You wouldn’t expect professional service to be free, but yet coaching often is?

You wouldn’t expect professional service to be free, but yet coaching often is?

Imagine ringing up your accountant or solicitor and requesting professional advice nearly daily often after hours and on any given social opportunity. I wonder how many actual accountants and solicitors would entertain this for any length of time before saying that it is time to come in for an appointment with a fee attached. Yet, when it comes to coaching the lines seem a lot more blurred and I am sure I am not the only coach that has been caught in this dilemma of where does friendly support stop and professional time start.

Maybe the training of most coaches is something to have a look at, because most diploma and degree courses in life and business coaching tend to include a pro bono element, where you have to coach a number of hours free of charge in order to gain your qualification. Isn’t that inherently setting graduates up to under-value the service they provide?

The second question is whether most coaches would have given the advice free in any case even if they had never studied to be a coach? Is this one of the reasons why so often clients expect it free especially when they come out of your circle of friends or regular business contact or even clients that have become social friends too? I wonder is it the industry itself that devalues itself more than any other in the professional service sector?

Even after 9 years in business, I sometimes fall in the trap of having given freely of my time and advice trusting that the perceived value I was offering would return in other ways, yet it doesn’t always. A recent event along these lines where I gave freely of my time, advice and encouragement over years completely left me devalued.

Actually with over 12 years of valuable experience in change management consulting around Europe, a successful and award winning business in the coaching industry, Tv-experience, published articles and e-books, an honours degree graduate and holder of an MBA and fluency in 4 languages, I felt worth very little. It was as if all I did for this person was have chats that helped him, which so not felt like he valued any of my skills.

I truly believe that coaching just like accounting or law is not for everyone and is an acquired skill and expertise is fine-tuned over time and with experience. Hence these questions…

The question of perceived value is an interesting one, I did a survey not so long ago of what my clients valued the most about my service as a business coach. The responses varied from having an objective and non-judgemental sounding board, to a trusted motivator that always believed in their ability, to even someone that kept their sanity in a difficult time. In actual fact for most clients the experience and value was different and maybe that is the hardest thing to communicate when you are selling coaching as a professional service, whereas accounting or law may be a lot more clear cut in this regard.

As a coach I would love no more than see all my clients successful and I really love hearing their success stories. When they call at strange hours to report progress and success, I often take the call, but I wonder is that making me too available and not valuing my time or is that being there for a client? I have experienced one scenario where these impromptu feedback sessions were just a decoy for free coaching and I have called a halt to it, which lead to quite a stunned response by the client, who did eventually come around to respecting my value and time. I often wonder if I was a psychotherapist would the same behaviour occur?

As a relatively new industry our value is not always understood and I believe we have a bit of a way to go in order to be fully up on the same level as some of the longer established professional services. So I guess each practitioner has a responsibility to the industry to charge a fair and reasonable price for their service, even the Bible states we were given talents for value purposes if I recall correctly.

With talking, questioning and common reframing as some of the key tools in coaching, it can often be very similar to a close friend listening and supporting you through a tough period. However what I know about some of my clients, they wouldn’t tell their best friends or partners because they have a vested interest in one outcome or other or purely because of the potential embarrassment factor. So I guess the differentiator is the value of neutrality, safety to not lose face and confidentiality, what is that worth to the client?

The recent incident really puzzled me and made me question the whole approach and I guess I also questioned what value I did offer above and beyond being a friend. So next time clients ring out of hours and looking for free advice i will be more cautious and aware and may just not take the call without a paid appointment. Considering most of my clients come from the professional services industry, they would just do the same to me if the situation was reversed.

When I deal with clients that are genuinely not able to work with me due to their financial situation, we have always come to some value trade solution. Actually my fancy mountain bike is one of these brilliant trades, that I am still grateful for even years after the trade, it brings me everywhere.

So if you are a coach, I challenge you to put value on neutrality, protection and confidentiality. If you are one of those chancers that want to share success stories as a decoy… hmmm from now on book an appointment and I will be delighted to listen, encourage, support and question.

What can a business coach do for you in a recession and some figures to back it up?

What can a business coach do for you in a recession and some figures to back it up?

Before I start this blog post I have to admit that I dislike blowing my own trumpet, hence it is only because I found some very interesting statistical data that I have decided to post this information all the same. As a business coach in practice for close to 10 years, I have seen ups and downs in both my business as well as that of my clients and most pertinent of all the change in the economy here in Ireland as well as globally. What I find fascinating that in a time of economic downturn, services like training, coaching, marketing, advertising etc, become some of the first to be cut, usually I hate to say it on advice from the accountants in this world. Now I don’t for one minute want to tell you that you shouldn’t look at your cost base, because when I coach small businesses it is also on the agenda, but often it involves looking at production processes, staff productivity and similar internal issues first before touching lead generating and business development related functions.

One thing a recession does is force businesses to look at themselves critically and they have to become more successful and competitive from the inside out. I remember an interesting conversation I had with a fellow entrepreneur in the boom times in Ireland and he maintained that anybody could run a business in a booming economy, but only competitive and well-structured businesses would survive a recession. I have to say at the rate that small and medium sized businesses are closing down, this statement came up in my mind and I tend to agree that survival of the fittest will once again prevail all the way from the animal world into business.

Research suggests that by using a business coach you can on average increase your profit margin by 46%, but close to 50% of businesses will never look for that external sounding board for their business. Often the business coach will assist the owner in looking at alternative courses of action for increasing the business and navigating through the pitfalls of a falling economy.

The international coach federation (ICF) surveyed 210 coaching clients about the values and use of coaching, below are some of the key findings of the study, which fascinated me and just compelled me to share them. Participants found
62.4% better goal-setting
60.5% more work/life balance
57.1% decrease in stress levels
52.4% increase in self-confidence
43.3% improvement in general quality of life
25.7% more income
33.8% better health and fitness
33.3% improved family relationships
25.7% stopped a bad habit
My clients tell me about their success stories all of the time and we do have a great track record in our business with clients, but when it is confirmed by an independent study I just wonder what will the business owners amongst you have to say the next time your accountant questions business coaching expenditure. I have employed a number of coaches over the course of my business life and continue to do so and I can happily concur with some of these findings from personal experience.

So the real question is, what are you doing to navigate through this recession?
Where is your support team?
What benchmarks and yardsticks do you use to stop the panic decisions?

If someone gave you between a 25% and 46% chance of increasing your income, by having a business coach, would it actually persuade you to have one or would you just muddle on regardless?

I have to say I have had some very interesting conversations with potential clients in the last number of months and the willingness to invest money in development of the owner and their team is often left to the last minute and I will admit I very subjectively with a vested interest question this! Business coahcing is not a quick fix or a panic solution and really works best when implemented sooner rather than later. Ironically all our clients that have continued coaching despite the economic climate change are hitting fantastic results accross the spectrum, but then I would say that I am their coach.

For good health the doctor recommends a minimum of 5-portions a day of fruit and vegetables, well I challenge you to a 5 a day business development actions for your business every single working day and if you work in sales this will work for you too. What 5 things are you doing every day to generate new income, new leads, new clients? What have you done today?

I also very strongly suggest whether you are a business owner, manager or employee in need of more income, better goals, less stress and increased quality of life and work/life balance, to bite the bullet and hire a coach. Oh, and don’t just take my biaised word for it, the ICF found these statistics. In any case, we are open for business and ready to take on more clients, are you?