'Should I hire a business coach?'

April 30, 2009: 9:51 AM ET

If your company is stalled, a coach could be the catalyst you need.

Darrin Lugash, Houston
I have a business in theory, but haven't seen any action in it. I'm working full-time in my former trade while I wait for my business to take off. I'm not sure where to get help - when is it time to hire a business coach? What should I look for in a coach, and what should my expectations be of him or her?

By Lenora Chu, CNNMoney.com contributor
A business coach can be helpful when your company is in transition, you're in financial trouble, or you're facing a critical decision such as whether to add employees.

"When things are going steady you don't typically need a coach," says Vancouver, Wash.-based small business consultant Doug Williams.

Finding the right coach is important, especially since the marketplace is saturated with people advertising business coaching services. Start the hunt by creating a list of 10 or so prospects, suggests Rick Lugash, Southern California regional owner of the small business growth services company OneCoach. Some things to consider include how many current clients a coach has, any association membership or certifications, and verifiable success stories.

Make sure your prospects have proven track records in the specific area you need help with. For example, if you need help starting up a business, find a coach with a history of guiding successful startups.

Start by interviewing the top candidates on your list. Be sure to get the names of past clients, and contact them as references.

"You want to go through the same process to hire your business coach as you would use to hire the pediatrician to treat your children," says Lugash.

And find someone who's good at training and teaching. "You don't want someone who will do the work for you," Williams says.

Most coaches will charge from $150 to $500 an hour, says Williams, and a good one will grant you a complimentary initial consultation.

Don't choose a coach based on price alone. Sometimes the inexpensive coaches are people who are "in between jobs," says Williams. "They're not going to help you."

"Treat your coach as part of the startup investment," Lugash recommends.

And although chemistry is important, don't automatically eliminate a prospect because their style doesn't match yours. Think had about why you're clashing.

"A good coach will take you out of your comfort zone into uncomfortable waters," says Lugash. "That resistance might be the place you need to go."

When you're finally ready to sign on the dotted line, establish clear milestones by which to measure progress, such as "how many, and by when?" Lugash says. "Put them into the agreement." Like a business owner, a coach has to deliver a clear payoff if they want their clients to keep coming back.

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