Starting a small business is no easy feat. Neither is running a successful one. There are several milestones along the process of starting a business and priming it for long-term success. Each of them requires different strategies, approaches, and resources to keep things moving along. More often than not, you’ll have to abandon the best-laid plans if they don’t turn out the way you’d hoped. You might find yourself wanting a second opinion on crucial decisions throughout the journey.
This is where having a small business coach comes in handy. A small business coach can help you develop your business plan before launch, keep your ducks in order when you’re starting up, or refine your business practices once you’ve set up shop. Just like an athletic coach, a small business coach can offer help and encouragement at any stage of your business’s development.
Here’s what a small business coach can do for you, as well as a few key milestones when it might benefit you to bring one on. Every company’s journey is different, but these are some of the most common instances in which a small business coach might be just the thing you need.
Think of a small business coach as an entrepreneur’s psychologist, life coach, business mentor, and sounding board rolled into one. A small business coach can help you develop a business plan, execute on your idea, and help you make your business model profitable and successful. This person can also act as an impartial judge for your ideas and can help you diagnose issues within your organization if and when they arise.
A small business coach is a professional who knows the ins and outs of running a business. This includes (but is not limited to) advice about being a better manager, handling the stress of being a business owner, finding additional revenue, and increasing your company’s sales.
Think of a small business coach as a life coach. Instead of helping you self-actualize and reach your personal potential, they help your business figure out how to live up to its maximum abilities. You’ll get some personal help along the way, too, as your coach guides you through the issues blocking you from being the entrepreneur you’re destined to be.
There’s no simple answer as to when you might want to hire a small business coach. Much of what you’d get out of having a small business coach depends on your personal needs as an entrepreneur. Some small business owners seek coaching during the early conceptual stages to help get their companies off the ground. Others may look toward a small business coach to help improve operations once the initial growth stages pass, as this is when things tend to become less operationally efficient. Alternatively, you might even want to solicit the help of a small business coach well after your company’s off the ground, particularly if you want help becoming a better manager.
The best thing you can do is determine what challenges you’re experiencing before you reach out to a small business coach. Even if you’re not 100% certain that you know what has you feeling stuck or challenged, it’s helpful to pinpoint a few broad areas of improvement. Your small business coach can help you work through the fine points so long as you know where to begin to look.
As with all major investments, you’ll want to do your homework before you pull the trigger. Onboarding a small business coach is no different. Most small business coaches offer set service plans, and many provide different levels of support. You should make sure that you know what kind of help you want and what you’re willing to spend to get it.
Every small business coach offers a few of the same baseline services. You’ll get motivational support to help you overcome personal obstacles to running your business, as well as inspiration to seize new opportunities and manage your company with confidence. Small business coaches can provide you with basic assistance, supplanting years of self-guided learning or trial-and-error to find strategies that can help kickstart business growth. They can also give you a leg-up with developing business basics, such as business plans and revenue projections.
Most small business coaches also offer help that goes a step further than the basics of business. These groups might provide you with one-on-one sessions to discuss the impediments you face as an entrepreneur and how to tackle common challenges. Small business coaches can help you overcome obstacles with lead acquisition, client relations, managing customers, or building the right kind of staff to keep your business in good shape.
Your small business coach may even offer you more customized help, as well as hands-on learning opportunities. Some larger coaching firms offer retreats, customized business plans, or even specific strategies for developing robust marketing and sales plans. Depending on what you want, you could find a small business coach that’s more like a life coach or a silent business partner. It all boils down to your needs, and what you want to get out of the relationship.
You might be in the market for a small business coach but balk at the costs associated with bringing one on. After all, these coaches aren’t necessarily cheap, and you often get what you pay for. Small business coaches typically cost $1,000 per month for non-corporate clients, but some may charge more than that. These costs can add up quickly, especially when you consider the returns you might get by putting a much smaller budget toward marketing or advertising campaigns.
Thankfully there are a slew of small business coaching alternatives out there. These include robust financial reporting tools, third-party consultants, or even a well-stocked bookshelf. Here are a few of the best alternatives in case you’re not quite ready to take the plunge.
If you’re interested in finding a small business coach to help you spot inefficiencies within your business operations, you may want to start small first. There are a slew of great analytics platforms out there to help you see where your money comes from, as well as where it goes. You can use these platforms to track your company’s financial health and to determine where you might be able to streamline operations to make them more efficient. You don’t need a degree in data science to get rolling, and you won’t have to pay a small business coach to do the legwork for you.
Most small business coaches specialize in a few areas: marketing, sales, and management. If you only need one of these services, you may get more bang for your buck by hiring a small firm to improve specific segments of your business. A small marketing agency, for example, provides you with more specialized experience to help you fix your publicity and promotional strategies. Plus, since they’re specialists, they’re much more likely to be aware of the latest trends and tactics, whereas small business coaches might not have the time or focus to keep up.
Hiring a small business coach is akin to paying someone else to transfer knowledge to you. You’ll pay a premium for the sake of convenience, even if you could learn many of the same tactics on your own. Keeping a well-stocked shelf of business management books will save you money in the long run—plus, you won’t be beholden to someone else for knowledge transfer. By teaching yourself how to improve your business, you’ll increase the likelihood of finding strategies that work for you specifically, and you’ll save yourself a small fortune in the process.
A small business coach may be just the solution you need to start your business or to improve the one you already run. If you find yourself in need of some expert advice, expert insights, or even just a morale boost, a small business coach can help you take your business wherever you want it to go. Their help won’t be cheap, but it might be worth the investment depending on what you need. Alternatively, there are a ton of other options out there that might give you the results you’re looking for. No matter which one you choose, be sure that you know what you want to get out of the experience before going into it.
Brian O’Connor is a contributing writer for Fundera.
Brian writes about finance, business strategy, and digital marketing. He is the former director of digital strategy at Morgan Stanley, and has worked at Foreign Affairs magazine, Student Loan Hero, and as a partner of a small consulting firm, too. Combined, these experiences allow him to offer a unique perspective on the challenges small business owners face.