5 Ways to Get Ahead as an Executive Coach

Marshall Goldsmith

In a recent blog, I shared the “#1 greatest lesson for executive coaches” – to get over our own egos. To make the coaching about our clients, not about ourselves. If you took this advice to heart and are applying it, you are on your way to being a great coach!

There’s another piece of advice I have for you that is critical to being a successful executive coach. Get ready, this is going to sound a little harsh. Most of the executive coaches I meet are great coaches and horrible business people! They have no understanding of the business side of coaching. Additionally, they believe that because they are a good coach, clients will just come to them. This just isn’t so!
In order to have a successful and satisfying career in executive coaching, you’ve got to understand the business side of coaching (or you’ve got to partner with someone who does) and you’ve got to market yourself.

Below are five suggestions for you as you build your coaching business. Please post your comments, tips, and suggestions to this blog here and I would love to hear how you promote and manage your coaching business!

1. Gain a thorough understanding of how the business runs. Take classes in business to help you further your knowledge. As I said, most of the coaches I meet are great coaches, but they lack general business knowledge. For instance, do you have a basic understanding of business terms like, revenue, cash flow, and profitability?

2. Find the right reporting tools for your executive coaching business. These tools generate hard numbers, such as how many leads were brought in and how many of those leads were converted into clients.

3. Find your own market niche. Work to develop a special competency that differentiates you from everyone else. Look for market needs that everyone else may not have considered. Ask yourself: What should be done that isn’t being done?

4. Become a world expert. As intimidating as this sounds, achieving serious “world-class” expertise may not be as daunting as you might believe. If you pick a reasonably narrow area of specialization, focus on it, and learn as much as you can, you will start to accumulate immense knowledge within a few years. While you can never become the world authority on everything, you can definitely become a world authority on one thing.

5. Build your own brand. Peter Drucker once told me that companies should be able to “put their mission statement on a T-shirt.” The same can be true for individual coaches. For example, my own mission is to be the world authority in helping successful leaders achieve positive, lasting change in behavior. Your customers (or employers) will respect you more if you do not pretend to know everything about everything but instead have a unique brand.

Keep in mind that as the pool of talented executive coaches grows, it’s only going to get tougher out there. Make peace with this reality, learn the business side of coaching, market yourself, and your career as a coach is going to be a lot more successful!

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Marshall Goldsmith
Dr. Marshall Goldsmith was selected as the #1 Executive Coach in the World by GlobalGurus.org, and one of the 10 Most Influential Management Thinkers in the World by Thinkers50 in both 2011 and 2013. He was also selected as the World’s Most Influential Leadership Thinker in 2011. Marshall was the highest rated executive coach on the Thinkers50 List in both 2011 and 2013. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There was listed as a top ten business bestseller for 2013 by INC Magazine / 800 CEO Read (for the seventh consecutive year). Marshall’s exciting new research on engagement is published in his newest book Triggers (Crown, 2015).