Consulting typically involves the consultant handing over new ideas for the start-up to implement. Truth is, start-ups rarely need new ideas — they already have more than they know what to do with. So adding yet more ideas to the backlog is stressful, especially without the resources to execute them.

Moreover, consulting is an extremely expensive way to execute ideas. Consultants charge anything from Rs. 40,000 to Rs.1,00,00 per day. Considering it’s in a start-up’s, fees like this are out of the question.

I learned that if you want to help start-ups, you have to help the founders build their business — not build it for them.

Coaching vs. consulting

If consulting is about bringing skills to the start-up, coaching is about nurturing skills within it. A great coach doesn’t come with the right answers. They come with the right questions.

Coaching has a different skill set compared to consulting. Here are some ideas that have helped me become a better coach.

Ask what keeps them up at night and let them describe a successful outcome for you.

1. Coaches get your agenda in shape

Consultants are quick to predict the most urgent needs of a start-up. But if you aren’t engaging with a founder’s top priorities, you’ll only ever get part of their attention. Ask what keeps them up at night and let them describe a successful outcome to you.

2. Questions are more powerful than answers

Elon Musk said that ‘a lot of times the question is harder than the answer. If you can properly phrase the question, then the answer is the easy part.’ Coaches ask right open questions that helps founders work through issues in their own head and gently reveals their blind spots.

Coaches always keep their clients focus on specific outcomes, goals, and actions.

4. Hearing yourself out and loud

Very often I see my clients realsing that I am speaking their words. Paraphrasing or echoing the founder’s ideas enables them to simplify their own thoughts and uncover faulty logic.

5. Hear experiences, not instructions

I always share my personal story that’s rich in detail. Sharing my emotions is a far better way of communicating than simply listing a sequence of steps.

I have been through this journey myself. It’s lonely at the top.

A founder can be surrounded by problems, so it’s easy to shrug off praise — especially for something they’re not truly proud of. Hence coaches know, giving praise for things they’re internally proud of is powerful.

7. Accountable buddy is a blessing in disguise

I tend to end my sessions with a concrete action item for the founder to take, but immediately after the session, they go straight back into the chaos. Following up not only shows you care, it also provides a huge service.

To CEOs & founders in search of coaches

Finding a great coach is hard. You want somebody you can relate to, who has been through what you’re going through. Someone who can put their ego aside and care about you. Someone who knows how to work with top talent.

You will demand significant investment from your coach, in both time and emotional energy, so it’s appropriate to compensate them appropriately. Remember that surrounding yourself with the best people has the greatest influence on your potential. Coaches always keep their clients focus on specific outcomes, goals, and actions.