Top performing athletes, no matter the sport, share one thing in common: they are all coached. What athletes understand is that even though you are elite, you can always improve and unless you continue to work on your game, your game will suffer. It is true is sports and it is true in business.
What to Expect from a Coach
A coach is not someone who will parachute in and take over your job or one aspect of your job. A coach will not run your company for you, just like a football coach will not take the field. The coach’s role is limited to game preparation and the sidelines. You are the one playing the game.
Thus, coaches focus on personal improvement. They focus on helping you improve your game. The role of the coach is to help you become better so that you know what to do and how to do it.
Identify Where Your Game Needs Help
Even at the high school level, the typical football program has a coaching “staff.” Why more than one? It’s simple. Different coaches focus on different positions. Different coaches will even focus on different areas of improvement.
The coach who helps you improve your leadership skills may not be the same coach who works with you on, say, public speaking. First, you need to identify what you want to improve. Is it your human resources management, your financial management, your focus, your emotional intelligence, or some other area? Until you know what part of your game you want to work on, you cannot begin searching for a coach.
Finding a Coach
An old proverb states, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” This is somewhat true when it comes to finding a coach. When you begin actively looking, you will find the right coach, but maybe not right away.
Look for potential coaches at industry meetings, chamber of commerce events, or even your service club. Talk with you network. Ask your banker about coaches. Talk with successful people and you will increase the odds of encountering a successful coach.
Some coaches are formal, professional coaches. This is what they do for a living. Others might be more like mentors who take an interest in you and agree to help you improve. The latter type can even be peers, such as older plumbers who are looking for ways to pay it forward to others in the trade.
When a coach gives you his time, whether for compensation or not, you owe it to him to be coachable. You must listen, openly to suggestions. You must ponder thoughtfully, any questions.
Good coaches will speak truth and sometimes you will not want to hear the truth. It can be painful. Just remember, you need truth. You will not get better from flattery.
Alternatives to Coaches
As noted, the right coach may not come along immediately, but once recognized, the need to improve is pressing. You do not want to wait, nor do you need to wait to make improvements. Here are a few steps you can take in the interim:
- Get involved with your local trade association chapter. Not only is this a good source of coaches, it will also offer programs that you can benefit from immediately.
- If you are not already a member of the chamber of commerce and a service club (e.g., Rotary, Lion’s, Kiwanis, Optimist, or Civitan), get involved. These organizations will benefit you and your business in a myriad of ways.
- Attend every seminar and conference you can manage. This includes conferences with a plumbing focus and more general small business conferences. Lack of time and lack of money are no excuses. If you attend the seminars and pay attention, you will pick up new ideas or business practices that will either make you enough money or save you enough to cover the cost of attending.
- Invest in the membership in a business alliance. This may be the best way to find a coach since most alliances have coaches on staff and others who are affiliated. Alliance memberships are generally the fastest path to business and personal improvement. Most plumbers find these to be a sound investment.
- Finally, do not overlook the value of business books. If you are reading this you are off to a good start. Read CONTRACTOR every month. Read great business books written by people who have run small businesses and it is almost like you are receiving their coaching. If reading is not your thing, many are available as audiobooks.
Above all, if you seek personal improvement, get started. Nothing will happen until you make it happen. Get started!
A good starting point for a business alliance is the Service Roundtable. While largely self-service, it is the largest and most affordable alliance serving the plumbing profession. Buying group rebates will usually cover the cost of your membership. Learn more at www.ServiceRoundtable.com or call 877/262-3341.