Why Coaching? Reflection on Eric Schmidt’s comments in How Google Works

This past holiday I travelled overseas with my family.  I needed a couple of books for the dreaded flight. I fired up my Kindle and downloaded a few business books, despite my wife’s protests to leave business behind (it’s in my DNA). The book that really held my attention was How Google Works authored by Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google.

As I’m in the process of growing my business in this new freelance economy, one part of the book caught my eye: Schmidt’s comments on executive advisors and coaches. I’m paraphrasing, Schmidt. He stated that one of the investors at Google offered to introduce him to a CEO coach. He didn’t feel this was a real need. Why would he use such a coach? However, after six months Schmidt reflected on this decision: professional athletes need help, guidance and coaching to get top performance, why shouldn’t startup executives do the same thing? As I read this I too reflected on my own CEO experiences. I have benefitted from coaches; people who were looking out for my best interests as well as the company’s best interests. They didn’t have agendas like some investors and team members. They did have years of experience ‘in the trenches,’ making really good and not-so-good decisions. Why wouldn’t I want this input and advice? I took as much of it as I could. I’m not sure I followed every word of advice, but I always felt that I learned from these advisors’ stories. 

Trusted Advisors are worth every penny or piece of equity you provide. 

Advisors look and evaluate your team objectively answering questions such as: Are they working effectively together? Are they executing on plan? What do they need to improve their skills and performance?  

Advisors evaluate your product/market fit. Are clients really buying? Can this be grown quickly? What’s the competitive environment? Based upon experience what is going to jump out at you around the bend as you move forward? 

Advisors help you scale your go-to market strategy. Is the product ready to scale? Do you have the proof points? How do we get our product pushed or pulled into the market and what’s the best financial manner to do this? 

As an advisor, I can attest to being excited to be designated coach. It’s a blast to help entrepreneurs, listen to their worries and provide the strategic guidance and hand-on execution that helps them build their dream. In my entrepreneurial past the most excitement and enthusiasm came from helping the founders learn, addressing concerns and assisting in growing a business. 

I’ve never met Eric Schmidt but he’s a smart man to employ trusted advisors to help him build his business.