CEO coaches, like coaches of athletes, can help you dramatically improve your performance (and therefore business) in a short period of time. I do not know of a competitive athlete without a coach. Athletes who are at the top of their game all have coaches. And business is a lot like athletics.

Yet while a CEO coach can help you dramatically improve the performance of your business, not everyone is cut out to benefit from working with one. Only certain CEOs should utilize a coach to increase the performance of their contracting or facilities business.

How do you know if you are one of them? The characteristics you need to have in order to benefit from a CEO coach are listed below. If you have them, great! You’ll gain much from the experience:

  • A strong desire to learn and grow
  • A recognition that you have developmental opportunities
  • A willingness to listen to and act on advice
  • The ability to be transparent in discussing issues
  • An ability to face reality when it’s pointed out to you

If you don't have these characteristics, then any coaching assignments are likely to fail. If you do have these characteristics, read on.

How to select a CEO coach

If you’re likely to benefit from working with a coach, below are eight things to consider when you start looking for one:

  1. Relevant experience: Look for a coach who understands the building and maintenance industry and what it's like to run a company. Also, they should come with a Rolodex that you can leverage.
  2. Fit: Look for a CEO coach who you can relate to, respect and are comfortable having a beer with. A good coach will help you focus strategically and discover your own path vs. “should you” to death. You should be able to gauge this within a couple quality conversations.
  3. Methodology: Look for a CEO coach who has an established process to take you through that will drive improved business performance and the ROI on your investment. A good coach will be able to walk you through the expected outcomes and explain how holding you accountable will increase results.
  4. In-person vs. focused calls: It would be unusual to find a CEO coach meeting your criteria in your backyard, so accept that focused calls are commonplace. You can always have them via Skype or Facetime. Further, CEOs normally want the best coach on focused calls vs. a mediocre coach who is within driving distance for face-to-face meetings. Know that the quality of the CEO education you’ll receive has more to do with the coach you choose than the method by which you meet.
  5. Understand what is and isn't in scope: Understand what access you get to the CEO coach if a crisis or significant event occurs between scheduled calls. Also, projects like the facilitation of strategic, exit or transition planning sessions; family working for family dispute resolution; and establishing a board of advisors are normally billed separately at an agreed upon fee.
  6. Price: Look for a CEO coach whom you can afford. This kind of CEO education is not cheap. Usually the investment runs between $2,000 and $3,500 a month for two 75- to 90-minute focused calls. Most engagements are on a month-to-month basis, so if you are not seeing value creation and realization of expected outcomes, you can end it quickly. However, most good coaches far exceed the annual investment with a dramatic increase in the performance of your business.
  7. Testimonials: Look for a coach with a proven track record. You should check their references like you would before hiring any important advisor or employee.
  8. Annual evaluations: A good CEO coach will have an annual evaluation and value resetting process. This is the time to evaluate whether or not to recommit to the relationship. Every relationship has a beginning, middle and end. A coaching relationship is no different. Once you see the incremental improvement dropping off, I would scale the relationship back to a maintenance mode with once a month or quarter calls.

Applying these eight tips while selecting a CEO coach will increase the likelihood of a successful coaching engagement. To raise your game and your company's performance to the next level, commit to taking action today by starting the process of selecting a coach.

CEO coaching alternatives

Most of us face the reality of not having a boss (other than your customers) once you become a President or CEO. There are great organizations like the Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO), Young Presidents' Organization (YPO) and Vistage that provide a shared space with other CEOs and an outlet for being the top person. However, you need to determine which—if any—are a good fit for you. My personal experience was that YPO had more value for me as a person than it did my business. I have formed lifelong relationships with my YPO mates, but none of them ran a business in my specific industry, which meant I didn’t have the peer group I sought. In fact, the role of these organizations is not to act as a coach for each CEO member. Often, CEOs in these organizations have a strong desire to learn and grow, and still want something more…something that CEO coaching provides.