OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS, I’ve hired several different business, sales or “life” coaches to help me grow my business. One coach is extremely successful. Within five years, she transformed herself from a secretary making about $45,000 a year (in New York City) to a multi-millionaire who now lives in a custom-built ocean-front mansion. I paid her a little over $10,000 to teach me to do what she did. While the content was there, the one-on-one coaching was not. Apparently, you have to pay a hell of a lot more for direct access to her. Still, I did learn quite a bit, though probably not to the tune of $10,000.

A second coach who calls herself a “money coach” helped me get clear on my emotions and deeply held beliefs about money. All this is great, and interesting, but it hasn’t really helped me make more money. The one really valuable lesson I learned, though, is the importance of asking for money. You can market all you want, but if you don’t actually engage in sales conversations, you aren’t going to make money in your business. Essentially, you are a hobbyist, not a business owner.

Another coach taught me about the importance of knowing the details about where my money goes, so I’ll have a better idea about how much I need to make to achieve my goals.

Still another taught me about the laws of attraction and how our thoughts impact the flow of money into our lives and our businesses.

Yet another coach I hired is expert in sales conversations. She uses her background in theater to teach others how to get over their fear of asking for business and discussing money.

Along the way, I’ve also had just one-off conversations with other coaches, specifically, a “writing coach,” “a business coach for freelance writers” and a “dream coach” (who wants to help others determine what they really want in life and go after it now before it is too late).

Each of these coaches vary in their level of financial success. A couple who are not terribly financially successful feel they are successful in life because they love what they do every day even though they aren’t making an enormous amount of money.

You can say I’ve had a little experience in working with coaches.

So, what have I learned about what makes a good business coach? Three things:

1) Your coach should know something you don’t know but that you need to know to be successful in your business. When you pay them, they should be able to teach you exactly what they know, or at least what they said they were going to teach you, and they should be able to break it down for you in a way you can understand and apply the knowledge.

2) A good coach should help you further your goals and your vision for your business. They may have lots of great ideas for new businesses you could start or directions you should take in your business, but coaching is about supporting and guiding you in your goals, not “shoulding” all over you. (“You ‘should’ do this!”)

3) The best coaches help you work through those obstacles that pop-up and keep you from moving forward in your business, even (especially) the invisible obstacles–those emotional blocks that hold you back from achievement. They must be good listeners and keenly intuitive. Good coaching is not about solving your client’s problem, but rather, it is about helping your clients think through how to solve their problems on their own (or where to go for help), and then to have them hold themselves accountable to act on those solutions.

Coaching can be very helpful. In fact, I doubt would not be where I am today without all the lessons I’ve learned from my coaches. Good coaches will help you earn back your investment and more. Not-so-good coaches may be valuable as well as they provide contrast and show you exactly what you don’t want going forward. None can help you if you are not coachable, though. As with all relationships, the more both parties participate, the more rewarding for everyone.

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