top 5 problems with business coaching

Top 5 Most Common Problems With Business Coaching

If you’re considering engaging a Business Coach, or joining a Coaching Program, and you’ve done any research at all, you’ve probably found some comments about the problems with Business Coaching.

In this article, our goal is to identify and discuss openly and honestly the most common problems and limitations of business coaching.  From there, we’ll also discuss how those problems and limitations can be avoided or reduced.  

To start with, let’s go back and look at the most common reasons people are seeking a Business Coach in the first place.  In the end, failure to achieve their goals will be in the middle of most frustrations with Business Coaching.  We’ve been in Business Coaching for some 13 years and, in that time, there have been a small number of challenges that have come up most often when we meet with business owners.

In terms of business challenges, the three most common we see are:

  1. a simple desire to grow the business and make more money;
  2. the frustration that comes from working too hard; and 
  3. the various issues that arise from building a good team of people working for you. 

In addition to those clear business challenges, many business owners also feel ‘alone’, with no-one to work through those challenges who is sufficiently knowledgeable and also has a genuine commitment to helping them.  This can sometime feel like ‘overwhelm’ – just not knowing where to start or what to do next.  

With the Business Coaching industry having been around for some thirty years now, there is ample evidence that coaching can be a fantastic way to work through these challenges and to create a great business that also delivers the owner a great life.  There are countless businesses and business owners around the world who have benefited from various coaching programs and swear by business coaching as a critical ingredient in their success.  

However, Business Coaching does not have a 100% success rate.  There are also plenty of people willing to talk about how Business Coaching didn’t help them. So let’s work through the most common reasons for that.

What are the most common problems with Business Coaching?

Not enough time to do all the work

Unlike engaging a consultant to do a piece of work for you (for example, a marketing consultant to manage your marketing activities, or a bookkeeper to manage your financials), a Business Coach, or coaching program, is intended to make you and your team better at doing the work.  A good program will provide you and your team with tools and templates, with education, with some feedback and guidance, with accountability and support, but will not actually do the work for you.  This has the benefits of requiring lower levels of investment than engaging consultants to do the work, and of building the capability of you and your team, which is then able to operate at a higher level into the future.  

However, it does require a commitment to do some work, and often that work is in addition to your usual business activities.  As a rule of thumb, we encourage our members to be investing at least 5 hours each week into working ‘on their business’.  This is doing work which is genuinely improving the business; developing it towards being the sort of great business that provides the owner with a great life.  Work which is often done just once but pays a dividend for months or years to come – designing a new process, recruiting a key person to the team, creating a new marketing campaign and so on.  The Coaching Program you engage should help to guide you both on what work you should be doing in what order, as well as how best to do it.  

For most business owners, this amount of time, if done weekly, is sufficient to make considerable process quite quickly.  Of course, the exact amount of time you can invest here varies a little based on your business’ stage of development (for example, Solopreneurs obviously have genuine limits on their time) however, as a general rule, any business owner unable or unwilling to invest a few hours a week on improving and developing their business is unlikely to make much forward progress!

The results don’t come fast enough.  

For all the success that Business Coaching has helped so many businesses to achieve, and for all the systems, methodologies and tools that it can provide, it is not an immediate fix for everything.  It is not a silver bullet that will solve any problem overnight.

As a rule of thumb, we expect that the first month or so of any Coaching engagement or program will involve various aspects of preparation: building plans, learning about what needs to be done and preparing things that will be done.  The second month involves starting to implement things and the third month is when the results start to come through.  

Depending on the exact state of the business when you start the program and the particular strategies that you’re implementing, you may well get some results and improvements almost immediately; however, more significant results tend to take a little longer.  As you implement more and more things over time and make more and more improvements to the business, those things tend to compound on each other: the improvements you make this Quarter build on those you already made last Quarter, and so on.  As a consequence, the results achieved over time quite often grow exponentially.  

However, you still need to get started first and, for some business owners, they simply want all the results immediately.  Perhaps, in that instance, there may be a consultant you can employ to do the work immediately, but the results will likely be less sustainable, still take some time and cost a lot more.  More likely is that it is best to accept that results from Coaching, whilst very strong, will take a few months to really get going…..but will then be better and better as you proceed.

Of course, in a good coaching program, exactly what you put into your plans is up to you.  If you do have a particularly urgent situation in your business and require something fixed and changed immediately, you always have the option to do that immediately.  In that situation, the results may indeed be almost instant!

It’s too generic

Every business and every business situation can feel different.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told some version of “my business is different” or “its different in our industry”.  And, in some ways, that’s probably true.  

However, in more ways than I can count, its not entirely true.  Having studied businesses, run businesses, coached businesses and written about business, we know that there is much that’s common across them.  The steps in developing a business and the list of what’s required to build a successful business is strikingly consistent from one business to the next.  What needs to be implemented is quite well established.  

The important thing is to ensure that each step is implemented in a way that is appropriate for an individual business.  A weak coach or coaching program may well insist that there is one way to do everything.  A good coach or coaching program will provide an appropriate level of framework, process and structure to guide activities, but leaving proper scope for each business to apply that framework, process or structure to what is unique about them.  For example:

  • Every business needs a marketing plan and there are a handful of topics that are almost always covered in that plan.  However, the exact campaigns or activities chosen to run in an individual business, as well as the details of how to implement them, should be specific to that business.
  • A strong culture, clearly defined and proactively maintained, is a consistent element of almost every successful business; however, the exact description of that culture can vary considerably from one business to the next.
  • For a team to perform reliably at the right level, it should be made very clear who is accountable for what.  Clear Position Commitments or Job Descriptions will always help this.  However, how responsibilities are divided and exactly what roles should be in the structure, should be chosen specifically or any individual business.

In the end, there is a level of ‘generic’ that is appropriate; the most important thing is to ensure that it doesn’t go too far; that any plans are tailored to a specific business in such a way as to ‘tick the generic boxes’, while still capturing those things unique and special in that business.  

The actual sessions require too much time.

In the case of 1:1 coaching, this doesn’t come up too often.  However, for Mastermind groups and other group-based Programs, in which day-long and half-day sessions are commonly part of the program, do present this challenge for some people.  They feel that a full day ‘out of their business’ each month is unmanageable and, for some people (in particular, many solopreneurs), it may well be unmanageable.  Of course, if you are unable to commit that time, the program is unlikely to be successful for you.  

So, how to mitigate this risk?  First, and for most people, we would simply point out that we’ve never seen a business fail because the Owner spent too much time working ‘on the business’ instead of ‘in the business’.  The discipline of investing one full day each month on developing your business is almost always a good idea.  It is the things you put together on those days that are typically actually moving your business forward and improving it; rather than just letting it drift and continue in the same state.  

Equally, is the importance of ensuring that those days are invested well.  A weak coaching program can spend too much time on just demonstrating endless theory and actually teaching too much.  However, a strong program will offer some level of such education, but will ensure that plenty of work is actually done.  Whether that be planning, reviewing and reporting, or actually designing and creating new tools and activities, real progress should be made on these days….not just theory listening!  

They require too much group work.

This one also is obviously not relevant to 1:1 coaching.  However, for programs that include a significant group element, including mastermind programs, the likes of EO and YPO and our Elite Membership Program, some people are put off by the group engagement.  

Depending on the exact program, that group element includes shared learning, working together on each others’ plans, brainstorming together, reporting to and holding each other accountable, networking and so on.  

For many people, these are the great strengths of a group-based program.  Along with the friendships they form, having a group of genuine peers who are going through similar experiences to you, actually care about how you’re doing and have the ability to contribute to your success is the very reason for many to join such programs.  The success of groups like YPO and EO, as well as the amazing growth of our Elite Membership program, are all evidence of this.

However, there is no doubt that being in these sorts of programs also requires that you contribute to others.  The most successful members of these programs also tend to be members who contribute to their peers; providing them with ideas, accountability, knowledge and, sometimes, a good dose of moral support!  Those people less inclined to help others, who are uncomfortable sharing information with others and perhaps resent time and effort spent supporting others, will probably find these programs uncomfortable.  

These five problems are the ones that we hear about most often.  There are no doubt others.  Of course, for some people, they would simply say the expense is the problem.  The very nature of Business Coaching and its role in any business should ensure that it provides a positive Return on Investment.  A good program will deliver that, so the cost is more than covered by the improvements that the programs achieves.  For more discussion about the cost of Business Coaching and Coaching programs, see our Blog “What does Business Coaching cost”.  

P.S. Whenever you are ready…

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