The days of wondering if you should hire a coach for your small business are over. We know that successful people have coaches, mentors, and helpers. The question is, how do I find a coach who's a good fit for me? 

To answer that question, you must first establish your needs, and secondly, ask yourself if you're ready. A good coach will help you to push beyond your current boundaries and will recognize your excuses--even if you are unaware of making them. 

Coaching comes in all shapes and sizes: group coaching, hybrid programs that are a blend of recorded lessons and live calls, pre-recorded programs, and one-to-one coaching. Keep in mind that only one-to-one coaching offers a highly personalized approach, but there are benefits to all of these models. 

Here's a checklist to follow during your search for a private coach who's a good fit for you and your business. 

  1. Before searching online, reach out to entrepreneurs in your network to ask for a referral from someone who has or knows a great coach. Keep in mind that you may have different needs than your peers, so you still need to have a conversation with the coach to make sure there's synergy. 
  2. Ask for referrals from business owners in your entrepreneur groups on LinkedIn or Facebook, as well as your networking groups. 
  3. You can do a general search online, including search terms like, business coach, entrepreneur's coach, and success coach. You can also search on the type of coaching you believe you need, such as the programs listed above.
  4. Avoid working with a coach who will not speak to you personally before committing to anything. There is no other way to determine your compatibility. Most coaches will offer a complimentary consultation. If you are still uncertain, ask if you can purchase a single session before making your decision. 
  5. Your prospective coach needs to be an outstanding listener, so there should be plenty of silence on their end. However, you want a coach who is willing to point out whether or not you are a good fit for their skill set and experience. A good coach will not accept a client if they don't fit their ideal client profile. To know this, the coach needs to ask you questions and make an effort to get to know you. They should also discuss their coaching tools, style, and describe their ideal client to you.
  6. Get out of your head during a part of your pre-coaching discussion and pay attention to how you feel as you speak with your prospective coach. Will you feel comfortable enough to discuss your vulnerabilities with this person? A great coach/client relationship is built upon trust.
  7. Ask about the coach's experience, if they coach full time, and for how long.  Many coaches must maintain a job on the side to make ends meet. This does not make them bad coaches, but it limits their experience.
  8. Ask for success stories, as well as stories about clients who didn't thrive as well as both parties had hoped. This will give you a better idea of the coach's ideal client and whether or not you fall into that description. 
  9. Determine the coach's style by asking about the tools and resources they use. Some coaches follow a program, covering specific topics each week or month. And, some coaches have a less structured style, taking the session where the client needs to go at that time. 
  10. Ask about the coach's guidelines on communication between sessions. Some will avail themselves to you via text, email, and brief phone calls. Others structure their offerings in a specific order and stick to a schedule.
  11. Keep an open mind about the financial investment. You are not buying a coach's time; you pay for their knowledge, wisdom, experience, and track record. Consider how much it will cost you if you remain on your current path versus what kind of money you are capable of bringing in. Depending on your goals, a coaching investment should pay off on many levels, including increased income, personal growth, less stress, and more freedom. 
  12. Be prepared for the long haul. Change doesn't happen overnight. Unless you are the rare entrepreneur who has only one or two topics to coach around, plan on at least a year-long relationship with your coach. Once you've achieved your initial goals, it's wise to continue coaching. The benefits don't go away; they just change shape.
  13. There are no guarantees. Even the most talented coach cannot be responsible for your success. Before making a commitment, ask yourself if you are ready to change. The process may include some blows to your ego, giving up some control, and learning to see things in an entirely different light. Your coach will challenge you and nudge you beyond your comfort zone--are you ready for that? 
  14. Speak with references. Ask them where they started and what has changed since they engaged in coaching. Ask if they would do it again. 
  15. Don't restrict your search to your local area. My clients come from all over the world, as coaching in person is usually not as efficient or beneficial. Your coach is likely to offer video and/or phone sessions, whether or not they are local.
  16. Keep in mind that your coach does not have to be an expert in your field of business. While a directive and experienced coach will make suggestions and guide you in building a great business model, they are not full-fledged consultants. Your coach will brainstorm with you, help you to expand your thinking, point out the potential pitfalls of an idea, and encourage you to take just the right amount of risk.

    I always say that if an entrepreneur isn't mindful, healthy, and happy, the business will not grow to its fullest potential. The most critical piece in this equation is you. It's worth exploring the potential behind engaging with a coach who will support and inspire you to achieve your dreams.