Picture this: You've launched your business, you're turning a profit, and day-to-day operations are humming along. The company is solid, but you've reached a plateau. You know it's time to take things to the next level, but you're not sure how best to do it. You haven't been here before.

When this happens to you, it might be time to hire a business coach. Sometimes no matter how passionate you are about your company, it takes an outsider's perspective to see what it is lacking and to identify areas for growth. That additional insight and shift in perspective can take moments but make a huge difference in your results, if you know how to take advantage of what a coach can provide.

What coaches bring to the table

If you're unsure about working with a coach, consider that many top CEOs, politicians, and other public figures rely on coaches and mentors for feedback and guidance.

Google's Eric Schmidt says his best advice to new CEOs is to get a coach, and former Intuit CEO Steve Bennett believes coaches are vital to ongoing professional development. Oprah Winfrey, Bill Clinton, and even Barack Obama have all reported using coaches on a regular basis to advance in their careers.

I myself worked with several mentors at Apple, including the late Steve Jobs. Each taught me important lessons about team-building, collaboration, workplace politics, managing time and priorities, and how to remain confident in the face of challenges.

In addition to all the great professional development advice a coach can provide, she can also give you:

  1. Objective feedback. Being objective about your own company is nearly impossible. You're so immersed in the day-to-day operations and accustomed to the way things are, you're probably missing out on ways it could be better. A coach can offer a fresh take on your strengths and weaknesses as a CEO and on the business as a whole.
  1. A broader network. A good coach can cost as much as a good lawyer, but she'll instantly prove her worth by connecting you to other powerful people who can help grow your business and advise you on how to leverage and extend your existing network.
  1. Fresh ideas. Good business coaches are people who have a wealth of experience in your industry, which means they likely will have encountered the challenges you currently face--and understand what's most critical for you. When you aren't sure where to take your business next, a coach will often see opportunities you missed.

How to make the most of the relationship

A coach can do wonderful things for you and your business, but only if you put a lot of effort into the relationship yourself.

Here's how to empower your coach to help you take your business to the next level:

  1. Take responsibility. Your coach will offer guidance, but it's up to you to implement her recommendations. Act on her suggestions, and keep her updated on how those strategies are working. Regular communication tells your coach you're serious about the work you're doing together. It's an exchange and collaboration; you must do your part.
  2. Emphasize honesty. No matter how much you might need a pick-me-up, coaches aren't cheerleaders. You should insist on honest, constructive assessments from your coach at all times. While everyone else might be afraid to tell you the truth about your ideas, your coach may be (and often is) the one person you should be able to count on for honest feedback at all times.
  3. Pick her brain. Your coach can offer a wealth of industry experience, so take advantage of that. Ask her what professional organizations are worth joining, what lessons she's learned in her own career, and how she achieved her greatest successes. This information helps you understand how you might shape your own career trajectory.

A business coach can be a valuable asset to any executive and leader. A coach can act as a sounding board for new ideas, offer a fresh and honest perspective, and motivate you to take your business to the next level. But ultimately, the success of your business depends on your taking the initiative to work with your coach, being all-in, and making the most of the relationship.