What is a business coach? According to WABC, Business coaching is the process of engaging in regular, structured conversation with a “client”: an individual or team who is within a business, profit or nonprofit organization, institution or government and who is the recipient of business coaching. The goal is to enhance the client’s awareness and behavior so as to achieve business objectives for both the client and their organization. Business coaching enables the client to understand their role in achieving business success and to enhance that role in ways that are measurable and sustainable.
I have worked with a series of business coaches and mentors over the past 6 years, starting October 2010. Not one has worked for me and I had started to feel it was me.
I worked with the ex-general brand manager of an international cosmetic brand, who was always rude to waiters. That’s a big issue for me. She also treated me like I was a junior staff member, not a client or business owner. I later found out that I was her first client and I was essentially a guinea pig. My first of many costly mistakes. She used friends of friends to suggest websites and graphic design that had no experience. As an HR and Recruitment consultant, I had more experience than the graphic designer she tried to force me to use!
I worked with a Management Growth Enabler. That should have said it all. She really is very good at what she does but she should have never been doing one-on-one coaching. I was coming out of a recruitment role into an advertising role. I had no clue what I was doing. Neither did she.
I worked with a senior writer for Entrepreneur Magazine. I did my research and decided to approach an experienced marketing person. By now my business was a year old. His focus was consulting and mentoring SME’s in strategy, marketing, and sales. He is an author on entrepreneurship. He gave me a lot of good advice, advised me to change to using a CRM as a database and to sort all my clients into a logical order. He wasn’t good at billing me, for being on time for meetings, or for putting timelines in place.
I asked a friend for help. He made a suggestion and said it had helped his business. I took on an ActionCoach. Francois. At R13000 a month. For 3 months. All he did was give me mountain upon mountain of paperwork to complete that left no time for study, work, managing my staff, or spending time with my children. Mountains of homework to complete but he never answered my question. Does my business have value in the marketplace? All he said was “that’s for you to find out”. No asshole, I’m paying you R13000 a month to tell me that. The end came when he screamed at me that he would cancel our session if I ever answered one of his questions with “I don’t know”. I reported him to the master franchisor (that was a scary thing for me to do as I hate confrontation). What my friend forgot to mention was that he only used the coach for 3 months as his company was already doing well and making millions and just wanted a different opinion.
I was assigned another ActionCoach to compensate for the mess Francois made. Jenny. She was great. She insisted on meeting in Hyde Park, was always late, yet her client before our meeting was 10 minutes from my house. But she was great. She saw things I didn’t and we made better progress than I had ever before. But I couldn’t afford her services after the complementary sessions were up. We tried to find a way to barter our services but it wasn’t worth it for her in the long run.
By this stage, I was out of time, money, and staff. I was then introduced to the Cherie Blair Foundation. I went to a meeting, heard success stories, signed up, was assigned a mentor. We did not get off to a good start. She did not answer my introduction email or the following three I sent. Eventually, I ccd in a mentor coordinator and then Tracy suddenly connected with me. The agreement in the programme is to meet at least every 2 weeks online for an hour. Tracy (based in the UK) and I had 4 meetings in a year. She never pitched up online, she cancelled at the last minute, she rescheduled and then never arrived for the meeting. She went missing for 7 weeks at one stage as she had gone away to her villa in France for the school holidays. I was trying to save my business and she spent 35 minutes telling me about the renovations at her villa and how she was so tired from flying to Europe for business every week. She was a financial genius and angel investor yet never once gave me any advice I could use.
I then discovered Brent in December 2013. I follow an agency on Facebook and they posted a link to his website. I commented on the article, we started a conversation, we met and started business coaching. He’s highly connected in the advertising and media industry and was perfect for my business. Or so I thought. Things were going well until he started pushing me, very hard, in a direction I did not want to go. I completely understand and appreciate that sales and marketing are everything in a business. However, I have no marketing background and I am NOT a sales person.
As much as my better judgement and intuition weren’t working very well, I felt that my business coach did not get me. He held monthly talks and invited a guest speaker, usually from the advertising industry, to give a talk. Most of these speakers were also his clients. Not standing up and volunteering to talk on competitions and my business was a sure sign I am terrified of sales, standing up in front of people and confidently speaking and putting myself out there. Maybe I wasn’t so sure about my business and the value it provided but a big part of it was definitely my self-confidence.
He deviated from the advertising and digital path by inviting a psychometrist to speak. Right up my ally as I was in HR and recruitment in a previous life and I am accredited in the Thomas PPA and Thomas TST testing. I was fascinated with the tests she covered in her talk as this was something I knew and tested values I could relate to. I went up to Merzanna at the end of the talk, got her card, asked her a few questions, and said I would connect with her. This is a one-to-one conversation, which I do very well! I sent her a message the next day. This resulted in me doing a serious of 4 tests, at a cost of a lot of money, and gave me a better understanding of who I am. I essentially did the tests to validate what I ‘knew’ to be true, what I had been telling my business coach, and what he had been ignoring.
I am in INTJ, should stay far away from sales people, or anything to do with public speaking or trying to get a point across. I resonated with the test results 100%. There were many other things in it too but that’s the sum total. At our next meeting I showed my coach the results, he dismissed them. I said I was willing to be coached in sales if he could coach me in a way that that was congruent with my core values and ethics and personality traits. He couldn’t do this. I sadly ended our coaching relationship.
I was then assigned a new mentor for 2014 from the Cherie Blair Foundation. Enter Lynn. We met every week for an hour and she was fabulous. However, she had never been a mentor, worked at a bank, and straight off told me she had no idea how the advertising industry worked. I contacted the mentor coordinator and was again told to give it a chance, even though we were a complete mismatch. We continued the meetings on the basis that she would be the inspiration for me while I looked for a buyer for my business, or a permanent position within an agency that would give me the experience to run my business better (if allowed by the agency). We got along very well, she made our online meetings, was friendly, supportive and I felt we were building up a really good friendship. I found a position on a fixed-term contract for 3 months at an agency and when I told Lynn, via email, I never heard from her again! She never arrived for our next scheduled meeting online (she was in the USA), never answered my emails or skype messages and when I contacted the mentor coordinator I was told that Lynn had said I no longer needed her as a mentor as I was now working! I was shocked and disappointed as this was when I needed a mentor the most, She has recently started a new position and I had been there for her when things weren’t going well with the fellow staff members and was hoping she would be there to guide me through working for a company after 4 years of having my own business. If she had been there for me when I was offered the job from Satan herself I doubt I would have so easily made the mistake I made as I would have had a mentor to talk to about it.
I have now realised I need a combination of a life and business coach, as well as a mentor. I had a meeting with a phenomenally talented woman by the name of Annabel. She runs a company, academy, that teaches people how to invest. I met her at a dinner and found the courage to talk to her. She gave me her card. I met with her last week and mentioned that a good mentor relationship is a very difficult relationship to find but once the right person is found it is an amazing experience. It’s also had work, which I have never been scared of. She has referred me to an entrepreneurial academy. I have a meeting with them next week. I am optimistic. Watch this space.