I’ve been working with business coaches in different capacities for well over a decade, mostly because when I made the leap to become self-employed, I hardly knew anyone in my immediate network who was also self employed. I had to figure out a lot on my own through good old fashioned googling.
Signing up for group coaching programs and working with individual coaches was a complete game-changer (assuming you find the right coach for you, of course!).
I was barely scraping by in the first few years of running my own business, but I knew that I needed more support than I could get from my own research. I couldn’t afford to hire a coach for personalized support, but signing up for small group coaching programs and online communities was my first foray into the world of online business coaching.
Both business coaches (one-to-one) and coaching programs (one-to-many) can offer incredible valuable.
There are also many other ways to get support and shortcut your business growth, such as working with consultants, signing up for online courses, and joining online communities to name a few.
Anecdotally speaking, here’s what I’ve come to believe:
- Business coaches are excellent when you’ve got a little experience under your belt, you’re clear on your goals (or pain points), need the accountability, and you can afford to invest.
- Group coaching programs are a great place to start if you’re just getting started in your business journey. They’re typically more affordable than working with a coach one-on-one. You can also find more advanced or targeted group coaching programs when you’re further along in your journey.
Let’s break it down:
What the heck do business coaches actually do?
Every business coach is different, which is why it can make it challenging to find the right coach, and even to know what kind of coach you need.
A good business coach:
- Helps you clarify your vision, goals, and priorities for your business.
- Offers objective, outside perspective and insights into your business operations, challenges, and opportunities.
- Provides guidance and support to help you overcome obstacles and reach your goals.
- Holds you accountable and helps you stay focused on your priorities.
- Teaches new skills, strategies, and tools to help you improve your performance and achieve success.
- Acts as a sounding board and helps you process ideas and decisions.
- Encourages personal and professional growth and helps you unlock your full potential.
- Adapts their coaching style to meet your individual needs and preferences.
- Creates a safe and supportive environment for open and honest communication.
- Offers regular check-ins and progress reports to monitor your progress and celebrate your achievements.
It’s a lot like coaching in other areas, such as sports coaching. The coach is there to focus on helping individuals and/or teams improve their performance and realize their potential. Both emphasize the importance of setting goals, regular practice, and self-reflection.
The same is true of fitness coaching, or even personal trainers. Sure you can go to the gym, learn about nutrition and training, and probably make some progress on your own, but your efforts go a lot further when you have someone who specializes in helping you target the specific changes you want to make. It can be small redirections in your effort, or focused challenges that get you out of your comfort zone.
Business coaches can encourage you, challenge you, provide shortcuts, share examples of what has worked, and illuminate new possibilities based on your unique needs and goals. Great coaches ask the right questions to help you unlock motivation and follow-through.
It’s a little bit like business therapy.
Sometimes we’re too close to something to see things clearly, or to notice opportunities to make our lives easier, or more enjoyable. A good business coach gets to know you and your unique business needs, and will help tailor their support to help you reach your goals.
Benefits of having a coach:
- Unlock your potential
- Identify areas of growth
- Clarify and amplify your unique strengths and advantages
- Help you build inner wisdom
- Build your confidence as a business owner
- Provide accountability for your goals
- Witness and celebrate your wins
- Develop strategies for overcoming difficult situations
- Use your success and failures as an opportunity to learn and grow
Some of these outcomes may be hard to quantify in terms of ROI (return on investment), so you have to know yourself well enough to know what kind of outcomes you’re looking for. I’m personally more interested in experiential learning and relationship growth more so than measurable outcomes or KPIs.
Find a coach who speaks your language, and whose approach resonates with you.
Cost of working with a business coach?
The cost of working with a business coach depends on a number of factors:
- The coach’s experience and/or credentials.
Have they trained as a coach? How long have they been doing this? What kind of results do they get for their clients?
- Their availability.
Are they in high demand? Do they have a waitlist?
- Their niche
How specialized is their knowledge or experience? How relevant is it to your business goals?
- Their location
Are they based in an area with a high cost of living? Is their timezone compatible with yours?
This means there can be a huge range in terms of the cost of a coach. Some coaches charge hourly, some have set packages that take place over a period of time, some work on retainer, etc. Business Coaching can start anywhere from $200+/hr to $1000/hr on the high end, with packaged engagements ranging from $1000 – $10k+ and even much higher if you’re working with very experienced in-demand coaches.
How business coaches have helped me
I’m a big believer that we need to embrace the ways we show up differently, so I like sharing what has worked for me personally, while encouraging you to consider your own needs.
Business coaches have helped me in a number of different ways, both qualitatively and quantitatively. I’ve worked with leadership coaches, consultants, and signed up for a variety of group business programs over the years.
What has worked well for me is hiring coaches for specific needs, and with specific specialities.
I personally really enjoy working with expert coaches who can guide you through a really specific challenge or area of your business. Coaches with highly specific niches tend to have well established frameworks, and they take you through a structured process. There’s the feeling that you’re in good hands, and they’ve done this before.
I never hired generic “business coaches,” but rather, coaches with specialties like: Leadership + Confidence, Speaking (developing a signature talk), and Systems Design.
Some of the coaches I’ve hired have evolved their services over the years, but one of the first coaches I hired was Natasha Vorompiova for systems coaching in 2014. She helped me map out my business systems and streamline areas where there was friction. This was an incredibly valuable investment that helped me refine my internal processes, which gave me the foundation to later go on to teach those processes to designers via my own online mentorship program. That program went on to bring in over $100k in revenue, so the ROI on that engagement was spectacular!
My next coach was Tanya Geisler, a leadership coach who specializes in overcoming the imposter complex. Super specific niche, but everything she wrote on her sales page resonated so hard with me, I knew she was the right fit for the stage I was at early in my business.
She helped me overcome my confidence issues and understand what made me uniquely interesting from a positioning perspective.
Ten years later, I still work with Tanya on my leadership edges, now with my husband too! Tanya is an unbelievably talented and generous coach, with a gift for seeing the brightest parts of you. She refuses to let you play small.
I’ve worked with several other coaches that had unique specialties like speaking, curriculum, and marketing, with great results. I really enjoy learning about different niches by working with coaches who are expert in their craft.
Now, while getting the support of a coach 1:1 is certainly invaluable, I also believe that group coaching programs can be just as valuable, if not more valuable than working with a coach. Hear me out!
What are coaching programs?
Coaching programs are typically a coaching-like engagement done in a (virtual) group setting with a set timeframe, and usually with a specific intended outcome.
There is a of course a huge range in terms of how group coaching programs are structured, how much they cost, and even what kind of outcomes are promised.
Some may be 4 weeks long, which others may take place over 12 months. Group sizes can range from 6–50+, depending on the nature of the niche, the coach, their support team, and their delivery model.
I’ve been in group coaching programs with 10 people, 20, and even 100+. Some coaching programs have some element of a guided curriculum or resources along with coaching time, while others may only offer coaching calls with no set milestones.
Coaching calls are typically open-ended, and are based on participant questions. Some coaches prefer to receive questions submitted in advance on the calls, while others are more office-hours style, giving precedence to participants that show up live.
One unique example of a coaching/community hybrid is Wandering Aimfully with Jason and Caroline Zook. They have tons of mini courses and resources, a Slack community, and live drop-in coaching sessions.
What makes coaching programs valuable?
Why might a group environment be more valuable than a one-to-one coaching relationship?
- Growing your network. This is probably one of the biggest benefits that you won’t get in a one on one relationship. The relationships I’ve built with other participants of coaching programs is how I began building my business network over the years. The friends and connections I’ve made through various programs have led to countless opportunities from podcast interviews, to guest workshops, new customers, referrals + affiliates, conference invitations, etc. (Related, the same is true of taking online courses)
I don’t join coaching programs with an agenda of making new clients or customers, but inevitably when you’re in a group environment, people want to know who you are and what you’re up to. Chances are, at least a few folks in the group are going to find your work very interesting, or know someone who needs what you have.
- Accountability. As you begin to get to know others in your coaching group, you’ll feel a sense of not wanting to let the group down by not showing up. There’s a helpful accountability in committing to a process with others.
- Supercharged learning. The best way to learn about business is to be immersed in an environment with other business owners who are also sharing their challenges and observations. There is emergent learning that happens in a group environment that you just can’t get anywhere else. You’ll develop insider knowledge about how different businesses work, which will allow you to begin recognizing patterns. You might think that someone posing a question to the facilitator/coach that doesn’t relate to your business might not be valuable, but a helpful reframe may be, “what can I learn from this person’s experience?” There’s almost always more than what’s at the surface if you’re curious.
- Develop intuitive intelligence. The more you are immersed in environments where people are working through their unique challenges with a coach, the more you will develop your ability to notice patterns, make better decisions, and become more intuitive about what is not working and why. Many folks think their challenges are unique, but most of the time our challenges are not truly unique. There are other people who’ve been there before and have valuable insight to offer.
- Insider knowledge. Depending on your own business model, participating in a group program can be a wonderful way to see behind the scenes of how other people run their business, especially at scale. Is there a well developed onboarding process? What can you learn about the process you’re immersed in that you can bring to your own business? What would you do differently? What’s missing, or what do you with existed? There is always powerful meta learning to be engaged in if you’re curious and open-minded.
- More accessible than hiring a coach. Coaching programs are typically much more affordable than hiring a coach one-on-one. It’s a great way to get a feel for a coaches’ style and approach, and still get some attention on your business (just in a group environment).
NOTE: As a fairly introverted person with ADHD, I do find it incredibly challenging to join and participate in group programs. I would even say that it can be… exhausting. That being said, I also know that every time I do join and show up, I get a ton of value. This is mostly because I’m a very curious person who is great at pattern recognition and connecting seemingly disparate ideas. Everything I see and hear is very fascinating to me, and I always find some nugget of learning in any environment I’m in. Even if I’m not always the one asking questions, I love being there to absorb the collective wisdom.
What are the costs of coaching programs?
In the 10+ years that I’ve been participating coaching programs, I’ve paid everything from:
- $200 for a beta launch of a community-coaching hybrid program,
- $1,000 for a 6-week coaching program,
- $2,000 for a group coaching program that also included a few 1:1 calls,
- $4k for a year-long CEO coaching program,
- $10k for an advanced year-long group coaching program that included an online community,
and even higher… all with varying levels of value or ROI.
Truthfully, I can’t say there’s a single experience I regret, because even the programs I joined that weren’t top notch always had some benefit or takeaway, whether it was a new friend, a new insight, or even an example of what not to do… that was valuable to me. (Key acknowledgement that learning is one of my top strengths in the StrengthsFinder 2.0, and I personally tend to heavily value process and learning over outcome).
How coaching programs have helped me
My personal preference is to engage in coaching programs that have a standardized “path” or curriculum journey with live calls to support your progress through the curriculum. Many online programs use this model, and I’d argue that great online teachers also play the role of coach. (This is the model we use in Notion Mastery; there’s curriculum for you to take at your own pace, teaching-style workshops, and then more coaching-style office hours for more tailored support).
There are some coaching programs I’ve participated in that had a really fun, friendly, and intimate vibe, and others that felt really formal and professional.
I once paid for a coaching program where a number of the participants purchased my course as they got to know my work, which more than covered the cost of the program! The networking benefits are legit.
One of the most valuable aspect of business coaching, I believe, is the mindset work and personal development that you engage in.
You can have all the insights, strategies, and tactics for ways to grow your business, but if you struggle with your self image, suffer from comparison or imposter complex, don’t feel worthy of success, or don’t believe in your own leadership abilities, none of that is going to help you.
For me, a leadership coach was the right move early on for getting my mindset sorted out. In fact, doing leadership coaching (with Tanya Geisler) is what made me realize that it was time to engage in therapy as well, which set me on a completely different path of self awareness and personal development.
I’ve worked with Tanya one-to-one, in group settings, both virtually and in person, through VIP days and in a retreat-like setting, and I cannot recommend her work enough. I will never stop shouting out her programs/services because I think more people need to experience her work. (She has a new 6-week coaching program to help you develop your Iconic Identity; check it out if you’re currently working through your own leadership edges!)
Every year I invest in at least a few different people to help me grow my self and my business, and I think those investments are a big part of why I’ve been able to achieve what I have today. Sometimes its a group program, sometimes it’s a consultant, sometimes it’s a coach. Sometimes its a 1-off smaller engagement, sometimes its a longer-term thing. Try different things and see what works best for you!
How to find a good business coach or program:
- Determine your specific goals and needs for coaching, such as personal or professional development, time management, or leadership skills.
- Research different coaching programs and methods, including online courses, group coaching, and one-on-one sessions. Look for programs that are taught by experienced coaches and have a proven track record of success.
- Research potential coaches, including their background, experience, and testimonials. Ask your network, do some social media searches to get a feel for their values, approach, and ideas. Check for accreditation and certifications, such as those offered by the International Coach Federation (ICF).
- Read reviews and testimonials from past participants to gauge the effectiveness of the program and the coach’s teaching style.
- If available, schedule a consultation or introductory call with your top choices to assess compatibility and communication style, or attend a trial session if possible to assess the program and ensure it meets your needs and expectations.
- Consider the cost and time commitment involved in each program and choose one that fits your budget and schedule.
- Remember to choose a coach you feel comfortable with and trust, as the coaching relationship is a partnership. Make sure you feel a connection, and don’t be afraid to be choosy!
I know that I don’t feel comfortable in super corporate or overly serious environments. I tend to prefer a more casual, down-to-earth energy that doesn’t feel like a performance. I enjoy coaches who are kind but direct, say what they think, and aren’t afraid to challenge me.
It might take you some time to find the right fit coach or program for your preferred style, but at the end of the day, it’s worth getting support.
It’s so much more helpful to be immersed in environments with other people also trying to build their own business. You’ll realize, you’re not nearly as alone as you might think you are.