Nov 122008

Dr. Earl R. Smith II

Most small business do not make it to their fifth birthday. What are the prospects that yours will? Will it falter under the thrashing wind of today’s economy? Will your business join all the other businesses whose potential was blown away?

If you want your company to grow and remain strong in today’s highly competitive environment, you might consider hiring a business coach. Hiring a coach is one of the best ways to avoid business failure. I have worked with many CEOs and senior management teams and can tell you, from direct experience, that coached teams make fewer mistakes, waste less time and avoid squandering scare resources. As a coach, I have helped companies beat the odds and their competition.

Many surveys and academic studies prove this anecdotal evidence. Business coaching or executive coaching has been a proven and effective business strategy for many years. One of the major benefits of utilizing executive coaching services is the high return on investment. One of my clients recently told his board of directors that he gets ten to twenty dollars of benefits for every dollar he pays me. The board did not object to the statement because they knew that we had taken the company from a burn rate to cash flow positive in ninety days!

In addition to the high return on investment, there are numerous other advantages to hiring a business coach. As a coach, I assist clients in setting realistic and attainable goals. I also work with senior team members to improve their management and leadership skills. Many times the result is a better balance between work and personal life for the entire team – meaning less burnout and fewer family conflicts.

Another value that I bring to my coaching engagements is providing a ‘reality check’ on the latest and greatest new idea that the team comes up with. Because of my years of business experience and work with numerous senior teams, I act as a sounding board. My tendency to focus on the implications of every suggested strategy helps the team avoid drinking their own bathwater. I listen to the idea and the marketing and production plans in an unbiased way. I then either offer further suggestions to build on the idea or point out why I think it is a bad road to travel. If we decide to go forward, together we create a business plan tailored specifically to the idea.

However, having a plan is only the first step in the process. Once we have developed it we need to turn to implementation – and, let’s face it, business is primarily about implementation. I help the team implement the plan. I act as outside observer – monitoring progress – highlighting developing problems – suggesting solutions and better ways to proceed – and enforcing metrics and milestones. I also make sure that the team is focusing on the important parts of plan. Remember: energy follows where attention goes!

Once the new idea has been put into practice, I help the team develop revenue streams, set quality control protocols in place and stabilize the value proposition. We then focus on identifying and achieving further goals and motivating the team to reach each of them. I hold each team member personally accountable for reaching those goals.

I regularly receive e-mails from CEOs who have been looking for the right coach. Their challenge is finding the right one. Coaching is a profession with a lot of variation in competency and costs. Most of my clients tell me that my initial engagement is a fraction of what most of my competitors are asking for. They also tell me that my insistence on strictly enforced metrics – for myself as well as for them – is at odds with the general experience. My recommendation to them is that they need to find a coach who has a proven record of accomplishment – not just a record of delivering winning results as a coach but a winning one in doing successfully what the client is trying to learn to do. Most coaches work hard to hide the fact that they have never been successful in running a business – never built and managed a winning team – never demonstrated that they have what it takes to win in business. These are the ‘do as I say, not as I do coaches’. My strong recommendation is avoid them.

Most of my new clients come from referrals. Often a CEO, Director or investor that I have done some work with will send a friend in my direction. As a result, I do very little advertising. I write many articles – mostly to share my insights with others. However, direct connections and the strong references of my clients and past clients are the dominate source of my new client referrals. This is as it should be. If I am not generating value far in excess of my cost, then I should not be a coach.

When you are deciding on a business coach, try to keep in mind that their ability to deliver successful results should be the most crucial factor. Coaches are best certified by the actual and measurable results experienced by their past clients. Checking references will help you select an effective coach from a pack of mediocre ones.

If you want to know more about my coaching services, send me an e-mail and we will arrange a time to talk.

© Dr. Earl R. Smith II


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