The case for measuring the influence of business coaching in Start-ups – fade or evolution?

As the world shifts towards a more global start-up ecosystem, we will also need to see adaptation of the learning channels for entrepreneurs and the start-up ecosystem by creating healthier and less risky startup business environments. Europe boasts more entrepreneurs per capita than the United States, a country generally taken as a benchmark for entrepreneurial excellence (OECD, Entrepreneurship at a Glance 2016).

The problem, however, is that European companies seldom grow to scale.

At BC Team Coaching, one of our verticals, is teaming-up with High Potential Start-Ups (HPSUs) crossing the chasm, mainly the commercialization valley of death from the financial cycle of Seed to early-stage Serie A funding or technology readiness levels 6-9 (commercial maturity).

In this ecosystem, a significant need among our HPSU clients is the transfer of skills, specifically business acumen and leadership in order to scale their innovation. Entrepreneurship requires multidisciplinary skills and competencies due to rapid market changes and competitive pressures and they depend upon the creation of a culture of continuous improvement and/or continuous learning conducive to reaching market performance indicators.

Most entrepreneurs begin their journey through pre-seed/seed funding incubators and VC readiness programme accelerators where the preferred adult learning channel has been ‘mentoring’ initiated from the desire to start up with their minimum viable product (MVP) whilst preparing their VC pitching deck. This learning channel is also magnified from the deal rooms and client portfolio with venture capitalists/GPs looking for their 10X returns.

Mentoring is usually defined as a formal process of advice or support given by a person who has experience and knowledge to another person who is lacking in such experience and knowledge with research telling us both mentoring and coaching are useful as a support function for entrepreneurs however with distinct learning functions.

Over the years business coaching as a profession, has emerged from a combination of various fields such as adult learning and development, business and change management, psychology, systems thinking, consulting….etc. By its nature, the systemic approach of business coaching contrasts with executive coaching, which concentrates on individual performance and does not necessitate executive coaches having business experience.

As a Master Certified Coach (MCC) I follow the International Coach Federation (ICF) definition of coaching as ‘partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential’ and this needs to be differentiated from the problem-solving functions of consulting or structured ‘advice’ from subject matter experts downloading such as mentoring.