Small business: Business coaching - Lorraine Burns

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Lorraine Burns, Managing Director, Recruitment by Design, is an experienced business coach

Lorraine Burns of Recruitment by Design.
Lorraine Burns of Recruitment by Design.

What kinds of companies have you helped and how have you helped them?

I have worked with a wide range of companies in IT, accounting, law, advertising, appearance medicine, construction, property, importers and distributors.

Generally we start by establishing the business objectives and identifying the main problem areas within the business. By tackling these areas first the business owner's time is often freed up to enable them to focus on business development rather than putting out fires. I always encourage clients to adopt a systems approach to problems they face in their business.

Some clients want assistance with evaluating business opportunities or advice with a particular problem. Others have the vision, the passion and determination to completely transform their businesses over a number of years.

Information about clients and their businesses is often commercially sensitive or of a confidential nature. You should expect complete discretion and confidentiality from a business coach.

What sort of satisfaction do you get from your work?

I love seeing my clients achieve their goals. I enjoy empowering them and watching them grow and learn. Their success is my success.

What sorts of challenges do you commonly find SME owners are grappling with?

I am often contacted by people when they have a problem and nine times out of 10 it will be staff related. SMEs don't usually have in-house HR expertise and it can be a minefield.

When performance expectations have never been defined, communicated or agreed to its difficult for business owners and managers to hold their staff accountable for performance. Managers don't enjoy confronting sub-standard performance or negative feelings and when an annual review meeting is the first time staff are made aware of shortcomings - it's a recipe for disaster.

By learning how to mentor and coach employees, owners and managers can transform businesses and create highly motivated, productive environments.

Lawyers and accountants refer their clients to me once they see the results achieved in their own practices.

What do SME owners have to commit to when they take on someone like you?

SME owners must be willing to spend time working on their business not just in it. They need to commit to "do what they say they will do" to achieve their goals.

It takes energy, drive and passion to succeed. With coaching, it is the client that does the work on their business under the guidance of the coach. If you do not have the time or energy to invest, then you may be better off engaging consultants to do the work for you.

How should SME owners go about choosing a business coach? What should they be looking for?

1. Identify the areas that you need help with i.e marketing, financial management, leadership, people management, recruitment etc

2. Meet the coach face to face for a no obligation chat to see if you connect

3. Get clarity about the coaching process proposed

4. Understand the time and financial commitment expected

5. Check that there is no conflict of interest - such as working with your competitors

6. Check their experience, knowledge and understanding of the issues you need help with

7. Reference check the coach as you would a member of your team


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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