As someone who has spent a considerable amount of time around small businesses and who also genuinely enjoys connecting with new and interesting people, networking in both a formal or now virtual setting is something I have always found to be a great way to be inspired by the extraordinary ideas that people come up with. Inevitably, the question: “what do you do?” comes up pretty quickly and with the ensuing answer of “business coach”, one would think it is a relatively straightforward vocation as it often doesn’t come with too much enquiry after that. However, once a conversation starts to flow, many misconceptions or confusion of what a business coach actually does, indicates to me that there is a lack of understanding of the role they play in the business community.
This does not surprise me at all, as in my opinion, the true nature and more so the expectations of the coaching relationship with a business client in particular, can often be more complex or fluid than some of the other more traditional or pure coaching specialities. Without attempting to fully demystify the mechanics of how a business coaching engagement typically works, it is important to clarify that other support practices such as consulting, advising, mentoring or even some elements of counselling can form a significant part of the process of ensuring a results focused and effective intervention. The caveat here, is to ensure that the client is always aware of which hat is being worn at any given time and so the interchangeability of “business coach” to “business consultant” or “business advisor” is met with the appropriate expectation level, in the holistic pursuit of agreed upon success measures.
Given the basic background context explained above and the fact that small business owners have access to an impressive list of other professional service providers available to support them comprehensively, I wanted to explore the reason why so many businesses still turn to an ever growing supply of business coaches to help them improve performance and reach their goals. Whilst there are many reasons or other valid theories out there, my strongly held belief is that the evolution of the business coach has its origins deep rooted in the banking and accounting professions. On the face of it, wouldn’t you agree that this seems like a logical or plausible argument? Consider for a moment how (back in the day), the relationship between banker and client or accountant and client played out. In the absence of a number of factors such as excessive compliance, hyper competition, complex bureaucracy and rapid technology driven product or system innovation, a large part of the these professionals’ respective roles was not only relationship based, but almost always involved an advisory aspect as well as a de-facto coaching element. Look no further than the classic example of the game of golf or Friday lunch with your local banker or accountant. Many would even draw parallels to the relationship with their local doctor. This is not to say today’s banker or accountant are not client focused. In fact, I believe it’s quite the opposite. Having had a long career in financial services, I have been fortunate enough to witness the extraordinary skills and abilities that these talented professionals possess. However, the system in which they operate and the time pressures placed upon them, make it extremely challenging to deliver these additional layers of expertise many already have in abundance.
So, what we have been seeing is an ever widening gap that has been created where small businesses are not only searching for products and services, but also for a trusted advisor and partner that can equally understand their pain points and aspirations from both an operational and personal perspective. If you are lucky enough to have either an accountant or banker (bonus points for both), who fulfils these needs, then hold on tight and be grateful for the insights they provide. If on the other hand, you find yourself in need of that extra support, be careful who you choose to fill that void and perhaps consider those business coaches who just may have the skill set I have been talking about and now focus solely on closing the gap.