Updated: Jun 8
Coaching – and mentoring too – is a huge part of the Growth Gen approach. It’s not just built into the GrowthGen Boards, it’s part of our mindset. Our commitment to learning and growing means we believe coaching is important.
Why don't business owners get a coach?
Pretty much every top sports player and team has a coach. At least one! So why don’t business owners do the same thing?
There are a couple of reasons.
1. They may rely on their family and friends to coach them. They may think that’s enough.
Of course there are a some problems with this option. Not many of us have family and friends with the experience of business and the right personality to be a coach. And even for those who do, it’s usually much harder for those people to coach someone they know and be effective. There’s too much personal relationship at stake.
2. Their mind is closed to the value a coach can bring.
This reason is a bit more interesting. What do I mean by a closed mind?
The issue is, most business owners have a mental picture of how their business should look. A major downfall for small business is that we don’t look outside our own picture and get wider advice.
We tend to think we know the answers anyway. That might be based on the research we do when we start the business.
Plus, we want to be able to claim that we did it all ourselves. I was one of those guys. I wanted to do it all myself, by myself.
Nowadays, I know enough to say out loud that if I’d had a coach earlier, I would have even done better.
What changed my view about the value of coaching?
Back before COVID, I had an experience where my business was hit hard. That taught me a good lesson.
Here’s my story
I’m an event manager. I’ve run many events, but the one that broke me was a passion event. The Cheese Festival.
It started off OK when I ran the event in the Hunter Valley. But then I decided to bring it to Sydney, to Centennial Park. To make it bigger and better. Instead, I overextended myself – to the extent that I had to shut down my business and start again.
I want to tell this story openly because a lot of businesses go through this stuff, but nobody talks about it. Other businesses need to understand that it’s not just them.
What was so challenging about this event?
The main issue was the financial extension in moving from the Hunter Valley to Centennial Park in Sydney. There were some production costs in Centennial Park which we totally underestimated. Also the team really should have been double the amount of people that we had. We were working very extended hours, which put a lot of pressure on my team.
It was a big undertaking, but I didn't see it that way. I had a vision of the event, but I hadn’t broken down the practical steps to make it happen. It's as plain and simple as that.
But the interesting thing is, as a small business person you almost need to have that ridiculous amount of vision. It’s what fuels your determination to go on when things are hard. But at the same time you need somebody who is not so emotionally committed, who can look at the practicalities. It’s almost impossible to be both of those things yourself. That’s why coaching is important.
I reflected a lot on the festival. I read a couple of books which talked about that emotional commitment to the vision. How visionaries have a particular picture in their mind, and to get to that picture, they have to be selfish. And I recognised very clearly that I was in that state of mind about the Cheese Festival.
Would it have been different if I’d had a business coach?
I think so. If I’d had a coach for that first Cheese Lovers’ Festival in the Hunter Valley, I’d have had so much help in setting direction. Looking at the finances, the plans, so on. If I’d be willing to take someone on and get advice, it would have been a different story written.
Without that, I had to learn the hard way.
So that’s my story of when I realised the value of business coaching. The one lesson I learned, the one I’m going to tell my kids, is that there are only two ways to learn in life. The hard way or the easy way. Get help. Get advice. Get a coach. Learn the easy way!
How do you choose a coach?
Coaches are an interesting mix. You need to trust your coach and open up to them, but at the same time they have to hold you accountable.
Some people need more empathy and some people need more accountability. You often find that the people who are very good at being empathetic and drawing out your issues may not be quite so firm about getting you to do stuff. Choosing a coach is a matter of finding somebody who's got the right mix for you.
It might be a different style and different people might like different styles as well.
It’s one of the reasons we want to grow and get more business coaches at GrowthGen. Members will look at the coaches and decide which GG board they want to be in. To me that is very exciting.
How long should you work with a business coach to see a difference?
I believe having coaches and mentors should be a lifelong journey.
But remember, your coach may not always be someone you pay.
It could be a role model. Someone you aspire to be like. You read their books, watch their videos, listen to their podcast.
The important thing is to have an open mind and be prepared to try something different.
You could just sit in the room and not let anyone help you. That’s what I did with the Cheese Festival. Unfortunately, when you do that and it goes wrong, it is nobody else's fault except your own.
So how do you know when your mindset isn’t open? It’s when you think you know all the answers. You might say you don’t, but deep down, you don’t believe anyone else has better answers than yours. So you can’t see the value of coaching.
Another sign? If you've tried two or three coaches and you thought they were all useless. The problem might not be the coaches!
On the other hand, if you go looking to learn, there are probably a great number of coaches that can help you. The trick is to find the one that can help you the most.
Let’s talk about the GrowthGen business coaches
We’ve built coaching and mentoring into the GrowthGen model, because after my experiences I truly believe in the importance of coaching.
Actually, the GG board is a really good way to try out the reality of coaching without a huge cost. You don’t have to commit to a personal coach for months on end. It’s true you don't necessarily get the coach’s undivided attention, but you can experience working with them, build trust and then decide whether you'd like to go further.
It’s important to note that we limit each GG Board to 10 people, so that you do still get that intimate experience.
There are so many coaches out there, but there are two things we look for in our GG coaches:
1. Their qualifications and expertise
For example, Rebecca Swanson is a certified life coach and understands how to empathise and work with clients to get them to where they need to be. She also trained as a psychologist, so she has depth of skills in this area.
2. Communication skills
We often don’t think about communication until it doesn’t happen. But for our coaches, it’s essential. Whether they are presenting, or running a workshop, or hosting a GG board, they're communicating with our clients. Building rapport with our clients is so important to us.
We’re also big on getting organised. Making sure that our coaches deliver all the things that we ask them for.
It’s two-way accountability. We and our coaches work hard to deliver a great experience for our members and for anyone who is attending our events.