Tag Archive: mentor

Does Your Small Business Need a Coach?

Does Your Small Business Need a Coach?
by Susan Caminiti.

Marsha Egan is no stranger to business coaches. She used one back in 2005 as she was planning to leave her job as a senior vice president with a Fortune 500 insurance company to strike out on her own. Now that she’s running her own business, Egan is once again using the services of a coach, but this time it’s to help take her company—InBoxDetox.com, a workplace productivity firm—to the next level of growth.

“My business is going okay, but it’s not where I want it to be given the time and effort I’m putting in,” says Egan, whose Nantucket, Massachusetts-based company works with leaders of small- to medium-sized firms. “A coach helps me understand what I can do differently to get better results. Basically, she’s helping me see what I’m not seeing.”

Providing that kind of guidance—or handholding, depending on the client—has become a big business. According to the 2012 Global Coaching study done by the International Coach Federation (ICF), the industry’s leading network and certification organization, and PriceWaterhouseCoopers, nearly 48,000 coaches worldwide are generating a staggering $2 billion a year in revenue.

Before trying to figure out whether a business coach can sharpen your leadership skills or help goose productivity, it helps to understand what coaching is and—perhaps more importantly—what it’s not. Coaching is not therapy. True, you will need to be extremely candid and honest with a coach about your management weaknesses and trouble spots (and yes, some of the very traits you’re trying to change may have roots in childhood). But unlike in therapy, there is no expert/subordinate dynamic that exists in business coaching, says Janet Harvey, president of the ICF and a coach herself. “The coach/client relationship is peer to peer,” she says.

Nor is coaching the same as consulting. For example, if you want someone to come in to implement a performance management system, call a human resources consultant. However, if you want to become more effective at motivating your employees, that’s where a coach can help, explains Harvey. “Coaching is all about working with the client to help them recognize their blind spots and then figure out ways to do what they’re doing better and more effectively,” she says.

PQ_BusinessCoach.jpgWhat to Look For

Choosing the right coach to work with is similar to establishing other business relationships: you want solid credentials, good references, and the feeling that the two of you fit well. Karyn Greenstreet, founder of Passion for Business, a small business coaching and consulting firm based in Reading, Pennsylvania, advises entrepreneurs to do their homework when selecting a coach. Among her tips for finding the right one:

Check that the coach is a member of the International Coach Federation
Select someone who has experience in coaching a business of your size. If you’re a one-person shop you don’t necessarily want someone who’s used to dealing with owners of companies with 100 or more employees.
The initial consultation is free. A good coach will make that offer so that the two of you can get to know each other and determine what you’re hoping to accomplish.
There’s a comfort level. Do you feel positive after speaking with this person, or dragged down? If you’re energetic and the coach is more low-key (or vice versa), are you okay with that? As Greenstreet points out, you will be spending a lot of time together.
Discuss the fees upfront. The cost of coaching varies widely and is determined by the experience of the coach and the length of the contract. Don’t be shy about asking the coach to break out his or her prices and be clear about what you’ll be getting for your money.

Finding the Right Arrangement

The methods and styles used in business coaching are rarely the same from client to client, says the ICF’s Harvey. Some entrepreneurs can handle a one-hour session every other week, and then want to be left alone to mull over the ideas, she says. Others prefer a more intensive two- to three-hour session once a month. The point is to figure out what you’re most comfortable with, and that the coach is flexible enough to change it at your request.

Working in person or over the phone is another area to clarify at the beginning. Julie Cohen, a coach specializing in work/life balance issues, has herself used a coach to help redefine her business as her own life changed. “What I’ve recognized from being a coach is that we typically can’t see our own blind spots in business,” she says.

Cohen, who started her company in 2000, says she operated with the belief that as a successful coach, she should cater to both individual and corporate clients. The work involved in servicing both areas was becoming overwhelming, she recalls. “I wasn’t sure what my business was and it was killing me,” she says. “Here it is that I’m talking to clients about work/life balance and I had none.”

After working with her business coach for a few weeks last year—all by phone—Cohen was able to finally admit that she really didn’t like working with individual clients and derived more satisfaction from her corporate clients. “Having a coach help me get to that realization was just so freeing for me,” she adds. Cohen promptly redesigned her website to emphasize her offerings to corporate clients and was able to dedicate more time to them.

Measuring Results

One of the often-heard criticisms of coaching is that it’s difficult to measure its value. Not so, says Marsha Egan. She advises being very clear from the beginning about why you’re hiring a coach (improve your company’s visibility, increase morale, be a better boss, for instance) and then look at the results at the end of the contract.

“I knew when I hired my coach that at the end of our time together I want a new tagline for my business, a new blog, and a redefinition of what I’m doing,” she says. After each one-hour phone session with her coach, Egan does a sort of homework assignment where she implements the new strategies she’s learned and then she and her coach discuss the results. “There’s no guess work here,” says Egan. “If I was happy with the way things were going with my business, I wouldn’t be using a coach. To me, this is an effective way to bring about changes that are going to make me a more productive and happier business owner.”

5 Ways to Find a Mentor for a Small Business Owner

5 Ways to Find A Mentor for Your Small BusinessSmall Business Today. I would venture to say that we have all had an influential mentor at one time or another. It might have been a teacher who inspired you or a colleague who guided you, but whatever the case, you were fortunate to have the right someone at the right time.

Yes, mentors for small business owners can make a difference but the funny thing about them is that, typically, they show up when they show up. You don’t normally get to choose when a mentor relationship becomes available. All too often, finding a small business mentor when you actually want one is not so easy.

But it can be done. And it should be done.

Having a small business mentor is one of the best ways to get ahead. He or she can open doors, teach skills and give valuable feedback. There’s no doubt that is a good deal for you. But it is often equally, if not more, satisfying for the mentor as he or she can watch his or her guidance make a difference. It is a chance to give back.

So how do you actually go about finding a mentor when you want one? Here are a few ways:

1) Ask: Finding a small business mentor is sometimes the result of simply having the chutzpah to ask someone whom you admire if they would be willing to mentor and work with you. Or, just tell people that you are looking for a mentor. You may be surprised at how willing people are to help. Speak with business associates, friends, relatives, other entrepreneurs, your place of worship or even with online communities.

2) Look: These days, there are all sorts of organizations to help you hook up with a mentor. Many of these are government sponsored. Here are your best bets:

Small Business Administration SCORE: SCORE
Small Business SBDCs: Small Business Development Centers
Small Business Women Centers: Women’s Business Centers NAWBO) is another smart place to look.
Small Business .Minority Business Development Agencies Initiative for a Competitive Inner City.
If you are looking for government contracting opportunities, the GSA has a good mentor/protégé program

3). Call: Your trade small business organization may have a mentor-mentee program that you can tap.

4) Pay: If you know someone who knows what you want to learn but who probably would be disinclined to be your small business mentor, for whatever reason, consider buying their time. Is it ideal? No, but it may still work. For instance, what about approaching that person and offering a fee for a few days of consultation and six months of telephone follow up? Explain that you think he or she could help you get your business of the ground that you respect his/her time and are therefore willing to pay for it. You may be surprised by the response. Especially if you are not in a competing business, you may suddenly find yourself with the best mentor that money can buy.

5) Discover: Just what are you looking for in a mentor? Here are a few things to consider:

You want someone who shares your vision for your business: It would be a frustrating experience to be mentored by someone who is not on the same page as you.

You want someone who has time: Landing that big fish mentor is worthless if the mentor does not really have the time to help you.

You want someone whom you respect: This means that they have values similar to yours and a track record of success

5 Ways to find a mentor your small business. This article is another small business article produced by Apple Capital Group, Inc., a commercial finance company that specialize in asset based loans.

6 New Year’s Small Business Resolutions

 6 new year's business resolutions

2012 New Year Small Business Resolution

While we are all familiar with the making of personal New Year’s resolutions (maybe too familiar!) a recent and emerging trend is to make New Year’s small business resolutions. The challenge of course is that, like personal resolutions, we want our small business resolutions to stick.

So how do we do that? Experts say that people who are able to make and keep resolutions know not to bite off more than they can chew. Here are a few simple, easy-to-implement, small business resolutions that can make a big difference this year:

1. Create a board of advisors: Small business entrepreneurs generally like to help each other. By creating your own small business board of advisors you can give the people in your life a way to help you. Your lawyer, small business colleagues, or even your friends can all be part of an informal board. Even if it is as simple as hosting a dinner twice a year, you can create an invaluable way to receive important feedback, spark some new ideas and have discussions that could help your small business. For example, I have a friend who hosts a pizza party whenever he has a new idea; he uses the opportunity to share his thoughts and gauge the reaction of his panel.

2. Find a mentor: While, like a board, mentors can also offer valuable feedback, they can do so much more. Mentors make introductions, open doors and teach valuable lessons. If you don’t have a mentor, finding one should not be difficult; it is just a matter of asking. Last week, an associate asked me to mentor him and I was flattered. Whomever you ask will likely feel the same way.

3. Get bigger and better clients: With budgets continuing to be tight, consider looking for clients with bigger budgets – such as government contractors or corporate clients. You may think that this wouldn’t work for your business. Consider this: even mini-marts whose customers are almost exclusively individual consumers could try and land some commercial accounts.

Why not you too? Target some businesses that need what you sell. Make a presentation and pitch them. Try some more. Think differently. Get out there.

4. Give yourself a raise: With the economy being what it has been, many small businesses have kept a lid on fees and prices for years. Well, maybe this is the year to raise prices a bit, nothing dramatic, but enough so that you can increase your bottom line.

5. Create a referral rewards program: It is simple, yet so effective. Your best business often comes from referrals. Check out the option of creating a consistent system for staying in touch with current customers, and then rewarding them when they send new business your way.

6. Bust a move: Many small businesses have been retrenching, waiting and holding back the past few years. While it might be a smart strategy right now, it is against our nature as entrepreneurs. There just may be pent up demand for something new, different and better this year. Find those new customers and attack new angles.

If you like these small business articles, we ask that you google 1+ this article to say you like it so we can continue offering them. Apple Capital Group has a small business daily show on blog talk radio. Check it out at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/applecapitalgroup.

5 Places to Get Free Help

Steve-Strauss–in-article-Medium.pngAs we near the end of 2011, the majority of small businesses (52%) still perceive that their top and biggest challenge is the general economic climate, according to a recent survey by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. So given that, where can you go to get help when you need it today, and without having it cost you a fortune?

Here are 5 places:

1. SCORE: SCORE is an amazing organization, made up of business executives and entrepreneurs. SCORE is an all-voluntary organization that offers free, confidential counseling and education on almost any subject you can name. Need help with a marketing campaign? SCORE can help. Opening an auto repair shop? A SCORE volunteer probably has done that too. SCORE matches you up with a counselor who will give you as much help as you need in your business, and if he cannot help you with some specific problem, there is another SCORE counselor who can. SCORE’s counseling sessions usually take place either at your place of business, in any one of SCORE’s almost 400 offices around the country, or, increasingly, online via email.

SCORE also offers a variety of small business workshops, both in its offices and online. In a typical year, SCORE will offer about 7,000 workshops and seminars and about 150,000 people typically attend. Some are free, and the others usually cost less than $50. And, how about this – even though there are about 10,000 SCORE volunteers nationwide, the organization is staffed and run by only 14 people. Everything else is handled by volunteers. It is an incredible organization and a great resource.

2. Small Business Development Centers (SBDC): SBDCs are an offshoot of the SBA intended to provide management and technical assistance to small business owners. There are SBDC’s around the country, and each is tied-in with a lead organization that sponsors the SBDC and helps run the program, such as a university or nonprofit organization. There is also a network of smaller centers and satellite locations in each state and these too are associated with universities, community colleges or nonprofits.

Similar to the SBA and SCORE, SBDCs offer counseling and other assistance to entrepreneurs. Volunteers come from chambers of commerce, the legal and banking communities, academia and SCORE. SBDCs also use paid staffers. This assistance can range from helping small businesses with financial issues and marketing to production, organization and even engineering and feasibility studies. SBDCs make a special effort to work with minority and economically disadvantaged entrepreneurs, as well as veterans, women and the disabled.

3. The Small Business Administration (SBA) Website: What would you say if I told you that there is a website that helps small businesses in a variety of ways? That would be a pretty good resource to have, wouldn’t you say? Well there is and it is:

In its field offices throughout the United States, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Guam, the SBA offers classes, counseling and programs designed to help small businesses succeed at low or no cost.
After a natural disaster (Hurricane Katrina) or other major calamitous event (like September 11th), the SBA helps small businesses with disaster assistance.

4. Mentors: Having a mentor is one of the best ways to learn more about how to run a business. A business mentor can open doors, teach skills and provide valuable feedback. Where would you find one? Here are a few options:

Ask: Finding a mentor is often the result of simply asking someone who you admire if he/she would be willing to mentor you. Or just ask around. Tell people that you are looking for a mentor; you may be surprised at how willing people are to help.
Pay: If you know someone who knows what you want to learn but who probably would be disinclined to be your mentor, for whatever reason, consider buying their time. Is it ideal? No, but it may still work.
Click: There are many places online where you can find a mentor: SCORE, the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC), SBDCs and via social media are a few other options.

5. Websites: There are many options here:

Of course, I’m partial to sites I am associated with MrAllBiz.comUSA TODAY’s small business site
Huffington Post Small Business America
Inc.comEntrepreneur.com
Microsoft Business on Main
The recently updated SBA website, www.SBA.gov, is full of useful information.

About Steve Strauss

Steve Strauss is one of the world’s leading small business experts. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. Steve is also the author of the Small Business Bible and his latest book is Get Your Business Funded: Creative Methods for Getting the Money You Need. A popular media guest, Steve is a regular contributor to ABC News Now and frequently appears on television and radio. His business, The Strauss Group, creates unique, actionable, entertaining, and informative multi-media small business content.

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here.

Seven Ways to Find the Right Mentor

Whether you’re a start-up or you have been in business for a while, chances are issues will arise that you have not encountered before. You may be looking to hire a strategic partner for the first time; you may be interested in launching a social networking campaign; or you may be seeking to expand your business by tapping into a new market.

Instead of taking extensive time to research these issues on your own (or opting to plow ahead and hope for the best), you might want to consider forming a relationship with a business mentor. Sometimes the process of finding a mentor happens naturally, (i.e. someone you know socially turns out to be an expert on the business issue you’re facing). Most of the time, however, it takes a concerted effort.

The following are seven tips small business owners should remember when looking for a business mentor.

1. Narrow down the list of issues with which you need help. Prioritize your most pressing challenges so you can get the most out of a mentor relationship. You may even determine you need more than one mentor. Asking for too much information at once can overwhelm even the most generous person.

2. Pinpoint the personal qualities you think you’d respond to in a mentor. Before refining your list of potential mentors, do some soul searching and see if you can answer questions like these:

Are you interested in someone who is a good listener and doesn’t offer feedback until he or she mulls over your question?
Do you prefer people who tell you everything they know on a subject?
Is responsiveness important to you – do you want hands-on guidance in real time?
Would you prefer verbal feedback on your planned courses of action?

3. Define the parameters of the relationship. The ideal mentor relationship for you might involve someone with whom you can speak briefly every time you have questions. Or perhaps a monthly dinner meeting would be a more productive forum for addressing ongoing issues. Over time, you might discover that your mentor is interested in joining your company as a senior executive or even a CEO if you reach a certain point of growth.

4. Spread the word as far as you can. Reach out to your email list; contacts on LinkedIn and other social networks; friends and colleagues and attendees at networking events, conferences and trade shows. Don’t rule out total strangers. If you read an interview with a like-minded business owner in a trade or business magazine, feel free to send him or her a follow-up note. As long as there is no direct issue of competition, most small business owners are happy to help a fellow entrepreneur, and might even see potential for collaborating in other ways in the future.

5. Do not overlook larger resources. The Small Business Administration, SCORE, local chambers of commerce and private mentoring businesses have wide-ranging mentoring programs that offer long-term mentoring and assistance with advisory board formation. These resources may prove to be a valuable way to connect with potential mentors.

6. Formalize the selection process. Similar to personal relationships, it’s probably best not to rush things. Start out getting to know the potential mentor, get a sense of whether they’d be open to the idea and simply ask to pick their brain on a few issues. Discuss where and how often you will meet, what you can offer to the relationship, and long- and short-term goals.

7. Remember that mentoring is a two-way street. Don’t forget to thank your mentor regularly for advice that led to good results for your business. Further, periodic feedback is a good way to keep your mentor invested in your businesses success.

Since mentors can be from different industries, or even different geographical locations, it should be relatively easy to find someone. It’s certainly less risky and time consuming than using trial and error or relying solely on your own perspective and experience. And, once you experience a positive mentoring relationship, you might look forward to the day when you can become a mentor yourself. Have you found a mentor that has helped make a difference in your business? Share your thoughts with the Apple Capital Group team in the comments section.

Whether you’re a start-up or you have been in business for a while, chances are issues will arise that you have not encountered before. You may be looking to hire a strategic partner for the first time; you may be interested in launching a social networking campaign; or you may be seeking to expand your business by tapping into a new market.

Instead of taking extensive time to research these issues on your own (or opting to plow ahead and hope for the best), you might want to consider forming a relationship with a business mentor. Sometimes the process of finding a mentor happens naturally, (i.e. someone you know socially turns out to be an expert on the business issue you’re facing). Most of the time, however, it takes a concerted effort.

The following are seven tips small business owners should remember when looking for a business mentor.

1. Narrow down the list of issues with which you need help. Prioritize your most pressing challenges so you can get the most out of a mentor relationship. You may even determine you need more than one mentor. Asking for too much information at once can overwhelm even the most generous person.

2. Pinpoint the personal qualities you think you’d respond to in a mentor. Before refining your list of potential mentors, do some soul searching and see if you can answer questions like these:

Are you interested in someone who is a good listener and doesn’t offer feedback until he or she mulls over your question?
Do you prefer people who tell you everything they know on a subject?
Is responsiveness important to you – do you want hands-on guidance in real time?
Would you prefer verbal feedback on your planned courses of action?

3. Define the parameters of the relationship. The ideal mentor relationship for you might involve someone with whom you can speak briefly every time you have questions. Or perhaps a monthly dinner meeting would be a more productive forum for addressing ongoing issues. Over time, you might discover that your mentor is interested in joining your company as a senior executive or even a CEO if you reach a certain point of growth.

4. Spread the word as far as you can. Reach out to your email list; contacts on LinkedIn and other social networks; friends and colleagues and attendees at networking events, conferences and trade shows. Don’t rule out total strangers. If you read an interview with a like-minded business owner in a trade or business magazine, feel free to send him or her a follow-up note. As long as there is no direct issue of competition, most small business owners are happy to help a fellow entrepreneur, and might even see potential for collaborating in other ways in the future.

mentor quote.png5. Do not overlook larger resources. The Small Business Administration, SCORE, local chambers of commerce and private mentoring businesses have wide-ranging mentoring programs that offer long-term mentoring and assistance with advisory board formation. These resources may prove to be a valuable way to connect with potential mentors.

6. Formalize the selection process. Similar to personal relationships, it’s probably best not to rush things. Start out getting to know the potential mentor, get a sense of whether they’d be open to the idea and simply ask to pick their brain on a few issues. Discuss where and how often you will meet, what you can offer to the relationship, and long- and short-term goals.

7. Remember that mentoring is a two-way street. Don’t forget to thank your mentor regularly for advice that led to good results for your business. Further, periodic feedback is a good way to keep your mentor invested in your businesses success.

Since mentors can be from different industries, or even different geographical locations, it should be relatively easy to find someone. It’s certainly less risky and time consuming than using trial and error or relying solely on your own perspective and experience. And, once you experience a positive mentoring relationship, you might look forward to the day when you can become a mentor yourself. Have you found a mentor that has helped make a difference in your business?