Gary Elliott was struggling to figure out how to increase his company's profitability a few years ago when he happened to hear about business coaching. Even though he wasn't sure how it might help him, he picked up the phone and made an appointment.
Looking back, the owner of Canadian Orthopaedic Supply is glad he made that call.
Founded by Mr. Elliott eight years ago, Canadian Orthopaedic Supply purchases, repackages and sells orthopaedic products—such as sports injury braces—to surgical supply stores and sports injury clinics.
Mr. Elliott had recently become an exclusive distributor to a large, cross-Canada health care retailer. While the contract had enabled him to increase sales and staff, it hadn't improved his bottom line.
"I needed help," he says. "With the contract coming up for renewal, I needed to find a way to make it profitable this time around."
He sat down with BDC consulting partner Rony Israel to discuss what coaching could do for his company. "Within 25 minutes, Rony understood what my business was about and had given me some ideas that I had never thought of," Mr. Elliott says.
He quickly signed on for the coaching service, and any lingering doubts he had about its worth soon disappeared. "The value I got from it was so much greater than the money I put into it."
The role of coaching
Rony Israel says Mr. Elliott's reason for contacting him is typical among entrepreneurs seeking coaching. "With most people, it starts with a specific issue that they want advice on," Mr. Israel says. "And it evolves from there."
Mr. Israel, who has more than 30 years of business experience, defines coaching as the transfer of knowledge. "I share my knowledge with the individual, [and]provide guidance and advice on potential pitfalls."
Coaching is about dealing with the more human aspects of entrepreneurship, such as leadership skills and attitudes, he adds.
And, sometimes, coaching is simply about listening. "It can be very lonely running a business," he says. "Many entrepreneurs need a sounding board. A coach can help them see things from another perspective. But the entrepreneur remains the decision-maker."
As for Mr. Elliott, he renewed his contract with the retailer, but this time on better terms for his business. Mr. Israel's support helped him understand how large corporations operate and, as a result, he felt less intimidated about the hoops he had to go through to get the business.
"I didn't feel like a little bug that was going to get squashed by the big guy," Mr. Elliott says. "I was able to understand their perspective and the pressures they were under. And that made me more confident about my own position."
The coaching experience also helped him to master the financial side of his business. "I'm not an accountant; sales are my strength," he says. "However, I am now much better at analyzing the numbers."
"When I bid on a contract, I'm confident, because I've reviewed everything and I know that I'm making the best possible proposal. I don't lie awake at night anymore worrying about my business. I have peace of mind."
For Mr. Israel, helping entrepreneurs become more assertive is one of the benefits of coaching. "Seeing someone take the knowledge I've transferred, tailor it to his or her own style, and implement it successfully is what it's all about."
What business coaching can do for you
- Help you to see your business from a fresh perspective
- Improve your business management and financial skills
- Support you in tackling business challenges and opportunities
- Increase your belief in your abilities
Content in this section is provided in partnership with the Business Development Bank of Canada. BDC provides entrepreneurs with financing, venture capital and consulting services. To find out more go to BDC.ca.