A few years ago, I was asked by one of our members to define a coach’s job. I thought about it, and replied that I’ve always looked at a coach as someone who will “hold your hand and kick your butt at the same time.”
We all need a coach. Whether you’re an entry-level employee or a CEO, a coach does two very important things for you: first, he (or she) acts as a guide and a sounding board, and second, he holds you accountable to your commitments. At most levels within an HVAC service or contracting business, a supervisor is also a coach. It’s his job to hold the team accountable, as well as train and guide them. But for most owners, presidents, or CEOs, there’s typically no “up-line” person in this role.
This is where an outside coach or mentor becomes very important. A good coach not only advises the “C” level person on how to accomplish goals, he also helps create coaching plans for the team, prioritizes projects, and more.
A good coach not only advises the “C” level person on how to accomplish goals, he also helps create coaching plans for the team, prioritizes projects, and more.
There’s a big difference between a coach and a consultant. I’m reminded of a TV commercial, where a consultant walks the CEO of a company through all the things he needs to change about the company. After the long list of tasks is rattled off, the CEO asks, “great, when can you start?” The consultant replies to a perplexed looking executive, “We don’t actually do anything, we just advise you on what to do.” A typical consultant usually tells you what you should do. A good coach rolls up his sleeves and actually helps you reach your goals.
Attributes of the Best Coaches
Here are key traits of the best business coaches:
1. Business Experience. He has actually walked in your shoes. He’s not just a “book taught” advisor with a fancy degree, but he has actually run a business before.
2. Industry Experience. He has specific industry experience. While a lot of the principles are the same across many types of small businesses, a coach who has actually been in the HVAC industry will provide valuable industry-specific insights a “generic” business coach simply won’t have.
3. Great Attitude. A good coach must jump in and help organize action teams, even lead or facilitate them, not just coach from the sidelines. A great coach is positive and cheerful when interacting with you and your team.
4. Organized. Look for signs of good organizational skills. Does he practice what he preaches? Does he show up on time prepared, or does he seem to wing it? Your coach should be setting the example and actually walk the walk.
5. Accessibility. He must be easy to get a hold of; not just for regularly scheduled sessions, but available by phone, text, or email, to help you through a quick issue or problem. Often, the degree of accessibility varies based on cost. Find out up front.
6. Honesty. A good coach is honest about his successes and his failures. If he paints a rosy picture of the successful companies he’s helped, and doesn’t talk about where things didn’t go so well, he’s probably hiding something.
7. A Teaching Personality. Look for a coach who loves to teach. This helps you improve your own coaching skills, and your coach can become an “adjunct professor” in your company’s training program.
8. A Networker. A coach who deals with your industry works with other companies similar to yours. They likely have the same problems and challenges, and similar goals and opportunities. A good networker can bring non-competing companies together to exchange ideas, support each other, even cross-train staffs.
One of the best times to bring on a coach is when you are attempting to implement significantly new or complex approaches in your company.
One of the best times to bring on a coach is when you are attempting to implement significantly new or complex approaches in your company. The top failure in adopting a new technology, business model, marketing, or sales approach is lack of implementation. We all start out with great intentions, but then life gets in the way. That class we took, the new processes we learned, or the technology we invested in were bright and shiny when we first started, but somehow we just couldn’t implement. It eventually gets put on hold, in the hopes that someday, “we’ll get around to it.”
Implementing performance-based contracting is a good example. It’s a fairly involved process that takes significant commitment and involves virtually every area of your company. Our experience has shown the chance of successful implementation goes up tenfold with a good implementation coach. When the stakes are high, and your investment in training and tools is significant, be sure to bring in the right person to hold your hand, and yes, kick your butt when you need it.
Dominick Guarino is CEO of National Comfort Institute (NCI), (www.nationalcomfortinstitute.com), one of the nation’s premier Performance-BasedTM training, certification, and membership organization, focused on helping contractors grow and become more profitable. His e-mail is [email protected] For more info on Performance-Based ContractingTM go to WhyPBC.com or call NCI at 800/633-7058.
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