Hire a coach or build your own small business advisory board: two solid ways for staying on track and getting support for small business owners
If you are an entrepreneur, solopreneur, or small business owner, you know that going it alone can be tough. Whether you could use someone to help you set reasonable goals, give you feedback on a proposal, make sure you’re sticking to those goals you set, give you a nudge, or simply commiserate the next time you need to vent, it’s really nice—necessary even—to have someone (or someones) in your corner. Hiring a coach and/or forming a small business advisory board are two solid methods for creating accountability and finding support when you’re your own boss.
Looking for some one-on-one guidance?
Hire a coach!
by Colleen Star Koch, personal brand and life coach
It’s pretty easy to get things done for other people – your clients, your kids, your spouse. But we have a tendency to put ourselves and our goals last. Things change dramatically when you have a partner in progress—someone to participate in, support, think through, and hold you accountable in a safe, non-judgemental way.
As a personal brand, career, and life coach, most of my clients are looking for more than big picture reinvention; they’re looking for support in maintaining their momentum and staying accountable to the daily and weekly actions that will help them achieve their big, inspiring goals.
As I mentioned in my interview with Cody for her I’m a Business, Woman series, most high-performing professionals, regardless of field or industry, get meaningful, consistent support and guidance from coaches. CEOs get help staying on target (without getting overwhelmed) from executive coaches. Professional musicians receive reinforcement around the often minute technical changes needed to take their performances to the next level from vocal or instrumental coaches. Professional athletes are constantly encouraged by their coaches or trainers to take the steps needed to elevate their physical skill and prowess. If your goal is to perform at a higher level and get assistance in achieving your goals, a working with a coach could be a good way to get unbiased and strategic support.
Here are a few specific ways that working with a coach can help you stay accountable to your goals:
- Your agenda is their agenda. We, as coaches, aren’t attached to any outcome other than the one you are seeking. This means that we aren’t necessarily going to give advice. Instead, we’ll help you uncover the solutions that are made by you, for you. Not only is this approach 100% more effective, you’re also a lot more likely to actually do the things on your list.
- They can keep you inspired. Everyone I know has a to-do list a mile long. At some point, you start to just feel like a human productivity machine. “UGH – I can’t believe I have to write a stupid blog post.” Wait, what? You have the opportunity to share your passion with the people who have given you the privilege of their time and attention! How cool is that!? Taking steps towards your goals shouldn’t feel like a burden, and coaches can help you reframe the necessary work so it feels like something you want to (instead of “should” or “have to”) do.
- A coach can be a business consultant for your whole life. Coaching is super action-oriented, and it’s really helpful to have an hour per week (or whatever your schedule ends up being) to think through whatever is challenging you in a way that results in a practical plan. You can help determine the agenda, which means that you could even save the task you’ve most been dreading and do it with your coach. Just last week, I helped a client think through and write her masters thesis proposal. Put simply, two brains are better than one, and a good coach can help you accomplish both the big picture and the daily work it takes to stay on track.
- You’ll have a doable action plan. This is one of the major distinctions between therapy and coaching. While you can potentially bring any topic to the table, whether it is personal or professional (depending on the type of coach you decide to work with), your coaching session should result in an action plan and an implementation plan. In other words, a coach’s job isn’t just to help you figure out what to do, but also how to stay accountable to the plan you’ve developed. Do you need to put those actions directly in your calendar? Do you work better when you collaborate? Do you need to transfer your notes to your bullet journal or planner? It’s fine and good to have a plan, but if you don’t also attend to HOW those actions will fit it into your life, you won’t make the progress you desire. Coaches help you think through both the what and the how.
- A good coach will provide accountability tools. For example, I offer my clients a “Weekly Reflection Worksheet” that gives them a structured way to reflect on what they’ve done well in the previous week, and how they can bring more of that into their next week. They also think about what their growth areas, and what steps they want to take next week to improve in those spots. Lastly, they choose the strategies they’d like to focus on in the following week, developing targeted actions that will fit into their schedule and progress them further towards their big picture goals. This and other tools amplify the benefits of working with a coach, and upgrade your ability to stay accountable to both who you want to be and what you want to accomplish!
Keep in mind that every coach works differently, and offer different levels of accountability support. It’s important to do your research and make sure that the coach you choose is prepared to help you level up in the particular ways you’re seeking. No matter who you choose, you should be able to look forward to kicking ass and taking names!
Looking for peer-to-peer camaraderie?
Build a small business advisory board!
by Cody McBurnett, brand identity and web designer
What could be better than having the power of a couple more bright minds shining on you and your business?
I’ve been in business for myself for nearly a decade, and I cannot tell you how transformative it’s been for me to have an advisory board for my business in this past year. I have the collective brainpower of my group to help me hatch ideas, our regular sessions to keep me motivated and on track, and our private Facebook group to share wins, bounce ideas, and get advice on occasional frustrations as they arise. The joy I get from being able to help my partners as much as they help me is truly and deeply rewarding.
As owners and primaries for our own complementary but distinct businesses, Colleen, Julia Lovallo Chaykin, and I formed a professional clique we call the “Working Title Collective.” Between regularly-scheduled Skype sessions and our Facebook group, we lend our energy to one another and, in return, we each feel less alone, more supported, and hold ourselves accountable every single day.
Some examples of things we accomplish and share in the Working Title Collective (WTC):
- The general setting of annual and monthly goals
- Check-in and accountability surrounding those goals
- Review of a blog post before it goes live or proposal before it goes out
- Feedback or suggestions on pricing
- Advice and support when dealing with a challenging client or assignment
- Referrals for subcontractors or vendors
- Recommendations for books, podcasts, or articles
- Reminders to be easier on ourselves when we need it
- A kick in the pants when we need one
Tips for creating your very own small business advisory board:
- Choose your team (wisely): Choose professionals you admire. Professionals on your level. In your tribe. Professionals that you know you can learn from but that you can also provide with equal value. Personally, I enjoy working with women who have been in business for more than a minute, are creative, and who appreciate the value in what I do. If you’re brand new it might seem appealing to get the support of someone with more experience, but be honest with what you’re bringing to the table—if you don’t think you can provide them and their business with the same amount of value they can provide you, you’re not starting off on an equal playing field and it might not end up being the best fit.
- Set your goals as a group: What do you each want to get out of this process? Establish your collective goals and make sure you’re all on the same page to start. Maybe you want a group of peers to check briefly in with once a week for accountability. Maybe you want more intensive support because you’re each going through a transition in your business. Whatever your aim, get on the same page.
- Set your goals as individuals: What are your goals for the next year/quarter/month? Share them with the group. Yes, some things might change, but the point of this is to be held accountable, right? At WTC, we keep our yearly goals in a shared Trello board and update it each month with our specific goals for the current month (I have my annual goals divided into business goals and personal goals). Not only is this helpful for each of us individually, but the fact that we can reference them together during our calls makes sure we can stay on top of each other and ourselves!
- Kick things off with an intensive get-to-know-your-business session: Even if you’re pretty familiar with your new board members, you most likely don’t have their whole story, nor they yours. Schedule an afternoon or evening to dig in deep: share your business journey, the structure of your business, your ideal client profile, where most of your business comes from, where you’d like it to come from, your biggest challenges, your favorite clients, etc. Short on time? Write your introductions out and share them with each other before your first session. If you start out all caught up on the important stuff, you can start helping each other out right away.
- Set a schedule and a routine: Are you going to meet in person once a month and spend 45 minutes on each team member? Check in once a week via Skype and spend 10 minutes on each team member? There’s no wrong way to do it as long as it works for all of you!
- Commit: Life gets tricky, but things like this only work if everyone is committed not only to the sessions themselves, but to one another. One week you might get a lot out of the group, but the next time you might not feel like you need it. But that might just be the session one of your partners really needs you the way you needed them last time. So show up and be respectful of everyone’s time and their commitment to you and your group.
- Communicate: Make it easy to stay in touch. We use our Facebook group a lot because, well, we’re all on Facebook a lot. Maybe email’s better for your group. Maybe a group text. The more you share what’s going on, even if it’s just a quick, “Hey—check out this new client I’m working with!” the less catching up you’ll need to do session-to-session, so you can focus.
- Give as much as you get: Your partners are just that—partners. They are counting on you just as you count on them. This month you might need a lot of feedback on your new service offering or holiday promotion, next month someone else might need you to show up for them. If you get to the point where you think you’ve been getting more than you’ve been giving, ask if there’s anything you can do for anyone else.
- Define roles and/or otherwise share the load: Every group is different, so figure out how you’re team is going to divide things up. Maybe one of you does the scheduling and another leads the calls. Maybe you want to alternate session-to-session. Some folks automatically take the lead, but it doesn’t mean they like the extra work. In my experience, the more the labor is shared equally, the more everyone gets out of the process.
- Be flexible: Let the group evolve. Now that Colleen’s not longer in NYC, in-person sessions are out of the question, so we’ve transitioned to Skype. Julia’s work schedule means we need to shift our times a bit. I took a month off when my son was out of school. We roll with it because, ultimately, we each get a lot from the group and we are invested in each other’s individual success.
If you have any questions for either of us about the Working Title Collective and the work we do together, or if you’d like to form your own advisory board and have a question I didn’t address here, let me know in the comments below.
If you think coaching might be the route for you and you’d like to get to know more about Colleen’s approach, she’s offering a free 30-minute intro consult that you can schedule here.