Finding the right business coach

Photo by Nik MacMillan on Unsplash

By Jim Wiginton

What do Tom Brady, Brett Favre, and Joe Montana have in common?

Easy answers come to mind. Each is a Super Bowl-winning quarterback. Each won an MVP Award. Each was considered the best quarterback ever at one point in his career.

And each floundered until he found the coach who took his unique skills and honed him into a champion. Montana never started for a full season at Notre Dame before Bill Walsh tapped him to lead the San Francisco 49ers dynasty of the 1980s. Favre was glued to the bench for the Atlanta Falcons before Mike Holmgren and Ron Wolf of the Green Bay Packers traded for him. Like Montana, Brady was a part-time college starter before Bill Belichick saw he was the person to lead the New England Patriots to an unprecedented run of NFL dominance.

How many great quarterbacks never got that one coach who believed in them? That one coach who took their talents and made them better?

For a moment, think about your business and other businesses. How many have failed and are failing because no one was there to guide them to the next level?

While we see the success of and need for coaches in the athletic world, most business owners tense up at the idea of hiring a business coach. A major reason for this angst is not because they don’t think they need a coach; it’s just they are not sure how to find the best coach. But that fact can be an advantage for a business owner. Unlike Brady, Favre, and Montana, who had to wait for the right coach to find them — an untested quarterback can’t just have a team hire the coach they want — a small business can hire the coach that best suits them.

But what should someone look for when hiring their business coach?

  • Experience matters. Don’t hire someone fresh out of college who has never run a business of their own. That sounds logical, but a lot of people fall into the trap of listening to someone with little experience in the actual business world. They fall for flashy pictures and big promises. The best bet is to find a coach who has experience building successful companies for themselves and clients in the industry or fields you are working in.
  • Be skill-specific. Are you look for an ear to bend? Or someone who can talk to you about increasing sales? Or a coach who can give new thoughts on how to create better long-range plans? Look for the coach who matches what you think you need to get done, but also can help you with the things that may come up. And as any business owner knows, unexpected things arise all the time.
  • Compatibility. A good business coach will both motivate and teach you. A great business coach will do both of those, plus get results and care personally about you. The key is finding a coach who can lead you, not steamroll or placate you.
  • A coach is not a consultant. There is a big difference between a consultant and a coach. A consultant is someone you hire for a short-term project or crisis. Many times they will give you options, and you make a decision. They are there for a standby or to give you advice. Think of a coach as more long-term and as someone who will help you make the best decisions over and over again.

At the end of the day, finding the right business coach means finding success for your business. It’s about embracing growth and embracing change. Whether you’re struggling with an insurmountable problem or just trying to improve your organization, a coach can help. Coaches are an objective third party, so you don’t have to worry about revealing too much or maintaining a good image.

Jim Wiginton is president and managing partner of Broad Insights, which is one of the leading business coaching and strategy companies in the nation. With a team of more than a dozen coaches, Business Insights works with mid-sized companies that are looking to create more effective leadership, enhance employee engagement, clarify strategy, and increase customer satisfaction. Learn more at


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