Business Coaches Aid Firms' Fiscal Fitness
From: Knoxville News
By Carly Harrington
When Dan Cap decided it was time to take his 10-year-old Blount County company to the next level, the owner of Nature's Gifts International turned to a business coach.
"My background is chemistry, not business. It became a real challenge: How do I grow a multi-million dollar business?" Cap, 45, said of his company, which manufactures and sells wax to makers of soy candles. "I didn't have the time and I didn't want the expense of going back to school, so I began looking for other avenues."
Business owners new and old are increasingly turning to private business coaches to overcome growing pains or to get an edge in a weak economy.
Coaches look at the entire picture, helping owners prosper in all aspects of the business, said Max Jones of The Entrepreneur's Source, who has been a business coach for three years.
"They can thrive if they understand the basic principles of business," Jones said.
Kevin Kragenbrink, owner of Estrada Strategies in Knoxville, called today's economic environment the best time for small business owners to have someone come in and help.
Kragenbrink, who has seen his client base grow 100 percent in a year, said business coaches do what coaches in professional sports do. They provide clarity in how someone is doing something, what they're not doing and how to make sure they do what they're supposed to do better.
"They need accountability to help keep them on track or they want better systems on how to make their business function better," the owner of the Knoxville business consulting firm said. "It's designed to be within reach of every business owner. Coaching should provide rapid, visible, measurable results. Otherwise, the coach isn't doing it right or the client isn't really committed."
Cap said he had been struggling for several years "to get to the next level" before he found Estrada Strategies.
"Estrada cuts to the chase to accomplish what I need to accomplish," Cap said. "I felt like I was spinning wheels trying to grow. It didn't make sense not to do it."
In the first quarter of this year, Cap's business grew 24 percent. The company is in its slow season now, but the outlook for 2009, he said, is "really, really, really good."
While his manufacturing and warehousing facilities are in Illinois, Cap has secured land in Maryville to build offices and labs for his growing staff. He has five employees but expects that to grow to 20 in the next three to five years.
Andrew Henderson, who owns two Fitness Together franchises, turned to a business coach last April, about a year after first opening his doors at 9430 S. Northshore Drive.
Henderson said he knew about fitness and personal training but needed assistance on all the things necessary to run a business like marketing, financing, staff development and budgeting.
"I was guessing blindly. I felt like I needed a better foundation," he said.
Unlike classes, coaching is customized to his particular business, he added. It's what gave him the confidence to open a second location in January in Hardin Valley.
In addition to individual sessions, Estrada offers peer-to-peer group meetings with clients. The Family Business Institute also is starting a series of peer advisory groups to help empower family business owners who can "learn and share with one another in an environment where everyone wins."
Family Business Institute Executive Director Ed Seaver said business owners "share hiccups" and "help bring solutions."
"Most likely somebody had the same problem before you," Seaver said. "People are gleaning wisdom form other people."
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