The real business of coaching

The corporate coaching market is worth £1.8m. It’s one of the fastest growing industries in the world. But it doesn’t feel like that when you’re earning under £47,000 a year (the approximate average executive coaching income), does it?

Someone’s earning regular big bucks but it might not be you. The problem is that the approach most coaches take towards running their business hasn’t kept pace with the rapid expansion of our industry. In fact, it's easy to forget that coaching is actually a business at all.

For one, the focus on "the business of coaching" by industry bodies is very low. Last summer there were several coaching conferences and, of the 50 or so keynotes and break-out sessions available, not one of them was concerned with the business BEHIND coaching. They were all focused on "the art of coaching”. How can we develop ourselves, or our approaches, to be a more powerful coach for our clients?

Frankly, I am developed up to my eyeballs. I know there’s always more to do, and it’s coaching heresy not to say so, but development in the face of penury is not much fun. I’ve experienced a great many industries and it seems that coaches invest more pound per profit in development than other professionals. While this is incredible, this commitment to self-growth does not follow through or lead to business development.

And secondly, many of you will read this and think, “I wish I didn’t have to market, I just want to coach.” Many coaches don’t go into this line of work because they want to run a business. They do it because the world of coaching appeals to them. To quote coaching business guru Steve Chandler, “you’ve got to love the business of coaching as much as coaching itself.” If you can’t see that happening, consider an internal coach role or augment your income elsewhere. To succeed independently, you must get good at the right business model for you.

That’s what we’re looking at here - What is it really like to be in business as a coach in the 21st century?

What are the models, approaches and mindsets best suited to the coaching market? Traditional business models often don’t work - I can count on one hand the executive coaches I know who are successful in those breakfast networking groups. Coaches are, by nature, relationship builders, nurturers, servers, challengers and pretzel-ling themselves into old sales, business development and marketing models doesn’t always work for them.

Coaches still need to develop business, but more intuitively, in a way that will ensure they are regularly working AND building their skill base AND experiencing the varied and different facets of the market.

There needs to be far more discussion on this topic. What about the service business model? What about the associate business model? Or mindsets that hinder and help?

What will be right for you? And how long does it take to realistically build a solid coaching business? It can mean playing the long game, do they make that clear in coach school?

The Profitable Associate community explores the complexities of the associate coaching model – working for coaching organisations as an associate. As a new coach, have you planned it into your portfolio? As an experienced coach, did you fall into associate work and is it time you reassessed its place and potential in your business?

By the way, 76% of that £1.8bn market goes to existing relationships and referrals, not to new independents approaching clients directly, it’s a different market now and needs a different approach.

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