A man and woman, both wearing white shirts and black blazers, sit side by side at a table and look down at an open laptop. The man has a beard and shaved head, and his mouth is open as he speaks to the woman. The woman has dark blonde hair in a ponytail and holds a pen in one hand. In front of her on the table is a small pile of papers covered with text.
Before committing to a business coach, hold a preliminary meeting and make sure that your values and goals align. — Getty Images/fizkes

Executive trainers help leaders face and overcome challenges related to their industry, business department, or leadership style. However, some business coaches lack real-life experience with small businesses, and others won't jive with your personality. In addition, scams are a problem in this sector and many others, making it essential to thoroughly vet your selection.

Get the most out of your budget and coaching sessions by understanding your needs and abilities and those of potential trainers. Use these tips to find and choose a business coach.

Consider your goals and expectations

Business coaches will help you craft goals for yourself and your business. But you need a starting point when beginning your search. Having an idea of what you want a coach to help you with and what you expect to accomplish can help you narrow down your options. Some advisors specialize in strategies for improving your work-life balance, whereas others focus on lead generation.

At a minimum, Indeed suggested developing "a list of your personal goals for meeting with a business coach" and completing a business assessment. Think about your business's stage (startup versus ready to expand globally) and ways a trainer could enhance your professional abilities.

[Read more: 5 Signs That It’s Time to Hire a Business Coach]

Look at their education, experience, and credentials

Find out everything you can about your coaching candidates. Their website and LinkedIn profile will provide background information, but it's essential to confirm these details where possible. Many coaches hold degrees and have built, ran, and sold companies. They may be certified public accountants (CPAs), former CEOs, or current restaurant owners.

Look for professionals with business acumen, especially those who have worked with leaders in your industry and with your company size and stage. Have they spoken at industry conferences or been published in a reputable trade magazine? Coaching and trade associations may require members to meet eligibility requirements or certify trainers who complete coursework and exams. Additionally, you may be able to find a business coach through these organizations.

Here's a list of associations with which coaches may be affiliated:

A great business coach is part guide, cheerleader and warden.

Bianca B. King, marketing strategist and advisor

Contact references and read reviews

Perform due diligence to avoid scams when choosing a business coach. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommended that entrepreneurs "[s]earch online for the name of the company and words like review, scam, or complaint," and "[c]heck with your state attorney general for complaints." Remember to ask your network if they've heard of the coach or company and contact former clients to learn about their small business outcomes after coaching.

[Read more: Bugaboo GM of North America Reveals the ‘Game-Changing’ Imprint of Her Mentors]

Ask about their availability and pricing

Like you, executive coaches know their worth and value their time. One-on-one services can be costly, but it's an investment that can pay off. A coach should tell you their hourly rate and an idea of how many sessions you'll need. They should also disclose any scheduling conflicts that could affect availability.

Here are a few other questions to ask prospective coaches:

  • What does a typical coaching schedule look like?
  • Do they offer group sessions?
  • How will they deliver feedback?
  • Can you meet in person, online, or through email?

Check for compatibility and value alignment

The bottom line is that successful coaching experiences and outcomes require trust between you and your advisor. You should feel comfortable interacting with your coach and confident in their abilities. A trainer who shares similar values and understands your company's mission can help you achieve outcomes without compromising your principles.

Likewise, your personalities should mesh well. Chat during your initial meeting to see how you respond to their feedback and questions. In Entrepreneur, Marketing Strategist and Advisor Bianca B. King said, "A great business coach is part guide, cheerleader and warden." Pick an advisor that makes you feel capable but keeps you from getting away with less-than-full participation.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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