When Group Learning Really Isn’t

When it comes to growing as a business owner + leader, I believe that if you can learn something from a $25 book, you should get it.

However, when it comes to coaching and business development programs that present themselves in a one-size-fits all approach to success, I’m not buying it.

The most effective investments you will make in your business will be with coaches and mentors who truly have an understanding of your business, of your industry, and of your personal strengths and weaknesses.

Your “trouble” areas and opportunities for improvement might not be addressed in a curriculum designed for “everyone”, just as what is working for you isn’t necessarily going to work for another person or business.

This is not group learning time; this is your life’s work. You don’t just want a theory-based course; you need to know and be confident with the specific and individualized actions which must be taken – now and next.

I raise an eyebrow when business coaches can write “I believe in you!” on their websites without even knowing you. You don’t need an expensive cheerleader to simply motivate and encourage you to believe in yourself. Feeling great about yourself is certainly essential, motivation and inspiration is also paramount – but then what? A business coach must be able to help you develop a business strategy that’s right for you and your goals. A great business coach will give you the concrete steps forward that you (and only you) need to take next, and will work with you to reach milestones and goals.

The truth is, anyone can call themselves a coach or an expert – seriously, anyone. Like with anything else, do your research, ask questions and invest well in your goals and vision. One of the best ways to determine if the person or program is right for you is to find out who they have actually helped succeed. Learn what their past clients have to say about working with them (including perceived successes and failures). Ask their former clients and students, “What did this person’s advice result in for you?”

A good place to begin your search is to look for someone who has personally helped brands or individuals that you admire – whether in your industry or not. When you speak with the consultant/coach/leader, make sure they ask you (relevant) questions about your business, and do not just tell you what they will do for you. Ideally, they should show a general understanding for your industry and target market. Without a direct connection, someone who promises you success is too good to be true. Business is also much more rewarding and fun when you have a team of people (with names and faces) who are working with you to do your best, not prescribing everyone the same plan and goals.

Virtual group programs can be fun, and feel good, but what will you be equipped to do upon completion? What tools will you have? Will you know and understand your difference? Will you realize a return on your investment? Make sure you have the answers to these questions before you commit.

Realistically, if you are not ready to invest in a business consultant or coach, you’re better off paying $25 for a book (or 3) over investing in an expensive group learning experience. With hard work, you’ll be amazed by how much you can accomplish on your own.

Time is our most valuable resource and money is generally not infinite. Spend both well, you deserve it.


This post is a resource from The Borden Workbook, our comprehensive guide to help entrepreneurs organize and grow their small businesses. The Borden Workbook is used in conjunction with consultation with Borden Communications, or as an organized guide you can used on your own to launch, develop, and nurture your small business (starting now!). We take pride in creating a clear and humble approach to good business tactics that everyone can understand and execute.