A business coach can add value in a number of ways. First, while it’s true that nobody knows your business better than you, having an outside perspective can be beneficial and provide fresh insight into solving existing problems. Coaches can also spend time evaluating and attacking issues, which is often difficult to do when your main focus is running the day-to-day operations of a shop.
Perhaps most important, business coaches often possess skills that shop owners may lack. Maybe your strength is fixing engines or selling service. While those are great assets, you may be out of your league when it comes to marketing your shop or managing finances. A good coach will fill that knowledge gap and apply his or her expertise to improve your business.
A business coach can also help you prepare for the future by assisting with essentials such as establishing retirement accounts and succession plans. There’s no reason to cling to the old model of being married to a shop and working there until you die. Instead, partner with a coach to build a profitable business that can function well even when you’re not there.
I’ve worked with many coaches and can tell you that there are a wide variety of specialties and philosophies from which to choose. The key is to find a good fit for you and your specific situation. Here are some strategies to keep in mind during the selection process:
Let history be your guide. If you want a good idea of how a coach will perform for you, consider his or her track record with other shop owners. Ask about how many clients they have, how long they’ve had those clients and what they achieved. Request information on past objectives they promised to meet and whether they delivered. Look for parallels with your own struggles or goals.
Let’s say your shop is grossing $1 million before taxes, but your goal is to push that number to $2 million within three years. You’ll need to know if the coach you’re considering has accomplished that type of growth in the past and whether the timeline you’ve set is realistic.
Beyond reaching sales goals, you’ll want to select a coach who’s adept at navigating the issues that are troubling your shop. If building loyalty is your sticking point, a coach whose experience is focused on helping new owners capture new customers may not be the best fit.
Check the facts. A coach with a successful history should have no problem providing a list of past clients and contact information for those clients. This list serves as a badge of honor for a coach and should help you eliminate any doubts or questions about a coach’s credentials. Be sure to ask past clients about the metrics they used to evaluate success and whether their coach employed the same measurement to judge performance.
Get a second opinion. Working with a coach can involve a large commitment of time and money, so it’s crucial to find a coach who aligns with your personality and business approach. To make the best decision, take your time selecting a coach and interview a variety of candidates before narrowing the field. Start by conducting a phone or online meeting and then schedule a follow-up call or meeting once you’ve gathered more information. Attending a boot camp or seminar sponsored by the coach you’re considering might also make sense to gain a better idea of how they work with shop owners and convey key tactics.
Watch for red flags. While it takes time to see results when working with a coach, be wary of coaches who attempt to lock you into long contracts without offering opportunities to exit the deal if things go awry.
It’s also wise to avoid coaches who plan to narrowly focus on just a single strategy. For example, to drive revenue up, a coach might recommend increasing your average repair order through more aggressive sales efforts. While that might lead to an increase in sales, after awhile, that tactic might alienate customers who will feel like they’re constantly being upsold. You want a coach who is going to suggest multiple approaches to achieve your objectives.
As a former shop owner, I also get asked if I believe it’s important for a coach to have owned a shop. I don’t think it’s essential, but I do think it’s advantageous to work with someone who has been on the front lines of the business and can show success at running a shop. I also tend to recommend working with coaches who bring a broad-based approach to the table, rather than those who specialize in a certain aspect of the business.
Of course, selecting a coach is only half the battle. You can hire the best coach in the world, but if you fail to truly commit to working hand-in-hand with this individual to change your business, you’ll end up wasting your time and money. Remember that a coach can’t flip a switch and produce instant improvements.
Achieving change is usually a long process that can involve a number of steps, sometimes including hiring new staff and training them on new policies and practices. It takes patience and discipline to stay the course and follow through on your coach’s recommendations. However, those who remain dedicated to the process should see big dividends on their investments.