On the journey of your coaching career, you’ll have the opportunity to help businesses of all shapes and sizes. From sole traders to well-known brands, all enterprises can falter from time to time. However, there are subtle differences between the needs of a small-medium enterprise (SME) and those of a larger organization.
Here are 5 secrets to success in coaching smaller businesses:
1. Awareness of Size vs Scale
The idea that coaching an SME is a smaller undertaking than coaching a larger company is something of a myth. The size of the company does not necessarily dictate the scale of the problems your client might be facing. More often than not, SME leaders wear many hats, and that means, the issues preventing their optimum success can be far more complex and multi-faceted.
The percentage of loss of revenue as the result of a particular issue can be exactly the same in scale as a bigger company (with a seemingly bigger problem) in terms of impact and implication. The secret, as an Executive Coach, lies in knowing this, and approaching both situations with the same tools and strategy – treating them as equal in scale no matter how big or small the business.
2. Pre-emptive problem solving
One benefit of larger companies is that smaller businesses can learn from their mistakes. This success secret relies on careful observation. As a coach, you will recognise similarities in situations you’ve seen unfold for larger enterprises, and assist your SME clients by recommending preventative measures. This will reinforce your client’s confidence in your expertise, as you will not only be helping to solve current issues, but prevent future mishaps.
For smaller business owners, their enterprise is their baby – the culmination of years of hard work and determination. A good coach will not be afraid to point out inconsistencies that show up in language and behavior in spite of this, and will do it in a clear way. It doesn’t mean you have to be as blunt or tactless, but being too nice dilutes the opportunity for your client to learn, and won’t do them any favours in the long term.
4. Don’t do all the work for them
Make it clear to your client from the outset that you are not a Band Aid for the business. You are there to help them help themselves. Your coaching sessions will generally focus on how behavior can be adapted, encouraged and/or minimized so that goals can be met. In the space between sessions, set your client homework assignments to promote faster learning and adoption of the desired new behaviors. This will also help them to further engage in the methods you are enabling them to implement.
5. Take into account the Human element
Behind every business is a person. Everyone deals with stress and emotion differently. A business owner’s ability to manage stress, doubt and work/life balance matters more than they probably realise, and should be brought into the discussion.
How your client manages themselves in adverse circumstances might be having a ‘poisoned well’ affect on their team, for example, i.e. causing undue stress and anxiety for others. An off-shoot of this can be a high turn-over of staff or essential team members choosing to leave. Bringing this to your client’s attention is not a judgement – it’s an observation. As long as you provide the tools for them to better organise their thoughts and keep a clear, calm head, they will thank you for your frankness later on down the road.
Size really doesn’t matter
A small business is not small to its owner. To them, it’s their everything – their livelihood, their ideas and their passion. For every small business making money, the dream behind it had to have been a big one, and the likelihood is that their vision and ambition knows no bounds. If you bear than in mind, as well as these five key secrets, your success when coaching SMEs will soar to dizzying heights.
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