7 Questions To Ask When Hiring A Business Coach

Are you considering hiring a business coach?  Do you want to achieve a specific goal or create a new strategy?  Do you just want some support to reach a new level of income?

As a business owner, I have hired many coaches, giving me insight on the significance of the coaching experience. The reality is without these key answers, you could spend thousands of dollars on a coach that simply can’t provide the result you are looking for.  Having hired about a dozen different coaches on my entrepreneurial journey, I have experienced both great and some not so great coaches (and no, I won’t share names).

If you are just now thinking of hiring a coach, consider this quote from Zig Ziglar:

A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could.”

And here’s another one from Richard Branson:

“No matter how smart you are, or how brilliant or disruptive your business concept might be, every entrepreneur needs a good mentor.”


And here’s some data on coaching from the ICF – International Coaching Federation:

A study performed last year by the
International Coach Federation found that
96% of companies polled were satisfied
with their decision to hire a coach
and would repeat the process all over again.
70% say they experienced improved work performance,
67% saw improved life/work balance
and 86% say they at least made
their investment back.

To wrap up here, you should not hire a coach because you NEED one. You should hire a coach because you WANT one. Your desire to hire a coach speaks to your desire to grow beyond your current personal level.  Coaching is not ideal for the struggling, but is extremely powerful for those who are already successful and want to create something new and innovative.

Now let me share the 7 questions I think are CRITICALLY important to use when considering hiring a business coach.

1.   Have you ran your own business other than coaching?

Your coach should have some experience in running their own business. There is no substitute for doing it yourself.  You know you can’t learn this stuff in a book nor can you learn it in B-school (I have coached many B-School alumni and they had no better understanding of real-life business than those without the degree). This is a bit of a problem as many coaches come from the ranks of Corporate America and have experience in a corporate environment. However, this does NOT translate to the actual experience of being “in the trenches” of running a business.

Also keep in mind that their own coaching business does not count as the way marketing, sales and scaling works across all businesses. This is my opinion of course, but since I am the writer here, I get to share my perspective.

Find a coach that has run a business before and has experienced strong results.  If you left a failing company and just decided to start helping others, that is a problem too.  Be careful here as many people can “spin” a story to something positive.  You might consider those that have more than 5 years experience in this area differently than those with less than 5 years.

2. What experience do you have with companies like mine?

Experience is something I had to include here, but let’s look at this from some different lenses.

Industry Specific Coaches – can be great for many business owners. They understand the history, trends, business model and opportunities in a given industry.  There is a need for these types of coaches, especially if you are struggling with the basics in your business. They have likely been in your industry before or they have coached businesses like yours.  It is quite common for lawyers to hire lawyer coaches and real estate agents to hire real estate agent coaches.

However, there is a bit of a danger with this approach that you should consider.  Many industry specific coaches have programs and strategies that have not changed with the times. If they give each client in your industry the same advice, you are not really getting innovative and creative coaching.

To be more direct here: What worked 5 -10 years ago is likely not to be the most effective approach to growth.

Speciality Coaches – may not have as much experience with your industry as an “industry specific” coach, but they can help you to think differently and deepen your mastery in other areas.  You can get coaching on just about anything that you want to learn.  These types of coaches are likely to be very good in their area of experience, but lack other important areas for your growth.

An example might be a coach that specializes in speaking to get clients. You can take your industry experience and develop a new approach to educate and attract in your market.  Hiring a specialty coach will give you a new perspective on your business and help you hone in on a new strategy.

Transformational Coaches – these coaches work from the inside out.  These coaches are trained in shifting your view of yourself and how you see the world.  They change the way you think and help you make better decisions.  In short, they help you get out of your own way.

The deeper work of transformational coaching is usually in the areas of mindset and has everything to do with how you are thinking about your business, yourself and the world in general.  It is worth mentioning that all shifts at some level require a shift in your thinking.  For example, you will not make more money if you continue to have the deep set issues of money that you have carried with you since childhood.  A transformational coach is trained to help you see these types of issues for yourself and help you create new approaches to your own personal growth.

All of these coaches have their place, and you must understand the kind of experience you want.

Power Tip: Has the coach helped others in the same situation as you and do you believe they can help you too?

3. Have you experienced failure?

The journey of an entrepreneur is going to include ups and downs. It is part of the process. The experience of failure is important in hiring a coach, because their personal experience with resilience is reflective of who they are.  It has been common to be much more authentic and vulnerable in today’s world, so they will most likely be willing to share the challenges they’ve overcome. Also ask yourself:

“Can I relate to their journey?”
“Can I see the values they have?”

Tony Robbins’ on his failures…

“Too many to count”, he said.
“I failed at a million things. I failed to achieve my goals a million times but I don’t look at it as failure. I look at everything as an experience to be learned from. Look at success as a result of good judgment and good judgment is the result of experience and experience is often the result of bad judgment,” Robbins said.

I know for me…failure has been a huge part of my own personal growth.  But honestly, I would not say I really experienced a big failure until I reached the age of 39.   I had a great family growing up, I went to a great college. I spent 10 years in corporate America climbing the ladder and another 9 years growing my own business.  I never really had failure during that time…I did have lots of lessons to learn, but in 2010 I lost millions and this was my first big failure.  I am not sure I would have been the best coach before that as all went very smoothly in my life.  Now I have lots to use in the terms of failure that make my coaching better, deeper and more impactful.  That is why I think this question is important.

Check out my Article on Entrepreneur on Overcoming the Fear of Sales in 4 Simple Steps 

4. What training have you acquired (or are in the process of acquiring) to become a coach?

It’s easy to put “coach” on a business card or website. And did you know that currently, training it is not required to coach. However, you really want to ask yourself if it is worth hiring a coach who doesn’t have training.

Personally, I believe am a different person because of my training. It has helped me to see beyond the surface level. Most that are about a year in length (& are endorsed by the ICF- International Coaching Federation). They develop the ability to delve deep into core problems rather than just treating the surface issues.

The ICF, recognizes that quality coach training speeds up the coach’s development, so s/he can coach competently within a year or so, instead of within ten years, which is what it often takes for the self-taught.

Most people who call themselves “coaches” that don’t have training are really just consultants. They are industry experts or possibly specialists in some way and they TELL YOU WHAT TO DO. On the contrary, a trained coach creates a space for you to discover your path. They are trained to help you in a way that usually catalyzes lasting change or shift.

I am not suggesting you rely only on the credentials presented by the coach. A certified coach can be a great choice, but the courses that certify life and business coaches are not all created equally and in an unregulated industry, experience is vital.

Instead, I suggest considering the experience of the coach and what they are doing with their certifications.

5. What results can you share with me about your work?

Results are critically important and yet measurable results are essential. Can the coach share results similar to what you want for your business? Keep in mind money growth is only part of it.

A coach must be able to guide you into connecting with your inner confidence. CHECK THEIR TESTIMONIALS or if possible, gain insight from those who have worked with the particular coach. Have they helped other clients transform the way they think through a problem? These are critical gifts a coach should possess.

Coaching is not likely to be a modest investment. Be weary of coaches who charge small fees. In fact, the larger the fees of your coach, the more likely you are to take it seriously. I have seen this is my own experience.  I have invested $25k per year in coaching before and I can tell you the return on investment (ROI) was extremely worth it.

My business success has much more to do with the insights I gained from getting coaching than my own talent. We have a tendency to fall into comfort zones. If it is growth and transformation we seek and crave, we must not do it alone.

6. What makes you different than other coaches?

How they answer this question will reveal a lot about their experience, perspective and view of the world. I like this question most because if answered well, it incorporates all the questions in an easy- to- understand- statement. If you hear a lot of buzz words and assessments many other coaches use, you might want to run away. Coaching is about inner growth – not tools and programs.

You can coach in an online program with much success.  You must have one-on-one conversations (group coaching programs count too). However,  beware of video “coaching” as it is ineffective. Training videos are effective- but NOT coaching. I have some video based programs on sales, marketing and speaking, but they are training programs combined with real, deep transformational coaching.

See Below for some of my training programs:

Elevation – 8 Weeks on the Fundamentals of Taking Your Business to the Next Level
Need to Niche – a deep dive into to discovering your ideal client. This is a series of videos and workdsheets to help you find your audience.  I do suggest you get the optional coaching that is offered with this program.

7. Do you have a coach?

There is much debate on this one in the coaching industry. Coaches who have the intention of being of service to others should have their own coach (or coaches in some cases) for there will always be new areas for growth.

I could bring up all the professional athletes that have coaches (yes everyone of them has someone in their corner helping them see their blindspots). Michael Jordan had a coach. Jack Nicklaus had a coach. Roger Federer had a coach.  OK, I could go on for days, but you get it, right?

Let me direct here: if you believe in coaching as a leverage point for growth, then you believe and are willing to make that investment. If your coach does not have the same perspective, then naturally you’d question their belief in coaching.

OK…now what?

You have 7 questions to help you when hiring a business coach.  Commit to the work of finding the right coach for you.  You can tell a ton from their website, but there is no substitute for getting into a real conversation with a potential coach. If you would like to talk to me (Gene) about your business and your goals, let’s jump on the phone together.  Let’s get to know each other and explore whether it could be a fit.

Why I became a coach…

I began my first real business late in 2001 and in the first full year, my business did about $2 million in sales – which sounds great. But the harsh reality set in when I did my taxes. Turns out, I made something like $30,000 in net profits. Coming from the corporate world where my salary plus bonuses were typically $150,000, this was not so good for me.

I decided to hire a coach from a referral and the experience changed my life.  I took that business to more than $30 million in sales over 9 years. I hired 3 different coaches on that journey and each one brought something to my own personal growth as well as to my company.

Then one day, everything changed. On January 2015, 2010, I lost $3 million on a single contract with my best friend. That’s right – I had built my business up to the point where I did lose millions. The process of losing it all motivated me to decide to focus on making a difference in the lives of others. I figured my zone of genius was building businesses and began the path to becoming a certified coach so that I could help other business owners. Thus, by intentionally living my purpose, I receive the humble privilege of serving others beyond just starting another business to make money.

Best of luck on your journey to a higher level of thinking.


Need help determining your next best steps? Schedule your Roadmap Session with me here 

Found on theultralinx.com


Other links mentioned in this article…

Elevation (Training & Coaching Program to sell more of your services)

Need to Niche (Training & Coaching Program to find your specific audience)

Overcoming the Fear of Sales in 4 Simple Steps  – Article I wrote featured in Entrepreneur Magazine.