One thing all business owners who are successful have in common is their ability to ask for help when they need it. The good news is that help is readily available. There are many places you can find a coach or business counselor near you. Sessions are usually free, especially if your goal is to start a new business.
These are the tips that counselors and coaches want to share with you, regardless of whether you choose to see a coach through a free service.
1. Be prepared to take on more than you can handle.
After our counseling session, I had the pleasure of meeting an ideal client for business. After working full-time in a local municipality, he wanted to start his own lawn care and landscaping company. He had already asked his supervisors whether it was okay to start a side business that he could work on weekends and evenings. He was happy to be making plans for his future.
He already owned his equipment, a business license, a name, and business cards. He wanted to know how to reach local business owners. We discussed his market, his services, and how to gather information to determine prices. He also talked about how to get business inquiries.
Afterward, he felt more energized, and I felt renewed. I wondered, “Why was this session so productive? How can I get more clients like that?” Here’s the solution. He brought something. He came with experience in the field, savings to finance start-up expenses, and equipment. He was compared to another client, who recently came in wanting to start a business that would help women with childcare, housing, and life skills. I know many women who need it. You get the idea.
2. Trust your counselor.
Business counselors respect confidentiality. It’s okay for business counselors to sign confidentiality statements before they read your business plan. They can also swear that they will not steal or share your business ideas. Trust me. Business counselors are familiar with all kinds of business ideas, so they don’t know what is new. They aren’t looking for an original idea to steal, but they have chosen a career in business counseling.
3. Open and honest about your financial situation.
A business counselor is an excellent resource for funding. They can help you prepare a funding proposal. However, you need to be honest about your financial situation. In the initial session, a business counselor may not be willing to ask you, “How much money are you able to spend to start your business?” Or “How much money do you need to get a loan?” It’s crucial for them to be able to tell you early in order to find suitable funding sources. It’s not helpful to make vague statements like “I should be okay in getting a loan” or “I should have enough collateral for a commercial loan application.” The sooner you provide details, the better.
If you are an owner of a business and the counselor asks for financial records, don’t respond with “My accountant takes care of all that,” as this will only make it more confusing. The management of a business can be revealed through financial records. The counselor can help you with financial analysis using his expertise. By reviewing your records, the counselor can help you save money.
Warren Williams, the head of Turning Point Business Coaching, North Carolina, says that you should consider your financial situation. Good coaches will always have your best interests at heart. They genuinely want to make your business successful. Keep your mind open to all possibilities to improve your business by becoming better.
4. Do your assignments.
Once a counselor assigns them an assignment, business clients are more likely to hide or play hide and seek. One example of a task might be market research. Do not hesitate to ask questions if you aren’t sure what it is or how to do it. Do not smile as if it were obvious. Do not ignore follow-up calls or respond to emails from counselors because you haven’t completed your homework. This will delay your progress towards achieving your business goals. Tell the counselor that you are having trouble with the assignment and need more guidance. There’s no need to be embarrassed.
5. Understanding the role of the counselor.
The counselor’s role is to assist you in finding solutions, not tell you what to do. Counselors are a listening ear for you. They will challenge you and help you to see things in a new way. Maggi Braun, a long-time North Carolina business consultant, says they’ll help find solutions and not force them on you. Do not be discouraged if you don’t find the answers you are looking for.
6. Accept all ideas.
Be open to new ideas, no matter if you are a business owner or an established one. This is directly related to the previous point. Consider your time with a business counselor as an exploration session. There may be many solutions or ideas that come to your mind. You should be open to considering them all and then narrow down the top choices. Do a pros-and-cons sheet to determine which one is right for you. You shouldn’t be tied to one business name, idea, or process. Your business may not move forward if you are too attached to a particular name, idea, process, or procedure. You must be open to a new perspective on your business and willing to spend time digesting the information.
7. You should plan for at least one session.
A single session with a counselor for business will not be enough to fully appreciate the experience. A minimum of three sessions is required to get a solid foundation for how to proceed. You can get free counseling at your local colleges or universities, as mentioned above. A referral can be made to you by your local chamber of commerce, the business licensing office, or even the internet.
Barbara L. Hall directs the Small Business Center at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, Salisbury, N.C. Article reproduction permission is granted to webmasters and other article editors as long as the article remains intact, including author information and links. Copyright 2014 Barbara L. Hall
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