Start a small business today and US Small Business Administration (SBA) statistics say that the odds are your business will fail before four years have passed. Thousands more limp along not making much money and dumping stress on the owner.

Why does that happen? Tom and his business are a good example.

Tom liked being a carpenter and he figured that he could make more money working for himself. So he started a carpentry business.

Tom didn't have any problem with the carpentry part of the business. He got along well with people, so that was never a problem. Where Tom got in trouble was with all the things he didn't know.

According to Hector Barreto, former Administrator of the SBA, that's where lots of small business owners get in trouble. And there's a lot to know.

Tom got a lot of it right. He had an accountant and so he got help with tax questions. And he had an attorney to ask about legal issues, but he kept discovering things he needed to know.

"I found there were dozens of things I'd never learned how to do, like write a formal proposal. And there seemed to be a lot to think about to build the business and make payroll. It's a good thing I like sports, or I might never have found the answer for me."

Tom was reading about Michael Jordan and came across the fact that Jordan used a personal coach to help improve his performance. Then, just a couple of days later he was watching golf on television.

"I love watching Tiger Woods," Tom remembers. "He's probably the best golfer ever, but that day wasn't one of his good ones. His swing was off and he was pretty far back in the pack.

At the end of the match, an interviewer asked Tiger what he was going to do about his poor play and Tiger said he was going to get together with his coach the next day." Tom shakes his head. "That's when it hit me. If great athletes like Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods used a coach to improve their performance, maybe that would work for me and my business."

Tom was in luck. A decade or so ago, no one knew what a business coach was, but now businesses of all sizes use them to help individuals improve performance.

Business coaching is not exactly the same as sports coaching. I describe it as a co-active relationship between a coach and a client. When I work with a business owner like Tom, both of us need to work at making him successful.

My clients are usually pretty good at whatever it was that convinced them to start their small business. My job is to use my experience starting and developing successful businesses, my training that led to my certification as a coach, and the developed intuition from years of coaching to help them improve results. I help them develop what I call the "persistency and consistency" that will make them successful.

Obviously, my clients want to improve their financial results. But I often help improve other things, too.

Small business owners often feel isolated. At work, they're either the boss or they work alone. When they get home, their spouse may not want to hear about business problems. That may be why so many businesspeople who use coaches really like the experience.

In 2006, the Ivey Business Journal published a study of what businesspeople liked about coaching that they received. The researcher asked them what the benefits of coaching were. Here's what the businesspeople said, along with some of my own comments.

- They got continuous one-on-one attention. In my own case my clients are my number one priority. I'm available to them all the time, not just during scheduled sessions.

- Dialogue with the coach helped expand their thinking. I'm not just a coach. I'm an experienced and successful small business owner. I can share my experience and the experience of my other clients.

- The coach helped them increase self-awareness, including knowledge of blind spots. This is following Hector Barreto's advice to find out what you don't know. I act as a mirror to show you what you are inside both personally and professionally.

- The coach was an accountability partner. When I work with a client we set goals for what the client will accomplish. Part of what I do is follow up to make sure he or she does what was promised.

- The coach was a source of "just-in-time learning." Usually, when a client calls me between sessions it's because they need to know something specific right away. If I can't answer their question off the top of my head, I can almost always help them find an answer.

Those are the things the study listed, but they missed something important. A good coach is also a motivator. I encourage you to stretch and be more than you are at present. I strive to help you realize the untapped potential that we all have inside.

There's no way for you to know in advance everything that you need to grow a successful business. But there's no reason that should hold you back. With a good small business coach, you can be one of those few small businesses that succeed.

Author's Bio: 

David Mason is president of Mason Performance Development Inc., a Speaker, Trainer, Performance Development Coach and internationally best-selling author.

Find out more about David and how he can improve your results and be sure to take the complimentary Coaching Assessment at

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