Mary Bernitt

The Business Coach Bubble – How to Avoid a Scam and Find the Right Coach for You

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According to PwC, the coaching industry is the second-fastest growing sector in the world, with a projected market value of $2.8 billion and more than 71,000 coaches worldwide. Well, PwC cites $2.8 billion, but the market is so unregulated that the numbers vary wildly depending on who you ask, ranging from $1.5 – $15 billion USD.

But as these incredibly ranging statistics suggest, the business coaching industry is largely unregulated. That’s because, in part, there is no barrier to entry to become a business coach. There are no required degrees, no certifications, no laws regulating who can call themselves a business coach. And as one of the fastest growing sectors in the world, the market has become saturated with profiteers interested in getting ahead at the expense of their clients’ long-term success.

Now, everywhere you look on social media, there’s a business coach telling you that you can do it – that you can be just like them, earn just as much money as they do, and live your dream…if only you pay them an exorbitant amount of money.

That’s not to say that there aren’t incredible business coaches in the industry. There are. But there’s also an entire market saturated with under-qualified business coaches with over-exaggerated results.

So what’s going on here? What is the business-coach bubble, what’s happening inside it, and how do you separate the good business coaches from the bad?

The rise of the business coach bubble

In the past decade, the market has become saturated with business coaches promising enormous returns in exchange for your time and money. You see glamorous photos of them flying first class on Emirates and vacationing in the Maldives, all while toting their brand and pushing their program.

But, what is their program, exactly?

Many of these business coaches are selling the idea of mindset work. They say, “if you work with me, I’ll shift your mindset and transform your life.” But mindset work is, at its core, psychological work, and many business coaches advertising these services don’t have the relevant experience or qualifications to engage in sustainable mindset work. Instead, their program is aspirational. It’s based on their own cult of personality, with huge promises that inevitably fall flat. Yet they’ll still charge you more than the best therapist.

Instead of an upfront business coach with proven methods and step-by-step actionable processes, their clients get Oz behind the curtain, gaslighting Dorothy into thinking that if only she were better, if only she committed harder to his program, then her dreams could come true, too.

The illusion of replicable success

The market is rampant with business coaches whose larger than life promises almost always fall flat. They say that they’re going to change your world, but when you don’t see the results that they promised, the answer is almost always, “Oh, you didn’t do the work. You just have to try harder.” And sometimes that is the answer – because when a good business coach gives you tools, you need to use those tools to succeed.

The problem here is that many of these coaches fail to provide tangible tools for success. They’ve build an illusion of replicable success without the actual tools to do it, because the only way to replicate their success is to do the exact same thing as them – which is to operate without integrity.

This business model is unsustainable. Something built on lying and empty promises can’t last for 99% of the perpetrators. In the process of peddling illusive mindset energy shifting for the hourly price that costs more than a lawyer, they’ve created their own bubble. And with every other bubble in the market, when people realize that it’s not real, sustainable, or achievable for the wider audience, it’s going to pop.

Justifying high prices

I once spoke to a business coach who told me that they overcharge their clients on purpose in order to make them more committed to the program. They told me, “it’s a service to charge really high prices, because the more they commit to the process, the more successful they’ll be.”

On one hand, there is some truth behind psychological pricing. Clients want to know that they’re purchasing something valuable, and if they’re willing to invest 10K, then they’ll be invested in the outcome of their purchase. In business coaching, it can act as a placebo effect – just by taking the course, taking the pill, you gain more confidence in the outcome.

But a placebo will only take you so far. And if someone pays $10,000 for something, they expect something worth $10,000.

Many of these business coaches are preying on the low self-esteem and lack of education of new entrepreneurs who find themselves in the constant cycles of failure that exists in all new business ventures. They over-inflate the cost of their program “because you’re worth it,” and promise a magic pill that will fix all your woes. But that magic pill doesn’t exist.

How to tell if you need a business coach, consultant, or therapist

There are some incredible business coaches out there, who can teach you invaluable tools in your business. There are also amazing therapists, who can help you achieve the mindset work you need in the daily ups and downs of entrepreneurship. Then there are expert consultants who can do the work for you, and help you stay focused on the core of your business.

So when do you need one versus the other?

People often turn to business coaches for validation – they’re afraid of trying. They’re afraid of failing. But a business coach should not be your psychological support – true business coaches serve a very different function. They’re not validating the thing you already know. They’re not assuaging your low self-esteem. Business coaches teach you actionable processes with proven results. They are experts that can give you tools for one aspect of your business, whether that’s marketing, leadership, or negotiation tactics. Business coaches are great when you know your problem, know that it’s a continual part of your business, and know that you need help to learn the best way to do something.

If you do struggle with psychological limitations, such as fear of failure, lack of validation, low self-esteem, or roadblocks from past trauma, then a therapist is fantastic resource. I think every entrepreneur should have a therapist. Because in business you are constantly failing, and a therapist with years of training and experience can help you find coping mechanisms to overcome and deal with failure. They’ll help you build a long-lasting, sustainable mindset, no Wizard of Oz gimmicks necessary.

Finally, it’s important to consider whether or not what you’re really looking for is a consultant. Consultants are experts who can do the work for you. They’ll build you fantastic sales copy, generate a sustainable brand profile, design your website, and update your e-commerce program. It’s important to remember that you don’t have to do it all by yourself. So it’s always important to consider if you need a coach, who will teach you how to do it, or a consultant, who will save you time and resources by doing the work for you.

Let’s say you really do want a business coach. How can you find the perfect one for you?

Business Coach Red Flags

First, let’s talk about some of the red flags you should look out for when finding a business coach:

  • They advertise high dollar success, but don’t specify if their results are profit or revenue
  • They have client testimonials, but those testimonials don’t match a coach’s guarantee
  • They cost more than a consultant who would do the work for you, or charge more than a really good therapist (think, $200 an hour as an industry standard)
  • They’re not willing to talk on the phone (RUN)
  • They’re entire brand is ego-centric, based on their success, instead of what they can do for you
  • They’re not willing to clarify if their advertised results are the average results of the program, or the top 1%
  • They’re not willing to disqualify a client due to a bad program fit

All of these factors can indicate that a business coach isn’t going to be the right fit for you.

Business Coach Green Flags

That said, there are incredible business coaches out there, who have created fantastic programs for clients and can help entrepreneurs achieve calculated results.

So, what are some business coach green flags?

  • Their baseline cost is in line with industry experts
  • They encourage a phone call to discuss if you’re the right fit for each other
  • They’re willing to say “no” if they think their program isn’t right for you
  • They give their guarantees with a timeline and refund option
  • They show you the average client success, not the top 1%

A good business coach has your best interest at heart – they want you to succeed, not just for you to pay them. They want to make sure that you and their program are a good fit. They’re authentic, and honest, and don’t promise you the moon. Instead, they build trust through measurable, sustainable growth.

Final thoughts

At the end of the day, there is no magic pill to make your business succeed. I wish there was, I really do. But anyone promising you one solution to all your problems doesn’t have your best interest at heart.

Instead, do your research, and think about what you really need (I highly recommend therapy. Seriously, it’s a game changer). When it comes to a business coach, go in knowing what you need, and find someone with measurable, replicable results. Get on the phone with them. See if they’re a good fit. Ignore anyone with their arms in the air, advertising “you could be just like me.” Find the ones that say, “Oh, you’re after X? Let’s talk.”

Because you deserve to build a strong foundation for your business. You deserve to run a business with authentic integrity. You deserve the tools for sustainable growth. It’s hard work – there is no magic pill, or easy way out. But if you put in the work, and find reliable industry experts to help you along the way, you have the chance to build something real – and I promise, it’s worth it.