6 Reasons Why Hiring a Coach is the Most Important Thing For You To Do If You Want a Successful Coaching Business
I was speaking to a client of mine, a coach. We were just finishing our final session. Extraordinary things had happened for the client, in her life and in her coaching business. She said, reflecting on the power of the work, “I just don’t understand coaches who don’t have coaches.”
And I don’t either.
Because if there is one thing a coach can do to have the greatest positive effect on the success and impact of their coaching business, then it is to hire a coach for themselves.
I always hesitate when saying something like that. A little voice in my head goes off: ‘Doesn’t that sound like you’re just trying to get coaches to hire you? Isn’t coaches coaching coaches a weird pyramid scheme thing?’ But the truth is those thoughts from are just stories – stories Steven Pressfield would call Resistance – and they are the kind of stories that have held me back over the last few years from diving deeper into doing work I love: supporting coaches to do their best work, to make their amazing, life-changing, world-improving work more successful. And that’s what this article is about. It’s about how if you want to have a successful coaching business, then hiring your own coach will not only be the joyful, powerful, inspiring journey it has the potential to be for anyone, it will be singularly impactful on how successful you are in making this coaching thing your livelihood. Here’s why:
1) It is the Quickest and Easiest Way To (let's say) Triple What You Know About How To Sell Coaching
I was running a group supervision call with a colleague, supporting several new coaches with the challenges they were having in the first few months after completing their coach training. On this particular call, the challenges they brought were mainly around how best to enroll new clients. This included everything from contracts to the actual mechanics of the conversations with prospective clients. I couldn’t work out why I found it so confusing that these coaches were asking these questions. Where had I learnt this? Because only some of it had been when I studied on the same course – at the Coaching School – a couple of years before. And then I realised: the three coaches on the call had never, between them, hired a coach. Hiring a coach once - seeing what went through their minds as they made a decision about which coach to hire, seeing what the coaches did and what made the difference - would have shown them the answers to almost all their questions. In fact, even from coaches they decided not to work with, they would have learnt so much of value.
While I was studying coaching, I read The Prosperous Coach, the fantastic book by Rich Litvin and Steve Chandler. One of the things they say in the book is: hire a coach. After all, who would – they say, memorably – trust a doctor who told you they didn’t go to the doctor?
So after I finished my training, I went out and I spoke to coaches, and what follows are the stories of meeting the five coaches I spoke to, and what I learned. It was fascinating, and the lessons I took away helped me create ways of being and behaving in my business that I could believe in.
That included ways I didn’t want to be. As I was looking for a new coach, fresh out of my training, I was connected to someone because their company sometimes hired coaches for associate work. The idea was that they might hire me, but in correspondence, as he heard about where I was in my work, the director of the company said ‘Maybe I could coach you.’ I thought, ‘Interesting, maybe you could.’ He had done interesting things with his business, and I was keen to not just speak to coaches who I was already connected to – I wanted to get outside my circle a little bit. But when we met, he didn’t speak to me about coaching me. He didn’t even mention it. As I look back, I don’t know if he suddenly decided he didn’t want to work with me, or if he just forgot, or if he was nervous and was waiting to see if I would raise it. Whatever the reason, the experience was faintly bizarre. But what did I take away from it? I learnt that I want to provide leadership with clients who come to me to speak about coaching. I wanted the conversations to be clear; I wanted them to feel valued, and to guide them through it with honesty and integrity. Then, even if it’s a ‘No’ this time, they will feel my values as a coach and as a human, and then who knows what might happen in the future?
I spoke to a different coach, Charlie Mitchell, who was offering 30 free sessions to people over a month, themed around her project about doing our best work. I learnt so much from that session, in particular how to go about coaching someone you have never met before. I stole a bunch of question she used, and although we didn’t work together, I have kept an eye on her community ever since, and have recommended her to other potential clients, particularly those who are local to her. And I still have the vision board I created after that session – it’s about three feet from where I sit as I write this.
I met another coach who after 15 minutes I discovered was way too expensive for me. But even in that I learnt about how he handled it; I learnt ‘What is someone who charges that amount like?’; I revised my opinions of him (because he had a pretty odd website, but in person I could feel his presence and authenticity), learning not to judge coaches too swiftly; and even in the fifteen minutes he served me, at least a little. And I saw how he referred me on to someone else who was more affordable: another way to make money, or to structure your business.
I met the more affordable coach. I spent two hours with him. At the end, I was feeling a little unclear about the conversation and what had come up. Perhaps, again, I was not feeling the leadership I wanted from a coach. At the end, I asked, ‘Is this, this conversation we’ve had, what coaching with you is like?’ He said, ‘No, it’s nothing like this.’ And although I could afford to work with him, I left feeling unsatisfied: what was the purpose of this two-hour conversation? It suddenly felt like a waste of time. How was I supposed to choose? Again, I learned about something I didn’t want to do, a feeling I didn’t want to leave my prospective clients with. And I learnt about a new location to coach my clients, which I used as one of my London bases for over two years.
And then I met with Joel Monk. We had a long call, where we just worked together. He coached me. We had a deep conversation. Then, at the end, he said, ‘Let’s meet again’. So we did. We met again, we worked together again. At the end he told me about how he worked. It was more money than I had imagined spending. But it was also more coaching than I had imagined getting. I had thought he would be way out of my league, price-wise, but he wasn’t. No, that’s not quite right. He was, but I could see the value. More than that, I could feel the value.
I learnt so much from meeting these five coaches. In the end, here is probably the most important insight from the process, and how I made the choice: only with the two coaches who had actually coached me could I feel what I would be getting from them. Only with them could I be sure of what I would be getting. And that made the difference as I considered what to do.
I also learnt what it’s like to have a coffee with someone who doesn’t even try and sell you coaching when you actually want to be sold coaching. I learnt what it was like when you could see the tactical value of coaching with someone – the fourth coach in the list had lower fees than Joel, and connections more local to me, potentially access to an interesting network – but couldn’t feel it. And I knew what it was like when you could feel it.
And I learnt more: I learnt what it feels like to buy coaching, what goes through my mind as I’m making that decision. Even with Joel, who I went on to work with for 18 months and who was the coach that shifted my business to a totally new level in what – to me – seemed double quick time, I had doubts at each stage, questions I was asking myself and him.
I learnt that I can get together money if I need to. I learnt that getting a lot of coaching is exactly what some people want, even if it costs quite a lot. I learnt what coaches say when you say No, how hard they sell or don’t. I used all this to play with and craft not only how I sold coaching, but what coaching I sold.
And you just can’t learn all that from a ten-step webinar programme. You need to play in the real world.
2) It Will Make You a Much Better Coach, Fast
The section above is about the enrollment process, and there’s so much to learn there. But hiring a coach will gift you so much more than that: it has the potential to grow, change and inspire the way you work, the way you change lives every day. So hire a coach who hasn’t trained in the same place you did. Hire one who has really developed themselves over the years. Hire one who’s better than you. And then learn from them. Because seeing people in action is inspiring and it is enlightening. It gives you a feeling for how a different coach plays the game: how they lead, and when they follow; what questions they ask and when; how they play with exercises and assignments, and what it’s like when they do. It supports you to go through one of the most important shifts that a coach needs to go through to do their best work: the shift into trusting that you can create your own coaching style, as well as your own coaching business. That shift partly comes from seeing how other people do things, and thinking ‘I could do that. But would I?’ What did it feel like when they said that, or sent you that email or assignment? What was the outcome? Would you do it like that? If yes, then start doing it. If no, then why not?
As another client of mine said to me recently, ‘There shouldn’t be any shame in copying what others have done.’ Absolutely. You’re here to serve your client, to support them as best you can, so borrow what other coaches have said and done in order to change your clients' lives. I heard someone say once: there’s no new wisdom in the world, but when you share the age-old wisdom, you give it your flavour, and that makes it new. So use what your coach uses, to serve your clients as best you can, and give it your flavour.
In Joel’s intake questionnaire, the final sentence was, ‘Bonus question – what’s the impossible goal?’ In our second engagement, my answer to this question, as I sat with it, was ‘To be a full-time coach by the end of the six months.’ I didn’t know that was the goal until I answered the question. That answer felt massive and it felt impossible. And then I saw how powerful the question was, because with his support I was full-time within five months, and I could have done it sooner if I had really wanted to. And now, of course, I ask that question of almost every client.
3) It Will Guide You Through Your Money Issues
I’ve spoken to many coaches, and most (if not all) of them have at some point in their life had this thought “Is my coaching worth £X?” Often, this challenge – working through our resistance around charging for our time – is one of the things that holds coaches back from running a successful business, from having the money which they need, the money that is the life blood that enables them to change the world. Now hiring a coach doesn’t always resolve that – although it can, if you focus your work there – but it can answer a bigger and often underlying question, “Is any coaching worth £X?” Because once you have paid a coach £1,000 or £2,000 or £10,000, and seen and felt what you got in return, you will know this. It will be a part of your experience. Was it worth that money? If yes, why? If no, why not?
‘Ok,’ I thought, as I was working with Joel. ‘This is what I get for this much money for six months of coaching. Is it worth it?’ The answer, in that case, was a resounding yes. ‘Now,’ I thought. ‘I’m not as experienced as Joel, and I’m different, but what does this mean for my work?’ Can I deliver something similar to what Joel delivers? Is he doing anything amazing which I’m not – if the answer is yes, then how can I start doing it? If the answer is no, then that’s fantastic, because it means I’m here, and I’m ready to work, and my work could be worth what his is worth.
The same thing has happened with me when I worked with Rich Litvin in his group programme, the Prosperous Coach Salon. It cost me about £10,000. Then I knew: what do I get for £10,000? What does a £10,000 programme look like? And more than that, what is it like as a client to invest £10,000, and what does it take for me to do that? These questions led to fascinating answers and insights for me to consider as I develop and create my business.
One of the most important, though, for this story, was this one. When looking for a development opportunity in 2017 I came across a programme I wanted to do: Brené Brown’s Daring Way Certification. It was in Houston, Texas, and cost $3,000. Plus, of course, I had to go to Houston. This seemed like an enormous amount of money, until I shifted my perspective to look at it as an investment in my business. I did this almost by accident, by asking myself this question: how many extra clients would I have to get to make this investment in my business – of about $4,000 including the travel – worth it? I was charging £1,500 for my typical engagement at the time, so the answer was easy: three. Then I thought, ‘Would being able to say I am an accredited Daring Way facilitator lead to me getting three extra people, ever, to work with me?’ That bold, italicised ‘ever’, there, that’s important. I can add that in there because I’ve made a commitment to coaching, for the long term. And with that commitment - and making the commitment is important if you want to make a success of your coaching business - the answer came: to me, it was a pretty obvious ‘Yes’.
In the end, I didn’t go for that training, but that opened something new up for me in how I looked at investing in myself. It was the final push that opened the door to: ‘If I do things differently, I can create more money for myself’. It was the final nail in the coffin of ‘There is a scarcity of money available to me.’ For many of you, entrepreneurs and business owners especially, this may not be new, but for me it was, and the shift was important.
So, later on, when I was deciding whether to work with Rich, the money question became so much easier: will working with Rich Litvin, whose writing, coaching and thinking I find incredibly inspiring, enable me to create £10,000 of extra client income, ever? Well, the answer came back – again – as a rather resounding ‘Yes’.
And here, before I sign off this section, is one more thing worth thinking about. This - being able to create more money - may not be quite so true for every client. As a professional coach, you can generate extra income and create extra money, and hiring your own coach will almost certainly help you with that, especially if you set it as one of the goals for your work and are brave enough to keep bringing it back to your coaching sessions. But not every client has such a direct way to generate extra money. That may not be what their life is like or how they want it to be. This insight in itself may open up other thoughts for you on the way you price yourself for different people, on the reasons some clients say ‘Yes’ and some say ‘No’, and on what clients might need as a result in order to commit their time and money to you. But don't let it stop you making the proposals you want to make to prospective clients, and don't jump to conclusions. Because I didn’t have £10,000 lying around to pay Rich for the Salon. Instead I had to make it work. I had to get resourceful. I had to borrow and save. And I did. And it was worth it. Every penny.
4) It Will Teach You – Deep Down – What It’s Like To Be a Client
The sales process is not the only part of working with someone that you will learn about from receiving coaching. You learn more about every stage of the process.
About three months into the Prosperous Coach Salon I was getting worried. I hadn’t made as much money during the programme as I thought I would. My thoughts were all over the place: Is it working? Will I get the value I want? Am I doing it wrong? Will I regret taking part in the programme? Has this all been a terrible mistake?
And until I wrote down my worries to try to process them, I wasn’t able to see how funny it was. When I looked down at it in writing, I laughed out loud, because this is something I speak to my clients about all the time. From my earliest clients I had begun to see how it happens for people, often about one third or half way through their coaching. They worried about it, they felt like enough progress wasn’t being made. It’s the period in the middle of the Hero’s Journey – and that’s what a commitment to changing your life, changing yourself, is – that Joseph Campbell calls in the belly of the beast, where you most want to give up, where it feels most hopeless. I had seen this, so I often shared that this might happen with clients near the start of our work. I had felt it before myself, but this time, with more money on the line, more money than I had paid for almost anything ever, I felt it so much more strongly. And after I had had the felt experience of that during the Salon, I was able to notice it even more with my clients, and develop extra compassion for them at that stage in their journeys. I was also able to learn from how Rich prepared us for it, and then how he worked with the members of the group (including me) on our concerns. I was also able to see how that stage is sometimes a necessary part of the process, as Campbell, Steven Pressfield, and so many others tell us. From that moment, that realisation, things really started to shift for me in Rich’s programme, and my growth and engagement accelerated.
It’s not just that, though, that you learn about what it’s like to be a client. It’s about all stages of the process, the journey. You learn about the beginning of engagements: how do you set them up to be powerful? You learn about the ends of them: what kind of ending serves you when you’re a client? How can you make the way you end your engagements even more you and gift your clients a powerful ending?
And you learn about how a coach manages and supports and works with their clients throughout the process. Then you can reflect: what would you want more of, or less of, and how can you deliver it to your clients at each stage of the process?
5) It Will Transform Your Belief in Coaching
"What do you actually do, Robbie?" said a friend of mine, to me, a couple of years ago. "As far as I can tell for your articles you just listen to people and reflect back what they say?" It wasn’t said with malice, but I felt at least a dash of scepticism.
My stomach dropped. It played into my doubts: is coaching even a thing? How can sitting and listening to people and reflecting things and asking questions make such a difference? Why do people pay money for this? Is this a real job? Am I about to get found out?
But, inside me, something was different to how it had been a year before that, when my confidence and my belief in coaching was far more fragile. I was more confident. I believed more. Some of that came from seeing the results for my clients, of seeing my income go up and reading the feedback people had given me. But I believe the biggest step change in my belief in coaching came from seeing my life change. It came when I could tell stories of insights and struggles and shifts. It came when I could tell the story about the impossible goal which came from my work with Joel, and led to me being a full-time coach. I could tell that story to a client with the real belief in my eyes and in my heart. The living breathing example of this thing working; the exact opposite of the doctor who prescribes something to you before telling you she has never been to a doctor in her life.
The belief came from the feeling I felt every time I left sessions with my coach, and seeing the things I achieved with that energy and momentum, things I didn't think myself capable of. It came from understanding the value of making a months-long commitment to work with someone, and to work on myself.
I took what my friend said to my next session with Joel, and here’s the realisation that we came to:
Sitting, listening and reflecting back what people say?
That pretty much is all I do.
And then magic happens.
6) It Will Keep You On the Path
Coaching is hard. Being an entrepreneur is hard. It isn’t for everyone. It has downs to go with the ups, struggles to go with the successes, stress to go with the joy. I’ve spoken before about how important it is to make a long term commitment to coaching – indeed, I believe that’s true of any venture – because committing to the long term will free you in the present. Making the commitment frees you to do so many things - to make investments in yourself, to create long term relationships, to not be chasing the next client desperately - but making a commitment only works if you can stay committed. There’s a reason that we do what we do, that we love coaching. It’s because it’s an incredibly powerful way of developing yourself, of meeting challenges, getting through struggles, relieving stress. I remember thinking, early on in my business, ‘Wow, this coaching I’m getting is so valuable. Even if all my business does is pay for this, it’ll be worth it.’
Having a coach will keep you invested in coaching, it will help you keep your belief and your faith, and it will help you stick at this thing, even when you’re doubting, even when you feel like giving up.
And there you have it. I hope this article has opened up your eyes to the many, many ways that investing in your own coach will be the most important investment you make in your business. I hope you can see that this isn’t some Jedi mind trick to get you to hire me. This is me sharing stories of how hiring my coaches has transformed my business whilst also transforming me as a person. This is what I believe will make the most difference to your coaching business, if you want to grow it. And I want you to grow it. Because I believe in coaching. Because I’ve felt it.
Hiring a coach is an investment in yourself and your business. Like me, you can do the maths: how many extra clients does a coach need to support you to get – ever, if you’ve made your commitment – for you to be able to pay for the coaching? Do you feel that they can help you with that? And, of course, it’s coaching, so it will come down to you: are you ready to take action around your business to create those clients?
Then you have to take the plunge: you have to find the coach who you trust to not only develop you and encourage you and inspire you, but also to support you as you raise your fees and create more clients. And if you find that person, you have to leap. And it’s scary, because it’s a risk. That’s what investments are. And when you’re just starting out, if your fees are low, this can seem really scary: if you’re charging £30 or £40 or £50 a session like I was at first, and selling coaching one session at a time, then that’s a lot of extra sessions to sell to make even a modest investment pay back. But what if by the end of six months working with your coach you’ll be selling packages for £800 or even £8,000? And here’s the other thing: investments at the start, they’re the ones which have the potential to make the most difference. Maybe this coaching won’t get you to a fee of £8,000 this year, but if you’re committed to coaching, if you’re in this for the long term, and in the long term you want to be making a good salary from coaching, then investing in yourself is not only advisable, it’s vital. And the investment now will have so long to pay back: the things you learn now will be part of your business, of your coaching, for the rest of your career,
So make the commitment. Back yourself, and back your coach.
And if you still aren’t convinced, if you still doubt that coaching will work for you, or that it will help you do things faster and better? If you are still a coach who doesn’t think that investing in themselves is vital, then are you sure you’re up for this? Are you sure you’re in this for the long hall? Because it’s not easy, and if you don’t believe in coaching enough to hire your own coach, then it’s going to be really tough.
Having a coach will help you through the tough times of being an entrepreneur. It will help you grow, and learn, and be the deeper, truer self inside you. It will help you see things in new ways, and do things you would never have thought you could do. And what a joy it is that that – all that – is the single most important thing you can do to grow your coaching business.
So if you’re in this wonderful world of coaching for the long term - with me; with my current coach, Katie; with Charlie and Joel and Rich, and so many others – then I’m really pleased. The world needs great coaches, coaches committed to learning and developing and transforming themselves so they can support people around the world to learn and develop and transform themselves. And between us, we can create the world that we dream of.