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Ask Yourself This One Question Before You Hire a Coach or Consultant

businesswoman decision

As a 22-year-old baby-faced budding entrepreneur, I remember lying in my childhood bed, scrolling Instagram and LinkedIn, and looking at all the coaches and consultants I wanted to work with. The vision was clear: one day I’ll be making enough money where I can afford to work with all these people who all seem so brilliant.

I was fresh out of college and having spent an entire childhood, and adolescence, hearing things like, “you can be anything you want to be,” I was determined to make it true.

It was a dream to imagine I’d have the resources – and the help – in my “business” (the quotations are deliberate) to hire, and even more importantly, have the validation of people who had done it. 

Years later, when I’d finally crossed that elusive 10K-per-month threshold, I started spending it all on coaches and consultants.

After years of struggling, I felt like I could finally have someone smart tell me what to do. I was free. I had “made it.” This was the moment I could finally bring in all that help I had dreamed about years before.

The decision to hire coaches came from a place of wanting to fulfill a desire from years prior, but it had also come from a place of insecurity. I needed to feel validated. I needed to tell someone my ideas, someone who I perceived as smarter than me, so that they could tell me, “yup, you’re brilliant,” and I could tell all the haters, “ha, you see?”

The decision to hire a coach is not necessarily a wrong choice. In fact, some of my best strategies I use for my own clients come from things I learned from those first few hires. Coaches, good ones, can be an incredible asset in your entrepreneurial journey. 

Besides the financial cost to my business in its early success, there was one big consequence to my deciding to hire coaches so quickly: my confidence suffered. Big time.

Not necessarily because of the coaches I hired; they were great. But because, having spent years on my own, trusting my own ideas, both failing and succeeding at small increments along the way, I was suddenly inundated with other peoples’ opinions.

Not wrong ones, not bad ones. Just different ones. And a lot of them. 

We have to be able to trust ourselves. And seeking validation from the outside can help us clarify our own decisions or it can cloud them.

Now, when I think I need to hire an advisor, I ask myself this very important question:

Is it a skills deficit, a perspective deficit, or an intuition deficit?

A Skills Deficit

A skills deficit means I need more information. I need to go to someone who has an area of expertise. I need to gather data, process, and integrate.

When it’s a skills deficit, I ask for help quickly and directly to a person I know has the skills I lack. Someone who can help me collect the information I lack, has had this specific problem in their business before, or has a specialty. I either hire them to perform those specific duties or I ask them to point me in the direction of the right resources. 

When it’s a skills deficit, help is necessary. 

A Perspective Deficit

A perspective deficit means I can’t see the angles because I haven’t lived through a particular human experience. This means I need advisors who understand another perspective. Companies get into a lot of trouble when they have a perspective deficit and either have no idea they have it or don’t bother to ask for help when they do. 

This is why DEI statements, and making good on those statements, matters so much both in the world and to your company.

When it’s a perspective deficit, help is imperative.

An Intuition Deficit

An intuition deficit means I don’t trust myself. I have all the necessary knowledge and skills, but for whatever reason, I’m not trusting myself to act. 

When it’s an intuition deficit, I don’t ask for help. I ruminate on why I’m feeling insecure about a particular problem. I give myself time and space to fully process why I feel the need to seek external validation. 

My insecurity might come from not knowing what to do next – maybe a skills deficit – or it may come from being too afraid to fail or worrying about what’s coming next. Intellectually, I know that failure is a good thing; failure is simply good data. But emotionally, it can be difficult to connect to the intellectual side of my brain. 

When it’s an intuition deficit, I go inward until I’m ready to vocalize outwardly. 

When it’s an intuition deficit, help can be harmful to your confidence and self trust.

Your Next Steps

The decision to bring an advisor in to your business, for any reason, should be carefully considered. Putting your ego away and recognizing when you have a skills or perspective deficit can be difficult to acknowledge. But those are the two circumstances in which hiring an advisor might be make or break.

When it’s an intuition deficit though, hold back from seeking external validation. Go inward. 

And have the wisdom to understand the distinction between the three.

Allison Conway

Allison Conway is the founder and Creative Director of Sealevel Agency®, a brand management and marketing strategy firm helping clients in traditionally “boring” industries create bold, fun, human brands. Allison has been to over 40 countries, has walked the Camino de Santiago, wrote the bestselling book, “Friendshit”, and briefly worked as the bookkeeper and office manager for a float plane operation in Alaska. Allison believes business is simple in its purest form: a human has a thing and another human needs the thing. Branding and marketing is the act of getting to know each other through sharing our stories.

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