Choose a coach for YOU.
Entrepreneurs tend to be strong,
independent people with little experience in getting help.
Here are some irreverent tips to find a guide when you feel you're
lost in the jungle.
Q. Entrepreneurs pride themselves
on their independence. So why do they seek help?
A. It's lonely out there! Entrepreneurs
want a shoulder to lean on, a virtual hug on bad days, a person
to hold them accountable, a jump-start when motivation flags
and an awareness that, "Someone believes in me!"
On the other hand, some self-starting
entrepreneurs say, "Forget the cheerleader -- bring on the
expert!" They want solid guidance from someone who's been
there -- a mentor more than a coach.
Q. You say you've hired the
coach from hell -- more than once. What have you learned and
what would you do differently?
A. If you're hiring a marketing
coach, get references from two or three businesses like yours.
Ask these clients, "Did this coach help you make money?"
If the answer is, "No, but I learned a lot," keep going.
On the other hand, if you need
help with motivation or decision-making, references and testimonials
will give you clues -- but the ultimate test is your own intuition.
When outcomes are subjective, it's chemistry between coach and
client that creates success.
Most of all, be very clear on
what you want. Say, "I do not want a cheerleader -- I want
solid guidance," or, "I want a sounding board."
Q. You say sometimes we should
disregard an MBA or certification. Why?
A. If you're hiring a marketing
expert, forget formal qualifications: find out who they've helped
before. Has she turned a business around? Attracted new clients?
If you're hiring for motivation
and support, evaluate the whole person. Look for degrees and
certifications from nationally accredited universities, if that's
important to you. Many training programs and colleges accept
everyone and flunk no one. Knowing someone graduated from that
program tells you nothing.
Q. A website or brochure promises
to double your sales in three months or "take you to the
next level." How do we read between the lines?
A. Well, if your sales are zero,
and you make one sale, the consultant kept his promise! Ask how,
not what. Sometimes success depends on factors beyond your control
or desire -- or applies to a different business altogether. "Take
you to the next level" can mean anything from advising you
to clear clutter to offering solid financial and marketing guidance.
Stay away from canned programs.
Look what the consultant has written or created.
Q. New entrepreneurs sometimes
ask counselors, "Do I have the personality to be an entrepreneur?"
Can tests help?
A. Most personality tests were
never designed to predict career success. They're not scientific.
The results are ambiguous and anyone will see himself reflected
in any profile. "Self-validation" is meaningless.
Anyway, personality contributes
little to success: grit, determination, experience and network
will be better predictors.
Remember: assessments bring in
money to the assessor. An astrological forecast may be just as
useful and just as scientific.
Q. Let's say you talk to two
or three consultants or coaches. One is cheery, upbeat and optimistic
and one is a little cool and skeptical. How do you decide?
A. Present a very small sample
question and see how the consultant responds. Keep it small:
you won't make much headway on big questions, like, "Should
I sell the business?"
Often the best consultants, coaches
and counselors are not the cheeriest or most optimistic. They're
honest. They warm up as you get to know them.
Q. You say we can learn from
Dr. Ruth, the famous sex therapist. What message did you want
to pass along?
A. Dr. Ruth insisted that her
status as an independent advisor, rather than a licensed therapist,
was useful because people didn't see her as a godlike figure
dispensing omniscient advice.
Anyone can be wrong -- and you
have to live with the consequences. Use your intuition. If someone
urges you to spend money or take big risks, run as fast as you
can in the opposite direction.
Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D.
Author, Career Consultant, Speaker
*Fast Track to Career Freedom*