I had an interesting conversation yesterday with a fellow who told me how he once saved a company in Guernsey a small fortune by suggesting they stop charging a penny for people to use their outdoor toilets. What would often seem obvious to most people, this business had been missing for years. It cost them more to repair the locks and collect the pennies then they made. (Almost as bad as a government department!)
I met a fellow the other day who responded to everything I told him that he “knew that.” Eventually I asked him, “Given that you know everything I talk about, may I ask you how many of them you are actually using in your business?” He admitted that he wasn’t using ANY of them. His arrogance was exceeded only by his ignorance. Knowing something in theory and actually applying in your business are two very different things. When he tried to hire me as his coach, I naturally turned him down.
These days, every Tom, Dick, and Sally seems to be calling themselves a “Coach”. If you lost your job and can’t get another one, or you failed in business, or you’re an egotistical retired employee that labours under the delusion that you somehow have the ability to teach entrepreneurs how to run a business, well, just go ahead and call yourself a coach. And I will call myself an elephant – it’s as ridiculous as that. So smart entrepreneurs, having had the misfortune of meeting some of these characters, tend to avoid them.
Samuel Butler wrote, “A blind man knows he cannot see, and is glad to be led, though it be by a dog; but he that is blind in understanding, which is the worst blindness of all, believes he sees as best, and scorns a guide.” He is talking about the unconsciously incompetent. Why do smart, accomplished, gold medal athletes and sports teams use coaches? Why do top entrepreneur use coaches? Do their coaches, in fact, keep them on track, point out where they can improve, introduce new strategies and approaches, and encourage them when they need motivation? Of course they do. It’s good to have a guide when you climb Everest. Bill MacCartney said, “All coaching is, is taking a player where he can’t take himself.”
One of the most valuable services a good coach bring to entrepreneurs is the ability to avoid losing a lot of money. Lou Holtz said, “Coaching is nothing more than eliminating mistakes before you get fired.” After 25 years of coaching and training tens of thousands of business owners, I have learnt a thing or two, and that insight and frame of reference crosses many different industries, products and services. When my coaching clients come up with new ideas, I often get the chance to nix the bad ones and help them hone the good ones. And I have access to some really great specialists when we need them for skills I don’t have.
So when don’t you need a coach? When you are considering one of the many incompetent, politically correct, cookie-cutter coaches. When you are considering using a coach that doesn’t have a strong, diverse business track record of success. When you don’t intend to implement anything the coach tells you. When you’re too comfortable and not motivated to take action and boost your bottom line. In the Chicago Tribune, one read, “Who exactly seeks out a coach? Winners who want even more out of life.”
In the Harvard Business Review: “The goal of coaching is the goal of good management: to make the most of an organization’s valuable resources.” See the picture of the fellow standing on the ladders? A good coach will reveal how to leverage and align what you already have and have access to. A good coach won’t ask you to sign a six month contract; what if you find out after a month that he’s useless? A good coach will be a great investment, no matter what his fees. I’ll leave you with this: “The Manchester survey of 140 companies shows nine in 10 executives believe coaching to be worth their time and dollars. The average return was more than $5 for each $1 spent.” – The Denver Post.