Starting and Running a Coaching Business
RUNNING YOUR OWN COACHING BUSINESS
So you want to run a coaching business or, at the very least, are actively exploring the possibility of doing so. If you do take the plunge and start a small business offering coaching services, what can you expect from your first steps in charge of your own practice?
The aim of this chapter is to take you through some of the key issues you will face as you go it alone as a coach, running a business possibly for the first time. Specifically, it focuses on the three key and interrelated issues of:
- working as a coach;
- being your own boss;
- assuming complete responsibility for both of these things.
Let’s start by getting you to step back from your day-to-day activity and consider what has led you to want to set up and run a coaching business. I’d like you to consider the most basic question of all: ‘Why do you want to coach?’
Why do you want to coach?
As you may be well on the way to setting up a coaching practice, or may have been running one for some time now, itmay seem a bit odd, not to mention late, for me to ask you to revisit why you want to coach. However, I would like you to do just that. I’d like you to ask yourself what attracted you to coaching in the first place, and what continues to attract you towards coaching now. I’d like you to think about these two things before you read on.
WHY MANY PEOPLE BECOME INDEPENDENT COACHES
Take a look at the list below which captures some of the reasons that so many people are drawn to work as an independent coach.
Coaching represents a way of:
- working with, and investing in, other people’s lives;
- contributing to a process of positive change for other people;
- giving back to the world of work in terms of the time, effort, energy and commitment required to help other people develop;
- being involved in an ongoing process of learning and development for yourself and your clients;
- using your own experience and skills positively to assist other people;
- having greater autonomy, flexibility, choice and independence over whom you work with and in what way;
- getting out of corporate life and organizational politics;
- retaking control of your own working life after years of only having partial control as an employee;
- making more money than your previous role enabled you to;
- running your own business, being your own boss.
All of these reasons, and others, motivate people to train, qualify and work as an independent coach. You may relate to many of them, some of them, or none of them at all. My note of caution is this: I believe that at the heart of an effective coach is someone who wants to help their clients with the issues that they are equipped to help them with. Of course a coach needs to earn a living, wants to make money from coaching, and wants to enjoy their work. But an effective coach has to be committed primarily to creating a relationship in which they assist their client with the issues that the client is paying the coach to assist them with. To be effective, a coach needs to build a coaching relationship with each of his or her clients which will result in the client:
- defining their key coaching goals;
- resolving their key coaching issues;
- finding answers to their key coaching questions;
- clarifying what they need to do differently and better;
- being able to take the actions and steps which will result in them achieving those goals.
An effective coach must build a productive working relationship with every one of his or her clients, and to do so has to invest in each client relationship from its inception to the closure of the coaching relationship. For some clients, this process will take a few hours and only one or two coaching meetings. For other clients it will require a much longer period of time. The challenge for a coach is to remain genuinely interested, supportive and appropriately challenging of a client throughout the time they work together. In other words, to give of their best, a coach needs to be genuinely interested in the life, working world, challenges, pressures, goals, hopes and fears of each of their clients.
For a coach who is motivated, at least partly, by wanting to contribute positively to other people’s working lives, this will be an easy and natural thing to do. For a coach who sees their clients as primarily a route to financial reward or professional status this will not be easy, and for some it may not be possible at all. In these cases, clients will quickly realise that their coach’s effort isn’t fully engaged with the business of assisting them. Few clients will want to be on the receiving end of such coaching for very long.
Why do you want to be your own boss?
A second key question for the new coach working as a sole practitioner is ‘Why do you want to be your own boss?’ Before they start to run their own coaching business, many new coaches are highly motivated by the very real delights of being their own boss. They see the switch from paid employment to self-employment as one that involves freedom, autonomy, independence and more workplace flexibility than most employed people experience. In opting for these exciting benefits, new coaches can overlook the very real flip side of the coin: that they are also alone, assuming total responsibility for generating their own income, assuming total responsibility for identifying and solving their own problems, and assuming total responsibility for making all the decisions that need to be made in their businesses.
For some coaches who are used to being part of lengthy workplace decision-making and problem-solving processes – involving several people and hours of debate – the freedom to decide and choose can be exciting, even exhilarating. For others, though, it can come as quite a shock and can create a degree of nervousness and anxiety that as a new coach they were not expecting.
For most coaches, however, the reality of working for themselves is a breath of fresh air. It means that as a new coach they can:
- get things done without having to go through other people;
- make decisions speedily and effectively without having to consult;
- determine for themselves what they need to do and simply do it, without having to justify their preferred course of action to anyone else;
- employ their effort and their energies towards making things happen, rather than try to influence other people to agree that they ought to happen;
- enjoy the lack of restraints, constraints and restrictions that come with operating independently.
The risks that go with this degree of autonomy don’t tend to figure too highly in new coaches’ thinking initially and they will enjoy their freedom as a result. Rather than being daunted, or even rendered incapable by it, many new coaches thrive in the new-found freedom that being their own boss brings. Coaches who take to being their own boss straightaway can really enjoy the room to manoeuvre, the opportunities they have to get things done, the space they have to think and act as they want, and the possibility of working in a way that is comfortable for them as individuals. The reality can really be as good as they hoped it would be. Hopefully, this is you. But if it isn’t, and you are daunted or uncertain by the autonomy you have as your own boss, my wish is that the rest of this book will help you think through how to handle yourself, your business and your clients so that you can realize the goals you have set for yourself – the same goals which encouraged you to qualify as a coach in the first place.
The upsides of working as your own boss
So, what does working as your own boss mean to you? Are you revelling in the choices you have, or somewhat daunted by all the possibilities for getting it wrong? I’d like you to start by thinking of all the positive aspects to working as your own boss before you read on.
We will be visiting all the possible downsides of working as your own boss in the following chapters, but, for now, let’s stick to the good news. Working as your own boss has many upsides to it in addition to the freedom and choice discussed above. These include:
- seeing yourself moving steadily towards the business goals and objectives you’ve set for yourself, and enjoying your successes along the way;
- contributing to your own personal development through taking on the challenge of running your own business;
- learning new business skills such as accounting, selling, marketing and advertising;
- deciding on the ongoing professional skills development you’d like to have and pursuing those options;
- being able to spend your own budgets as you see fit;
- taking the risks and exploiting the opportunities you want;
- being able to choose which suppliers, if any, to work with and in what way;
- deciding what to call your coaching business and what its core coaching services will be;
- deciding which clients to market to and how to go about that marketing;
- establishing a more favourable work–life balance;
- having the opportunity to take holidays when you need or want them.
All of these positive reasons, as well as others, motivate new coaches to work on their own. You may relate to many of them, some of them or none of them at all.My note of caution is this: for all the very clear benefits of working for yourself, you are likely to be the only person you can turn to, the only person you can consult and the only person you can hold accountable should things not go well for you over a particular issue. While I think it vital that every coach establishes and maintains effective peer relationships with other coaches, some of whom will prove able sounding boards for your more challenging decisions and problems, at the end of the day it is you who are solely responsible for managing, marketing and running your business.
Enjoying the rewards
Hopefully, it will go well for you and you will enjoy the rewards – professional and personal – of becoming an able coach and running an effective coaching practice. However, should things start to become difficult for you, you will need to draw on all your tenacity, resourcefulness and determination to turn things around. My hope is that the remaining chapters of this book will provide you with pointers which will help you prevent some things going wrong for you, help you focus on the key issues before you and allow you to make the most of what you have: a passion for coaching, for learning and for contributing to a process which results in your clients developing and growing, and you having a rewarding and satisfying business. Let’s start by looking at how you define your coaching offer.