Small business: Business coaching - Terry Allen

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Terry Allen, Allen Strategic, a business advisory service which provides advice on issues of governance, strategy and operational services

Terry Allen of Allen Strategic.
Terry Allen of Allen Strategic.

Half his time is spent in the boardroom or on advisory boards, the other half is spent helping companies develop strategies to drive growth and then working with the company owners or management team to implement this strategic plan.

For SMEs who are bringing in business coaching, what else should they be looking at in their overall business strategy?

Both employee and coach need to have an awareness of the business' goals and vision, before any transactional coaching around a single issue can be executed effectively.
When a coach has an understanding of the bigger picture, they have far more capability to adjust their coaching to effectively address the strengths and weaknesses of the person, their current environment and how to produce a positive result.

How do you think SME owners should select the right business coach for them?

Owners need to look at the criteria for a coach as they would for any advisor, board member or employee. Frequently I see people select coaches simply on who they meet and are impressed by. The owner needs to honestly address their own gaps, and seek a coach that can assist in filling in these areas.

Chemistry is critical for this to be successful as the ongoing relationship needs to be founded on trust, confidence and a communication style that works for the owner. Often the best coaching comes from people from completely different industries as there is an honest objectivity.

Do you think senior staff should have coaching too as well as business owners?

Coaching and mentoring is important for everyone. Sports people work with a coach on an ongoing basis as an integral part of accelerating their performance yet in business we do not apply the same well proven concept.

In the best case scenario what can good business coaching do?

Good coaching enables owners to make better decisions and address issues and opportunities in a way they would not have considered without the use of a coach. Ultimately this leads to increased business performance.

And in the worst case scenario what harm can business coaching do?

Poor coaching can create confusion, erode the confidence of the owner, and at the simplest level provide incorrect advice that if taken on board and implemented, reduces company performance and erodes shareholder value.

Where are SME owners going wrong?

The three areas I am most frequently addressing are how to overcome poor governance to help drive the overall company performance; this is achieved through sensible strategy and risk management. Secondly, how to balance growth strategy and investment in new resources while maintaining a healthy profitable balance, and lastly, measuring the investment required to grow company leadership. Coaching is one vehicle to achieve this - and getting the decision makers to buy into it.

Can it sometimes be better for SMEs to have an advisory board rather than a business coach?

Advisory boards and coaching are complementary. There is a strong case to put in place an advisory board for the business, and a coach or mentor for individuals. In my view a well-constructed professional advisory board can provide tremendous value to a business for there is diversity of opinion which lessens the risk of following one person's advice. A good advisory board will consist of people who intrinsically coach the SME as a whole, and their advice results in proactive action. A well selected board will also provide a broader downstream network for the SME.

Next week: Hiring a new staff member is a big step for a small business. They need to be reassured that the company can afford it and that the position is absolutely necessary for its growth. Tell us what a new person has done for your business and any tips you might have on your workforce planning.

- NZ Herald

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