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Lessons from one of the UK’s top business coaches

PeterBoolkah 2

Peter Boolkah talks to Lucie Mitchell about why businesses are waking up to the benefits of coaching and why he thinks the profession is set to grow significantly over the next few years.

“My passion in life is to work with talented business owners who want to create exciting and extraordinary businesses,” remarks business coach Peter Boolkah.

Boolkah is the first European coach to be recognised in the ActionCOACH hall of fame – an organisation developed to train business coaches, using a certain process and methodology, to coach clients.

He has worked with hundreds of large companies all over the world, has won 57 ActionCOACH awards to date, and guest lectures at Judge College in Cambridge, so he knows a thing or two about coaching.

Boolkah believes that business coaching has become more popular recently because businesses have “realised that they know what they don't know”.

“If you go back 30 or 40 years, businesses were very static,” he remarks. “The market really didn't change, but the reality now is that we are a globalised marketplace. The room for competition is massive, so businesses have got to be far more aware and astute than they ever had to be.”

But he warns that businesses will either stay static or fail unless they become more educated - which is where coaching comes in.

“Around 2002/03, we went from the industrial age into the digital age, which means that knowledge is now power. The business owners out there, who are educated in business, are the ones who are having a whale of a time because they are making money, and I think more and more people are starting to wake up to that fact.”

Coaching challenges

He adds that business coaching is a rapidly growing industry, but there are challenges because it is unregulated.

“There are some excellent coaches out there, but there are others who are totally shocking. In time, it needs to be a regulated industry.

“Many people go on a one-day life coaching course and call themselves business coaches, which very much blurs the lines. Businesses must do due diligence. Find out what work they've done, what training they've done, and what ongoing training they do - that is a key thing. Just because you do a course, it doesn't make you a great business coach.”

Boolkah himself spends £100,000 a year on his development, and travels around the world to meet the latest thought-leaders.

“It goes back to how much do you invest in your training. If you have coaches out there who are not up-to-date with the latest thinking, the chances are the advice businesses will get is out-of-date, which doesn't work in a rapidly changing economy.”

There is also a huge disparity in the amount business coaches charge for their services, as many more enter the marketplace, he adds.

“You can have people who will charge anything from £55 an hour to £1000 an hour, and there is a big difference in that service offered. Very often, at the lower end of the spectrum, you are going to get a very basic service that, in many cases, doesn't offer the value that the business owner needs.”

He thinks that one of the best tools out there to verify coaches is LinkedIn.

“You can really check out the coach on there, check out what kind of recommendations they've got, and the kind of people they are working with. What I like about LinkedIn, is it’s live and the people on there are current, so you can really do your research.”

Boolkah remarks that, to become a coach, you have got to be passionate about it.

“Many people get into business coaching to replace an income, but if you do that you are onto a losing streak. If you are going to be a business coach, you have got to treat it like a proper profession, and go and be the best coach you can.

“I believe anyone can do it, but the biggest challenge for business coaches is they never get the opportunity to be a business coach. You have got to go out there and get business; if you don't get to coach people, then you will never get off the ground.”

Key strategies

In terms of the key strategies that businesses can implement to achieve success, Boolkah stresses that they must go through a five-year process to properly structure their business.

“Many people try to shortcut [the process], and fail. You can't because the business owner has to learn all the relevant parts about being a business owner.

“We educate businesses. We make sure they get the education they need, so that they can make the right decision. It is taking them through a process and making them more aware and improving their skill set.”

He adds that, as a coach, he won't necessarily train someone, but instead just points them in the right direction of all the training materials that they need.

“Then, where we work with clients is to give them the understanding on how to apply that knowledge in the business. Giving people knowledge, in its own right, isn't necessarily enough; you have got to give them the understanding of how to apply that knowledge, so that they can do something practical with it.”

He emphasises that business must also learn to start educating themselves, if they are to grow and survive.

“Education doesn't need to cost the earth. It is just at your fingertips, be it a YouTube video, audio books, Google. We have got such a wealth of information; it is just making sure you take all that information on board and do responsible things with it.”

Over the next five years, Boolkah sees business coaching becoming a mainstream profession.

“It will grow massively. We will start to see a reduction in consultancy and an increase in coaching. With coaching, you are educating people to become self-sufficient, and I think there is a bigger need in the market for that.”

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Lucie Mitchell


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