Business Support Gone Wrong.
I didn't know this was a "thing" until I started my own consulting business, but apparently there are LOADS of people out there who have used business coaches and consultants in the past and been totally ripped off by the experience. The first time I heard someone's story about this I thought, 'That's a serious bummer'. The second time I thought, 'I totally just heard a story so similar to this...' and then the third, fourth, fifth (etc.) times I just shook my head sadly and apologized for their negative experience because really, what else can I do? It's caused me to think through what I promise, how I promise, and what I deliver so that I'm in a place of integrity with my clients at all times. Sure, we make mistakes from time to time, but we always try to make it right in the end.
If you're a business owner who's looking to hire a supportive person or team, here are some things you can do to make sure you don't give hundreds (or thousands!) of dollars to a person who won't follow through on your expectations:
1) Check out their website and make sure they have tons of great reviews from past and current clients. If this is conspicuously absent from their page, then that could be a red flag. Sure, it could mean they just haven't gotten around to adding that to their site, but more often then not it could be that they haven't done the leg work to get reviews from their clients (which is, in and of itself, a red flag) OR they don't have enough clients and potential good reviews to post with confidence.
2) TALK to people who have worked with this person or team in the past. Ask for at least 3 referrals and call them up! Ask the tough questions. Get a sense of what to expect. Don't rely on how fancy someone seems on social media (!!!). If you ask for referrals and the owner or point of contact is not able to easily rattle off 3 names and emails (or get back to you within 24 hours) that too should be a red flag. Great businesses often have a list of people who are thrilled with their products and are happy to talk about them.
3) Make sure you have at least a 30 minute call or in person interview with the coach so that you can ask whatever questions you need to and get a sense of their communication style and energy. They should be asking you a lot of questions as well and not just selling themselves the entire time.
4) Make sure you have a written out understanding of what they will be delivering you, how long it will take, and how much it will cost. You want to feel confident about these details from the beginning and throughout the entire process. In some form or another you should know what the actual deliverables will be at the end of the process and how much time they will be spending with you one on one throughout. For instance, our Business Support Package costs $850 and covers 10 hours of our time over a 30 day period that can sometimes go as long as 6 weeks. There are 4 check-ins throughout that 30 days. Two happen in person and two are over the phone. Each one is a maximum of 1 hour in length so there's time for us to do legwork behind the scenes as well. This is a very simplistic description of the package but allows our clients to understand what to expect from start to finish. They then decide how they want us to spend our time with them. Maybe it's on social media strategy. Maybe it's branding. Maybe it's web updates or back end organization. It could be a new product or course launch. Perhaps they want collaboration around business cards or fliers. Whatever their goals are, we establish those in the first meeting and give them periodic updates throughout. At the end of the 30 days we provide them with a break-down by item and hours.
Always, always, always, give a review at the end. Even if the company doesn't ask for one. Send them an email with one paragraph describing your experience. If it wasn't entirely positive, but was *mostly* ok then tell them that! Share first the 3 things you appreciated and share second the things that you wished had been different. Give them the opportunity to ask, "How can we make it right?" If it was an amazing experience and you feel it was a great value (meaning you got what you paid for) then say that! Tell them quite simply that it was a 5 star experience and you will recommend them to your friends! This kind of feedback is so supportive to businesses. If it was an awful experience from start to finish then SAY THAT. When I've spoken to clients who had bad prior experiences with other coaches, I always ask them, "Did you share that feedback?" In every single case the response has been a version of, "No, I didn't want to cause a fuss." It's tough to give constructive feedback to people, but it's a necessary thing in life and in business so we need to practice it! You aren't doing business owners any favors by ignoring the fact that you feel ripped off. That's a sucky feeling and, by the way, it will allow for the same experiences to occur to more unsuspecting/trusting people in the future.
I offered feedback to a local company I did work with a few months ago when I wasn't happy with the end product and the owner turned around and blamed it all on me! I was shocked by the response, but understood they just don't get great customer service and they chose to take the feedback personally rather then professionally. A great response to tough feedback is, "I don't want you to feel that way. How can we make it right for you?" There's a limit, of course, because we don't have unlimited resources and we have to draw a line somewhere. We can't give someone thousands of dollars of services for free because they were unhappy with some aspect of what they purchased. This is seldom required however. Most of the time people just want to feel heard and know that you're willing to compromise without becoming defensive. Sadly, I will never do work with the above company again because of their response to my feedback, which is a real bummer. The same should be true for you. Don't do business with people who aren't easy to communicate with and willing to compromise.
Tell me, what are some of your big questions or concerns about hiring a business coach? I would love to hear them!
PS - Although we are booked through September, we still have a couple of spots left for new clients in October and are booking now!