Why coaching is a vital to the entrepreneur engine

The most significant challenge for entrepreneurs is to transition from establishing their business to developing it, says a representative from a global federation of business coaches.

This is where a business coach becomes invaluable - to harness your entrepreneurial spirit and transition it into managing your business sustainably, says Trish Neill, regional lead at the International Coach Federation (ICF).

Presenting a masterclass on ‘unleashing ideas for growth through coaching’ at the fourth annual African Women Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum (AWIEF) in Cape Town, she says it’s often quite a tricky transition for entrepreneurs.

Businesses today are operating in what Neill calls a ‘ VUCA ’ – volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous - environment.

“Coaching happens in real time with the circumstances they’re presented with – the pace of change requires this. You can’t study a textbook to deal with decisions that need to be made today,” she says.

According to Neill, coaching isn’t always about changing something but to access thinking to create something new.

“I think why entrepreneurs particularly make use of coaching is that they value their own thinking and ideas. Coaching gives them focus and time to engineer their thinking into something sustainable,” she says.

After the transition, entrepreneurs want a “helicopter view” of their business, adds Cindy Muthukarapan, president of the South African branch of the ICF.

“They transition from working in their business to working on their business. They ask where to [from here]? So, it becomes a big picture thinking for growth and development.”

According to Muthukarapan, a business coach will help you unpack all areas of your business to create multi-focused, goal-oriented strategies.

“In a very practical sense, small businesses get stuck into a rhythm of doing the same thing every day, without considering the long-term vision for the business. A coach gets to ask these questions.”

Thembi Tlou, who started the leather bags and accessories manufacturer Luthii Leather four years ago and was coached by Neill, says it was towards the end of the first year of her business that she realised she needed someone to coach her. Fortunately for her, the Cape Craft Design Institute (CCDI) funded the sessions.

Tlou says at the time she had chosen a name for her business that didn’t adequately represent her. But with Neill’s honest feedback, experience, help and advice, she was able to cultivate an appropriate brand identity.

“[My business] has to represent who I am. I’m black and it must show that. I implemented a new name which everyone can now easily pronounce and remember. I made a lot of changes in my company because of her coaching.”

Tlou says it’s important to have someone who can offer you advice – on a business and personal level – or just keep you motivated.

“Sometimes you need someone to help you harness your ideas. A coach can help you to put in the necessary structures to allow you to achieve your dreams,” she says.

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