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The old joke goes, "The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you're still a rat." So it's no wonder more and more fast-track executives, sick of spinning their wheels on the rodent track, are starting to seek out business coaches to help them get back to the basics and learn to enjoy more fulfilling professional and personal lives.
Business coaches synthesize the best concepts from business, psychology, spirituality and sports to help individuals and teams of executives focus on finding and achieving their goals in life. Successful coaches push clients beyond what they could have done on their own, and provide the tools, support and structure needed to accomplish their dreams.
According to Coach University in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, the largest coach training facility in the country, the demand for business coaching and coach training has more than tripled during the past year--due to a growing trend among professionals in industries across the board to better align their personal and professional goals.
While many business coaches have years of experience in a specific field, such as law, accounting, banking or communications, a growing number of younger coaches find their age is an asset. "My clients tend to be younger people who want someone their own age to relate to--people who graduated from college a few years ago and aren't feeling fulfilled in their jobs," says 29-year-old Jeff Horn, a former information systems consultant who became a Memphis, Tennessee, business coach in 1997.
More than anything, professionals who want business coaches are looking for someone to help them clearly see their choices and be their champion--which often requires the spirit and energy of youth. "I came up against a lot of people who said I needed more life experience and wouldn't be able to coach older people, but that has certainly not been the case," says Melissa Daimler, who started Palo Alto, California, Actioncoach.com two years ago at the age of 27. "Many of today's workplace issues are directly correlated to issues important to the younger generation, such as new styles of management and leadership, flexible hours and balanced lifestyles."
Although you don't need formal training or a professional license to become a coach, a number of training centers continue to open nationwide. More than 1,000 would-be business coaches have graduated from Coach University, which offers its courses over the telephone.
Coach U's 36 core TeleClasses (each is four weeks long; you can take up to four classes per month) cover everything from the language of business coaching to tips for counseling clients about specific situations such as job transitions and starting a new business. For about $3,000, most students can earn their coaching certificate in one to two years.
"There's a lot of innate ability involved in coaching, but a formal training program can really help you hone that listening process of letting people brainstorm for themselves before giving any advice," says 25-year-old Chris Hamilton, who recently graduated from Coach U and began coaching part time. Becoming a coach was a natural move for Hamilton, a bank services officer at Wells Fargo Bank in Palmdale, California. "I find myself using coaching skills every day in my job supervising bank tellers--listening to people without judgment and helping them resolve personal and professional conflicts," he says.
Daimler, too, found that her previous jobs led naturally to a career in business coaching. In addition to working as Coach University's national enrollment manager for a year, she had worked in several companies' training and development divisions. "All the jobs I did before coaching were essentially 'coaching,'" she recalls. "However, they weren't called that at the time."
In addition to a training program, should you choose that route, you'll need about $500 to buy office supplies, a good organizational system and an answering machine for your phone. A PC with word-processing and accounting software programs is also helpful; that should set you back another $2,000 to $2,500. Most coaches secure clients by word-of-mouth, so investing in advertising and marketing may not even be necessary.
Most coaches working with individuals charge between $200 and $500 per month for one half-hour phone call or meeting each week (some throw in counseling via e-mail as well). Hamilton, for example, charges individual clients $250 per month for four weekly coaching calls and unlimited e-mails and faxes. Business coaches hired by a corporation to coach individuals or executive teams usually charge more because more time is involved; some corporate clients work with a coach for as long as an hour or two a week. Companies such as IBM and AT&T contract with coaches to work with their employees for fees that can run anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 per month. According to Coach University statistics, after two years the average full-time coach earns between $50,000 and $100,000 annually.
As in any worthwhile business, money isn't the only reward. "I help people find the fun that's missing in their jobs, and learn how to use fun as a strategic weapon to achieve results in all areas of their lives," says Terrill Fischer, 36, CHO (chief humor officer) of Humor University, an Austin, Texas, coaching company. "People take themselves way too seriously, and I help them see the truth about themselves--and laugh at it. That relieves a lot of pressure and stress, and helps them to see more clearly what to do next."
For more information on becoming a business coach, check out the following web sites:
- Coaches Online Forum: Sponsored by The Coaches Training Institute in Mill Valley, California, this interactive forum between coaches and would-be coaches is a great place to get a variety of questions answered.
- Coach University is the nation's largest coach training center.
- The International Coach Federation is a nonprofit, professional organization of coaches that sponsors seminars, a newsletter and other learning and networking opportunities for coaches.
To succeed as a business coach:
- Have a network of people to draw upon for knowledge, contacts, referrals and support.
- Don't depend solely on your clients for your next paycheck. Have a reserve of money or a day job to rely on at first.
- Develop a business plan and follow it from day one.
- Establish a niche.
- Start by practicing on three to five friends for a modest fee (or free) before hanging out your shingle as a professional.
Jennifer Haupt, based in Bellevue, Washington, has written for such publications as Nation's Business, Bloomberg Business News and Washington CEO.