Business efficiency is crucial to business success, but what is often underestimated is the importance of business owner efficiency, and having a founder who can demonstrate consistency and speed in things like planning, time management and decision making from day one.
However, when you are caught up in the often chaotic early days of setting up and growing a new business, thinking and acting efficiently may be easier said than done. This is why many business owners engage the services of a business coach.
Since starting their business Fourth Day Public Relations in 2002, Xanthe Vaughan Williams and Nikki Scrivener have always had a business coach. Their first was a former lawyer, assigned to them via Business Link, but for the last year they have been working with Liz Wren of Through the Forest, who they met through the Growth Accelerator programme that they were members of.
Williams says: "I'm based in London and Nikki is based in Manchester, so one of the most valuable services that has been provided by all of our business coaches has been simply to ensure that we actually lift our heads up from our emails and have regular face-to-face conversations about the business."
In order to get maximum business efficiency from the coaching sessions, she says, it is important to have someone who listens and asks awkward questions. And in terms of improving business efficiency, time management has been a key area of focus for both founders.
She explains: "For example, when it comes to winning new business, Liz questioned us on why we considered a meeting successful simply because we came out of it with a request to write a proposal. How long were we going to invest in this proposal in relation to the likelihood of winning the business? Was a written proposal really necessary to win the business?"
Similarly, when the pair complained about business tasks that were constantly being postponed, they were given a grilling from their coach about their business planning strategy.
"However, it wasn't just a case of Liz telling us that we had to do X, Y and Z; she simply asked questions that made us think until we came up with a solution ourselves. For us the coach-business owner relationship is subtle, and there is definitely an element of psychotherapy in it as we unload our woes to Liz, but in terms of boosting our business efficiency, coaching really does work," says Vaughan Williams.
Other areas where business coaching can help to streamline operations and other processes for new business owners is in the decision-making and prioritisation processes – for example, being able to deal with key decisions such as which target market to focus on or which investor would be right for them, much faster and more efficiently.
It can also improve efficiency around communication, especially in terms of winning new business, making presentations, and making that all-important successful first impression.
For some entrepreneurs, the need for coaching comes at a later stage, as the business starts to see real growth.
Following the fundraising success of social media platform 7billionideas on the crowdfunding platform Crowdcube in 2012, CEO David Harkin quickly realised he needed a business coach on board.
He says: "The business was growing rapidly, and just as the team looked up to me for support, I realised I needed someone, too. I wasn't ashamed of admitting this, in fact I saw it as a strength in my own skills that I realised we needed additional help outside of our team."
As an entrepreneur, he says business coaching has helped him expand his previously narrow mindset to explore new avenues. But more than anything else it has helped the firm's team of nine people to become more efficient in their thinking.
"It has meant that countless hours have not been wasted, thinking about taking the business down a direction that could only ever lead to minimal success. It has enabled us to reduce mistakes and take advantage of more opportunities at speed. Without our coach, our company would have been blind to some of these opportunities, and you cannot put a price on that," he adds.
When it comes to finding a business coach, there are various coaching organisations that may be able to help, while word-of-mouth referrals can also be useful. The most important thing, however, is to choose the right business coach.
It should be someone who has a good understanding of your business, ideally with experience in your sector, and who you feel you can trust. For the process to be effective, your coach should be someone you get along with and establish a good working relationship with. (Collected from theguardian)
Business coach Agnes Cserhati, founder of AC PowerCoaching, works with entrepreneurs and business owners at all stages of their business growth. She says the feedback that she receives from her clients is that coaching can create a huge competitive advantage for the simple reason that owner efficiency makes a significant impact on business profitability.
She explains: "Coaching can be critical to the survival of the early days, and similarly during the growth phase, especially for high-growth businesses. It shortens the decision-making process, enabling action to be taken much sooner – a key to survival in a fast-moving entrepreneur world. By increasing the business owners' confidence and their professionalism in the way that they conduct business, it has a positive impact on customer satisfaction and, ultimately, business growth."
Through coaching, business owners also learn to develop "lean habits" that they can transfer to any future business, or continue to use when business grows. In other words, it is a key component to long term success.