Monthly Archives: February 2014

Choosing your Coach

Choosing your Coach

It can be hard to choose your coach; for a start there are a lot of people out there marketing themselves as coaches and mentors.  So how do you pick?  And how do you know who’s any good?  Here’s my quick guide.

1. Do you want a coach, a mentor or a consultant?

A mentor will probably have experience that’s relevant to you – they may have set up a business already, or started in the post room and ended up on the board.  In any case they will want to advise and guide you, sharing their wisdom.  A coach may not have relevant experience and will be reluctant to give advice; instead they will ask you questions and help you get to the answer that’s right for you.  They’ll also be very interested in your goals and what you want to achieve and will help you to get there.  A consultant will tell you what they think you need to do, and that may not be what you think you need to do!

2. Can you afford to pay?

Mentors are often volunteers. They may be a more senior manager in your company or an experienced person who gives a few hours a month pro bono.  Business and executive coaches are usually (but not always) highly trained professionals with considerable business experience and they will want paying.  Good coaches may charge £200 per hour or more so ask what their rate is before you get in too deeply.  Don’t be afraid to ask for a reduction – it’s a very competitive market.

3. Do they know what they’re doing?

As a coach I know I’m in a position of great trust with my clients so knowing what I’m doing really  matters to me, that’s why I’m studying for a MA in Coaching and Mentoring Practice at Oxford Brookes.  However coaching is an unregulated profession and anyone can set themselves up as a coach with very little training or experience.  So ask where they trained and for how long and check them, and whoever trained them, out.  Ask what their coaching model is (ie how they coach).  If they’re vague or evasive then it’s a fair bet that they’ve done a very short course or had some in-house training (if they’re with a big firm) and not much more.  Always, always check their LinkedIn profile for testimonials and ask to speak to a current client or two about their experience of working with the coach.

4. Do you like and trust them?

You’ll spend some very intense time with your coach, you’ll share things you never imagined you would ever tell anyone.  So can you trust them?  Will they judge you, or gossip about you?  If you think they will do either of those, run a mile.  And do you like them?  Is there any rapport between you?  Can you imagine looking forward to spending time with them?  If not, look for someone else.  Go with your gut instinct on this one.

Once you’ve made your choice and appointed your coach, mentor or consultant remember that you may well outgrow them.  If that happens don’t be afraid to move on to someone else who better meets your needs.  Some coaches focus on holding on to clients as long as possible; good coaches will encourage you to make whatever change you need to.


Building rapport with customers

Building rapport with customers

how bad customer service masquerades as good customer service.

We’re told that building relationships and rapport with our customers is all important, if we treat them well, give them great service they’ll be loyal to us.  I think that’s generally true, we would all rather work with people who are pleasant to us after all.  But I’ve also started to think that some businesses are getting it a bit wrong; they’re crossing a line and I for one find it very uncomfortable.    To show you what I mean here’s a few examples of slander, gossip and insincerity all experienced in major high street retailers during the past few months:

I was doing a bit of shopping in a major supermarket.  The man in front of me bought a bottle of wine, a case of beer, some burgers and sausages.  He showed no overt signs of alcoholism and I assumed he was having a barbecue.  He exchanged a few pleasant words with the checkout lady as he packed away his purchases before smiling at both of us as he said goodbye.  She greeted me and, leaning forward, commented in a knowing way that “He likes his booze”.  I was buying a few bottles of wine for a dinner party and a random few ingredients I had forgotten.  As I paid and left I wondered what she was saying about me.

In a different branch of the same supermarket chain at the weekend a younger checkout lady I had never even seen before gave me chapter and verse on her romantic entanglements, which involved a “love-rat” (her words) colleague at the same store.

I had my eyes tested and as he was firing puffs of air into my eyes the optician asked if I had taken the afternoon off.  Distracted though I was I responded politely.  He asked the same question as he was writing up my prescription 15 minutes later.  And then again as he showed me out.  He didn’t care, why should he?  But I would have preferred him to concentrate on my eyes rather than trying to make small talk.

It’s difficult, I know, because there are many people who love to chat and for some this may be the only social interaction they have all day.  Personally, I would rather exchange a few words than deal with a blank faced automaton.  But I do think the conversation needs to be appropriate and sincere and that’s where the retailers in question went wrong.    After all, you can’t force rapport, it’s either there or it isn’t and if you’re having to work hard at it then it’s probably not happening.  What’s wrong with “just” being respectful, pleasant, professional, sincere and efficient?  It’s certainly all I need.

Alchemy A-Z of running your firm: A is for Activity

Alchemy A-Z of running your firm: A is for Activity

When you start your own firm there are lots of things to do and get sorted so activity levels need to be high, but also well-targeted. It’s easy to end up as a busy fool, running around frantically doing things that aren’t actually going to take you forward (trust me, I know!).  So here are my 7 tips for getting things up and running quickly and smoothly:

  1. Have a look at your plan, and if you don’t have a plan make one.Lady using a checklist
  2. Draw up a list of the really important things that need doing (eg letting people know you’re in business, making good contacts, sorting things out with HMRC, designing your business cards and marketing material.  Oh, and getting people to pay you for what you do of course).
  3. Prioritise these various activities and give yourself challenging but achievable deadlines.  Clue: securing clients should be at the top of the list.
  4. Dive in and make a start.
  5. Find someone who’s not involved in your business to hold you accountable.  This could be a mentor, a friend or someone else who is just starting out.  I would avoid asking your spouse, partner or relative to hold you accountable.  Why?  There’s probably too much baggage and emotion and you may feel that you’re being nagged rather than supported.
  6. Focus.  There will be lots of bright, shiny new things that will catch your eye and distract you but until you knuckle down and get the basics sorted your firm will struggle to get off the ground.
  7. Remember that you need to rest and recharge so make time for yourself.  In the early days you may be your firm’s best and only asset so take good care of yourself.

A free, no-obligation coaching session will help you get things moving quickly so give me a call on 01235 861 311 or email at and we’ll get something in the diary.