Interview of Alan Melton by Suit Magazine
Alan Melton, you are the Founder of Small Business Coach Associates. Can you explain the gradual evolution of the business?
In my former business, we had won some awards and I was being interviewed about our success. A magazine editor in my industry asked me to become a featured columnist for their publication. I became a board member in our industry and soon became president. Trade show leaders asked me to present seminars at their events. All these opportunities began to lay the foundation for coaching.
I began to coach local business owners and then started Small Business Coach Associates in 2002. My desire was to help other business owners to become successful and to avoid some of the mistakes we made. Over the years I’ve coached, taught, and mentored thousands of business owners. I now have the best job in the world!
What were you doing before then?
I had experienced the powerful impact of business coaching in my own business. After being in my first business for 7 years, we had all of the classic problems. We had grown our sales to million but had problems with customers, employees, cash flow, and debt. I was working way too many hours and was making too little money. I made a good decision to hire a business coach. Within 6 months my salary doubled and my work hours were cut in half. The problems we had didn’t completely disappear but they became a lot more manageable. We grew to $8.5 million and sold the business to a publicly-held company.
Why do people come to you? What prompts them to call?
Many want to dump their business. They are experiencing owner burnout, a large bad debt, loss of customers, negative cash flow, etc. Many are going through an economic turndown, divorce, or health crisis.
Others want to grow to the next level. They may have been referred to me by a friend or business contact.
Coaching is fundamentally about attitude, behavior, change, and refinement. How challenging is it to help modify significant facets of your client’s lives?
For most that engage me, it is easy to change attitude and behavior. They are paying for that change and they have come to a point that they must sink or swim. We work with them to develop a clear life and business vision, and then the steps needed to achieve the vision.
Some, however, are more challenging. Old habits die hard. We may have to change our due dates for activities or find another person on their team that can implement the activity, or change the strategy. This is when we move more into the pure coaching aspect of the relationship and guide them to propose an alternative solution. Sometimes the expectations may need to be lowered.
Is there a commonality in the issues they are dealing with?
The most common problem I see is the business owner tends to revolve the business around themselves. All decisions are made by them. They get to be the hero. As a business grows the owner who will not delegate will eventually become overwhelmed and will burn out. They are personally performing activities that they don’t enjoy because they think they are the only one suited to do the job.
And, what impact does your coaching have on their business? On their personal lives?
The results are dramatic and life-changing. It is not unusual to see sales double, triple or quadruple. We frequently see business owners who are getting more time with their family; dates with their spouse, they can attend ball games and dance recitals. They sleep better at night. They are excited about their life.
When looking to find the right coach, what should a coach possess?
In my opinion business coaches must first have experience in running a business. They need to know what it’s like to meet payroll and to struggle with cash flow and how to sell and lead employees. Secondly, they should enjoy helping others. They must be good at brainstorming and leading their clients to find their own solutions.
What kind of skills and trust-instilling techniques should they have?
A good business coach will be a great listener. They will be great at asking questions and going deeper with clients. Secondly, a good coach will be transparent about their own shortcomings and failures. This helps to gain trust. A good coach will be action-oriented; constantly exhorting clients to move forward.
And, what kind of results do people and organizations get?
We regularly see clients with a business in the million-dollar revenue range see annual profit improvement above six figures. We guarantee that they will get double their investment in coaching back, but it’s not unusual to see an ROI of 10 to 15 times.
6. Authenticity is absolutely key towards achieving leadership. How do you define authenticity?
To practice what you preach. To walk the talk. To be what you tell others you are. Why is authenticity important in leadership? Leaders will inspire followers to be like them, good or bad. If you are not authentic you will replicate that throughout your organization and it will likely fail.
Explain how you are taking a more proactive approach to encourage strong business managers, CEOs, and leaders to become even stronger performers?
I help business owners do what they love to do and what they are passionate about doing. Doing what you love will lead you to success because you will not quit if you are doing what you love to do. Those who persist will succeed.