February 12, 2021 7 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Remember as a child when your parents took you to your first Little League practice and introduced you to the coach? Then the next season rolled around to soccer practices and you met a new coach. All the way through high school, you had season after season of new coaches in sports, band, college prep, debate club and so on. We’ve all had coaches throughout our youth, but then we entered the world of entrepreneurship, and guess what — we were on our own.
I found my passion (digital marketing) early on in my career and started my own business. It didn’t take long to realize that I was really good at SEO but not so good at being a CEO. I grew my business as far as I could, using all of the tools, knowledge and research I had. I knew where I wanted to take my business but didn’t know how to get there.
Finding the one
I stumbled across a TED Talk that inspired me. Here was someone challenging the way the world perceived business success. I realized that I could learn a lot from him. At that time I wasn’t able to afford someone like him to coach me, but I decided that when I was ready, this person would be my coach.
I read his books, followed him on social media, and eventually asked him to coach me. I explained that I needed a good coach to help double our revenue. I didn’t know how to get from where we were to where we wanted to be, but I was confident that he did.
On one of our first coaching calls, he explained that while I could get how-tos to improve my business from a book, a coach would get me there faster. It’s important to find a coach who has the area of expertise you need. Growing up, I always had coaches who knew more than I did, and I needed their help to improve my skills. Executive coaching is no different.
What it takes to be coached: desire, vulnerability, humility
The most important thing an entrepreneur needs to benefit from business coaching is a desire to be coached. It’s easy to be busy running my day-to-day business, but I need to want to improve everything about my business. That takes a willingness to pause from my normal activities, acknowledge that I can improve from the executive coach’s guidance, and make changes. I needed to remind myself that the coach had something that I wanted: the skills that I need to accomplish my goals, and the results to demonstrate his success.
The vulnerability of exposing my limitations and lack of knowledge or ability to a coach is challenging. To be effective, I needed to be vulnerable with my executive coach and acknowledge the reality of where I was. Without that vulnerability, my coach would not have an accurate picture of my business, so that he could direct me with the tools to get me where I wanted to be.
It takes humility to be coached: to understand my personal weaknesses and ask for help. The same way that I needed a coach to teach me to properly hit a fastball when I was a kid, I need a coach now to teach me how to be an effective CEO. You don’t know what you don’t know, and it takes humility to learn. An executive coach can show you the way because he/she has already experienced it.
The benefits of executive coaching
I can’t even count all of the ways that I am benefiting from executive coaching. I’ve achieved my initial goal of growing my business from $4 million to $10 million in a year. We’ve identified more goals and the steps that it will take to accomplish them. My COO and I have built direction for the business, a vision and a clear strategy. Our alignment has improved the efficiency and efficacy of the business.
Through executive coaching, I have improved my CEO skills in incremental steps. When I was a kid playing baseball, there was a lot of glory when I hit the ball over the fence for a home run. I knew the whole crowd was cheering, and I felt really proud and wanted to do it every time. But after that initial home run, each time at the plate I would swing for the fences and strike out. My coach told me that it is not the home runs that win the game, but it’s the singles and consistency. And that is the same kind of thing in business. As a CEO, I learned that I cannot swing for the fences every time I want to fix a little problem. With the guidance of my executive coach, I’ve learned that it’s the singles that I need to have each day to win in the game of business.
I am grateful for the accountability that my executive coach provides. My day is filled with meetings and I’m busy running my business. But it’s difficult to take time to work on my business and to strategically analyze and develop plans for growing it. At the end of each coaching meeting, I share my notes and action items we’ve discussed. I note my top five takeaways from the meeting and share them with my coach. At our meeting the following month, he asks me to share about the progress I’ve made with the goals I set.
One of the benefits of having an executive coach that I wasn’t expecting was the networking opportunities. Through my executive coach’s network, I was able to meet and work with professionals who have helped me and my business. Without his introduction, I would not have met them. In a lot of cases, I didn’t realize I even needed their help. I’ve developed a network of friendships with other CEOs, and we encourage and support one another.
You might be thinking, as I did just over a year ago, that “I don’t have the time or money to meet with an executive coach.” But I’m so glad that I found an executive coach who’s already experienced the ups and downs of growing businesses, knows the necessary CEO skills, and is helping me along the path to strategically build my business with integrity and working smarter (not just working harder).
I encourage you to find an individual executive coach or an executive coaching group. I think back on all that I learned from my Little League coach and every other coach I had growing up. Even though I run a successful business, I want the help of someone coaching and teaching me things I never learned in school. Every CEO can benefit in countless ways from the experience and encouragement of an executive coach.