This guide will give you a step-by-step breakdown of how to start a B2B coaching business in Australia. While it’s easier (and faster) to purchase a pre-existing business or invest in a business coaching franchise, starting your own business from scratch can be deeply rewarding. Here’s how to do it.
1. Work Out Your Skills
The first step to starting any business is to work out your skills. You need to do this for two reasons:
- As the founder of a service-based business, you’ll probably be ‘on the tools’ until you scale. You should be good at whatever your business does.
- No-one is good at everything. Once you know what areas you are good at, you can outsource your weaknesses.
Create a chart in Google Sheets with six columns: Technical Skills, Technical Skills Scores, Strategic Skills, Strategic Skills Scores, Interpersonal Skills, and Interpersonal Skills Scores.
(Too many skill assessments break skills down into ‘soft’ and ‘hard’, which implies that one skill set is better than the other. We believe that being a good strategist is just as useful in business as knowing how to run a regression analysis or design a product.)
In the Technical Skills column, record skills that you can demonstrate in a measurable way. Being able to code in PHP, speaking a language other than English, or being able to create cash flow models are all examples of technical skills. Only record skills that could be relevant to being a business coach (for example, knowing how to tune an engine is useful, but probably not the sort of help your future clients will need).
Now, give each skill a score out of five.
- 1 = Beginner. You understand the basics of the skill.
- 2 = Intermediate. Your skill level is acceptable, but you still have a lot to learn.
- 3 = Competent. You’re good enough to get paid for your skill.
- 4 = Skilled. You’re very good at what you do; you could be a paid consultant.
- 5 = Expert. You’re a genuine expert; other practitioners come to you for advice.
Once you’ve given each technical skill a score, go to the Strategic Skills column. Strategic skills are unquantifiable skills – you can’t measure the skill itself, only the outcome it produces. For example, knowing how to scale a business or hire the right people are both strategic skills. Give each strategic skill a score out of five.
After you’ve finished classifying your strategic skills, move to the Interpersonal Skills column. Interpersonal skills are based around interactions with other people – things like being a good communicator or knowing how to motivate a team. Give each interpersonal skill a score out of five.
As a business coach, you should have a broad range of strategic and interpersonal skills at level 4 or above. While technical skills can be helpful for certain types of business coaching, most of what you do will involve teaching business owners how to solve problems.
Lack strong strategic or interpersonal skills? If you have technical skills at level 4 or above, consider becoming a consultant. Business coaching isn’t the right fit for everyone. Alternatively, if you’ve decided that coaching is what you want to do, you can improve key strategic and interpersonal skills through training and proven coaching frameworks.
2. Tally Your Resources
Once you know exactly what your skills are, it’s time to tally your resources. These come in three buckets:
- Time (how many hours per week do you have to dedicate to your coaching business?)
- Money (how much capital do you have to fund your business?)
- People (what connections do you have that could benefit your business in some way?)
Understanding what resources you have will help you form a business plan (which we’ll talk about more shortly).
For example, if you have a reasonable amount of capital but very little time, you might decide to outsource certain business functions like marketing or administration. On the other hand, if you have lots of time but not much human capital, you might decide to invest a few hours a week into online and in-person networking.
3. Find a Problem
The first step to creating a profitable business is to identify a problem that needs solving. As someone who wants to become a business coach, you already know what you want to do – help businesses reach their goals. Often, that goal will be ‘more profit’, but, in some cases, it could be building business resilience or creating a better lifestyle for the business owner.
Of course, solving the problem of ‘my business is struggling to reach its goals’ is very broad. Many business coaches like to narrow down to a problem that aligns with their individual abilities – former accountants often become finance-centric business coaches, just as people from HR and leadership backgrounds often move into executive coaching.
The key is to choose a problem that matches your technical, strategic and interpersonal skills. For example, if you had strong strategic and technical skills but poor interpersonal skills, being an executive coach probably wouldn’t be the right fit for you. On the other hand, lacking technical finance skills would mean that you probably wouldn’t be suited to finance-centric coaching.
4. Identify People With That Problem
All good businesses start out by solving a specific problem for a certain group of people. That group of people is known as your ideal customer persona (ICP). When you’re identifying your ICP, ask yourself the following questions:
- Does this group of people have the problem I solve?
- If they wrote a list of all the problems they need solved (jobs to be done), where would my problem sit? Would it be in the top three?
- Do they have the resources to pay me for solving the problem?
Let’s say you wanted to sell a high-ticket coaching service that helps business leaders develop meaningful company cultures. Micro-businesses with under five employees wouldn’t be the right ICP. Why? Even if they do have issues with culture, solving those issues wouldn’t be anywhere near their top three jobs to be done. They also wouldn’t have the resources to pay for ongoing high-ticket coaching.
And what about larger businesses with stalled growth or ongoing losses? Would those businesses have cultural problems? Almost certainly. Would they want to invest in a solution? Probably – but it likely wouldn’t be the first place they’d look to spend their capital. Solving their financial problems would always come first.
By answering those three questions, you can make sure you’re targeting the right group of buyers. When you do decide on your ICP, it should be a group of buyers who are desperate to solve the problem and have the resources to make it happen.
Why Does Having an ICP Matter?
One of the biggest mistakes that many entrepreneurs make is thinking that they can serve everyone who has the problem they solve. In reality, trying to create a business that’s a good fit for everyone means you’ll end up with a business that’s the right fit for no-one. Different groups of buyers have different considerations, so it’s important to pick a single group to design your business around.
As businesses grow, they develop the capabilities to cater to different ICPs, but, for most startups and small businesses, it’s a good idea to focus on that one ideal group of buyers.
5. Develop a Solution
You now know your problem and your ICP. It’s time to develop a solution: your coaching products and services.
When you’re developing solutions, put your knowledge of standard coaching products and services to one side. Instead, start from first principles: how can I help my ICP achieve their business goals in the most cost-effective way possible? Keep in mind that ‘cost’ refers to both time and money – you’ll need to do research to work out which of the two your ICP values more.
Here’s an example. The majority of business coaching services are delivered in a one-to-one format (the coach works directly with the business owner or senior leadership). But, at ActionCOACH, we realised that one-to-one coaching wasn’t necessarily the best solution for solopreneurs and micro-businesses (one of our ICPs). They needed a more time- and cost-effective option that still gave them the critical business knowledge they needed to grow.
Our solution: ActionMEMBERSHIP, a hybrid offering that blends one-to-one and group coaching with digital self-learning. ActionMEMBERSHIP doesn’t necessarily involve the same interpersonal depth as one-to-one coaching, but it’s often a better option for business owners who don’t have the time or money for weekly coaching sessions.
When you’re developing your coaching offerings, aim for minimum viable products (MVPs). An MVP isn’t a perfect offering – instead, it’s the smallest/least-developed product that can solve your ICP’s problem.
So, for example, if you’re putting together a one-to-one coaching offering, you don’t necessarily need to have a polished learning structure with all the bells and whistles. Your MVP could be as basic as a business owner booking a half-an-hour session with you where you work together to solve business problems.
MVPs work because they give you a chance to learn and adapt quickly. Instead of spending thousands of dollars building a coaching offering that isn’t the right fit, going to market with an MVP means you can improve your offering through real client feedback – and, if it’s completely unsuitable, you can pivot to a new offering without having wasted too many resources.
Creating coaching products and services isn’t easy.
That’s one reason why more than 1,000 coaches globally help their clients through ActionCOACH. Our 3,500+ business growth strategies, processes and systems have been market-validated over 30 years, making it simple for you to start helping your ICP right away.
No lengthy development cycles. No struggles with product-market fit. Just field-tested coaching offerings that work with businesses of any size and structure.
6. Work Out Your Differentiators
One question that many business owners struggle to answer is: “Why should your customers buy from you instead of your top three closest competitors?”
Differentiating your coaching business from other business coaching brands can be difficult, but it’s also incredibly important. If you can’t come up with good reasons for buyers to choose you, you’ll have trouble attracting clients. Here are a few strategies you can use to get started.
- Niche down. Remember how we talked about choosing to solve a specific problem for a specific ICP? The more specific your problem and the smaller your ICP, the less competition you’ll face (which makes it easier to differentiate yourself).
This is known as ‘niching down’ or ‘picking a niche’. The key to picking a niche is to find the sweet spot between too much competition and not enough demand – you don’t want to make your coaching business so specific that you struggle to find clients.
- Note: Niching down isn’t actually a differentiation strategy. Like category creation, it’s about reducing the number of competitors rather than standing out per se.
- Start from first principles. The reason many professional services businesses feel like commodities is because they all sell the same thing. They copy a model that works and end up with basically the same business as everyone else – the only differentiators are their people and their brand. On the other hand, if you start from first principles, like finding the most cost-effective solution to your ICP’s problem, you’ll likely come up with an offering that is genuinely different. In other words, build your business and offerings based on the needs of your clients, not what all the other business coaches around you are doing.
- Build a strong brand. Having a well-formed strategic narrative/brand story and clear brand positioning can help you compete even in the most saturated of markets. Because brand is so complex (it’s a lot more than colours and a logo), this approach is best if you’re a former C-suite executive with experience in brand-building at a previous company.
- Use your unique experience. There’s one thing that no other coaching firm has: you. You can build your business around your personal brand, using your experience and personal attributes as differentiators. As your business gets bigger, you can make your personal brand scalable by positioning yourself as a ‘locus of knowledge’ – the coaches you employ have all learned their craft directly from you, and can deliver exactly the same outcomes as you to clients.
- Note: The personal brand approach isn’t the right fit for all coaching businesses, but it can be a good way to stand out in very crowded markets. People connect with people – putting yourself front and centre gives you a competitive edge.
- Find three hard differentiators. ‘Hard’ differentiators are quantifiable advantages that your business has over competitors. They’re like competitive advantages, but from a customer perspective instead of a company perspective. Your ICP should care about them and they should be difficult for competitors to copy. For example, three of ActionCOACH’s hard differentiators are:
- We have more than 3,500 proprietary strategies, systems and processes that our coaches can use. This gives us a huge body of IP to draw upon, and it’s not something that our competitors can easily replicate.
- We’ve been operating since 1993, serving over 10,000 businesses per day in more than 80 countries. Our size and age give us insights and field-testing opportunities that other brands simply don’t have access to, allowing us to see the business landscape (and develop appropriate solutions) in a way that is genuinely unique.
- Our strategies, systems and processes are business-agnostic, which means they’re effective for businesses of almost any size and industry. This means that potential clients know our IP will work for them – unlike competitors, whose IP may be limited to specific sectors or size classes.
Differentiation is a difficult game. Ninety-five percent of businesses never succeed – they blend into a crowd of commodity offerings, managing to grow only by competing on factors like price, quality and efficiency. If you can manage to stand out, your coaching business will be primed to scale quickly.
7. Detail Your Business Information
Let’s pause and review what you’ve got so far. You have:
- a problem;
- a group of people (your ICP) who want to solve that problem urgently and have the resources to do so;
- a solution you can provide to that problem; and
- at least three good reasons that your solution is the best solution for your ICP.
Now, let’s put all that together in a business statement. The typical business statement looks something like:
[FIRM] is a [INDUSTRY] [FIRM TYPE] that helps [ICP] [SOLVE PROBLEM] by:
- [HARD DIFFERENTIATOR];
- [HARD DIFFERENTIATOR]; and
- [HARD DIFFERENTIATOR].
Example: ActionCOACH is a global business coaching franchise that, through our network of coaches, helps business owners and C-suite executives overcome the challenges holding back their businesses. We do this by:
- equipping our coaches with more than 3,500 proprietary strategies, systems and processes;
- using our scale to derive unique insights, validate our offerings, and develop best-in-class IP; and
- making our strategies, systems and processes business-agnostic.
A business statement is a great way to work out whether you have all the fundamentals in place. If it sounds weak or off, there’s probably something wrong. You can use your business statement as the foundation for other types of collateral, like elevator pitches.
Your business goal is where you want to take your business. Make it a SMART goal – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.
A good timeframe can be five years. In five years, what do you want your business to look like? Do you want to be a solopreneur coach who works two days a week and spends the rest travelling around the world? Do you want to scale fast and have a dozen sub-coaches working for you? Do you want to grow your coaching business, sell it, and move on to your next project?
Working out what you want from your business means you can adapt your plan accordingly.
Your brand values are traits or positions that underpin your brand. Think of them as ‘promises’ to stakeholders – your brand must always operate in a way that aligns with your values. Make sure you don’t include table-stakes values such as ‘client-focused’ or ‘integrity’. Table-stakes values are traits that buyers expect well-run companies to have, so it doesn’t make sense to call them out (for example, there’s an expectation that well-run companies are integrous and put their clients first).
It’s also important to be able to reify your brand values. ‘Reify’ means to quantify them and make them real. Too many companies have fluffy, abstract values that don’t mean anything. Instead, your values should be present throughout your business – they should guide your decision-making, shape your strategic direction, and, ideally, have metrics or initiatives associated with them.
Your brand mission is the outcome you want to deliver for your ICP through your products/services. If someone uses your coaching offerings to solve their problem, how will their world change? What will their new reality look like?
A good way to define your brand mission can be the before–with framework. It contrasts the status quo (how things currently are for your ICP) with the ideal outcome (how things will be for your ICP once they use your products/services). Use the below table as a guide.
Before [YOUR BRAND]
With [YOUR BRAND]
[DEFINE THE STATUS QUO]
[DEFINE THE IDEAL OUTCOME]
Our mission is to [MISSION].
Your brand vision is the ideal future you want to create for the market, not just individual buyers. In other words, what would the world look like if you accomplished your brand mission at scale?
For example, ActionCOACH’s vision is “world abundance through business re-education”. Our mission is to help businesses reach their goals through coaching – which results in business owners with more time, more money, and healthier, more productive companies.
When that mission is realised across hundreds of thousands of businesses, we start to see a net positive effect. Abundance (more time and money) is being created at scale, which results in happier, wealthier employees, stronger communities, and businesses that deliver their solutions faster and more cost-effectively. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle that benefits everyone.
While we might not get to work with every business that exists, that vision of global abundance gives us something bigger than ourselves to aim for. We aren’t just helping individual business owners. We’re taking baby steps to change the world – and that’s an incredibly powerful thing to get up and do each day.
By setting a vision for your coaching brand, you can give yourself and future employees a source of constant motivation. It’s also an effective way to attract buyers who agree with the direction you’ve chosen.
8. Identify Marketing Distribution Channels
Good marketing involves making a case to your ICP – explaining why your offering is the best solution for their product. But, before you can persuade them, you need to be able to reach them. You can do this by going to the platforms and places where they spend time, and, preferably, the places they use to research solutions (these platforms/places are collectively known as ‘marketing distribution channels’).
For example, let’s say your ICP spends a lot of time on Facebook. If you wanted to tell them about why your solution is the right one for their problem, you could use Facebook as either a paid distribution channel (via ads) or an organic distribution channel (by creating posts).
Another distribution channel could be a partner program. Let’s say your ICP is small trade businesses. You might go to a local accounting firm and talk to them about working together. If they have clients who match your ICP and need help driving revenue, they could tell those clients about your services in exchange for commissions on meetings booked.
Because there are so many distribution channels available to modern businesses, the key is to pick the ones that give you the best ROI. To do that, you need to work out how your ICP buys, which places they spend time, and the level of ‘noise’ (i.e. competition) your marketing is likely to face on certain channels.
We’ve previously written about how to identify the right distribution channels and allocate budget – read everything you need to know here.
9. Create a Business Plan
By now, you have most of the information you need to create a business plan. A business plan lays out what your business is and how you’re going to run it – it’s a way to see if your ideas make sense on paper.
You can get a free business plan template here. Download the ‘full’ template, complete what you can with the information that we’ve covered so far, and then spend some time filling in the gaps. Once you’re finished, you’ll have a roadmap for the first year of your B2B coaching business.
10. Do the Paperwork
Before you can start operating your B2B coaching business, you need to have the basics in place: a valid ABN, a registered business name, and a business bank account. Getting insurance – specifically, professional indemnity and business interruption cover – is also a good idea.
If you’re going all-in on your business, consider incorporating it as a company. Trading as a company can give you certain legal protections that you don’t have as a sole trader. Investing in incorporation may mean that you also want to protect your new brand’s IP, such as your logo and business name. While trade marking IP is definitely helpful in the long term, it’s also expensive (AU$250 per application). Make sure you’re completely satisfied with the assets in question before you apply for protection.
11. Build a Cheap Website
A website is your digital shopfront. It’s an essential part of your business infrastructure, not a nice-to-have. At the same time, a business-grade website can cost a lot of money to create. A WordPress site built by a marketing agency will set you back around AU$4,000–6,000, which is a lot for a solopreneur business that hasn’t even gone to market.
If you currently have more time than money (review the resources we tallied in Step 2), it can make more sense to build your website yourself. Here’s how to do it:
- Create a self-hosted WordPress site using a hosting service like SiteGround. The best hosting services for new B2B coaching businesses are affordable, have Australian-based services, and make it simple to set up a WordPress site.
- Buy a domain that matches your business name. Make sure you get a .com.au or .au domain – they’re slightly more expensive and require an ABN, but will help both your credibility and your local SEO. If you’re using SiteGround, you can purchase a domain through your account and automatically link it to your website (walkthrough here).
- Build your site. Don’t worry – there’s no coding involved. To make website creation simple, use the WordPress plugin Elementor. You can find a complete video walkthrough (including theme setup) here.
- Create four pages for your website: a Home page, an About page, a Services page, and a Contact page. Don’t worry about things like SEO at the moment – instead, focus on making your site clean, clear and quick. ‘Clean’ means only having information that’s useful to buyers; ‘clear’ means making the problem you solve and the solutions you provide obvious (your pricing should also be transparent); and ‘quick’ means your website loads quickly on both mobile and desktop.
- Your Home page should balance an overview of your services with an introduction to your brand. Here’s a template you can use for the layout and structure – it works with the three differentiators we talked about earlier. Replace the curly-braced placeholders with words that match your business. The Benefits 1 and 2 sections are designed for the two main benefits you provide to your clients – for example, “helping you create more resilient revenue streams” or “using processes to help you regain more of your time”.
- Your About page should cover everything we talked about under Step 7 (what your business does, your mission, your vision, your values), as well as who you and any other team members are.
- Your Services page should provide a brief overview of each coaching service you provide (for example, 1:1 coaching, group coaching, and so on). If you only have one service, cover each of its features and benefits in a detailed way.
- Your Contact page should provide your contact details and a way for buyers to book an introductory meeting – for example, many coaches provide free 20- or 30-minute ‘strategy chats’ that help prospects assess whether they’re the right fit. If you do have that option available, use Calendly to simplify the booking process.
- When you’re ready, publish your website. Link back to your site from your social media accounts and/or your digital business card – it should be the main point of contact for all prospective clients.
12. Collect Social Proof
One of the most important parts of business is proving to buyers that they can trust the promises that you make. When they pay for your services, how do they know that they’ll get the outcomes you’ve said they will?
Social proof is a term that refers to people making decisions based on the behaviour of others around them. In a marketing context, it means using the behaviours of others to ‘prove’ that your promise to buyers will come true. There are lots of types of social proof, but some of the most common are:
- Case studies
- Customer logos
- Influencer endorsements
- User-generated content
If you’ve been in business for a while, you might have awards or endorsements from previous roles. You can display these on your website to build credibility (just make sure you don’t misrepresent quotes from people about old roles/activities as being about your coaching business).
If you don’t have any social proof, a good way to collect some is to do a soft business launch with friends, family, and professional connections. Offer them free or heavily discounted coaching in exchange for feedback and an honest review. Make sure you get permission to post their full name, position, image, and business name. Testimonials are table stakes for modern businesses, so you need to make sure yours feel authentic to buyers.
If possible, work with a business you trust to create a case study/success story. Because case studies provide context around problems, solutions and outcomes, they’re more impactful than short testimonials. Conducting a case study can also be a great way to make sure your offerings are market-ready – if you can’t achieve or prove results, you might need to either invest in more training or work out how to demonstrate ROI.
13. Go to Market
Let’s pause for a moment. If you’ve made it this far, well done. Most businesses never get past the idea stage.
You now know the problem you solve, how you solve it, who you solve it for, and why you’re different. You also know what you stand for – your mission, vision, values and goals. And you’ve got your marketing channels, paperwork, business plan and website sorted.
You’re finally ready to launch your B2B coaching business. It’s time to take your baby out into the world and start accepting real clients. Work on your marketing, leverage your network, and go to events. This is one of the most exciting periods in your life, and, with the right strategy and execution, you can build something remarkable.
So go on. Take action. And, if you need some support on your journey, you can always talk to a business coach of your own.
Want to build your own coaching business – fast?
Becoming an ActionCOACH partner combines the freedom of your own business with the support of a globally recognised brand. Click here to find out more about ActionCOACH Franchise opportunity.