There are thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of coaches and consultants in the United States. Each targets a specific audience and offers support in different areas. Although many consultants are similar, no two are alike. When you choose to hire a coach/consultant in addition to buying their expertise and the expertise of their teams you are also buying their methodology and beliefs. My pet peeves about this industry are three-fold 1) anyone can claim to be able to help regardless of experience, 2) some are very effective at marketing and therefore appeal to the masses but don’t help potential customers identify when they are not a good fit, 3) like many things in our society the people who need the most help often can’t afford it. Let’s take a look at these further.
Obviously all of the opinions expressed in this article are mine and based on my observations and beliefs. Although it is not my intent to ruffle any feathers I also recognize that how I feel is in direct opposition to the way others choose to run their business.
Anyone Can be a Coach/Consultant
Although there are some certificate programs available to be a certified coach/consultant the majority of those in this industry choose not to complete the programs (myself included) meaning there are no formal requirements anyone can slap coach/consultant on a business card and begin to acquire clients. Most, like myself, have years of experience in their field and choose to broaden their impact by teaching and helping others which is great. I, for example, have an undergraduate degree in marketing and a graduate degree in adult education in addition to almost 14 years in the field working at both small and medium sized organizations which I believe makes me highly qualified to help other business owners. But I have had clients who have worked with others prior to hiring me and I have had conversations with those who admitted to having very little experience but saw coaching/consulting as a great way to add an additional revenue stream to their business. I even had someone say to me “I barely know more than my clients about x-subject but when they ask questions that I can’t answer there is always Google.” Why would you pay someone to Google for you?
One-Size Fits All / Magic Pill Approach
I see this most often with business coaches, in order to be scalable they create self-study programs that use a one-size fits all approach. And just like consultants no two businesses are exactly the same and therefore face different challenges. Although I have seen some coaches offer programs to a very specific niche that appear to be rather comprehensive for people operating in that space most target a very broad audience. Others take this magic-pill approach as if their program is going to solve all of the business owners problems overnight, they even go so far as to encourage them to spend their last dime to purchase the program. These types of programs do a great job at capturing business owners attention and giving them hope that it will solve their problems but what they don’t do is help people identify when they aren’t a fit. For example, not everyone learns from self-study programs. There are some people who need a bit of hand holding and accountability. Also, not everyone is able to easily translate information into action steps for their own business. And finally, when it comes to a growing a business the only secret is that there is NO SECRET. Growing a successful business takes time, strategy, and effort. It is that simple.
The People Who Need Help Don’t have access to It.
Many of what I consider the best coaches and consultants cost $3k per month and up, and although their experience and success rate warrants those fees (and more) the people who I believe need the most help can’t yet afford the help they need. I see so many business owners whose product, service, or approach are just so awesome that their potential for success is huge BUT they lack the business expertise and resources to produce the results.
What do I do about it?
I was always taught not to complain about things unless you are going to do what you can to change them. You know, be a part of the solution not a part or the problem. So how do I wage war against these pet peeves in my industry?
- Stay in My Lane: I understand where my expertise lie and I stay there. There are lots of areas where I have knowledge and experience but not what I feel is enough to try to teach/consult people on. And I don’t believe in doing anything that I can’t be kick ass at. So while I am knowledgeable about public relations, that isn’t my lane and I happily refer clients to PR firms when that is what they need. When someone is looking for a company to execute their marketing plan I refer them to others who specialize in tactical work. While I can do the execution, it isn’t cost effective for my clients to have me doing it and it isn’t the part I enjoy. By focusing just on the things that I know make me amazing (marketing, sales, and strategy) I ensure clients who choose me are getting the best parts of me.
- Assess and Customize: Anyone looking to work with me will complete an online assessment and/or a discovery call that allows me to understand what their needs are, where they are seeing success, and where they are struggling. This allows me to identify if I am the right person to help get them to the next level. Once I have done this, I propose a program that is best suited for their needs. I don’t try to reinvent the wheel instead I begin with their strengths and figure out how to build from there. Also, when I do offer self-study programs I ensure the objectives of the program are clear and realistic (no promises that I can’t keep) and I make sure that they are focused enough that the principles are universal for a broad audience.
- Structure My Pricing Strategically: I’m not cheap, and not in any way competing on price. My expertise and self worth demand that I charge competitive fees, and is never waiver on those fees BUT my target audience is the business who is still in the early stages and needs help realizing their dreams so instead I structure my programs in a way that focuses on the key things required to move that business to the next level and I offer payment terms that help make the program more affordable.
Have you worked with a coach or consultant before? What has been your experience?
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