A business trainer in action. Image (c) Monty Rakusen / Getty Images

By Susan Ward

Ask These Seven Questions Before You Hire That Business Trainer or Coach 

Are you in the market for business training and looking for someone to teach you what you consider you need to know to start a new business or run your existing business even more successfully?

Perhaps you’re looking for a business consultant to show you how to increase your profits or a business trainer to help you learn a new accounting software program. Maybe you’re looking for a business coach to help you increase your personal and business success.

Whatever business skills or information you want to learn, how much you benefit from the business training will greatly depend upon the individual professional you choose to teach you.

Whether you will be meeting with your business trainer, business consultant or business coach virtually or in real time, it’s important to give her or him the same scrutiny that you would give any other professional. In an ideal world, everyone could accept everyone else at face value, but the world we live in is far from ideal.

Ask any prospective business trainer, coach or consultant these seven questions before you commit to any instructional plan or business training sessions.

1) What are your credentials?
Don’t be blasé about these. There are a whole lot of initials that can follow people’s names that mean nothing, and a great many bogus institutions offering people “degrees” in every imaginable topic for a price.

Before you hire any one to teach you anything, ask about their credentials and find out what their credentials mean. Be aware that some credentials have more worth than others and make your decision accordingly.

2) Have you “been there and done that”?
Beware of people who haven’t. Would you hire a business consultant who had never run a business?

You shouldn’t. The same goes for computer consultants who haven’t worked in the industry or business trainers without instructional experience.

3) What are the institution’s accreditations and reputation?
Examining the worth of online instruction is especially difficult, as many online “institutions” appear to expect you to accept their accreditation just because they say so.

But you may encounter exactly the same attitude in bricks and mortar schools offering business training as well. Before you sign on for any kind of business training, find out about the company and their instructors. (If the information is not readily available to you, you don’t want to be dealing with that company.)

4) What do other people think of the business trainer, consultant or coach’s performance?
No worthwhile, experienced professional will mind giving you references that you can check and/or providing testimonials.

5) Does the business trainer, business coach or consultant have an axe to grind?
For instance, she or he may be affiliated with or sponsored by a particular company. If so, the affiliation or sponsorship may slant the person’s presentation in a way that’s unacceptable to you or turn into a parade of products that you don’t want to buy.

6) If it’s possible, meet with the applicant you’re considering hiring and personally evaluate him or her.
Look for the following in your face-to-face meeting:
Is she organized?
Does she act in a professional manner?
Does he have course outlines or materials to share with you or is he able to suggest a course design or session goals for your specific needs that seems reasonable?
Does he or she present a clear learning plan and answer your questions about the learning situation, style, and delivery to your satisfaction?
Does the learning plan include evaluation?
Do you find the business trainer, business consultant or coach personable and knowledgeable?
If you have staff that will be trained, do you think they will enjoy learning from this person?

You obviously can’t meet with someone who’s providing online instruction or coaching from a remote location, but you can still at least question him or her about his approach to the business training and form an impression of how organized and personable he or she is.

7) Finally, get it in writing.
If you sign up for a course or seminar, you’ll get a receipt. If you’re hiring a trainer, coach or  consultant for personalized learning, you should get a copy of a contract that specifies the learning or training to be delivered, how and when the services will be delivered, and the price of the services. I write up a Personalized Learning Plan for clients; that way we’re both clear about our expectations before we proceed.

Acquiring new skills and knowledge is what keeps us sharp and allows us to grow our small businesses and our selves. But just like any other product, you have to be a savvy consumer to get the most out of a learning experience. Don’t be disappointed or dissatisfied; optimize the outcome by taking the time to find the consultant, trainer or coach that best fits your needs.