A helping hand can save the day

Stuck in a rut? Maybe a business coach could help dig you out. Nina Hendy reports.

Stuck in a rut? Maybe a business coach could help dig you out. Nina Hendy reports.

Nikola Ellis was ready to quit her small business at the start of this year.

Her Mosman business, Adore Yoga, was yet to reach that critical breakthrough point where income and passion were matching her efforts after a decade of work. She felt demoralised.

But instead of joining the search for a new job, she hired a business coach who helped her identify aspects of the business that weren't profitable. She restructured her time and remunerated herself for it, which saw earnings grow by 18per cent in 2012-13.

"More importantly, I'm anticipating a significant increase in earnings for the business in 2013-14 because of the innovative direction we're now taking."

Ellis says she wanted to incorporate community engagement into her business model, but had lots of vague ideas that just weren't working.

Her coach suggested an event that attempted to beat the Guinness world record for the world's longest yoga chain. That bought together 1000 people to raise funds and support women with breast cancer.

"The momentum and goodwill generated by preparations for the event allowed me to implement activities that have expanded the business and enabled me to employ three more part-time teachers."

Business with Vivacity coach Fiona Redding says Ellis started with a three-month coaching program and is now starting a six-month group program.

"Business owners that seek out business coaching have reached a point where they know they need some objective assistance. They are generally very motivated to put in the hard yards to achieve business transformation and growth," Redding says.

Ellis is one of thousands of business owners across the country who turn to a coach to help them get out of a rut.

A coach can bring fresh perspectives on personal challenges, enhance decision-making skills and quality of life, according to The International Coach Federation.

A coach acts as a business partner rather than an expert or an authority, and contacts can be in person, by phone, Skype or email, the federation's website explains.

Emma Morgan also turned to a business coach a year after launching a creative-marketing support business for home-based businesses, called The Homemade Company. She hired Kathryn Hocking from Reverie Coaching for three months, which helped clarify her thoughts and open new ways to streamline her business.

"Having someone to bounce ideas off and be able to talk through my new business ideas has given me confidence and clarity on how I can better serve my clients in the future," she says.

Melbourne business coach Russell Dowling says most owners call in a coach after being through some serious pain in their business.

"I find that once they've been through enough pain, they're prepared to change."

Poor time-management skills are common among small business owners, he says.

"So many business owners aren't getting the results they'd like to be getting and aren't earning what they had hoped. They also have no quality of life because they're working long hours. Many can't retain good employees and can never take a holiday or the wheels fall off."

Inefficient cost savings such as deciding against hiring a bookkeeper are common, he says.

"Coaching is about holding the business owner accountable. Many in business have the best intentions, but they have to be prepared to change."

Business coach Dr Warren Harmer says coaches are easy to find, but most are pretty ordinary. Get in touch with business networks for recommendations, he says.

Small business owners would learn a lot more from a coach who has owned a small business before their current business, as real-life experience is mandatory.

"Ask to speak to some of their existing and previous clients about how they found the experience. Also, ask what areas of business management the coach is strong and weaker in. For those areas they're weaker in, find out how they got help."

Fees also need to be affordable and any other expenses need to fit into the budget, he says.

"Many coaches ask for large up-front payments and long-term commitments that you can't get out of. Choose one that gives you an opportunity to see how they think, their work practices and attitudes before you commit to long and expensive periods of coaching."

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