10 Things You Won’t Be Told When Hiring A Coach

If you have ever considered hiring a coach or an external advisor then today I want to share 10 things you won’t be told and things to look out for and consider when hiring some external support.

Time Stamp

[01:00] Take my brand new quiz to provide you with specific curated content

[01:49] Why every agency should have a coach to ensure you are performing at your best

[02:21] The coaching market is completely unregulared - look for experience over qualifications

[03:10] Look for someone who has strong emotional intelligence and empathy

[03:20] Look for a coach that works within a specific niche (rather than a generalist)

[05:40] 10 questions to ask a coach when looking to hire some external help

[09:23] What can a coach help you achieve?


“Sportsmen hire a coach to help them perform at their best - you should do the same for your business” - Rob Da Costa
“There is nothing more frustrating than being given academic advice that you have no idea how to apply to your business.” - Rob Da Costa

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 Full Episode Transcription

I thought I would record a slightly different episode today and make it a bit better and talk about some of the things that you won't be told when hiring a coach or an external adviser. Now, no doubt you've had some experience working with an advisor or a coach or a mentor. But today, I want to dig into some of the things that you won't be told when you are hiring a coach and some of the things to look out for if you are ever thinking about getting some external advice so that you make the best choice. Because, after all, you need to feel super safe, super comfortable, open, and trusting of whoever coaches your agency.

So that's what we’re going to talk about and let's jump into the episode. I'm Rob Da Costa, and this is The Agency Accelerator podcast. As someone who has stood in your shoes, having started, grown, and sold my own agency, I know just how it feels in the ups and downs of agency life. So this podcast aims to ease your journey just a little, by sharing my and my guests' experiences and advice as you navigate your way to growing a profitable, sustainable, and enjoyable business. Before I jump into today's episode, I want to tell you about my brand new quiz that will deliver you curated content based on the biggest challenges you face right now.

Now I realise that I have an awful lot of free evaluated content on my website, including this podcast, lots of PDFs, some webinars and so on; and it can be a little bit overwhelming to find what you need. So I've put together this very quick assessment to deliver the specific content you need right now. So head over to dacostacoaching.co.uk/quiz and take the two-minute assessment to receive my best content to help you today. Okay, so let's jump into the show.

Now, I think it's worth caveating this whole episode by saying that I believe every business should have a coach. In fact, many times running my business over the past 17 years, I've worked with a coach including 2022. And it's worth reminding ourselves that just like in sports, you don't hire a coach or an adviser or a mentor when things are going badly, but rather, you typically hire them when things are going well and you want to perform at that optimal level. Or maybe you've hit a brick wall. Whatever you've tried, you just can't get over it.

And so that is the perfect time to look for some kind of external support. Now the thing about the coaching market is that it is completely unregulated, which means anyone can set themselves up as a coach. Now I'm a firm believer in “experience really counts” so check for grey hair far more than qualifications. But of course, qualifications do give people a base level to start their coaching journey. And way back when I did a number of qualifications, some which were good, some which were bad. But to be quite honest, the best training I got was when I worked for a coaching firm and I learned on the job.

And so, I do believe that experience counts, but you need to be careful that you're not meeting someone that's done an online coaching course and set themselves up as a coach because that's gonna give you some dangerous, perhaps not so useful advice. So, as well as experience and qualifications, you also need to look for someone that has really good emotional intelligence and good empathy with you because you need to feel really comfortable with them and they need to be a really good listener. Now you know that I'm a fan of finding a clear niche for your agency so that you show up as the expert, and it becomes easier for you, to find the ideal target client and indeed for them to find you.

I believe exactly the same is true in the coaching sector. That's why I'm an agency coach that only works with marketing agencies between zero and 20 staff because I stood in your shoes and I started, grew, and sold my own agency. Which means I can empathise with all the challenges that you have along that journey of growth. So when considering whether should you hire a generalist coach or a specialist, I would always advise the specialist. Perhaps the generalist will bring some robust techniques and processes, but will they really understand you?

And there's nothing more frustrating than someone giving you a lot of academic advice, but you really can't make it work for your business, and then, they tell you that it's worked for everybody else. But it doesn't work for you, and you end up being frustrated and out of pocket. So, I would definitely advise hiring a coach that is a specialist in your area. Selecting a coach is definitely one of those slow-down-to-speed-up moments, which is one of my favourite expressions. I'm sure if you've listened to the podcast for a while, you'll know that I often say that.

So this is a slow-down-to-speed-up moment when you really need to take your time when you're looking for a coach so you don't want to just check out their qualifications and experience. But you also want to feel confident that they can help you and make a difference as quickly as possible. On that note, coaching isn't counselling, so you're not looking to create a dependency on the coach. But rather than give you the tools, techniques, confidence, and guidance to grow your agency in a profitable, sustainable, and enjoyable way. So a coaching intervention could look like working with you for, say, three months.

It could be working with you for six months. It could be working with you once a quarter. It could be working with you once a year, and your need and support for that coach will ebb and flow. And that is really typical of how I work with my clients. I might work with them on a monthly basis for, say, a year, but then after that, I might only work with them every quarter or they bring me in to support them around specific challenges and specific projects. So with all of that being said, here are 10 questions to ask when hiring a coach or an external adviser.

So question number one is, “What qualifications and experience do you have as a business coach and as a coach working in my sector?” So number two would be, “Can you provide some examples of specific goals and outcomes that you've helped other clients achieve in the past and again, specifically in the agency sector?” Question number three is to understand their approach and their philosophy so, and also ask them how they customise their coaching to meet the needs of individual clients and specifically to meet your needs. Question four is to understand the services they offer.

How frequently do they typically meet with a client? Is there any minimum term that they sign you up for or suggest that you work from? Question number five is “Can you provide references, testimonials, and case studies from past clients? And indeed, can you talk to some past clients or current clients?” Number six is to understand how they determine their fees and what their billing practices are. And again, are they tying you into any set period? There's nothing worse than signing a 12-month contract with a coach to find out after month one that they're not a good fit for you.

They don't really understand you, and now you're tied into them for another 11 months. Question number seven is, “Do they have any potential conflicts of interest that they should be aware of?” That typically isn't too much of an issue but there might be something you're concerned about. Question number eight is, “What is their process for setting and tracking progress towards specific goals?” So, when I start with the client in the very first coaching session, we will set some specific goals for the coaching, and we'll also ask how success will be measured and we'll keep going back to those points in every coaching session.

Question number nine is, “How do you handle challenges or setbacks that may arrive during the coaching process?” If they're not getting results that they've talked to you about, or if you suddenly got some other challenge that you need to discuss, will they be very rigid and stick to the plan that they've set? Or are they're gonna be flexible to meet the needs of whatever is going on for you right now? And then number 10, is to ask for a clear contract outlining the terms of engagement and the services to be provided just to make sure that there are absolutely no misunderstandings.

So as I said, this is a slow-down-to-speed-up process and you should make sure that you've dug into at least those 10 questions when selecting a coach. Now, as I said in the introduction, I do believe that everyone should have a coach. I think it's fantastic to have an external sounding board whose only objective is to have your back, but they should also be willing to say the difficult things to you if they need to if that's gonna support your business. That's certainly my approach.

I always feel like I'm very empathetic, and a great listener, but I'm also going to hold people to account as well. I always say to people, “One thing you can't say to me is that you were too busy to do the work that we agreed. Either working on your agency-type work, because if you're too busy, then we're not going to make any progress. Include, there's some other issue that we need to dig into, that means you are so entrenched in client service mode that you have absolutely no time to work on your agency.”

I learned a long time ago that you can take a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. And what I mean by that, is that you can give a client all of the tools and the support and everything to help them be successful. As I said, if they are too stuck in client service mode, so they're not making any time to work on the agency, then there's not much I can do. So certainly when I'm taking on clients now, I'll really be looking out for that and discussing how they can make time to spend an hour or two a week working on their agency and working on the projects that we discuss in the coaching sessions.

So what can a coach actually help you do? That might be a question that you're wondering about right now, so let's start with the bigger-picture stuff. I often start off by working with a client on their vision and turning that into a year plan, breaking that down into quarters and months because, at the end of the day, we all need a road map for our agency. And if we start with this high-level thinking, then the projects we need to work on after that will become very evident through the plan.

After we've got the business plan in place, we may well look at your market position. So who are you? What's your niche in the marketplace? Who’s your ideal target customer? And is all of your outbound communications communicating with you in this specific niche? Because that makes it so much easier to win the right type of client. So the coaching process then might focus on business development, it might focus on marketing and putting the right strategy in place that is gonna deliver consistent results. It might be looking at the sales process and working out how we can really refine that so that you are focusing on limited time on the hot prospects and not on the time wasters.

It might be looking at systems and processes because we need a robust foundation in your agency if we want to grow in a sustainable way. And so that might mean, looking at putting IT systems in but it also might mean documented processes such as handbooks and contracts and roles and responsibilities. And talking of that, we might be focusing on people and how and when to hire people; how to make sure we get it right. How to understand the person that we're looking for both from a competency perspective, but also from a kind of cultural fit as well, which is so important in small agencies.

And then we might talk about client retention or staff retention. We look at money because obviously, we don't want to be busy fools, but we want to make sure that we are winning the right kind of clients–which means you know you'll do a great job for them. They are happy to pay a fair fee for the work and indeed, they value the work that you do for them. So that's just a kind of example of some of the areas that a coach might help you with.

And of course, they're gonna help the human aspect of an agency as well. So they're gonna be a shoulder for you to cry on when you need to, a sounding board, an adviser, an agony aren't even. So, they need to apply that human aspect to the business as well as the business coaching aspect as well. Okay, so I hope that episode has given you a bit of food for thought. It's a bit of a different episode, but I thought I would record one because I get asked this question quite a lot.

And I see, quite honestly a lot of charlatans out there promoting themselves. If something seems too good to be true, someone is offering you a super low rate. Then, as we all know in life, it usually is too good to be true. So I hope that helped. If you enjoyed today's episode please share it with your colleagues. Please consider leaving a review in apple podcasts and also make sure you hit the subscribe button so you are alerted every Thursday as we release a new episode of The Agency Accelerator podcast.

Other than that, have a great rest of your week, and a restful weekend and I will see you next Thursday on the next episode of the show.

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