You’ve likely heard of executive coaches or life coaches —but at FounderForward, we’re focused on coaching startups. Founders and founding teams at the beginning of their journey.
Of all the things a founder should be concerned with, and all the expenses that must be incurred to get a company off the ground — you might be asking yourself: Is getting a coach really all that helpful?
We have worked with hundreds of startups over 20 years and, in our experience, bad leadership, bad management and bad cultures kill more startups than anything else. These are all areas working with a coach can have a significant impact.
Besides, we don’t expect the most elite athletes in the world to get out on the field or the court without a coach, so why would we expect founders to create the world's most interesting, lucrative and sustainable companies without an objective thought and accountability partner?
Here are our top 5 reasons having a coach matters — in the early stages, and beyond:
1. Optimizing Your Performance Directly Impacts the Performance of Your Startup
When you are at your best, you perform well in every aspect of your life.
This means - mind, body, spirit. What you bring to work - each and every day - matters.
And if an investor (or several) gave you money to grow your company — how can you do your absolute best to make sure the company performs at optimal levels, if you, yourself, are not at your optimal level?
If you’re not sleeping, getting overly stressed, or getting sick a lot — and generally not taking care of yourself — it does not bode well for the company (or your investors).
Optimizing your performance requires prioritizing self-care and committing to positive, healthy habits. A coach will review your daily routine and schedule and work with you to develop a peak performance plan (and hold you to it).
2. The Double-Track of Learning: You’re Growing a Company, but You’re Also Growing Yourself
Yes, you are hustling to raise capital, build a team, find office space, perfect your product, grow revenue, etc. But all the while, you are also growing yourself — as a leader and a CEO.
No one is born knowing how to be CEO of a company. Becoming a good one, and a good leader in general, requires a growth mindset and a commitment to stretching yourself.
Remember: You can’t take a company further than you’ve taken yourself.
Developing and executing 3-5 goals for growing your business and 3-5 goals for growing yourself is no easy task. Having a coach as a partner makes it much easier.
Your brain’s limbic system is the back part of the brain, which has been with us forever (it controls our flight-or-fight response). This is the part of the brain that controls your stress, emotions, behavior, and motivation. And it can be trained (yes, trained). The limbic system learns best through feedback, extensive practice, and outside motivation.
Coaching provides exactly that: Critical feedback (the honest kind that doesn’t avoid the hard stuff), actionable tools and frameworks, and motivation (the kind you might not be able to give yourself in the morning).
With a coach, you can put together a practical development plan for growing into the best leader you can be.
4. Better Human - Better Leader
This goes all the way back to Socrates, who taught the principle of "Know Thyself." Many modern day leadership gurus, like Warren Bennis, believe that knowing thyself is the first rule for becoming an effective leader.
By developing a deep understanding and awareness of yourself, and committing to constant evolution as a person, you are also opening yourself up to truly grow as a leader.
Self-examination is hard and flawed, and easy to put off when you are running a company.
A coach can walk you through an assessment process and offer up questions and exercises that help uncover your strengths, weaknesses, motivators, limiting beliefs, fears, etc.
5. Product Vs. Company
There’s a difference between building a product and building a company.
While you may be a great engineer or product mind that thrives in the early days with a small team executing an MVP, scaling a team and a culture is a totally different ballgame.
A coach can help you troubleshoot issues and see situations differently by asking quality questions. She can also help you identify and implement necessary changes to your behaviors or skills.
Lastly, if you need more convincing, Google launched data-driven Project Oxygen to figure out what their most successful managers do so well. As it turns out, being a good coach ranked first among eight qualities of great managers.
So, if you learn what coaching is all about, you’ll have the power to go forth and be a good coach to your own team. Think of it as a virtuous baton-pass — you learn to be a great leader and then pass it on.