“A coach can keep you focused and on track for success.”

Emelie Smith Calbick, Founder, Stage2Startups

Successful people, from Olympic medalists to corporate CEOs, have coaches to help them reach their goals. Founders often don’t think about how a coach can help them grow their business, yet having someone you can turn to for advice and support can be crucial to achieving business success.

There are many different coaching options available to founders, ranging from leadership coaches,coaches that specialize in specific areas of running a business, coaching programs such as accelerators and incubators, peer mentoring, and accountability circles. How do you know which option is right for you?

Stage2Startups recently explored the value of having a business coach and the different types of coaching options available with several long-time coaches. Our panelists included Deb Boulanger, founder of the Launch Lab for women entrepreneurs; Win Sheffield, a career coach, and; Betty Wong, co-founder of Stage2Startups. All three of our panelists not only coach entrepreneurs, they have also used coaches themselves. Here is their advice:

Win Sheffield

A Coach Can Help Get You Unstuck According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 5.4 million new business applications were filed in 2021, surpassing the record set in 2020 of 4.4 million. With so much competition, it is important for you and your business to stand out, but how to do that is not always obvious.  That is when a coach can be valuable. Sheffield points out that the focus of coaching is to ask questions. “You may think you have the answers but coaches give you perspective. They give you a dispassionate view of what is going on that you may miss because you are too close to the situation.”

Deb Boulanger

Boulanger also pointed out that the transition from working for others to starting your own business can be especially challenging. “You are going from an environment where you have support to doing everything yourself which can be overwhelming. Having someone who will work with you to identify and prioritize your areas of focus can give you a shortcut to building predictable growth,” says Boulanger.

A DIY Approach Can Cost You Time and Money It is easy to believe the help you need is only one click away on Google, but Boulanger warns there are risks to doing your own research.  “There is so much information available that it is easy to misdiagnose your symptoms and pursue the wrong solution,” says Boulanger. “I have had clients come to me who spent a lot of money and wasted a lot of time pursuing the wrong solution.”  Sheffield added, “The benefit of a coach is that you are not doing your business on your own. You need input from others or you will never be as good as you can be.”

Betty Wong

Wong points out that when researching on your own, you can’t always determine which source is reliable. “That’s why Stage2Startups focuses on introducing founders to a variety of resources. We connect founders to experts and founders can then decide if they want to work with them.”

Take The Time to Find the Right Coaching Option For You All three panelists emphasized that only you can determine the right coach for you. Do you need someone to talk to or brainstorm with? Or do you need a program to help you get the foundation established? Perhaps you prefer a group of colleagues, other startup founders, to help you stay on track. “You don’t need all these coaching options all the time,” says Sheffield. “You can go in diagnostically for a specific issue. Just be sure to find a coach you like.”

Wong points out that the type of coaching you need depends on where you are in your business. “Test out different coaching approaches to find the one that works best for you and your stage of business growth,” says Wong.

Boulanger cautioned to be wary of “cookie cutter” coaches who claim they have a system. “Every business has different challenges depending on whether you offer a service or a physical product. You need to find a coach that understands your unique needs,” says Boulanger.

Wong added that peer accountability circles are helpful because a group of your peers can provide guidance on how they successfully navigated the same problems you may be facing. “However, it’s important to find peers at the same stage of development or slightly ahead of your business to be effective,” says Wong.

Whether you are just starting your business or you are already on a path to growth, investing in a coach can be a smart investment. An independent resource can help you step back from the day-to-day tasks of running your business to clarify what you know, understand what is currently working and identify the steps you need to take to be successful. The path to success is never easy but with a coach you have the opportunity to make it shorter.


Copywright 2022: Emelie Smith Calbick and Betty Wong

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