9 Questions to Ask When Evaluating Business Coaches

Written By Danielle Fauteaux

Every professional can use a bit of support from time to time. Business coaches provide that support, giving guidance and insights from an objective perspective and helping you stay up to date with marketing and graphic design trends.

Similar to those you rely on to assist you in other areas of life, your business coach can’t be just anyone. It’s important to find a coach that you not only get along with but who also has suitable industry expertise and an understanding of the unique challenges facing small  to mid-size marketing agencies in the current digital and economic landscapes.

What Questions Should I Ask a Potential Business Coach?

There are numerous business coaches out there who might promise they can help you reach such-and-such goal or achieve x amount of success for your marketing business. How can you trust they’ve got your back?

Once you’ve narrowed down the field to a few potential picks, strike up a candid conversation about your needs and how that aligns with what they have to offer. Here are a few important questions to ask an agency coach:

1. Is Your Focus Leadership-focused or Industry-specific?

While some business coaches have an industry vertical niche, like marketing for marketing agencies, some may have a broader focus on general leadership skills, selling, positioning, etc. The first step is identifying your own challenges or areas in which you need assistance. 

  • Do you want to grow as a business leader, promote positive change within your agency, or familiarize yourself with the logistics of scaling a company
  • Or do you want specialized guidance and insights related to your service mix and how to improve your sales close rate?
  • Do you have specific scenarios and challenges to address regarding internal operations and controlling the chaos of agency life? 

In a nutshell, you are evaluating coach options based on the primary issue that is keeping you up at night and your perception of how well that coach can help you address that issue. 

2. What Are Your Areas of Expertise?

Even if a business coach claims to offer specialized services for leaders of marketing and creative agencies, confirm they have expertise in the right areas before making an investment. Their background matters.

  • Are they well-versed in different aspects digital marketing and market forces that are driving change and introducing risks?
  • Do they stay up to date on changes that affect the digital marketing industry? 
  • Are they selling you on repeating exactly what they did to succeed? Are they offering to help you succeed on the path you’re paving?
  • Do they appear to have been effective at building long-term client relationships?
  • Do they come recommended by managers and colleagues from prior roles? 
  • Do they have experience deploying lead generation efforts, sales to delivery alignment efforts, profit enhancing initiatives, employee management solutions? If they’re going to be giving you advice in any or all of these industry-specific areas, they should be someone you can trust to do so with an expert perspective. Even though no person can know everything, they should be able to help you problem solve and hold you accountable.

A strategic business coach should embody the attributes they expect in you. Teachable. Humble. Honorable. Effective. Kind. Invested.

3. What is Your Coaching Style?

There are a variety of coaching styles and it’s natural to not be receptive to them all. 

Depending on your personality and leadership style, your professional responsibilities, and your pain points, there may be one style that’s better suited than the rest. Find someone who delivers their coaching in your preferred style, whether that be regular one-on-one meetings in person or virtually; them providing you online resources and connecting you with new tools; or group coaching designed to target your whole team. 

Ask clarifying question so that you can understand better what interactions with the coach would be like:

  • How do they typically communicate? 
  • What methods of accountability do they use? 
  • Who is involved in the coaching sessions?
  • What happens in between coaching sessions?
  • Are they focused on your empowerment by providing guidance or are they more aggressive with telling you what specific actions to take? 

Find out if their style is compatible with you and your agency before hiring them.

4. How Do You Define Success?

When it comes to identifying desired outcomes, you want to be on the same page as your business coach in terms of what constitutes success and how that will impact your goal-setting. 

Are they committed to helping you set and reach concrete goals for productivity and performance, like increasing client retention, acquiring new clients, and growing your revenue

Or do they see success as something more intangible, such as boosting confidence and morale, fostering operational resiliency, shifting the brand positioning, or developing critical skills, such as decision-making? You should share similar frameworks for identifying outcomes and measuring success as the coach coming along your pursuits.

5. Would Any of Your Clients Be Willing to Answer a Few Questions for Me?

Asking for references the names of marketing and creative agencies that the business coach has previously worked with will supplement the information you glean from other questions. The best litmus test for evaluating coaches is seeing if they are comfortable enough connecting you with a long-standing client so that you can gather more information.

You will be able to see if their past clients were similar to your agency in terms of scope and scale. You will be able to hear a first-hand account of what interaction with the coach are like. 

Additionally, the coach should be able to give concrete examples of how those agencies benefited from their guidance. 

6. What Types of Plans Do You Offer?

Agency consultants and business coaches often offer different frameworks and types of plans or packages for delivering services, including how often you’ll meet, how frequently you’ll communicate, and the timeframe for coaching. Sometimes they can tailor a plan to your specific needs and desired outcomes. 

As you explore potential coaches, find out how each one structures their services, along with the commitment that will be required of you. 

Additionally, ask about their pricing structure and how/when you will need to pay the fees. Are you locked into a coaching engagement for any set amount of time?

7. What Makes You Different from Other Business Coaches?

Finally, ask a prospective business coach why they got into the profession in the first place, what their key values are, and what sets them apart from the other professionals who offer similar services. 

Coaches are practically a dime a dozen these days. 

What is the distinct value or benefit you derive from picking them over the others? This enables you to gauge their perceived strengths and how those align with your needs.

8. How Many Clients Do You Coach at a Time?

The human brain is incredible and extraordinarily fascinating. It is simultaneously plastic and malleable as it is limited and finite. The brain allows for any multitude of thoughts to be processed based on the neural pathways that have been formed, and yet, the brain cannot multitask. It can only rapidly switch between tasks.

This matters when you are selecting a coach. Because the human brain is extremely capable of problem solving, but can only work on solving one problem at a time, the coach you hire could be less or more effective for your agency depending on the number of client they work with at a time.

Personally, I limit the number of active coaching engagements I handle to four because that is the amount I feel I can adequately dedicate brain space to without causing diminishing returns for clients.

9. Would I want to Hang Out With This Person?

There are different levels of comfort you may have with people and a coach is one you should be comfortable with if you were thrown into many random situations with them. 

Some of these are a bit silly, but just roll with me for a minute:

  • Would I invite this coach to my office for a meeting?
  • Would I be embarrassed to let this coach observe the inner workings of the agency as a fly on the wall?
  • Would I invite this coach to my home for dinner with the family?
  • Would I watch the big game with this coach?
  • Would I go on a road trip with this coach?
  • Would I feel more comfortable at large networking events if this coach was there too?
  • Would I go to an amusement park with this coach?

Now, the top of the lift hill of various roller coasters are the embodiment of happiness for me, so, I’m telling you now, if you live near an amusement park and I do an on-site visit, we are going to go ride some roller coasters.

Business Development Coaching for Marketing Agencies

In an ever-evolving industry like marketing, it’s challenging for agency owners to handle their daily demands and also stay up to date with trends, identify areas for growth, and hone professional leadership skills. The right business coach can provide the type of unbiased third-party perspective, industry expertise and resources to take your marketing agency farther.

Building a successful marketing agency takes grit, a focus on your value, and sometimes a *loving* kick in the pants.

Needing an ally as you achieve your long-term goals?

I’d be happy to help.

Danielle Fauteaux, Agency Coach

Danielle Fauteaux

Hi! I’m Danielle. I’m passionate about helping creatives recognize their value and place in this world, passionate about helping leaders regain control over their responsibilities, passionate about encouraging others to live more meaningful lives; and passionate about doing more with less. I guide creative firms through the Momentum Framework to achieve their revenue and profit goals while falling back in love with the mission they originally set out with.