Alright. You’re a successful executive, manager, financial advisor / advisor team, you’ve made a serious commitment to your business and you want to take it to the next level as quickly as possible. But, something has been holding you back. Perhaps there are internal conflicts within the team, or you’re not sure what steps you need to take to get there. Maybe what you’ve been doing isn’t working as well as you’d like. Maybe you haven’t been as consistent as you need to be and want someone to assist you in the development of the practice management side of your business. Or maybe you feel as though you’re just not sure that you’re running your business as effectively as possible. Finally, perhaps you and your clients have been so whipsawed by the market and the economy over the last few years that you feel a need to regroup and rethink your business and your client relationships.
These are all good reasons to get a business development coach to help you through the process. Now all you have to do is: 1) find a coach; and 2) make certain he or she is the right coach for you. Finding a “coach” is relatively simple. Just Google it and you’ll get a ton of names. Go to their web sites, look them over and bingo! Right? Well maybe not quite, but it’s a start.
“Begin With the End in Mind”
Steve Covey likes to remind people of the importance of having a well formed outcome in mind before you begin any project. That includes hiring a coach to help you develop your business. Before you select a coach there are some things you should do in advance.
- Decide exactly what you wish to accomplish. This is often harder than it first appears. Analyze your current business model (from the demographics of your current and desired clientele and your client service matrix to the responsibilities, strengths and weaknesses of the members of your team).
- Decide exactly where you think you need help. You should note that a good coach may help you recognize that your original issue(s) is not your real problem.
- Know what you want the coach to do for you? Depending upon who you speak to, coaching consists of a range of services from simply acting as a sounding board for you to work out your own problems to providing mentoring and skills training to improve your business model and practices.
- For example: some advisors / teams want help in only a limited area (e.g., prospecting skills, or creating a value statement). In this case a “program based coach” who specializes in that area may be the best choice. Others want to re-examine their entire business model and still others need to resolve issues surrounding the internal dynamics of the team.
- Next, do your due diligence to determine if the coach is competent. Competence goes beyond the coach’s core skills; it also includes his or her understanding of both your area of the financial industry as well as specific needs and issues of the industry as a whole. For example, if you are a financial advisor, you might not want a coach who is THE expert on helping small Internet businesses get started, just as you might not want a top notch pediatrician to perform brain surgery on you. He may be great in his specialty, but he is not the best suited to help with your needs. Due diligence should include the following 6 steps:
1. Ask for and check references [any good coach will have at least a few satisfied customers who are willing to speak with you]. This is key!
2. Does he or she have an industry reputation? Good or bad?
3. Conduct a preliminary interview. Most coaches offer the first session for free to determine if you will be a good fit. Note: come to the interview prepared with a clear understanding of what you want to achieve, your objectives for coaching.
4. Describe one of your goals / business problems in detail and ask 1) if the coach has dealt with such issues in the past, and 2) how the coach handled / would handle it. Vague answers aren’t a good sign.
5. Ask about their experience as a coach; greatest success; failure; their area of greatest expertise; how much and what kind of experience do they have in the financial industry and how long have they been a coach.
6. Recognize that teams face issues that are more complex than individual advisors and need the help of a coach with team experience and a thorough understanding of systems and internal team dynamics.
Where to Look for a Good Coach
As I mentioned before, you can always Google coaches specializing in the financial industry or a specialty in your search. If you also want one in your immediate geographic area, include that in the search as well. Use each of the search engines available to you and, depending upon your success, use as many key words as possible to broaden or narrow the focus of your search. Examples of key terms to use might include: financial coach; business coach; business development; practice development; business mentor; coaches for financial advisors; include your geographical area; etc.].
If searching the web is unsuccessful, consider reaching out to one of the national or international coaching accrediting groups on the web for a list of accredited / certified coaches in your area. These coaches may cost a little more, but at least someone has tested them and determined that they are overall competent to coach [note: be certain they have at least some experience in the financial industry].
Just remember that not only are there many excellent coaches who have chosen not to seek accreditation from one of these groups, but even if the coach is highly competent, they may not be a good fit for you. After all, while there are many good coaches, personality and personal style will be major factors in creating a successful fit with any given advisor or team and NO ONE’s style is a perfect fit for everyone.
What Should You Expect From Your Coach?
As a financial advisor or advisor team you help your client to identify, define and achieve their goals in a mutually profitable manner. A good business development coach will do the same for you. There is usually an initial session at no cost to rough out what you wish to achieve and to see if you are both initially comfortable working together.
At this time, the coach will ask a series of preliminary questions to learn a little about you and the specific goals / problem(s) you have identified. He or she will then tell you a little about themselves, their credentials and how they work with clients (i.e., you). Some have a fairly rigid program which they expect all clients to complete. Others provide testing of one sort or another before beginning, and still others have a very loose style which may change from client to client. Ideally, the coach will provide enough of an explanation to help establish rapport and make you comfortable working with them.
Once that’s completed and you decide to work together, there will usually be a series of sessions – and possibly some homework for you – to more fully identify and define your coaching goals. Once this is complete, each goal should be defined in measurable terms so that you, your coach and your manager can agree when they have been achieved.
Generally, the last thing discussed during the first session is the fee / fee structure for coaching. A survey of coaches across America by the Harvard Business Review [Jan 2009] found that coaching fees ranged from $200.00 to $3,500.00 per hour. They reported that the median hourly cost was $500.00 (about the same as a good psychiatrist in New York).
This may seem like a lot. However, as you examine the cost of coaching remember how little you will have to increase your gross revenues to pay for any program. For example, if your business has reached a level in which you receive a 40 percent pay out for revenues generated, a $10 thousand program will pay for itself the moment that your revenue is increased by only $25 thousand.
In addition, many mutual funds and money managers are willing to pick up as much as half the total coaching fee at the end of the program if you achieve your goals [note: many firms will also pick up as much as half the fee after you reach a goal agreed to by your manager]. So, while you may make the initial investment in your career – your “skin in the game” – success can lead not only to higher revenues, but also reimbursement of the total coaching fees.
Selecting the “Right Coach”
Before taking on any coach, check for references from satisfied advisors in your area. Ask for the names and contact information of at least three satisfied financial advisors who would be willing to speak with you regarding their experience – note that there may be confidentiality issues but a good coach will almost always have several satisfied customers who are happy to speak up.
Understand that the “best” coach in your industry still may not be the best coach for you simply because you are not a good fit for each other [the same is true when looking for a personal physician]. The issue is no longer one of competence, just personality. Before you sign a contract:
- Ask how the coaching will be conducted [e.g., face-to-face, telephone, mixed, group, etc.].
- Does he have a program?
- Is the program rigid or flexible?
- Are there different levels of the program [e.g., one-on-one, group sessions, follow-up coaching, etc.]?
- What does the program consist of?
- How long is the commitment?
- Are there books, articles, CDs / DVDs, conference calls, new letters, blogs, etc. included in the cost or is there an extra charge for them?
- Are sessions strictly one-on-one or will there be group sessions with other financial advisors or teams in your industry?
- If he has worked with clients in the financial industry, were any of them at the same level of business development as you [note: you will need to modify some of your core business practices with each stage of your development]? Many coaches specialize in a single phase or aspect of development.
- What is his or her confidentiality policy?
How Long Does Coaching Take?
Most coaching sessions are an hour, although they may be longer or shorter depending upon your needs and your agreement with your coach. In terms of duration, a 2009 survey by the Harvard Business Review found that most coaching typically lasts from seven to twelve months. The fact is that successful coaching requires a long-term commitment because it endeavours to create permanent changes in the way you approach your business, your personal life and / or the way they interact.
You already know that despite any best efforts to keep them separate your business and personal lives affect each other. You bring the tensions and stresses home from work and the tensions and stresses from home to work. Each venue can support or wreak havoc on the other. As a result, some coaches have made the effort to become competent in not only coaching your business performance, but they can also offer support in your personal challenges. If you think this may be needed, make certain your coach has experience in personal or family counselling.
How and how much will you be charged? Questions to ask a prospective coach might include:
- Is the price of the coaching by the hour or by the program? By committing to a program, or a specific number of sessions, you may receive a significant discount from many coaches.
- In the case of a program, are all fees paid in advance, just a portion [most coaching programs require 20% – 30% of a fee in advance], or by the session?
- Is a contingency fee program available in which you pay a monthly or yearly fee and are guaranteed a certain number of hours / sessions of coaching during the year in any area where you need help without a formal program?
- What, if any, follow-up does the coach offer [many satisfied coaching clients prefer to maintain an ongoing relationship with their coach once they have attained their goals]?
- Does the coach offer any kind of guarantee? For example, some coaches will offer a refund after a specific number of meetings if you feel you are not progressing.
Business development coaches have helped thousands of financial advisors and advisor teams to take their business to the next level. While finding the right coach for you may seem a daunting task, if you are ready to be coached, it can be well worth the effort. Good luck. Kfg