If you have recently been thinking about starting your own coaching business, but are still a little confused about where to start and what to concentrate on, then the following eight questions will help you to gain the clarity you need to move forward. You will instantly know the answers to some of these questions, but others may demand more thinking and research.
Don’t make the biggest mistake that most coaches make when starting their own business and dive straight into the action without careful planning. I don’t doubt that this method has worked for a few people, but there will be many more who will have suffered a business failure through failing to look before they leap. Do yourself a favor and wake up to the stark realities of setting up and running your own business by asking yourself the following eight questions – if nothing else it will confirm for you that you know the answers and are well prepared for your coaching adventure!
1. Who am I?
Yes, you do need to know this! Starting a running a business is a lot like running a marathon. There will be ups and downs, highs and lows and the prospect can be both exciting and scary. You will be flung out of your comfort zone, and thus it is important that you know yourself well. You need to know your strengths and weaknesses as well as your personal characteristics, boundaries, needs and wants. How do your business ideas fit with your personal goals over the next few years?
Your business will demand you to show up with your whole self. You will need lots of energy, determination, flexibility, persistence and creativity to build your business into a success.
- Do you have what it takes?
- Will you be better equipped if you work solo?
- In a partnership?
- Or with a team of individuals?
Think carefully about the energy you need to give to your business and how this will impact your life. Your business idea, your expertise, personality, and energy all need to fit well with the type of company you are growing, if not you could just find your business begins to drain your vitality.
2. What kind of coaching business?
So we know you consider yourself to be a coach, but that isn’t enough. You need to define specifically what your products and services are. What problems do you solve? What benefits do you provide? Who are you targeting to buy your services? Consumers? Corporate organizations? Small business owners? Other coaches? Where are your customers located? How will you reach them?
Be specific about your coaching practice and what kind of coaching you offer. Know at the outset how big you want this business to get. Research your marketplace, learn everything you can about the type of coaching practice you want to start. Learn from your competitors to make sure your offer stacks up.
3. Is my coaching business viable?
To find out you need to do some market research, which means you need to talk with your potential clients. You will need to be able to answer some simple questions about your business e.g., Who will want to buy my product? What problems do they have that I can solve?Are there enough potential clients out there to sustain my business?
Before talking to potential clients formulate your offer. Do this by researching your competitors, identify and analyze specifically what they are doing, how and with whom. You need to make sure that what you are offering is sufficiently different to attract clients. Once your offer is formulated, ask around, see what people think. Ask friends, colleagues for their opinion, but make sure they are in your target market. Ask them if they would buy. If they say ‘yes’, great, if not, why not? Listen to what they are saying. If they don’t say “wow!”, you may need to rethink your ideas. Your local library, local chambers of commerce or the internet are places you can visit to research current market trends.
4. What is my market niche?
Your market niche is what makes your business stand out from the pack. It encompasses what makes your business unique. If your niche is well defined, people will ask about your products and services first and the price later.
Your niche needs to be clearly focused, it can be narrow in scope, but it needs to be deep. You need to know that you have enough potential clients to bring you the business volume which will make your coaching practice ultimately profitable.
Your niche also needs to fit you. If you are passionate about making a difference to particular types of people with certain kinds of problems, then your marketing becomes very easy. Your business messages have clarity which makes it much easier for clients to buy.
5. How will I market my business?
Your marketing strategies must do two things; you must reach your target clients, and secondly, you must be continuously in their universe. Remember, out of sight is literally out of mind. There is so much competition in the coaching marketplace that clients have the luxury of choice. They are looking for credibility, for coaches who understand their problems and can coach them quickly and easily into the changes they want to make.
These days it is essential that coaches embrace some social networking in their marketing strategy. If you don’t know how to use these platforms, then you may need to learn quickly.
Social networking is too pervasive in society for you to ignore it as a marketing channel.
Also, speaking and writing are a sound marketing mix for coaches which enables you to reach a wider audience with minimum effort. If you are not a marketing guru yourself, then my advice would be to hire a professional. The quality of your marketing will reflect the quality and quantity of your clients, especially in the early days.
6. How will I finance my business?
Firstly, do you have enough money to get started? Work with an accountant or business consultant to carefully determine your start-up funding. Write your business plan and prepare your profit and loss projection. I would recommend that you have enough personal funds to finance your living expenses for your first year of business.
If you get a business loan (which can be challenging for some in this economy), you will need to put up collateral, which can often be your house. If you choose financing from an angel investor, you will usually have to give up equity in your business which means you may not have control over what your business is and how you run it.
7. Why do I need a business plan?
Let’s assume you have decided to go into business, you’ve done your research and are ready to write your business plan. This essential document can mean the difference between success and failure. Writing a business plan solidifies the preparation process where you get the ideas out of your head and onto paper. You set your goals for the year, along with the important strategies and plans for how you will achieve them. You will need your business plan if you want to attract potential investors, get a bank loan and more importantly to ease your stress and keep yourself on track!
8. Am I ready for take-off?
Only you can answer this question. Are you fit enough to run the marathon? Answering the above questions will allow you to make an informed decision. Remember, it is always scary starting your own business as there are always risks involved but it can be exciting too. If you know at some level that you are ready, don’t allow your fears to put you off.
Remember, even though there will be obstacles along the way, if you have a well-planned route to follow, you won’t stray too far into the woods. Success always happens where preparation meets opportunity. View obstacles as opportunities, and in my experience, if you are prepared to fail fast and learn quickly you will undoubtedly achieve the success you deserve!