In early 2002, I was the general manager of Nelson Books, one of Thomas Nelson Publishers’ fourteen divisions. In eighteen months, we had gone from number 14—dead last—to number one in terms of revenue growth and profit margin. I felt great. I was proud of myself and my team for the results we’d achieved.
That euphoria lasted for about a day.
Then it began to dawn on me that I was out of tricks. I’d harvested all the low-hanging fruit in an effort to turn the business around. I knew that continued growth would be difficult. And, I wasn’t certain I could deliver it. Getting to number one and staying at number one are two different things.
That’s when I first considered hiring a business coach. I asked John Maxwell, a leadership expert and one of my authors, if he could recommend one. He introduced me to Daniel Harkavy, the founder of Building Champions, an executive-coaching company. We hit it off from the start.
After my initial call with Daniel, I went to my boss to explain why I wanted the company to foot the bill for Daniel's fees. He was surprised by my request. “Why do you need a coach?” he exclaimed. “You’ve just transformed our worst division into our best. You’re our most successful publisher!”
I replied, “Yes, but the world’s top performers all have coaches. That’s how they get there and stay there.” I then went on to point out that even Tom Brady, who had just taken the New England Patriots to their first (but not last) Super Bowl win, had a coach.
I then said, “You want me to keep winning, right?”
“Of course,” he said.
“Then I need a coach.”
He laughed and then approved my request.
Daniel and I talked every two weeks. I shared my problems and opportunities. He advised me and held me accountable to my commitments. He helped me see what I couldn’t see. He challenged my thinking and expressed his belief in my leadership, even when I felt less than confident.
Coaching had a direct, positive impact on my results.
I led Nelson Books for two more years before I was promoted. It remained the top-performing division in the company for more than a decade. When I left the company in 2011 to found Full Focus (then Michael Hyatt & Company), it was still Thomas Nelson’s most profitable division.
I’ve had a formal business coach since 2002 when I met Daniel, with the exception of very brief transition periods. It’s the single best investment I’ve ever made in my professional success. It’s also why I’m so passionate about coaching and why our BusinessAccelerator® coaching program is the single most important thing we do at Full Focus.
So I’d like to make the case for hiring a business coach. If you already have a coach, this will explain why you’ve made a smart decision. If you don’t have one, this will hopefully convince you why it’s important to get one—and, frankly, the sooner the better.
There are at least five reasons why you should hire a business coach.
1. Because you recognize the need for a change.
If you’re happy with the status quo—business as usual—don’t hire a business coach. You don’t need one. But if you’re unhappy with the results you’ve been getting, you need to consider it. For example, perhaps—
- You feel overwhelmed with what’s on your plate and don’t know where to focus.
- You keep missing your goals—or don’t have any goals.
- Your professional and personal life are unbalanced. You’re spending way too much time at work.
- Your sales have stalled or your margins have eroded.
- You’re not sure you have the right people. Your hiring process feels risky and unpredictable.
- Your competitors are getting more aggressive and you’re fighting harder than ever to acquire and retain customers.
- You know you need to grow professionally in order to lead your organization to the next level.
If this sounds like you—if you want something to change—you need a coach.
2. Because you want an edge against the odds.
Let me state it bluntly: the odds are stacked against you. According to the Department of Commerce, entrepreneurs start 4 million new businesses a year in the U.S. Eighty percent of those will fail within the first five years. Of those that survive, 80% of those will fail in the next five years.
This means you have a 96% chance of failure in the first ten years of starting a business. Or to flip it around, you only have a 4% chance of surviving your first 10 years in business.
Those aren’t great odds, are they?
Let’s switch contexts. Imagine you’re facing a daunting challenge in some area other than business. Let’s say you wanted to climb Mt. Everest. You know the journey will be difficult and dangerous. You read that in 2019 alone, 11 people died in the attempt. It’s a risky venture, but you’re excited about the possibility of achieving your goal.
Do you think it would be smart to go it alone? I don’t think so. I’ll bet you’d hire a guide, right? That would be the smart thing to do. You want someone who has made it to the top and back, preferably multiple times under a variety of weather conditions.
The truth is that there is only one way to learn: trial and error. But it doesn’t have to come from your trials or errors. By hiring a coach, you outsource your mistakes and dramatically improve your odds for success.
3. Because you want to fill in gaps in your knowledge or skills.
In business, you will eventually reach the limits of your own knowledge and skills. If you don’t continue to grow professionally, you limit your company’s ability to grow. As John Maxwell says, “everything rises and falls on leadership.”
Sadly, even if you have a business degree or even an MBA, you probably didn’t learn:
- How to set and achieve clear business goals
- How to translate your annual and quarterly goals into daily actions that drive growth
- How to align your team around those same goals so everyone is “rowing in the same direction”
- How to stay focused on your most important priorities so you aren’t distracted by the deluge of requests, demands, and even opportunities
- How to find, hire, and develop world-class teammates
- How to build a culture that drives operating results
- How to delegate in such a way that the work meets or exceeds your standards
- How to find new customers or retain the ones you have
- How to do real-world strategic planning that creates a filter for what opportunities you pursue and what opportunities you don’t
- How to identify the key metrics you need to monitor to ensure the health of your business
- How to use financial reports, not only to tell you what happened but what’s about to happen
- How to transform setbacks and failure into the jet fuel you need for rapid iteration and improvement
Good coaching is based on sound theory, but it doesn’t stop there as it often does in a university setting. Instead, it includes practical frameworks and step-by-step processes for delivering real-world results.
4. Because you know you need to work on your business not just in it.
If there’s one thing I hear from business owners and senior executives the most, it’s that they are so busy working in the business, they don’t have time to work on the business. This is crucial. If you are going to scale your business and do it in a sustainable way, you need time to think.
Specifically, you need time to think about what you really want. For example:
- How do you want your business to look in three to five years?
- How can you engineer your role so you are doing more in your Desire Zone and less in each of the other three zones?
- Are you happy with your company’s culture? What could you change to make it better?
- Are your compensation and benefits sufficient to attract and retain top talent?
- Do you have the right organizational structure for this stage of your business?
- How could you sell more of your existing products or services to your existing customers? Are there new products you could create to better serve your existing customers? Are their new customers in markets you don’t currently serve who could benefit from your existing products?
- What processes need to be reimagined or reengineered, so you can produce results faster, cheaper, or better?
- Where in your business do you need a breakthrough?
These are just a handful of the questions that deserve serious reflection. But you’ll never find the time unless you are intentional. Coaching provides the opportunity—the context—where this can happen on a regular basis. It’s a chance to poke your head above the clouds, evaluate where you’ve been, embrace the reality of where you are, and chart a course to where you want to go.
By the way, I occasionally hear clients complain about the time required to participate in our coaching program. This is especially true for clients who live on the West Coast or in another country. “I’m not sure I can afford two (or three) days out of the office each quarter.”
My response is, “What does it make possible?” What if you dedicated this time, including time on the plane, as “think time”? This is what Megan Hyatt Miller, my daughter and our current CEO, and I enjoyed about getting coaching together.
We would determine in advance a problem we wanted to solve or an opportunity we wanted to exploit. That became the theme of our trip. We would talk about it on the plane, then interact about it over meals. We typically stayed an extra day to use the morning after our coaching sessions to reduce our discoveries to specific action items.
Coaching time has become so valuable to our business that we literally can’t afford not to take time for it once a quarter.
5. Because you want to go further, faster.
There are two ways to get ahead in business: the slow way and the fast way. The slow way is to rely on your own knowledge, experience, and skills. The fast way is to rely on someone else’s knowledge, experience, and skills.
For example, I am an avid fly fisherman. I have all my own gear. I know how to set up my fishing rig. I know how to tie the knots. If I decide to fish a particular stream, I can usually find an online fishing report that will tell me exactly what bugs the fish I’m hunting are eating. I know how to cast, how to untangle my line, and how to net a fish and correctly release it unharmed.
So why do I always hire a fishing guide when I go fishing? Isn’t that just a waste of money?
No. Here’s why. When I go fishing, I want to catch as many fish as possible. I also want to catch the biggest fish possible. I like fishing, but I love catching!
There’s no way my amateur skills can produce the same results as a professional guide. Even if I have fished that particular stream before, I probably haven’t fished it in this season or in exactly this weather. I can’t compete with a guide who fishes that same stream all day every day. Using a guide helps me get bigger, better results faster.
The same is true of a business coach. If they have the right experience, they have dealt with the problem or opportunity you are facing dozens of times—maybe hundreds of times—in a variety of contexts. They can help you get the results you want sooner rather than later.
Coaching is what gives an edge to professional athletes, renowned musicians, and successful business leaders. There’s no question that you need it. Every leader does.
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