HOW A BUSINESS SCHOOL PROFESSOR CAN MAKE A GREAT BUSINESS COACH
As a business school professor, you are passionate about helping college students learn about the different areas in business – but college students aren’t the only people who need your help and expertise. Chances are, the owners of small- to medium-sized business in your community frequently struggle with certain aspects of successfully running their companies. They get advice from friends, family members, accountants, and lawyers. Collectively, they also spend billions of dollars on books or audio CDs with the hopes of helping themselves earn higher profits, build strong corporate cultures, and build a valuable business which will finance their retirement someday.
But, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, about half of all businesses that are formed this year will be out of business within a year. Of those who make it through their first year, half of those will be out of business within the next five years. And for the small percentage of businesses that survive until the point where the owner is ready to retire, only 20% of those companies are able to be sold for anything more than the value of their inventory and fixed assets.
In other words, most small businesses don’t make it. Of the small percentage that do, the “pot of gold” at the end of the rainbow is equal to the amount of money they receive in a liquidation sale or auction. What a shame.
Fortunately for business owners, there is a relatively new industry that is quickly emerging and helping more business owners realize their dreams. That industry is called “business coaching.” Business coaches work with business owners and business executives in two distinct areas. First, they help business owners who don’t know what to do in a particular area of their business. We call this “business effectiveness.” All areas of business effectiveness fall into the broader categories of sales, marketing, customer service, human resources, leadership development, systems implementation, strategic planning, financial management, and exit planning/succession planning.
Business coaches work with owners who are “stuck” in certain areas of their businesses. These areas can be related to weak profits, sluggish sales, cash flow challenges, people problems, or working too many hours, which can result in an unhealthy work-life balance. Other common challenges include quality issues, service failures, lack of leadership depth, a poor company culture, and limited company value.
The second distinct area where a business coach comes in is when the client knows what he or she should be doing, but isn’t doing it – or, when the client is knowingly doing something he or she should not be doing, but continues to do it anyway. This is what we call “personal effectiveness.”
Many personal effectiveness issues stem from bad habits and addictions. Others actually stem from personal strengths that are overused so much they actually become weaknesses. Think of how strong and powerful a bull is…now put him in a china shop! Personal effectiveness starts with knowing yourself and knowing your own personal vision and goals. Then it moves to how you interact with other people of all personality and behavioral types. Ultimately, personal effectiveness is about behavior that is congruent with values. It is about being physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually healthy.
Business owners (and leaders) are people. They are husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters. Many business owners have employees, who also have families. They have several vendors. They have many clients. They may have shareholders or partners. They have bankers, accountants, and lawyers. And these are the people that business owners usually talk to and get advice from (solicited and unsolicited). The problem is, due to the nature of those relationships, there are often times “hidden agendas” that are represented in the advice that comes from these different constituencies. This is not unfair; it’s just the way it is. Everyone has needs and wants and our opinions or advice may be tainted by having our own ends in mind. To be sure, people don’t do this to be insensitive or manipulative. It’s just human nature.
However, when a person hires a business coach, the coach represents the self-interests of just one person: the client. There are absolutely no hidden agendas – ever. Unlike traditional business consulting, business coaches don’t fix the problems for their clients and then go away. Instead, a business coach helps guide business owners into finding their own solutions to their problems. The coach guides the client in putting strategic plans in place which will solve the problems (or capitalize on new opportunities). The coach facilitates creative and strategic brainstorming. The coach then helps to facilitate the creation of tactical “action steps” that the client or client company will take to implement the strategy. Once the action steps are committed to, a good coach provides a structured environment where the client is accountable to him or herself for executing the plans.
A business coach is very much like a coach you may have had in sports, music, or the arts. If you’ve had a coach before, you know what a coach does. Coaches teach, encourage, challenge, and provide structure and accountability to the people they coach. Coaches reinforce positive advancement and also bring people back to the fundamentals when needed. They push the people they coach to meet their full potential. A good coach leads by example and is inspiring to those around him/her. Yes, a coach is a role model.
As an educator in business, you are passionate about helping others achieve their own dreams and you have a strong background and interest in business. As a business coach, you can schedule your client-sessions around your teaching schedule. If business coaching sounds fun and interesting to you, it could be a nice way to supplement your own income while providing business owners in your community the help and support they so badly need.
Jon Denney is the President of the Professional Business Coaches Alliance (PBCA) – North America’s Premier Alliance of Independent Business Coaches.