Here’s a question I heard from a coach recently during a Supervision Meeting:
I set up a part-time coaching practice about a year ago which is going well. I negotiated with my current employer to work 3 days a week which has helped me build my coaching business. During the past six months I have linked with a number of other coaches and we have been discussing the possibility of working together. I have one option of linking with an individual I trained with and another which is with a group of coaches all with different skill sets. I am not sure what would be the best way of doing this. I had not really considered working with others as such and just wondered if there was anything I should look out for?
Working alone or with others is a decision you need to make once you have weighed up the advantages and disadvantages associated with each type of potential relationship you could become involved in.
You mentioned forming a partnership with someone you trained with. The advantages of doing this are that there is cover when it comes to illness or absence, you both share legal responsibility and therefore two heads are better than one. You share the overheads and work, can cross refer and gain mutual support from each other. However, the downside could be the difficulty if you disagree or fall out, how you manage the situation if one person has more clients or work than the other and a potential sense of loss of control. Also if your skills sets are identical will that help or hinder what you are trying to achieve? In addition you will need to consider what would happen if individual working styles and or expectations prove a difficulty.
If this option is to work you need to devise a contract between yourself and the other person. You may wish to seek formal legal advice on how to do this or you may decide simply to devise a written contract between yourselves. Such a contract would need to consider your roles and responsibilities. How you share the financial aspects of the business and how monies would be distributed.
For example, if you were the one who brought in and undertook most of the work what would your feelings be if you had agreed to share all income on a 50/50 basis after expenses had been paid? If one person were better at business development, the other might be happier to allow that person to take a greater percentage of the profits. However, even if one person were better at business development while the other was more competent at administration then both parties might feel their skill sets balanced out and monies should be shared equally. Many partnerships have broken down due to a lack of clarity at the beginning of the process as to who would do what and how the partnership would operate. It is also important that you devise a ‘get out clause’ for both parties that is fair and amicable and that avoids any potential unnecessary acrimony at a later stage or disruption to the services you are providing to your clients.
Alternatively, you could consider becoming an associate of an existing business as here you would have no responsibility for the business or for generating client demand. Your own expenditure is more predictable, you have less administration and you do not have to worry about premises. However, you will probably have to accept a lower fee rate, have no control over generating new work and are dependent on others. This option is more like paid employment but without any guarantees.
Another possibility is forming a loose network with others which you mentioned as a possibility. This is useful in relation to receiving referrals and for peer support and supervision. In addition, by bringing together individuals with a range of skills the network can bid for coaching contracts as a collective that they may not have been able to do so as individuals. Having said that you may find yourself putting in more work, effort and time than others and again it would depend on the personalities involved as to whether relationships could prove problematic. Many of the issues stated earlier under the potential pitfalls of a partnership apply here and therefore if you did enter into such an arrangement all parties would need to be clear as to what was involved and expected from each person and a written contract would also be an essential in ensuring clarity for all concerned.
These types of arrangements are largely a matter of what suits your own personal needs and preferences.
There are many advantages to working with others but there are pitfalls too. If you ensure you take the time early on to consider not only what you want but also what others want and to contract clearly with those concerned working with others can be rewarding personally and professionally. However, failure to do so can leave individuals feeling aggrieved, damage an individual’s reputation with clients, cause unnecessary stress and result in potentially losing good friendships along the way.