IN 2005, Ali Riaz, then president of a search technology company that would eventually be sold to Microsoft, was having dinner with one of his board members when he admitted that he was struggling with managing everything that running a fast-growing, cutting-edge company entailed, as reported in the New York Times.
“I said, ‘I feel like there must be a better way to deal with the inflow of pressure,’ ” Mr. Riaz said. “Kids getting bigger, parents getting older, business is growing — just using hard work and natural-born talents was getting hard. I wondered if there were techniques I could use.” The board member suggested he get a coach and offered to make an introduction. Mr. Riaz, a smart, driven entrepreneur, thought this was a horrible idea.
“I was a little like, I don’t need a psychologist, buddy,” he said. “We Type A entrepreneurs don’t talk about this kind of stuff. We solve problems and push ahead.” Mr. Riaz quickly saw that she had some insight into how entrepreneurs think and how to help them. “I realized at the end of our first conversation that in order to work with her meant work,” he said. “In my 25-hour day of work, I realized I didn’t have time to work with her.” A few months later, he changed his mind.
“The beginning of any year is ripe for self-assessment. It’s when gyms fill with new members crowding treadmills and spin classes, for a few months anyway. When it comes to executive coaching, the impulse is little different: How can I be better? For entrepreneurs, executives and members of wealthy families who go the coaching route, the experience is expensive, time-consuming and filled with doubts over whether it will really work in the end.
“Such coaches, after all, represent a somewhat amorphous profession. They are not psychotherapists who will mine the past for solutions to the present, nor are they strictly business consultants tasked with, say, fixing part of a company. Rather, they are people without prescribed credentials, though often with experience in the client’s field, who have won trust through experience or reputation to guide a client to an agreed-upon life, career or business goal. Ms. Spatafora charges individuals $5,000 to $12,000 a month. For her corporate clients, which have included Citibank, Google and the satirical website The Onion, the cost can go as high as $200,000. Marshall Goldsmith, one of the best-known coaches in the field — his clients include Alan R. Mullaly, president and chief executive of Ford, and Frances Hesselbein, former chief executive of Girl Scouts of the USA — charges up to $250,000 for an 18-month engagement but is paid only if all parties involved agree that the coaching worked. (He also does coaching seminars for $35,000 a day.) Vistage International, a coaching network focused on chief executives, has a monthly membership fee of $1,250 after a $2,250 initiation fee. When working with financial advisers, some coaches take a percentage of the revenue from the assets acquired during the coaching.”