By Duncan MacPherson

More than ever, top professionals are hiring coaches and consultants to help them take their businesses to the next level. The 80 / 20 principle tells us that the top 20% of professionals want the best results, and are willing to spend the money to get the level of success that consulting can bring. If you are among this elite 20%, I can offer some advice in choosing the right coach for you.

As a business development consultant, one of the most eye-opening observations I’ve made over the years is that there is often little correlation between how much a professional knows and how successful they will be. Don’t get me wrong, of course you must know your field to be effective, but knowledge alone does not guarantee success. Today’s top professionals realized a long time ago that to reach the pinnacle of their industry, they need to continually work on (not in) their business so that they consistently attract and keep the very best clients. The most enlightened accept that they have limitations and are open to the idea of having a sounding board and confidante to help them breakthrough to a new level of success. An effective consultant or coach will help you to address any overlooked vulnerabilities and to uncover untapped opportunities. He or she will show you how to compensate for your weaknesses and to accentuate your strengths.

My partner and I have consulted with professionals for many years, and we have compiled a list of questions we commonly hear from prospective consulting clients. Feel free to use them as part of your own due-diligence process to ensure that you make an informed decision and select a coach that is a good fit for your needs and situation.

    1. How long have you been in this business and how many clients have you worked with?

Obviously, in choosing a coach or consultant, you need to be sure that the coach is knowledgeable and experienced. You’ll want to inquire about the coach’s actual field experience, the clients he or she has worked with, and where he or she gained the knowledge shared with clients.

    1. Will you assist me in the actual implementation of your system?

You need to determine whether the consultant has a process and systems mindset, or if he or she simply has an “on-the-fly” deliverable. As an elite professional, you will want to find a consultant who has predetermined systems that are predictable, sustainable and duplicable.

You want to know more than just what refinements you should make and why; you want to be shown how to make them. It is the difference between embarking on a journey with a GPS that gives you step-by-step guidance and feedback, and embarking on a journey with just a compass that simply points you in the right direction. An effective coach will be able to recommend time-tested strategies and real-life implementation ideas that you can use to lower costs and virtually eliminate uncertainty, so that, over the long term, you build a business that becomes quantifiably more valuable.

    1. Do you have a process in place to ensure that I become self-sufficient, and to prevent me from drifting back to old habits over time?

“Excellence is a habit not an act. We are what we repeatedly do.” – Aristotle

Many people hear great ideas, and for a few days are excited about implementing them. Take a moment to think back to the last time that you stumbled upon a fabulous idea. Maybe this new concept was about your practice or maybe it had more of a domestic spin to it. Regardless, think about what you did to follow through on this great idea. I would bet that you probably planned to put it into practice, and that you probably achieved part of your initial goal. But I would also be willing to bet that somewhere down the line, for whatever reason, your progress slowed, your interest in the new idea waned, and you reverted back to old, less productive, habits. I realized a number of years ago that success in this business comes from developing and practicing simple habits and rituals, and from staying true to them long enough for their benefits to compound. A good coach will have processes in place to ensure that the strategies he or she shows you are implemented, and that their practice becomes a long-term habit.

    1. Will your system ensure consistency across my entire team?

Consistency is a seldom-discussed attribute, yet it distinguishes the average business from a thriving one. Your behavior and that of everyone else in your office impacts client experience. If everyone in your office provides consistently good service, you will build client trust. Consistency has been proven to be the single most important factor in determining how referable professionals are, and therefore ultimately contributes to your success.

    1. Are there milestones to show my sequential progress as the program is unfolding?

The consulting process is a marathon, not a sprint, and so an effective coach will design a program that contains milestones to provide you with clear evidence that you are proceeding towards your goals. These milestones will keep you motivated, and will ensure that you do not revert to old habits.

Stay tuned for the second part of this article…

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Written by Duncan MacPherson
As co-founder and co-CEO of Pareto Systems, an industry leading business development firm dedicated to the elite professionals and companies within the financial services sector, Duncan and his team of consultants are in constant demand for speaking engagements and for assisting Financial Services Professionals to create predictable, sustainable, and duplicable businesses. Pareto Systems is well known for its approach, which is based on best practices and for its focus on implementation. Duncan travels extensively throughout North America, conveying dynamic and fact-rich presentations that have made him a popular spokesperson for the financial services industry. Duncan’s expertise in demystifying business development and marketing in the financial world has universal appeal; from the high-level advisor to the successful wholesaler, to corporate financial institutions. Duncan’s primary goal is to help Financial Services Professionals achieve liberation and order in their businesses through step-by-step methodology and execution. Duncan is an industry author and has written the best-selling books: Breakthrough Business Development, Take Your Business to THE NEXT LEVEL and The Promise of the Future: A Financial Advisor’s Guide to Effective Marketing. He is also co-creator of the Pareto Platform powered by Microsoft Dynamics CRM, which combines the essential CRM tools with an all-encompassing array of time-tested practice management and business development processes that ensures Pareto Platforms’ revolutionary CRM platform will take one’s business to the next level. More information about Pareto Systems can be found at: