How to Become a Small Business Coach

If you've been in the business world for a while, have you ever thought about taking a more sidelined role coaching business owners? Or maybe even small business coaching if you're more familiar with the challenges of running one?

You're certainly not alone. The business coaching industry used to be very niche, but now it's growing in popularity and shows no signs of slowing down, especially as more people realize the importance of a coach.

The main downside is how to become a small business coach in the first place? There's no clear path to follow, no bachelor's degree in business coaching, and no coaching practice to get you started. And until that changes, the field is like the wild west.

But we're here to give you some pointers in the right direction to help you become a business coach.

business coach teaching others how to become a business coach

The Short Answer About How To Become A Business Coach

Before you get into the intricacies of becoming a business coach, make sure you have firsthand experience running or managing a business since it's essential to understand business challenges and overcome them.

If you don't have this experience, it's much more challenging to get into business coaching, let alone become a successful business coach.

Other than experience, previous client testimony and networking can help you land new opportunities.

And suppose you'd like to increase your chances even more. In that case, you can pursue education in the form of university degrees or accredited coaching programs like the ICF's various certified coach programs.

What Do Business Coaches Do? They're Different From A Life Coach?

Business coaches work behind the scenes to help their clients and business owners manage the company's day-to-day challenges and running operations.

Coaches do plenty of heavy-lifting on behalf of the business owner. But they don't do grunt work; instead, they mentor and train their clients to guide them through difficulties, especially in times of uncertainty.

A business coach can also provide an invaluable perspective on issues that business owners may not see through clearly when they're distressed or under constant work pressure.

Even during regular work, coaches can help their clients externally to improve their business relationships by refining the business model and marketing strategies.

They can also help internally by improving staff relationships, ensuring an optimal work environment, and goal setting.

And there's more that would bet too much to list here. But to cut it short, coaching is a very fluid endeavor, and each coach's job differs depending on their clients.

business coach helping a woman business owner

Are Small Business Coaches Different?

The goals and struggles of small businesses are different from large corporations. So naturally, some business coaches choose to specialize in helping small business owners.

If you have extensive experience with small businesses, your help can be invaluable to new business owners who may not know how to reach profitability and sustainable growth, for example.

But you can also choose to help start-ups, most of which need that extra push to get their foot in the door.

You could also take the role of a life coach with your client by helping them maintain a work-life balance and solve other personal issues that affect their decision-making.

And as you work with other business owners and executive staff, you'll help each other develop your skills.

In other words, you'll learn more about different challenges businesses face and how to handle them, and your clients will gain more management skills and learn how to deal with difficult situations calmly.

Benefits of Becoming a Small Business Coach

small business coach helping a man increase his sales

Why do people pursue small business coaching in the first place? Of course, money is a big part of pursuing any field, but there are advantages beyond the material that come with coaching business owners.

Many advantages set this field apart from the rest, but we'll only gloss over a few here.

Work-Life Balance

Not everyone can work in a standard nine-to-five setting, clocking in and out of work every day. One of the main reasons people go into coaching is to break that schedule since coaches enjoy more control over their working hours.

A business coach will still oblige to their client's needs, yes. But they'll also enjoy greater flexibility and more productivity in fewer hours.

After all, your clients won't need your services 40 hours a week.

You can also finish plenty of work at home. For example, coming up with a new strategy or analyzing a business decision won't need your presence at the office, so you'll enjoy more you-time.

A Business Coach Helps Others

small business coach helping a group of others with becoming a business coach

We don't mean to underestimate the challenges that large corporations face, nor do we mean to discredit their effort. However, we think there's no denying that, on average, most small businesses struggle more to stay afloat.

When you coach a small business owner, you're leaving a bigger footprint on the local community around it.

For example, if your client runs a small shop in a rural town of a couple of thousand people, especially if you live in that town, you'll quickly notice the fruits of your labor. In fact, a simple business plan can help most owners grow their business and achieve their business goals.

In contrast, coaching a large corporation in a multi-million-resident city might feel like your effort is a drop in the ocean if you can't feel the impact of your decisions around you.

Personal Development

Just like you'd benefit the clients you're supporting, your interactions and experience as you go through multiple businesses will hone various soft skills that define an experienced business coach.

Many of these skills will also help you outside the scope of coaching. For instance, working with businesspersons will develop your social skills over time.

And your communication skills will improve, too, since a big part of coaching involves listening to your clients' problems and providing clear feedback.

Other than those, you'll gain precious coaching experience that will help you grow your client base in the future and deal with their cases more efficiently.

Qualifications to Start Business Coaching

business coaching certificates for qualifications of other business coaches

The business coaching industry is relatively unregulated. Anyone can claim to be a business coach, and, if they're serious enough, they could be technically correct.

However, there are key differences that successful business coaches share. So if you want to stick to the latter category, you should learn about them. In fact, if you are serious about trying to determine how to become a small business coach, you should work on the qualifications required to become a business coach.

Having Business Experience

Whether it's business coaching, life coaching, sports coaching, or any other coaching niche, an integral part of being a coach is having the experience to solve their clients' problems effectively.

Most business owners know this well, so they often don't consider coaches who don't have business experience or even in their specific niche.

Let's take sports as an analogy. Most sports coaches were professional athletes in their youth. And a lot of the time, they relied more on their brains than physique as players.

It makes sense. You wouldn't hire a coach if they don't know firsthand what it's like going through rough patches. And the same applies to business coaching.

We'll talk more about experience below. But for now, you should know that it's probably the most important quality to become a small business coach.

business coach with a lot of business experience

People Skills

A massive part of being a small business coach is building solid and long-term relationships with your clients. They invest their money, and you invest your time and effort. So if you don't get along well, your efforts will go to waste.

The first thing most business coaches do when meeting a client for the first time is establish rapport. This will require you to ask extensive and bold questions to know all you need about your client to develop a suitable coaching program.

Even later on, you should be able to listen to your client's problems well and voice your opinions and suggestions accordingly.

Certified Business Coach

Although most universities don't yet have a coaching degree, other tracks can prepare you for coaching business owners and help you attract more clients at first.

Firstly, a business degree is usually a must among business owners. Most of them will be OK with a bachelor's degree, but an MBA or even Ph.D. can increase your chances because they signify a more profound understanding of business.

Apart from formal education, you can pursue a coaching program from a renowned organization like the ICF, which will give you a certificate of completion.

These certificates aren't a strict requirement, and many successful coaches have never pursued a coaching program to achieve coach certification.

However, they can give you great information about starting coaching and help you stand out.

Many References About Their Coaching Practice

References aren't a required qualification, either. But they can give your clients more confidence in hiring you since they show that you've dealt with struggling businesses before, and they can vouch for your help.

Many small business owners look for references because they're in a risky position, and they'd like a coach who knows how to help them out. And when they know you've previously helped people in the same situation, they'll be more tempted to hire you.

What Do Small Business Owners Look For in a Coach?

If you want to stand out in an increasingly competitive coaching market, you must understand what business owners are looking for.

A business owner is likely to be struggling financially with their company since only 40% of small businesses are profitable.

The owner will naturally be pickier since they can't afford to pay a coach's expensive wages and fail.

As such, experience in running a business is often the number one quality to look for.

If you also have experience helping struggling businesspersons and have previous clients who can vouch for you, you'll attract new clients much more easily, especially through networking.

And the statistics line up, too. A study by the American Management Association surveyed business owners and entrepreneurs on what qualities they look for when hiring a business coach. The results were as follows:

  • Business experience is the most sought-after trait, with 68% of the participants finding it critical.
  • Next are recommendations from a trusted source at 59%, which shows the importance of networking.
  • Interview with the prospective coach is third at 54%.
  • Consulting experience (52%) and validated client results (48%) are the following two traits, which show the importance of soft skills and previous coaching experience to owners.
  • Four of the five sought-after qualifications were academic: certification (33%), accreditation (29%), university degrees (28%), and Ph.D. (10%).

Have Business Experience

A female business coach with business experience

Education is important. But at the end of the day, it's a show of theoretical knowledge more than practical. And you can't obtain the various coaching skills by reading books or attending schools if you don't know how to implement this knowledge.

On the other hand, experience shows your practical skills and how you apply your knowledge in different situations.

The deeper your experience is, as in how extensive it is, the more likely you will attract clients in the same niche.

And this is where you have to decide between deep experience and broad experience, which is when you have experience in various fields and will have bigger premises to fish from, so to say.

Another crucial point is that you shouldn't consider education and experience as mutually exclusive. On the contrary, they both go hand-in-hand, and having both is a great advantage.

After all, a small business coach who works based on experience solely may not know what to do when facing novel situations.

So our recommendation is to look for a coach with the right combination of theoretical knowledge (academic) and practical knowledge (experience).

Certifications to Become a Successful Business Coach

Until schools develop their coaching packages syllabuses, there are no "official" or "universal" academic routes to take.

However, most people in this field agree that the most reputable coaching body is the International Coaching Federation (ICF), a non-profit organization dedicated to professional coach training.

The ICF has gained rapid popularity over the past decade, and it's even been called the main body for accrediting and training coaches in a New York Times article in 2015.

Currently, the ICF offers three certificates to credential coaches: associate, professional, and master:

  • Associate Certified Coach (ACC): Requires 60+ hours of training and 100+ hours of experience.
  • Professional Certified Coach (PCC): Requires 125+ hours of training and 500+ hours of experience.
  • Master Certified Coach (MCC): Requires 200+ hours of training and 2,500+ hours of experience.
a certified business coach

Online Business Coaching Services

For the past couple of years, more people realize that they can take their work to the cyber realm and deliver similar productivity.

The same applies to small business coaching. Many coaches now market themselves through online platforms or networks and work from home (or wherever they have internet access).

You don't even need to meet your client at all in person. All your meetings can take place on video conferencing programs like Skype, Zoom, and Google Meet, and it won't feel out of place.

One of the most significant advantages of online coaching is that your geographical area does not limit you. You can meet and work with numerous small businesses anywhere in the world.

So if you'd like to expand your horizon, you can start by creating an online presence on social media websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, or even building your own website.

You can also try freelancing websites like Upwork And PeoplePerHour.

faqs about how to become a business coach

Frequently Asked Questions

What Does a Small Business Coach Do?

Generally, a business coach advises business owners and supports them in reaching business success. A small business coach has the same job but specializes in helping small business owners.

What Are the Qualifications of a Business Coach?

The most crucial qualification is business experience. Experience helps you understand the challenges businesses face, and business owners prioritize experienced coaches so you'll be more employable.

Are Business Coaches in Demand?

The demand for business coaches is at an all-time peak. And at the current growth rate, it will likely continue increasing since it doesn't show signs of stopping.

Can You Be a Business Coach Without Certification?

Business coaching relies more on soft skills, like experience and communication than hard skills. So, yes, you can become a successful coach without a certification program. However, some people will inherently be more attracted to a certified business coach.

How Much Does An Online Business Coach Cost

The average online business coach will cost $75 to $350 an hour. The more experience the online business coach, the more they will charge. However, price should not be the only way you hire a coach. You should look at their experience and past performance with other online clients.

The Bottom Line

Getting into business coaching is difficult because there's no clear entry path to follow, no college degrees that specifically cater to coaching, and coaching training is sparse.

However, now that you know how to become a small business coach, you can start your journey. First, you'll need to have the necessary skills and qualifications if you're looking for success.

And no, we're not referring to certifications. They're wonderful resources, but many successful coaches have never pursued a certification program and instead rely on their soft skills.

The most important trait you need is business experience. It's substantially more challenging to coach properly if you don't understand small businesses' struggles and patterns.

Besides, you'll struggle to land your first client if you compete with experienced coaches.

Once you start attracting clients and working with them, you'll hone your coaching skills and become more productive.

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