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How to contract a Small Business Coach or Mentor

Congratulations on starting your search for a small business coach/Mentor/Consultant. There are many small business coaches to choose from, so it helps to have clarity about what you're looking for in a coach. Here are 15 tips to get you started:

Start with their knowledge level. Small business coaching and consulting are skills, and it takes a lot of education AND practice to master them. Because small business consulting and coaching are not regulated industries, anyone can call themselves a coach, whether they've been trained or not.

By selecting someone who has attended and graduated from a recognized coaching school, and choosing someone with several years' experience as a SUCCESSFUL Business Owner, you have more assurance that they are skilled and knowledgeable. After all, part of what you're paying for is the ability to pick their brains and learn from them.

Select someone who has experience, both as a coach and as a small business owner. How long have they been a small business coach consultant or Mentor? How long have they been a small business owner? How many businesses have they owned in the past? How many clients have they worked with and in how many industries? Look for someone with a wide breadth of experience so you know they can handle your unique situation.

Know the size of your business and select a coach accordingly. Some small business coaches specialize in coaching small business executives with more than 100 employees, while others specialize in coaching small, self-employed business owners and solo entrepreneurs. Read through the coach's materials carefully to see if they indicate what size business their client's typically own and run.

Choose a consultant who has both business skills as well as coaching skills. Coaching is all about getting unstuck, taking action, living to your potential, and managing your time. Consulting is about brainstorming and getting advice so you can create a solid business and marketing model, and implement a powerful action plan. As a small business owner you know how important it is to have marketing skills, business strategy and planning skills, and good time management. If you need help in any specific business skill, make sure your coach is an expert in that area, so that he or she can not only coach you, but can advise and teach you as well. Here's more information on the difference between a coach and a consultant. You'll want someone with both skill sets.

Continuous learning: In addition to learning new coaching skills, does the coach continue to learn new business skills as well?

Check the testimonials: Are the coach's other clients similar to you? Does the coach have much experience working with business owners like you, in the industry you are in? (Note: Beware of unsigned testimonials. Look for the name of the client and the client's company name.) Also check on LinkedIn to see if the coach has testimonials/recommendations there.

Expert status: Does the small business coach speak, write and teach on business topics? Is he or she a known expert in their field? Is the coach an expert on business topics: marketing (both traditional and internet marketing), customer service, strategic planning, financial planning, etc.? Additional offerings: In addition to coaching, does the coach offer other products or services, like books, audio programs, or classes? Free consultation: Does the coach offer a free initial consultation, so that you can get to know one another and see if there is a good fit between what you need and what your coach can offer?

Good fit: After your initial consultation, do you feel that it's a good fit, personality-wise? Do you feel positive after speaking with them, or dragged down? If you are an energetic person and the coach is quiet (or vice versa), is that a good match? Do you feel you can trust the coach and have a good rapport with him/her? Do you enjoy their company? (You're going to be spending a lot of time together, after all.)

Who you'll work with: Will you work directly with the main coach or consultant in the business, or are there a team of coaches who subcontract for the main coach? You want to know exactly who you'll be working with so you don't end up with a coach whom you've never spoken to and/or who you don't know their skills, knowledge and experience (or if it's a good fit, personality-wise).

Prompting insights: Does the small business coach ask you a lot of questions that give you "a-ha" moments of insight and growth? Part of a coach's job is to help you understand yourself, what you want from your business, and where you may be sabotaging your own success.

Challenging: Does the coach challenge you to step up to your greatness, to be accountable for getting things done? Or does the coach let you get away with being less than you want to be?

Availability: Is the coach available to work with you, when you want and as often as you want? Some coaches only have daytime hours, while others only work evenings and weekends. Is the coach available via email between scheduled sessions?

Fees and programs: Does the coach discuss their fees with you clearly? Are you clear about what you'll get for the price you'll pay?

Choosing the right consultant or coach for you will lead to a productive and inspiring relationship. Take your time and do your homework, and you'll certainly find the right coach for you. 

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