Business coaching is hugely popular, particularly with small or medium enterprises as their focus tends to be on growth and development. A successful coach will have the experience and expertise required to propel an organisation forward and reach the next milestone. Yet, over the past few years, this once invaluable service has lost some of its former appeal. So, we come to ask, does SME business coaching actually still work?

Or, is it a waste of time? In this Knowledge Hub article, we’ll be exploring why a coaching programme could be an unnecessary expense. However, we’ll also be revealing why this service can be such an addition to your company, allowing your SME to grow significantly. It all depends on who you work with.

What does SME business coaching actually mean?

SME stands for small-medium enterprise and is defined as an organisation with fewer than 250 employees, but this number varies worldwide. Business coaching for a company of this size will have certain differences to one over the threshold due to the potential difference in targets and objectives of each. A smaller business is likely to want to focus on growth and brand awareness, whilst one that is already established may instead want to look at streamlining operational processes to increase productivity. An effective coach will cater to the needs of the company and personalise their services accordingly, creating an actionable plan that will progress the business towards the desired outcome.

So, why could it be a waste of time?

Some SME business coaching could be considered a waste of time. There is a tendency for sessions to focus upon the motivations of the entrepreneur and understanding how they are feeling. Rather than concentrating on developing, marketing and selling products or services, many coach programmes have essentially become therapy sessions. And, whilst there is significant value in hiring a psychologist or life coach, this is not what business coaching is about.

Instead, it’s about helping real business owners develop their company as a result of breakthrough discoveries and implementation of tried and tested best-practice processes or systems. Without a coach, these new discoveries or streamlined processes may have been unavailable, perhaps either too complex or difficult.

Of course, effective business coaching absolutely has the power to transform your business and unlock its true potential. Take Eric Schmidt (formerly the executive chairman of Google), he initially thought coaching was a “waste of time” but with the right guidance found the experience invaluable.

Business Coaching

SME business coaching

What should you look for in a business coach as an SME?

As we’ve already touched upon, SME business coaching can differ remarkably from coaching for larger scale corporations. And, not all coaching is the same – to successfully grow your organisation, you need to work with a coach that concentrates on the right areas. But, how can you spot this when trying to hire a coach?

#1 What’s their knowledge like?

Anyone can be a coach, whether they have trained or not as it is not a regulated industry. You need someone whose brains you can pick and learn from, so try to work with a coach that has been certified from a recognised academy and that has several years of experience with proven results.

#2 Have they run their own small business?

Many business coaches chose to launch their own consultancy after successfully launching and growing a start-up of their own. There are always challenges with the development of an SME but if your coach has gone through this, they may be more prepared to assist you with the unique obstacles that come your way.

#3 What are the testimonials like?

Testimonials and reviews can reveal a lot about a coach and whether or not they may be the right fit for you. It’s important to consider the client when reading a review – are they similar to your own business? This can instil confidence in your coaches ability if you know they have already worked with a similar company successfully in the past.

NOTE: Avoid just checking their website for reviews, look on Google, Facebook and LinkedIn to build a fully rounded picture.

#4 Are they excited about working with you?

Recognising a coaches passion, not only for their work but for your company is vital when selecting the right coach. If they seem generally interested and enthusiastic to work with you, you are far more likely to succeed as together you’ll be on the same page. If a coach appears distracted or unfocused, then they may see your SME as an insignificant addition to their portfolio and as a result, you may receive a less than satisfactory service.

#5 Do they challenge you to provide deep insight and think outside the box?

One of the most overlooked aspects of SME business coaching is the need to experiment and think innovatively. An effective coach will challenge by asking deep questions that require you to provide detailed insight and whilst this can be difficult or awkward at first, it can reveal areas of development that could have a real impact on the growth of your business. You’ll be forced to think outside the box – remember, creative thinking often leads to the very best ideas.

#6 What’s their availability like?

You might think you’ve found the perfect match, but before making the final commitment you need to know a coaches availability. If you feel as though you are just another company and not a priority for the coach, the relationship is not going to serve you as it should. You should have access to dedicated support when you need it and if your coach has taken on too many clients, you may become frustrated at the lack of attention provided to you.

How do you know if coaching is right for your SME?

SME business coaching will not be for every company – for it to be successful, you need to be willing to take action and change. But, let’s look at why coaching might be right for you:

  • You want to implement new processes or systems to streamline your business but aren’t sure where exactly to start, or what would actually be appropriate/relevant.
  • You have lost sight of your overall business goals and aren’t sure how to move forward again or what an effective, measurable target will be. In addition, you may not be sure how to measure this progress.
  • You are looking for an outside perspective and new innovative ideas to take your business to the next level.
  • You are struggling with high rates of staff turnover or poor levels of productivity and want to understand how to change this.
  • You are looking to increase your network and build new working relationships.
  • You want to increase your brand awareness but are unsure how to market your business successfully.

There are a variety of reasons you may choose to hire a business coach as an SME organisation. Your business is unique, and thus you will have a unique set of targets and objectives you are looking to achieve. However, actually creating a plan that sees you accomplish these can be a struggle and you may feel as though you are just treading water. A business coach can, therefore, be a highly effective tool to see you focus your efforts as you’ll be able to prioritise tasks accordingly to your goals. It’s important to recognise that a business coach is not a life coach, and whilst they may keep you motivated and held accountable this is not their sole purpose.

If you want to transform an aspect of your life, a therapist or life coach may be more effective for you. But, if it is the state of your company, a business coach will be able to work with you to identify current strengths, weaknesses and areas of development that can see you reach new heights. As a result though, you may feel a higher sense of job satisfaction or work-life balance – yet, this is a secondary benefit and not the focus.

SME business coaching can be a fantastic tool, but if you are not on the right programme for growth and development you may find your time and valuable profits have gone down the drain. It’s vital you research and consider who you are working with before making a final commitment to a coach else you may find their coaching to be a waste of time.

Are you in search of a professional business coach that will provide you with results? Do you want to see how together we could transform your SME business? Don’t delay. Contact me at or complete this contact form, and reach your full potential now.