The decision to team up with a coach to fully realize your business dreams and learn key business strategies can be an exciting and fulfilling experience for many entrepreneurs. The prospect of immediate feedback and suggestions during turbulent periods of growth can be very rewarding, but it’s important that the coach/client relationship be built on a firm foundation in order to succeed. You are investing in this person to provide insights for your success. It can be a delicate balancing act. How do you know if the coach you’re working with – or considering – is the right coach for you?

1. Be Clear about Your Expectations. You have to approach your first meeting with your coach intent on communicating your goals, both as an entrepreneur and as a team leader. It’s very important for you and your coach to not have misunderstandings about what success looks like. Introduce the coach to your business plan’s primary goals and strategies, and stress these objectives. You know which direction you want to travel, and you’re seeking aid so you can move more quickly and efficiently in that direction. Look for someone who respects your goals, as well as the environment you’re creating for your team. Let your coach know what time frames you have in mind, as well as how many hours per week you expect to meet with him or her to pursue your plans.

2. Look for a Good Listener. Your relationship is going to thrive on listening.  You’re seeking a coach who’s an active listener. Someone who’s just passively lending support is not really driving you toward your goals. A successful coach should delve deep into the problem and work to understand all sides of the issue before making suggestions. A coach should also guide you in providing information on exactly what you want to get out of the coaching exercises. The coach needs to spend time and effort to truly get to know the business and the objectives of the client so his guidance can have genuine value. Avoid a coach who only provides a pat answer or suggests a reading list instead of coming up with a valid suggestion. You could do that on your own.

3. Look for Honest and Constructive Feedback.  Often, clients need to be told uncomfortable truths to succeed. You need to use that feedback to grow as a person and entrepreneur. You don’t want a coach who thinks that every idea is “genius.” Although this might boost your ego, it will not boost your business.  Your coach should provide constructive feedback and criticism that will empower you to move toward your goals. Good coaches walk the balance between giving honest feedback without tearing down the client.

4. Look for a Supportive Personality.  Honest feedback provides you with an opportunity to reflect and change. Constant criticism does not lend itself to these endeavors. Your coach should know the difference. Stifling your creativity and inspiration is not, in any way, a positive contribution to your success. Often, coaches, in their desire to bring structure to the conversation, might default to focusing on negative aspects. You, as a client, should feel you’re in a safe environment without judgment or deflating negativity.

5. Chemistry is King.  As in all human relationships, the combination of coach and client relies on chemistry. With direct honesty about goals, expectations, knowledge, and feedback, the relationship can flourish. You should feel that you’re receiving positive, constructive suggestions to further your understanding and success. The coach, likewise, should feel capable of guiding your steps and showing you the potential positive, and negative, ramifications of certain strategies. As long as the coach is able to add value, and good communication occurs, the relationship should develop in a positive, inspiring direction.

A great coach can help you develop ideas you’d never have thought of on your own, and he or she can tweak your current ideas to meet with more success. It’s essential, as an entrepreneur, to have a sounding board; it’s even better to have a third party who’s invested in your success – but not swayed by your bottom line. Find a coach who believes in your dreams, and together, you’ll find a way to make them happen.