Although there is no strict list of credentials required to become a business coach, there are some skills and traits that you will need on the job. Although this is not an exhaustive checklist, meeting the following criteria can ensure that you will be able to handle the challenges that come with acquiring and maintaining your first training clients:
- Business related background. While an MBA or other business-related degrees aren’t required, you should have at least some experience with businesses, whether you’re running them, building them, or working in them. The closer your previous experience is to running or building a business, the better. For example, it is better to have managerial experience in an SME than to work as a regular employee in a large corporation. Of course, having degrees, courses, training, or certifications in business, marketing, economics, accounting, and finance can also help.
- Personal skills. Being a business consultant also requires a deep understanding of human behavior, probably more than having a business background. After all, 35 percent of business owners hire a business coach for their unique coach style and philosophy, while the coach’s area of expertise comes in second at 27 percent. That’s why even without a business background, people with a psychology or social science background also do well as business consultants. The job often requires uncovering hidden motivations and obstacles, changing behaviors, and trying to convince clients to take action they might be reluctant to take – even if it’s in their best interest.
- Although not always a requirement, many business consultants obtain certifications from organizations that represent the industry, such as the International Coach Federation (ICF), the World Coach Institute, and the Professional Business Coaches Alliance. Trainers may also be approved by organizations such as nonprofits or universities. The 2012 Sherpa Coaching survey (table below) found that most business executives and coaches tend to prefer ICF certification over university endorsements. When considering certification, consider your goals, your clients, and the projects you want to work on. This will help you decide if certification is right for you and, if so, which option to pursue.
- Know your limits. This may seem like an odd requirement, but with the extensive services and experience that a business coach offers, it is inevitable that you will end up advising on topics that you are not as experienced with. This requires the humility and foresight to identify when psychotherapists, lawyers, accountants, and other specialized professionals need to step in.
With the variety of projects a business coach has to deal with, it then makes sense to have the above mix of business, communication and social skills to get the job done right.
Turn Your Experience into a Coaching Career
Even if you have limited business experience or none at all, it is possible to use the existing skills and knowledge you have and transform them into a valuable service to business. For example, linguist Richard D. Lewis used his background in linguistics as a springboard to provide cross-cultural communication training for companies.
Another example is author and business coach Marie Forleo, who comes from a diverse background. As finance major, she worked on Wall Street after college and then moved on to publishing, followed by life coaching and dancing. Since then, she has switched her services to business coaching and producing training programs that rake in millions of dollars in revenue per year.
Her previous experience may seem unrelated, but her content often includes clips of her dancing, helping her brand stand out. As for Forleo’s experience of being a life coach for women, she probably comes in handy for her business courses, which are primarily marketed toward women.
Take a look at all the valuable skills, knowledge and experiences you have to offer and ask yourself:
Which of your skills, experiences and knowledge can help you offer concrete help to SME owners?
Among the items you listed above, which ones can have the biggest impact on your potential customers? What kind of impact would that be?
Which of your skills, experiences and knowledge can help you with the marketing of your training services?
Think about how your unique combination of skills, experiences, and knowledge can help you stand out from other business coaches. (Consider Marie Forleo using her dance as part of her content, or Richard D. Lewis specializing in cross-cultural communication.)