Small Business “Coaches”: Solution or Snake-Oil?
Abraham Lincoln: A compass, I learnt when I was surveying, it'll point you True North from where you are
standing, but it's got no advice about the swamps and deserts and chasms you'll encounter along the way. If in
pursuit of your destination you plunge ahead, heedless of obstacles, and achieve nothing more than to sink in a
swamp, what's the use of knowing True North?
― From the 2012 film, “Lincoln”
In its October 2014 publication on DoD Contract Spending, the DC-based Center for Strategic and International Studies
reported that Federal contractors endured a 19 percent falloff in business in the Fiscal Year 2014. It’s pretty clear that
things are getting harder all-around for small businesses vying for Federal contracts in competition with large corporations
playing the Federal procurement system for all that it is worth.
Your business may not rely directly on Federal dollars, but there are few who are not indirectly affected.
The choices for most small business owners are meager. If they stay the course - either from lack of capital, self-delusion,
or lack of a viable method of charting the numerous “swamps and deserts and chasms” - that impede their business journey
at every turn, they are almost certain to become just another business statistic.
If they go to free sources of mentoring - notably government bureaucrats and government supported academic-based
"business centers" - valuable time is exchanged for the slim possibility that the free advice they receive from someone, very
likely someone who has never owned a business of their own, is actually worth something to justify the effort.
And if they decide to go to a small business “coach”, they have absolutely no way of knowing whether they are jumping
from the frying pan into the fire.
Here are a few tips for all those considering business coaches:
1. Are they selling training, or are they selling solutions?
2. Is the solution they are selling data based?
3. Will they provide a free or low-cost option so you can truly make a well-informed decision on their ability to help you
fix your business problem?
4. Can they provide a fact-based estimate of the Return-on-Investment you can expect to receive from their services?
5. Do they guarantee their work?
6. Do they have a Do-It-Yourself option?
To be in the demanding journey of business ownership is risky enough without the added hazard of becoming someone
else’s cash cow.
© Mark Lefcowitz 2014 -- 2015
All Rights Reserved