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Your Guide to Choosing the Right Small Business Coach

June 15th, 2023 | 3 min read

By Darin "Doc" Berntson

Your Guide to Choosing the Right Small Business Coach

As a small business owner or executive, I'm sure you're constantly seeking ways to improve your sales and marketing strategies in order to grow your business.

Perhaps, you are looking for guidance from a business coach, as that could be invaluable. But, how can you distinguish between a genuine trustworthy business coach, someone who would be indispensable, and a "coach" who may be pitching something less valuable? 

After being asked, "What signs should I watch out for to avoid small business coaching scams?" I wanted to write this article in an attempt to help anyone else who may be asking themselves the same, or similar question. 

In this article, you'll learn:

  • 9 signs of a potential business coaching scam.
  • 9 rebuttal tips to look for in a world-class business coach

Let's get started.

9 Signs to Watch Out For to Avoid Small Business Coaching Scams

1. The Gift of Gab

If the coach you are speaking to during your evaluation process is doing the majority of the talking, take a pause. When the conversation is all about them, imagine what the coaching relationship would be like once you get started.

Tip: Look for a coach with a genuine interest in you. A great coach asks a lot of questions, and never accepts your surface-level answer, leading them to dig even more. They'll be actively listening to you, confirming what you said along the way, in order to get to the real issue at hand and guide you to a solution.

2. The "Get Rich Quick" Promise

Any coach promising relatively quick or instant success is likely oversimplifying the process. Genuine progress takes time, strategic planning, and a consistent all-out effort.

Tip: Look for a coach who will provide an honest and realistic assessment of what can be achieved, while setting attainable goals, timelines, and reasonable expectations for all involved. This coach should communicate clearly what the journey to success looks like, and what the process is.

3. Absence of Credentials

A reputable coach will have a solid background of relevant experience, qualifications, training, or a proven track record. If these elements are missing, it could indicate a lack of expertise or credibility in the area they want to coach you.

Tip: Prioritize coaches with solid credentials, training, certifications, and experience that inspire confidence in your decision to partner with them. These credentials are proof of their commitment to their profession and a sign that you are in good hands.

4. A Generic Approach

Each business has unique goals, challenges, and opportunities. A coach offering a one-size-fits-all solution may not be equipped to address your specific needs or objectives.

Tip: Seek coaches who emphasize the customizable and flexible areas in their approach. While they may have a framework they use, they'll work with you to develop a unique strategy within it, tailored to your business's specific needs and objectives.

5. Excessive Fees

While investing in a business coach can yield significant returns, excessive fees without clear justification should be a cause for concern.

Tip: Ensure the coach's services are reasonably priced, and all costs are clearly explained. This transparency and fairness are signs of their respect for you, your time and investment, and their commitment to providing value to you and your business. 

Bonus Tip: Sometimes, but not always, you get what you pay for. While comparing or reviewing prices, don't let cost be your only determining factor. Take a serious look at your time horizon and determine your runway to the outcome you desire, as well as your return on your investment timeline. In other words, cheaper is not always better.

6. High-Pressure Sales Tactics

High-pressure sales tactics by some coaches can be a sign of desperation or a lack of respect for your judgment, as they may be more concerned about meeting quota and doing a one-call-close, rather than your success. 

Tip: Opt for a coach who gives you the time and space you need to make a considered and well-educated decision, without all of the pressure. This shows their respect for your judgment and their confidence in the value of their services.

Bonus Tip: Are they willing to walk away if it's not a true fit for you at this time?

7. Lack of a Clear Strategy

If a business coach can't articulate their strategy, they may lack the necessary planning skills or understanding of your business. This leads to short-term engagements and unhappy client relationships.

Tip: Find a coach who can outline a clear, structured plan for your business's development. This demonstrates their strategic thinking skills and their ability to guide your business toward its goals.

8. Vague Outcome Projections

If a coach is vague about what results you can expect, it could indicate a lack of strategic vision, accountability, or belief that you can actually succeed.

Tip: Look for a coach who will set clear, measurable, and attainable objectives, with defined metrics of success that will provide the means to evaluate your progress. This shows their commitment to accountability and your results.

9. Unjustifiable Claims or Promises

If a coach makes grand promises without providing evidence of past successes other small businesses have had or does not paint a realistic vision where you can visualize these results, be wary. Words are cheap, but real illustrated success is invaluable.

Tip: Seek out a coach who can provide evidence of success that other businesses have achieved. This shows the real-world effectiveness of their coaching framework.


Remember, finding the right coach for your small business is about more than avoiding scams. It's about forming a partnership that will truly help your business grow and succeed.

While not an exhaustive list, I hope you can use these 9 signs and tips, in addition to your gut and BS detector, as a guide to help you navigate your business coach decision-making process.

Until next time, I'm rooting for you.

- Doc

PS: If you are a small business looking to radically grow by becoming the most trusted voice in your industry, you can learn more about our coaching framework here>>

Darin "Doc" Berntson

Owner/Head Coach @ Bernco Media. Digital sales & marketing since 1997. Passion for teaching companies to be the most trusted voice in their space. They Ask, You Answer Certified Coach & HubSpot Certified Partner & Trainer. Reversed Type 2 Diabetes doing KETO. Wears Mickey Mouse Daily. Daydreaming of next Disneyland Trip.