Building a Business

Executive Coach: Waste of Money or Competitive Advantage?

I still don’t know how my mother found this post on Craigslist back when I was sixteen. But, it said that a businesswoman was starting a new company in our town –and that she needed an intern. I guess my mom thought that selling designer bags on eBay was not a real job, or maybe she didn’t want me at home for the summer. Anyway, she showed to me and I applied. It looked promising, and I figured —fuck it— what was there to lose?

The day of the interview came soon enough. I headed over there with the only suit I had and zero expectations. I was nervous, and she put me through the wringer. She had a previous life as a consultant at McKinsey and the interview had questions similar to those used there.

But what ended up making me at home was when she asked me a case study question where I had to think through a problem. I still remember getting excited for this and breaking down the problem in front of her. Having a business problem to solve definitely calmed my nerves down. Eventually, I even forgot I was on a job interview. Which I think happened to be my first and last one ever.

She offered me the job, and I spent the whole summer working with her. It was unpaid and we worked +10 hours every day, but I loved it. I learned a lot from her, and plenty of that I still use now as the CEO of Jakt. She gave me the assurance I needed and helped me find the confidence in myself to perform at a high level.

I also saw the way she treated people –including yours truly–which was very impactful to me from a young age. We had a mutual level of respect, and she made me realize that it doesn’t matter how old you are, how much experience you have, or how many letters you put after your name; all that matters is whether you can hold your own or not.

I remember being in rooms where I (supposedly) had no business being, but knowing that I could go toe-to-toe with anyone there. She was fantastic, and I got extremely high amounts of value out of that whole summer.

Are coaches “fake”?

Years later, after graduating college, I started Jakt –my current company– out of NYC. Through the first four or five years, I did not seek out any type of mentorship, coaching, or external help. To be completely honest with you, I always thought they were BS –why would I listen to someone that doesn’t know anything about my business, right?

And what happened? We went bankrupt and I had to shut-down the company.

Nah, I’m kidding. We did figure things out, but I made plenty of mistakes. I eventually grew the business to about $2M per year, but we hit a plateau. We were stuck there for a few years, and I was finally ready for help.

But I was still hesitant. I wanted to find someone that 1) I trusted and respected, and 2) could walk the talk –had experience in a position of leadership in business. Obviously, there was only one person that I would go to her. Even though we had only spoken maybe once a year for many years, when we started working together –this time as my executive coach– it felt just like the old times back in her office.

Why I’ll always have an executive coach

Good coaches and mentors help you cut down the time it takes to achieve your goals. Yes, you might be able to get there eventually by yourself, but why would you wait?

For example, I am pretty sure that, had I started to work with her as my executive coach a couple years earlier, we wouldn’t have stalled at the $2M mark for the three years we did. And had I not hired her at all, we would be nowhere close to our current $4M/year.

Having an executive coach is an investment –and a great one at that. A PriceWaterhouseCoopers’ survey concluded that the mean ROI for companies investing in executive coaching was 7 times the initial investment, with over a quarter reporting an ROI of 10 to 49 times. Not bad, huh?

I hired her as my executive coach thinking that I’d get help from a business standpoint, but it has gone way deeper than that. As a CEO or a business owner, there’s more to it than just running numbers or being good at sales, and your development as a leader is equally important and necessary to your company’s growth.

I still have plenty of room to grow

In fact, I’d say that only 25% of our time together is strictly business tactics and hard skills. Turns out that, while I still have plenty of room to improve upon, I’m pretty good at the things and they weren’t the main issue.

The vast majority of our coaching is instead focused on developing who I am as a person and becoming a better manager, having the right mindset, and working on my emotional and mental health. Having someone that truly knows who you are, wants to help you, and keeps you accountable –whether that’s a mentor or an executive coach– will bring back an incredibly high ROI.

Another important element is that she doesn’t have a stake in my situation. She’s not my business partner, or my employee, or my mother. She honestly doesn’t even need my money. A great coach will not try to persuade you or influence you –they won’t care. They’ll just want to see you grow, be happy, and doing well.


How to find an executive coach

By now, I have hopefully convinced you on the importance of having a coach or a mentor. But how can you find one?

The first thing you should worry about, however, is who to find. Conventional advice is to find someone that is where you want to be. But, I personally think you can go one step further.

You need people who ARE the person you want to be. With my executive coach, for example, I always had the highest level of respect and admiration for her. I’m an entrepreneur and always have been, but she’s honestly the only person I’d ever work for if I wasn’t running my own business.

Another thing to notice is that you can find different mentors for different areas: business, marriage, spiritual, etc. I have always been interested in the real estate industry. I am now looking to learn from successful individuals that I’d enjoy interacting with.

Transitioning into becoming a coach myself

When you start and run a business, there will be things that you don’t know –and that’s ok. But there will also be things that you don’t even know you don’t know (yes, this is real some Inception stuff).

You can decide whether you want to smash your face against the wall multiple times (like I did), or you can get someone to tell you “hey, there’s a wall coming. I’d go the other way.” If you take a certain pride in beating yourself up over and over again, go right ‘head. But I lost over a hundred thousand dollars and years of my time doing that.

That’s why I opened the number one community for business owners that run service-based businesses (agencies, consultancies, etc.) and want to grow them to at least 7 figures. It has turned into a group mentorship where I share the lessons I have learned (and keep on learning) through the years. Members have a place to ask all those questions that come up while running a business. I answer them directly based on my experience over the past 7 years growing my own multimillion-dollar business. You can check it out here.

I wish I had started working with an executive coach earlier

Looking back, I realize that I wish I had started working with an executive coach earlier. I would’ve saved myself years of back-breaking work, hundreds of sleepless nights, and thousands of dollars –but you live and you learn. In my experience, it is a fantastic investment that brings you a tremendously high ROI.

Finding a coach or a mentor is no easy feat. You’ll have to build a relationship with them based on trust, so make sure you respect and genuinely like the person. I’ll never go without an executive coach again –yes, it is that good. It has helped me become a better leader, businessman, and human being.