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Maggie Harlow

Should I Hire a Business Coach?

What to consider before making the investment.




MOST ENTREPRENEURS learn on the job. A few go to school for business. Many times, particularly for new entrepreneurs, experience and mistakes are teachers, and that is often expensive and painful. New challenges will confront even the most seasoned business owners and leaders. Business or executive coaches are one option many entrepreneurs have to help them expedite their learning!

I’ve hired coaches at varying points in my 20 years in business and each time it has made a big impact on my leadership and success. Each tenure wraps up when I feel like I’ve got the wheel in my hands and a plan going forward!

Are You a Good Candidate for a Business Coach?

There are four important things to ask yourself before hiring a coach.

  • Am I good at trying new ideas and willing to change? Or will I argue with my coach that their ideas “won’t work” and that “I’ve tried that”?
  • Am I willing to pay for high-quality coaching, then take the advice and get results from it? If you are looking for something cheap to avoid the “cost” of it, you might not be ready for this kind of serious investment.
  • Am I going to be able to commit the time to the coaching and then be patient and persistent in learning new habits? If your excuse is always “I’m too busy,” coaching might be a waste of money.
  • Do you have clear goals for what you want to achieve? Set in mind what you specifically want, which will help a coach zero in on how their background can serve you.

How to Choose a Coach.

  • Be sure to interview a few. Also get references from other clients from a similarly sized company. (Yes, even very small businesses can benefit from a coach!) You will need to feel good about the coach and what they have to offer you! If they are the best coach in the world but you don’t enjoy talking to them, keep looking!
  • Remote coaching could work, as long as you can apply yourself to learning.
  • Look at a few different models. Do you do better in a group, like a coaching “cohort”? Or do you like one on one? Some models like Vistage offer huge addons like national reach, an online portal of expertise, speakers, and a variety of businesses in the group to give you diverse approaches.

Ready to Try a Coach? Here Are Some Tips to Prepare for the Decision!

  • Yes, it is expensive sometimes. That’s the point. Good help isn’t cheap, so use your reluctance to spend money as fuel to drive your commitment to change!
  • Time is money! Be sure you set aside time in your calendar both for the coaching and for the resulting work to bring forth the change.
  • Openly share your goals with your coach and with mentors or friends. Check in with a mentor to report on progress.

My first coach was an “action coach,” a national franchise brand. My most recent coach was with Vistage, a much bigger investment. Both were transformative for the different stages of my business.

When I was a startup, my first coach helped me set the stage for good habits. I learned some basic management habits and culture-building skills. I still rely on the basic “tool set” that she gave me!

As a veteran business owner looking for big growth, my second coach helped me learn about best practices and high-performance habits. My company and my team were totally transformed as a result! In addition, the group experience gave me some friendships I’ll treasure for years to come.


No one is “too big” or “too small” or “too far gone” for a good coach. Even the greatest athletes and executives in the world have them!

Keep learning on the job, but consider turbo-charging your learning with a good coach!

Maggie Harlow is the CEO of Signarama Downtown Louisville (Louisville, KY), one of the largest and most prestigious locations for the global sign franchise. Contact Maggie at



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