Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
When it comes to hiring a business coach, finding a mentor or asking professionals for advice, small-business owners have a plethora of options. Business knowledge can be obtained through numerous free or low-cost options, like webinars and government resources, or owners can choose to hire professional coaches and consultants to provide specialized advice. Personally, I like to pay for complete and concise webinars and professional coaches since it saves me time. And while there isn’t a right or wrong way to seek guidance, be sure to keep your goals in mind.
After starting a few different businesses, I have a good idea of my personal weaknesses. While, as a business owner, I can try to develop these skills, I usually choose to hire people to fill in the gaps instead. This solution saves me both time and money. There are many coaches, consultants and other professionals that can lend their services to help grow a business without the massive expense of hiring an experienced employee.
However, to be successful in business, it’s not enough to merely have access to the resources — you must also know how to use them. The business success you’ll see from using a coach, consultant or other professional will depend on how well you can utilize them.
Here are my six top tips to ensure success when utilizing these resources.
1. Encourage responsibility
One of the quickest ways to ensure your business will fail is to outsource responsibility or decision-making to a coach or consultant. It might sound great on a sales call when the consultant says he or she has all the answers and can spoon-feed them to you, but in my opinion, that’s a clear red flag. The business owner must always retain responsibility for his or her decisions. If your business fails, the consultant or coach will walk away, leaving you to pick up the pieces.
2. Help with brainstorming
One of my personal weaknesses is coming up with new and creative ideas on the spot. I find it easier to rely on an external medium like a coach, an article or another professional to help kickstart the creative process. Keep in mind that in a brainstorming session, you should focus only on the ideas, not their merit. A good coach can provide a valuable service to help generate new ideas targeted to your business.
3. Offer a fresh perspective
Hiring a coach or consultant helps you efficiently overcome obstacles. While you may eventually come to workable solutions to problems on your own, having someone examine the issue from the outside provides a fresh perspective and helps you overcome issues faster.
4. Provide accountability
Make sure your coach not only helps you push your business forward, but also provides a layer of accountability that many business owners lack. Since I already have a large amount of business knowledge, my accountability coach is the only one I meet with weekly. This helps me stay on track each week and ensure my important but not urgent goals get completed.
5. Develop strategy
While we may think we are, not every business owner is an expert on developing good business strategies. Turn to strategy-development experts for help, but be sure not to outsource the whole development process. I find that the process itself is where I learn the most, rather than just having the final polished strategy. Knowing the strategy’s underlying “why” will help you tweak it instead of having to overhaul the entire plan if something changes.
6. Give moral support and encouragement
Coaches can simply impart valuable knowledge, but hopefully that’s not all they do. It’s unlikely you’ll go through life without any down weeks or rough spots, as much as social media will have us believe otherwise. In those low times, it can be uplifting to have someone steer you away from dwelling on the failures and help you focus on changing things around.
Until recently, I’ve never been big on coaches or consultants, even while I provide a similar service. I’ve always had a strong inner drive to succeed, but looking back, it was never enough to push me to the next level. It’s recently dawned on me that the most successful people have coaches, including business owners and Olympic athletes. It’s unthinkable that an Olympic athlete would compete without a coach, but business owners try to do it all the time.
I’ve experienced tremendous personal and business success by hiring the right coaches. Hiring a coach or a consultant is not going to solve all of your problems overnight, nor will it be the magic ticket your business needs. But when this valuable resource is leveraged effectively, it will help propel both you and your business to the next level.