Starting a business isn't easy, but doing it alone is much more difficult. To quote Roy Orbison, "Everybody needs somebody to lean on." That's where a business coach comes in. A great coach is one who has "been there and done that," but still remembers what it feels like to have the burden of starting and running a business squarely on his/her shoulders.
Across America and all over the world, business incubators and accelerators provide support to entrepreneurs, help them foresee pitfalls and forestall disaster, all while setting the stage for success.
A business coach can help no matter where you are in the process of developing your business, explains David Terry, co-founder, former executive director and current entrepreneur-in-residence of the WT Enterprise Center in Amarillo, Texas. Terry refers to the Enterprise Center as an "incubator," where businesses can grow safely and learn to thrive. WT Enterprise Center is just one of more than 1,500 such incubators nationwide. Their collective mission is to turn ideas into reality, to help struggling entrepreneurs blossom, and to encourage already thriving businesses to move up to the next level.
Since its founding in 2001, the WT Enterprise Center has helped hundreds of businesses find sturdy footing--and over 70 percent of those operations are still in operation today. This is an impressive number when compared with the reporting from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics that approximately only 50 percent of businesses that make it past their fifth year.
The advice Terry offers most frequently to entrepreneurs is to "take a step back and imagine what you want your business to look like." Too often, business owners get lost in the weeds, so focused on maintaining their business that they forget to grow their business. And while envisioning your dream is important, so is recognizing flawed thinking. For dreamers who haven't yet launched their businesses, pie-in-the-sky optimism can sometimes obscure hard realities. Having an independent coach look over your business plan is a great way to find those pesky traps and snares you might not otherwise see coming.
Since your coach has no skin in the game, they will be able to honestly assess how much market viability your plans hold. Once there has been a validation of market viability, you'll be ready to streamline your business plan, set goals and targets, and assign methods of accountability with your coach being right there with you each step of the way.
Beyond just coaching, many development centers offer startup capital to local businesses that show promise. For example, with its yearly "Enterprise Challenge," the WT Enterprise Center pays out half a million dollars per year to entrepreneurs whose business plans impress a panel of local market experts. On top of the cash infusion, a one-on-one Enterprise Center coach will help you whip your plan into shape, free of charge. The Enterprise Challenge is just one of many such offerings available to burgeoning businesses nationwide.
"Entrepreneurs face myriad obstacles in growing a business," says Terry. "As a business coach, I take great pride in helping them identify their ambitions, goals and dreams and to be a true partner with them as they achieve success. There's nothing more gratifying than helping them build great companies that, in turn, build a greater community."
So, if you're thinking of making the leap, or your business is faltering, or even if your business is firing on all cylinders--and you still think it could do better--seek out the business center in your region and set up an appointment with a coach.