Why every Coach Needs a Business Plan


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So why does every coach need a business plan? I can hear your objections ringing in my ears right now! ‘Who me!’ ‘I don't need any outside financing, why would I bother with a business plan for my coaching practice’. ‘I haven't got the time to write a coaching business plan’. ‘It's all in my head, why would I want to go to the hassle of writing it down?’ ‘I already have a practice, I know where I'm going, I don't need a coaching business plan’. ‘A waste of time, effort and money, a coaching business plan is not worth the paper it's written on’.

Sadly, you are wrong. You do need a plan for you coaching business. It doesn't necessarily need to be the ‘all singing, all dancing’ version but you do need some sort of plan so you (at the very least) know where you are going with your coaching business. Let me tell you why. . . . . . . . First of all let's get the horror stories out of the way. I'm sure you know by now that in excess of 50% of all small businesses will fail within their first 3 years. There are no corresponding figures for the coaching profession specifically but anecdotal evidence would suggest that the failure rate is certainly not better than the average, indeed many coaching businesses never get off the ground in the first place.

There has been much research into the causes of such high failure rates and it is true that a proportion of business failures are caused by factors outside the control of the owner. But in the majority of cases, failure is caused by factors that could have been foreseen and managed. Peter Cochrane (ConceptLabs) cheerily writes ‘the question isn't why they fail so often, more by what miracle any survive!’ He goes on to site the key reasons that businesses fold: failure to identify and quantify an opportunity;failure to identify the customer and market; failure to search out the competition and assess risk; failure to address funding and financials. And finally, failure to draw up a plan. And guess what, all of the aforementioned omissions could have been addressed by the last - if only there had been a business plan!

Enough of the doom and gloom! Now for the good news. Drawing up your coaching business plan need not be arduous, tedious and costly. It can actually be quite easy; you probably do have much of it in your head already, you just need to pull it all together. And you can do it yourself, now you have me to help you either by following the guidance that will be published in this blog or using me as a one-to-one business planning coach. Trust me on the ‘easy’ and the ‘diy’ for now (more in a moment), but if you need further convincing, just take a look at the benefits of having a coaching business plan:

  • You get to see the big picture: your business with all its components, aligned with the rest of your life. You get the opportunity to stand back
  • You clearly define your vision, your mission, your philosophy and your ethics and align these with your personal values and beliefs
  • You focus right in on defining your product, your market, your client
  • You set yourself measurable outcomes, for which you are accountable
  • You have a step by step strategy along a timeline, for meeting those goals
  • You now have a focus for your time and energy, which makes you more efficient
  • You begin to address the risks, the ‘what can go wrongs’ and anticipate how you can overcome them, from limiting beliefs and skills gaps to lack of clients and financial issues
  • You can see whether it is financially viable from the outset, and at milestones along the way
  • You identify a business model that works for you: work life balance, nature of client, sales and marketing modes

    Here's a thought. As coaches what do we get our clients to do fundamentally, at the start of the coaching process? Well - set goals, of course. And what do we encourage them to do as a key component of achieving their goals? Yep, write them down. (Remember the research: only 3% of the population write down their goals and those that do are five times more likely to achieve them). But back to coaching business plans. You'll see where I'm going on this. That's all a business plan really is: a set of goals, in writing, with more or less detail on the means of achieving. Are we coaches walking the talk here? How many of us have written down our business goals as a starter?

    That's a very simple definition of a business plan. You can't get much more painless than that! Now to flesh it out a little, here are the fundamental features of a business plan :

  • In writing
  • Has a goal
  • Has a plan to get you from where you are now to where you want to be
  • Has some kind of performance measurement (likely to be the numbers bit)
  • Its dynamic. To be useful it will change over time: as circumstances change, you will need to ‘course correct'
  • It will be unique to you

    If you want the fully monty contents list for your coaching business plan, click here. But actually before you get hit by the overwhelm again, just take these 4 questions below and address them to give you the guts of your coaching business plan:

  • Exactly what is your product
  • Who are you selling it to
  • How can you be sure that they want it
  • How much will it cost you to provide. How much will you sell it for. . Will that make you enough money?

    Remember this: having a business plan is a significant indicator of a successful business. Only 25% of small businesses will have a business plan. Which group do you want to be in? If you want to learn more about drawing up your coaching business plan, watch this space or subscribe to my monthly newsletter. Alternatively, email me on info@yourcoachingbiz.com to find out how I can help you one-to-one. You can read Peter Cochrane's full article in silicon.com Other useful sources of information on business plans can be found at Business Link and is4profit

    Carol McLachlan is a chartered accountant, professional and personal development coach and NLP practitioner. Working with coaches, accountants and other professionals, she helps individuals and groups to set and achieve their goals at work and at home in order to attain the results to which they aspire. Carol’s unique coaching philosophy has been developed from her long experience working in a blue chip corporate enviroment and her firm belief that coaching is not necessarily about turning your personal or professional life upside down but about making the best of opportunities you already have and creating small changes that can really make a big difference to achieving your potential and maximising your success. Read more at http://www.yourcoachingbiz.com

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