, and also for this conspiracy of silence, because we are none the wiser of the real quality of a particular coach till after we’ve paid. Surely this alone needs addressing. With so many small businesses struggling, and failing, I’m hoping there’s no correlation between that and the sea of green coaches I’m hearing about.  I know from my own business and experience that my clients who have coaches are just as troubled as the ones without coaches, or they wouldn’t have called us.

Then there are the so-called ‘testimonials.’ 

Testimonials are traded like cattle everyday of the week. Don’t rely on them! Whenever we see testimonials for a coaching service that don’t provide contact details, these need to be seriously drilled down into and questioned before doing business.

If no satisfactory answer is forthcoming, these testimonials should be dismissed as fabrication, rubbish, and the coaching service dismissed as questionable.

Coaches, please name names and businesses.

How often do we see and hear coaches telling us how well their clients are doing? Sorry coaches, I want proof. I want to see the history: the before and after. A lawyer can’t falsely claim to have won a case they lost, and remain lawyer. A financial advisor has to ensure everything they advise is supportable. 

Business coaches are actually in the business of influencing people . If  there is an incompetent coach influencing business decisions, and even controlling business owners thinking, currently it doesn’t look like they can be held accountable or responsible if the business goes belly up. This seems wrong, and is another reason why I think the industry needs a thorough overhaul.

Any coach who is advising, guiding, influencing (call it what you like) people in business should  have to measure up to some agreed minimum standard. And there needs to be consequences. One ‘cowboy’ can do a heck of a lot of damage in a short period of time. I repeat, I’m beginning to wonder if there isn’t a correlation between the sea of coaches out there and number of businesses in serious trouble. Poor coaching is a serious cash-flow drain on any business, but would be a killer for an already struggling business. 

The coaching industry really appears to have no rules to abide by other the ones they agree on amongst themselves. 

We need to be aware of that, and demand that when coaches offer testimonials as evidence of their expertise, which is usually all they have to offer, that they can back up these success stories with legitimate bottom-line, actual results.

We have a right to insist on seeing the business figures of their clients, signed off by the accountant, if a coach is using such client success stories in their marketing materials (or face-to-face) to try to win our business. 

Mr or Mrs Coach, I need to know that the results you are telling me you achieved are true, and that they came about as a direct result of your coaching. I want to see something concrete before I hand over $1,000, $10,000 or $25,000 a year to you. This is not too much to ask.

I would happily recommend any coach who was able to support his or her claim of their coaching being directly responsible for doubling a small businesses bottom line in a year.  Hey, I’d probably even engage the coach myself.

But you don’t always get what you pay for – and especially in business coaching.

I know this because of some of my clients horror stories with business coaches… which is why I embarked on this journey in the first place.

I heard one horror story where a young graphic designer, whose business was obviously failing, bought a coaching franchise for around $25K,  hung out her shingle and began selling her coaching services.  A woman I know engaged her services based on how impressed she was with the information on the parent company’s website.

The monthly coaching fee was $2,000 a month, and she was locked into a 12 month contract. 

This coach missed their first appointment and didn’t call to re-schedule. There was no 7 day cooling-off period in the contract so the client couldn’t get out of the contract.  Another appointment was set and the ‘coach’ missed this appointment too. That wasted 2 weeks of the client’s first month into the contract. 

I suggested she take her complaint to the top, which she did.

In trying to explain away and excuse this young coaches unprofessional conduct the area manager of the franchisees explained that this girl was new to coaching: had no experience: had been a graphic designer: was young, etc etc. This is appalling. Why didn’t they tell the client this in the first place?

This franchisor’s policies are appalling, irresponsibly signing up ‘just anyone’ who has $25K to spend and a franchise, and not subjecting them to serious, qualified training. 

There are many more horror stories I could share but I won’t. What I will say is this, I’m determined to understand how this industry operates, and how to identify a good coach.  

If you’ve been searching for a good business coach, and my words resonate with you, I’d love to hear from you.

If you are a good business coach, and can help me understand how to identify and qualify a good business coach, I’d love you to leave a comment and share that information with us.

Next week I’m uploading a dialogue I had a couple of weeks ago with a few coaches. It was a very interesting conversation that touched on a few of these points, so I hope you’ll stay tuned.

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2 Comments on “Here’s What I Think About Business Coaches: Part 1.”

  1. Liza Smith says:

    Gaye, you make some valid points. We work solely with business and executive coaches and the difference in results that coaches get for their clients is quite remarkable, as is the quality/accuracy of their marketing and advertising.

    I hope I can reassure you by saying that the great coaches who get their clients outstanding results are out there, unfortunately some of them are communicating their offering poorly which is where I hope we come in- the need is to step out of the coaches shoes and into that of the prospect and your blog helps them (and us marketers!) to do just that, so thank you!

    The coaches do have a duty to be transparent and ethical in everything they do, not only because of the harm it does for their prospects and clients but also the harm it causes to the business coaching industry itself; coaching adds so much value to the business world that it would be a shame for the image to continue being tarnished by the few that are doing so through misrepresentation of themselves etc.

    Thanks once again, I have shared your blog with my coaching database.

  2. Suellen says:

    Great read Gaye and looking forward to Part 2.

    I wrote a related post about this recently http://goo.gl/nhHQd and it touched a nerve as it was my most commented on post to date I think.

    I agree with what you’re saying here and understand why the coaching profession gets such a bad rap when I read horror stories like the one you told.

    I’d like to point out that the coaching industry isn’t alone in the practices you raised namely, unregulated, high fee rates, testimonials fabricated and people taking on clients they just aren’t experienced enough to advise.

    The question is, what can be done? I’m not convinced ‘credentialing’ or regulation is the answer.

    Until Part 2…


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