Business coaching isn’t magic though the results can make it feel so. One client had one session with me where we reviewed her offerings, sketched out a new approach to her strategy work, and priced it. She had an inquiry and emailed me for feedback on her quotation. This resulted in a $24,000 job – the result of one hour’s coaching plus a couple of emails – for less than two months’ work, to be done alongside her other work.

It’s more than possible to double or triple your income relatively quickly, with the aid of a business coach. To redesign your business not just to earn far more, but to do work that lights you up, to stop saying yes to easy yet unsatisfying work, and to create more personally meaningfully work. Business coaching results can be spectacular.

But these results aren’t common and coaching isn’t magic. In fact, at the risk of arguing against my best interests as a business coach, coaching won’t work unless two key conditions are present.

Without these two conditions, the business owner is better off seeking alternatives to business coaching, which include business training (particularly marketing and sales training), therapy (always a good idea for business owners), and investing in your personal network of friends and business buddies who can pick you up and cheer you on.

Being willing to outrun your fears

The first key condition for business coaching to work is that the coachee must be willing to outrun their fears.

Growth is uncomfortable. Those monsters in our minds that we invest so much time and energy into making real, only so they can scare us into not doing *the thing* that we really, truly want to do? It takes immense courage to confront and dismantle those.

It takes humility to understand how our minds aren’t always working in our best interests. It takes stamina to keep unpicking and unlearning the beliefs, thoughts, ideas and attitudes that are helping us. It takes guts to question or argue with your business coach – who you’ve invested significantly with – to better understand something that’s complex or problematic.

The good news is that your psychology is not a life sentence. We can learn how to actively and continually dismantle the oppressive socialisation systems that we’ve inherited (like patriarchy, capitalism and racism).

Growth is uncomfortable. Confidence feels horrible when we’re out of practice. Self-assertion can feel dangerous when it’s unfamiliar.

Luckily, there are countless tools in the coach’s toolkit to help clients work with their fears. Business (and life) is not a “one size fits all” so you may need to try out a few different tools before you figure out what works to keep you moving beyond your fears.

Everyone has fears

Business owners often confide their fears to me assuming that they’re the only one who feels these. But everyone has fears.

Some of the most common I hear:

Having coached hundreds of owners over the last 10 years, I know that most of these fears are based on the ego. Most business owners that I coach aren’t risking tens of thousands of dollars in a launch or event; instead, they’re risking their ego.

Your ego can be a huge liability. It stops you doing what you want to be doing while also stopping you from enjoying the self-satisfaction of whole-heartedly pursuing your dreams.

Being motivated

Once this first condition for business coaching is conquered, being willing to outrun your fears, then motivation will naturally result. When our minds are working for us rather than continually asserting how we need to stay where we are, we free up a lot of energy to commit elsewhere.

Being motivated doesn’t mean working 24/7 (that’s just more of the same old same old oppressive system). It means having plenty of natural energy for our business. It means that when we face the next disappointment, failure and setback, we can pick ourselves up more easily. A bad mood doesn’t endure as long as it once did, leaving more time for us to be joyously productive.

Being coachable

The second key condition for business coaching to work is being coachable. I’ve wasted thousands of dollars investing in programs that I wasn’t willing to be coachable in. I had a mountain of reasons for this, most of which related to my own stories, not the coach or program.

For a person to be coachable, they need to be vulnerable. For many, this is the first hurdle because it’s not uncommon for people to have substandard experiences with business coaches or in group coaching programs.

These experiences include all sorts of bad advice or, at the extreme end, gas-lighting, victim-blaming (“everything happens for a reason”), psychological abuse, or even physical and sexual abuse, by coaches that coachees have invested several thousands of dollars with.

Being coachable doesn’t mean being biddable or suggestable, or never disagreeing or arguing with your coach. Being coachable means entering into an equal relationship between consenting adults, with mutual respect as a minimum requisite.

Being coachable doesn’t mean you take advice, mentoring and direction from countless sources. In fact, being involved with too many coaches or programs at the same time, or with one rapidly following another, isn’t good. The coachee may be dependent on external advice, giving away their responsibility for their business and decision.

Being coachable simply means that you’re open, curious, emotionally mature, and ready for change.

Being ready

Those jaw-dropping testimonials that some coaches post, with the awe-inspiring metrics and data? I’m sorry to say that most businesses aren’t tracking their metrics that closely. (It would be fabulous if all businesses did!)

The ugly truth of business coaching is that the most aspirational, highly expensive coaches oftentimes vet their clients very closely to ensure that each person they work with is perfectly placed to get awesome results.

Vetting coaching clients (or all types of clients) is important and a high price tag is not enough to help owners self-select.

One-to-one business coaching is a significant investment. I don’t want to take owners’ money if I feel my price tag doesn’t justify the return they will likely get from coaching with me. This is why I don’t do one-to-one coaching with new business owners – because they’ve got 5,239 other tasks on their list and they’d be better placed investing in training or spending time learning new essential marketing and sales skills.

Business coaching works best when the owner is relatively established with plenty of client work, but they also know they’re the key bottleneck that’s sabotaging their growth. And, they want something different – enough to feel uncomfortable, examine their own psychology, and outrun their fears.

When issues are long-standing or hard to shift, and the business owner has the self-insight to recognise this – this is when business coaching pays for itself, many times over. Because knowing what to do isn’t enough. Doing it is something else entirely.