Let’s start with some basic assumptions: (yes, we all know the danger of assuming…) Let’s assume the following: you have experience in the areas on which you plan to focus your coaching practice; you have received quality training and earned one of the certifications for coaching; you have decided to spend time and yes, money, to build a business. Given these preliminary steps, through this three-part blog series we will explore Planning, Persistence, and Follow-through.
Planning: While the word and the concept sound basic, too often we skim over this portion. There are legal considerations for any new business. The experts for providing information on this are http://www.sba.gov/ and http://www.score.org/, so here we’ll limit ourselves to the core basics.
Prior to “opening your doors,” consider how you will legally hold the business. More common options I regularly hear discussed include a ‘dba’ or Doing Business as, a Sole Proprietor or Partnership License, and incorporating either as an S Corp or an LLC. Each state has different rules and there are pros and cons to your options. While this sounds intimidating, it is often easier than it seems. For example, I found that where I live for $135 and an hour online I could easily incorporate as an LLC.
Next look at the professional services you will purchase, barter, or choose to handle yourself. In my company, I started with insurance. Most have heard of liability insurance; consider also Professional Liability which is based on information you provide and services. Are health insurance or workers comp for you needed? Do you want an umbrella policy? After purchasing insurance, it was time for me to look at legal services. Do you want or need someone to review your agreements or contracts? Do you want a business attorney to provide advice? Another big one for me was an accountant; I considered the pros and cons of spending the money on an expert versus my time if I did the work.
With behind the scenes things covered, look at the logistics. Are you planning to work from home or will you have an office space? What are your needs for technology – a computer, phone, etc.? What is your operations budget? Create a plan for filing, responding to phone calls and emails, and general office work.
Now focus again (back to assuming… you probably already have spent some time on this,) what is your business truly all about? Write a mission or a vision statement. (The steps to do this are on the blog post at http://blog.centerforcoachingcertification.com/2010/03/29/coaches-here-it-is-how-to-write-a-mission-statement/) A mission statement let’s people know your purpose. It provides you with focus. A mission statement is a tool for decision making because you consider how options fit your purpose.
Do you have a Code of Ethics and Core Values to which you subscribe through your coach training program? If not, create these for yourself now. (An example is available at https://www.CoachCert.com/about-ccc.html) These are guidelines for you and your business, plus a foundation for your relationship with clients.
Wow – all that and only now are we getting serious about your goals… In reality I am sure your goals are what got you this far in to the process, so this is about defining and writing out specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-measured goals (remember SMART?) For a Coaching practice, consider the number of clients and how much time you will spend working. (When you think about time working, for every hour of actual coaching, plan an hour of behind-the-scenes work.) Oh yeah – how much do you want to earn? Of course do crunch your numbers for time, fees, and income to see if it works!
Now the fun begins – marketing and promoting your business. Do you have a marketing plan? Recently there was a discussion on LinkedIn asking whether or not a website is important to a business. I was surprised that some people thought not. Because very few people use a phone book any more (do you remember those?) and because one of the first things many people do is check you out online, a website is a basic essential. The good news is that with some computer skills, less than $100, and a day or two, it is possible to have a decent website. Business cards are another minimal basic. Have a consistent theme or look with these tools.
Networking use to mean going to networking events. Now that is half of the equation because networking includes electronic networking as in Facebook and LinkedIn. While there is no requirement for any of this, it seems crazy to plan on building a business in today’s world without these tools.
Take your business-building to the next level. Speak and train groups of people. Think about it – where else do you have a captive audience focused on your skills? I started coaching because people attending events where I spoke asked me to coach them. Speaking and training are a form of networking that adds credibility because you demonstrate your knowledge. Additionally, it may provide ancillary income.
In the next blog post we look at persistence – an essential trait for building your business.