According to a recent Harvard study, business coaching is a $1.5B profession and is growing at more than 20 percent a year. This makes it the fastest-growing segment of the overall consulting arena. Why is this happening and does it hold true for all businesses?

Today’s businesses are by and large much more complex entities, often having to do more with less and at warp speed.

I am old enough to remember communicating by letter, next we had the six-minute fax machine, then e-mail and now we “Tweet” each other because we need instant results.

This is just one example, but it shows how much global communication methods have changed, and we all know how understanding we are about this and how it is only our customers who get irritated at our slow response.

It produces stress, frustration and uncertainty.

The problem with all of this is that the human mind has adapted, but our DNA is hard-wired: What you are born with is what you get to work with for the rest of your life.

Without understanding what makes a person tick, you can’t make any progress. As a result, the majority of business coaches use assessment tools to identify your strengths and blind spots and how and why you make decisions. That applies to how you make decisions both normally and in your adaptive mode, which usually translates to when you are under stress but can also occur if there has been a life-changing event in your recent past.

Armed with this ammunition, one can then work with business owners to set achievable goals and benchmarks on how and when they will be achieved. But is it much more than just understanding your DNA.

Look at Tiger Woods, who on any one day has the potential to shoot 60, but could he do it every day? That is highly unlikely. However, his chances of achieving optimum performance are greatly enhanced by having Steve Williams on his bag, who as his “coach” is able to keep Tiger focused, motivated and playing within his capabilities. Unlike Tiger’s previous caddy, Mr. Williams understands the role of the coach and does not try to upstage his client but is also not afraid to challenge Tiger when appropriate.

Now let’s transition to the North Bay workplace where 97 percent of businesses employ fewer than 100 people. In such an environment, I would argue that emotion and lifestyle play an even greater key role.

The role of the small business owner is probably one of the toughest and loneliest jobs, period. So what is a business coach to the business owner? The coach is the facilitator who sees through the problem/issue and asks the questions the client hasn’t asked (or refuses to ask) to solve the problem.

As a result a coach has to have an emotional investment in the goals but be able to maintain an indifference to the person and his or her problem. The business owner often has the answer. He or she just can’t see it because they are working in the business rather than on the business, and so they need an objective third party to be a sounding board, taking into account time management, family and lifestyle issues they face.

It is not all about the bottom line. I have a client that I was having trouble connecting with until I realized that his goal was to make his business turnkey, so that he could devote as much time as he could to his mission work. That could be part of a business plan, but it is highly unlikely.

So what is the value of coaching for a business owner? A coach seeks to understand your vision for the future and the reality of your current situation. However, this is as unique for each person as their DNA, but some of the road blocks to achieving your vision that coaching can overcome are employee engagement, team building, conflict resolution, exit strategies, goal setting and work/life issues. If you are able to resolve such issues, then it will translate into a more profitable bottom line and hopefully a less stressful life.

Before you decide to work with a coach it is important to consider your goals as there are a myriad of coaching specialties, ranging from wellness, to lifestyle, to personal, to business. A coach should also be able to demonstrate that they have been there and done that, so that they understand some of the challenges you face. And last of all insure that the coach has had formal training, because this could be one of the most important decisions you make.


Nigel Hartley is the president of Commonwealth Advisors and is an Accredited Associate of the Institute for Independent Business, a CMT senior mentor and a certified behaviors coach working primarily with small business owners. Nigel can be reached at 707-573-7154, or you can e-mail him at nigelhartley@cmtmentors.com.