Portfolios and Metrics for Enterprise Coaching

  • What sort of numbers is it realistic to expect a full-time enterprise coach to deliver?
  • What does a healthy coach portfolio look like?
  • If I employ 5 coaches to work in  city of 750 000, what sort of results should I expect?

Well here are my thoughts….

The basic unit of coaching is the 121.  Each 121 will usually take between 45 minutes to an hour.  Of course they can take longer – but this is rarely productive.

121s are intense, often emotional and usually challenging.  If they are aren’t, you are not doing it right!  This means that a coach can do on average 3 x 121s in a day.  This should mean that they can deliver well in excess of 600 personal coaching sessions in a year – 650+ is not beyond the realms of possibility.  Of course geography matters – if clients are scattered across Northumberland you will spend more time travelling than if you coach in an urban centre.

I would expect to see a coach working with about 200 unique clients in the course of a year.  Yes, three or so new clients coming onto the portfolio each week!  I would expect to see each coach working with a catchment area of between 15 and 50 000 residents depending on population density and other demographics.

The one hit wonders

A proportion of clients will come once and may not return for months or years, if ever.  We may have helped them enormously.  We may not have helped them at all.   We may never know – although if you are visible and accessible enough and they stay in the area you should be able to get some feedback.  I have known clients who were clear on what they wanted to do after just one session and went and did it.  In fact one client called me after 3 years and said that he had started his business and now wanted to expand – would I like to have a chat!  Others just don’t come back when they recognise that:

  1. I am not in the business of giving them money or pulling magic rabbits out of hats
  2. They will have to do some work on this – it is not an easy option

The percentage that fall into this category can vary widely usually depending on the kind of marketing used to promote the service.  If the marketing says ‘We can make your dreams come true’, ‘Funding available’, ‘Lunch provided’ or some combination of the above then the number of one hit wonders will be high.  Where marketing is through word of mouth, real clients telling others about what the service is really like and what it has helped them to achieve then they should be much lower.  Effective word of mouth depends on your service being quite literally ‘remarkable’ and you being prepared to actively ask clients for introductions and referrals.  If they are not happy to give you these it is likely that your service is just not good enough.

If the number of one hit wonders creeps much above 25% I would be wondering about whether we had problems with our marketing and reputation – or whether the coach was just not able to connect with the client group.

The Ideal Clients

In some ways the ideal clients are the one hit wonders who just go and do it, start a business, and return years later to look at business expansion.  But these are rare, and often can’t be counted for funding purposes!  The real ideal client engages with us, takes seriously the notion of doing work between meetings and returns for subsequent visits to make further progress.  We can build a strong relationship with them and provide much more support to them in developing their ideas and skills.  We can also start to see a story emerge about our own effectiveness.  We can record the progress the client has made and provide high quality quantitative and qualitative information on our effectiveness to funders.  Such ideal clients will typically require between 3 and 6 121 sessions over the course of anything from several weeks to 6 months or more.  I would hope to see good coaches with some 50%, or 110 plus clients each year.  Of these I would be expecting around 15- 20 clients to actually go ahead and start their business from anything within 4 months of the first 121 up to a few years after the first meeting.  There is much to be said for slow enterprise.  I would certainly expect a good, established coach, working in an effective system, to support anywhere between 15 and 20 or so starts each year.

I would expect upwards of 80% of these new starts to be trading 3 years later.  Survival rates should always be very carefully tracked, and serious consideration given by both the coach and the service as a whole as to how they can be maintained and improved.   Helping clients to start businesses that they have not got either the commitment or skills to manage effectively  or for which there is not a sufficient market to sustain will only help to set back the reputation of the service and the enterprise culture of the community.  However attractive it might be to get another start-up box ticked we should be doing all can to slow our clients down until they really have the very best chance of long term survival.  A much smaller number of really strong startups is worth much more to the long term enterprise culture of the community than a rash of sickly ones.  I only wish funding regimes would recognise this.

Anything significantly less than this would set my alarm bells ringing that all is not right.  The problem might be with the coach, with the enterprise coaching system (including marketing and administration), or with the enterprise culture in the community.  The coach cannot do this on their own.  There needs to be a substantial network of pro-enterprise individuals who can provide additional support and provide an effective counter the negative messages about enterprise that often pervade communities.

While the other 85 perhaps don’t start a business I would expect each of them to have been significantly assisted by the coaching process to clarify goals and learn how to be much more enterprising in their pursuit.  These outcomes are valuable and should be recorded and wherever possible paid for (or at least reported to) by the appropriate funder.

The Demanding Clients

So this leaves us with perhaps 25% of our clients, 40 or so in the course of nay one year, who are really demanding.  They need more than half a dozen 121 sessions.  Perhaps they are starting from a long way back and need many 121s over a period of years before they start to make substantial changes – or decide to stick with the status quo.  They may need referring to specialist service providers before our coaches can do much more with them.  Perhaps they just like to spend time with coaches, fooling themselves and others that they are really working for a better future.  Demanding clients may just need a higher level of support – live with it – or they may be a sign that actually a coach is promoting dependence, happy to keep working with clients who won’t make progress because they can just count the sessions.

The actual dynamics of a coach’s portfolio will vary depending on the geography, psychology and enterprise culture of the community they serve as well as their own experience and longevity on the patch.  It may take a couple of years to achieve a stable portfolio of the type I have outlined here.

It will also depend on the type of marketing support they receive.  Often well intentioned marketing activities can produce floods of clients that need to be seen, but who turn out to be one hit wonders of the worst kind.  I am a big advocate of expecting enterprise coaches to develop their own referrals through word of mouth from existing clients, perhaps augmented with a little bit bit of judicious PR.  Expensive advertising campaigns may attract punters to one off events and workshops but are much less effective at actually finding people who really want to work effectively and intensively with enterprise coaches.

The Role of the Manager in Supporting Enterprise Coaches

Call me a traditionalist but I think that the manager has a key role in both supporting the coach to develop an effective portfolio.  Each coach should be seen ideally every week, certainly fortnightly to review the portfolio and the progress that is being made by specific clients.  Ratios of one hit wonders to ideal clients to demanding clients should be tracked for clues about the performance of the coach and the system that they are operating in.  Where specific clients are providing cause for concern (insufficient progress is being made, specialist services are requires that are beyond the boundaries of the coaching service, client behaviours are causing concern for example) explicit strategies should be developed for managing them effectively.  At least three or four times a year the manager should observe the coach at work, accompanying them on 121s and providing them with feedback and coaching support.

Closing Remarks

Getting an enterprise coaching service to work really well takes years rather than months.  Coaches have to become known, trusted and skilled.  Marketing strategies have to be honed.  The numbers I have mentioned here are achievable but not in all situations and never instantly.  They have to be built towards with intelligence, insight and dedication.  Sadly, funding regimes often encourage us to take the expensive and unproductive short cuts of putting adverts on buses, building flashy websites and holding conferences and expos with dragons, apprentices, millionaires and free lunches just to get punters through the door.

But it is not any punters that we need. It is those who believe, because of our reputation and our track record, that we can help them to use enterprise to transform their lives for the better.

My notes on Doug Richard’s Entrepreneurship Manifesto

While reading the manifesto I made some pretty comprehensive notes and numbered them for ease of reference.  No analysis yet – just my notes…pieces that especially provoke or intrigue me I have highlighted in blue…

Doug Richards Entrepreneurs Manifesto

1 Public declarations aimed at supporting UKs 4.4m entrepreneurs

2 Manifesto

2.1 A statement of principles highlighting challenges to overcome to release entrepreneurship

2.2 Spectre of capitalism

2.2.1 Greedy bankers

2.2.2 Amoral corporations

  • Pitting tax regimes against each other
  • Failure of a global commons means they can escape costs of infrastructure and society that supports them

2.2.3 Bloated State incapable of controlling capitalism

  • failing to deal with poverty, worklessness etc
  • Outgrowing the economy
  • We are demonstrably poorer – the system does not work

2.2.4 States competing to be servants of capitalism

2.2.5 The environment has no voice/the consumer no collective

2.3 Unleashing the Wealth Creators

2.3.1 Wealth of the nation rests on entrepreneurial activity

2.3.2 The state as a servant of society

2.3.3 Must harness the power of the entrepreneur to improve services

2.3.4 Size of the state is not the enemy

2.3.5 State run services immune from creative destruction

2.3.6 Fairness of the least…only the State can ensure fairness in health, education etc – no-one can have more than the least.

We cannot improve until we can improve everyone – and therefore we improve no-one

2.3.7 State’s role is to create playing fields on which entrepreneurs can be released to deliver service

2.3.8 Harness collective creative self interest of our entrepreneurial output for the benefit of meeting our social objectives

We will see a flowering of ideas, a manifold unfolding of new approaches and a gale of creative destruction

3 Declaration of Rights

3.1 Practical recommendations to clear the path for an explosion in entrepreneurship

3.1.1 Entrepreneurial culture as the only force that exists for growth, prosperity, fairness and social justice

3.1.2 Not about privilege; few getting rich at expense of poor;

3.1.3 About creating ladders of social mobility

3.1.4 Increasing wealth so we can afford services, health education etc

3.1.5 To harness entrepreneurship first we must understand it

  • Risk and reward

3.1.6 Must increase economic freedoms for all businesses taking business risks

3.1.7 Cut the time it takes to start a new business

3.1.8 Streamline regulations, exempt small business where possible

3.1.9 Get government out of Business Support – just focus on regulation

3.1.10 Free up family savings for investment in nascent business with credits and exemptions

3.1.11 Stop paying people to be unemployed – share costs of ‘teaching them to be employed’

3.1.12 Employers have no means to underwrite the costs of turning students into productive employees

3.1.13 Govt is largest consumer – must change procurement patterns

  • Must drive revenue to entrepreneurs
  • Open doors to innovation

3.1.14 Use new legal frameworks to broaden scope for social entrepreneurs – encouraging for profit co-owned businesses and for profits that deliver social benefits

3.1.15 Understand that we do not understand

3.1.16 Must empower people to step out on their own, take risk, hope for reward and move on from failure.

3.1.17 The corrosive impact of an over protective state is not merely the loss of our sense of responsibility to a civil society; it is the even more profound loss of our sense of capacity to change society, to have an impact, to be an entrepreneur.

3.1.18 Entrepreneurship can be taught and must be learned

Getting your voice heard: How to influence policies that affect you and your community

23rd February 2010, 10.00am-3.00pm, Leeds

An informal and practical event for small groups and grassroots organisations in West Yorkshire.

Primarily aimed at BME, Refugee, Rural and Faith groups, though all other groups are welcome to join.

The event aims to help groups understand the importance of policy and the effect that it can have on organisations and communities. It will include practical workshops on influencing policy to improve the communities in which they live.

Organised by : BME VCS Regional Programme, Yorkshire and the Humber Regional Forum Ltd, Leeds BME Network, WYLDA (RISS project), LASSN

If you are interested please use the comments form to express interest.

Leeds Neighbourliness Circular – A Timely Response to the Cold Spell?

I received this circular email on 13 January through the Leeds Third Sector Mailing Lists after snow had been on the ground for 4 weeks.

Dear All,

Current cold and icy conditions: A call for help to staff, friends and the community

As the cold and icy conditions continue to affect the country, please consider the impact of the wintry conditions and plunging temperatures on those more vulnerable to its impact than yourself. This might include those less able to get out and about, such as elderly neighbours, or people who are living alone or on low incomes, and who may be at risk.

During this sustained cold spell, we would ask that you consider checking that neighbours, friends or family are safe and warm and are not left without vital practical help. The icy conditions may mean that you can help someone by running errands, helping pick up a few provisions when you nip to the shops or simply providing a friendly voice. Ask the basics, such as:

  • Are they keeping warm?
  • Are they eating at least one hot meal a day?
  • Are they keeping as active as possible?
  • Are they keeping in contact with family, friends or other neighbours?
  • Do they need anything or can you help in any way?
  • Is there anyone in your neighbourhood that might need your support?

This year is Leeds ‘Year of the Volunteer’ and there is probably no better start for those who aren’t sure how they might do something for their own community than this.

If you have genuine concerns for a neighbour, relative or friend then please check on them. It might be that they need more than you feel able to provide and they may ask you to contact the appropriate local public services – this may be the Council (eg. Social Care, Housing or Benefits), Voluntary Organisations or Health Services. They are all in the front of the Phone Book and the numbers do change depending on where you live.

Further advice on keeping safe and warm is available online at a variety of locations including such sites as:




The BBC News website is also providing a good summary of advice covering a broad range of related issues relevant to all of us.

Please forward this email onto colleagues, friends and family whether they live in Leeds or not. You might end up helping someone who is desperate and in need of your support.

Although the weather is easing at present, conditions are still treacherous underfoot and who knows what weather the next few months may bring.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best Regards,


Principal Emergency Planning Officer

Resilience Team

3rd Floor West, Civic Hall

Leeds LS1 1UR

I have my own thoughts on the timeliness, content and assumptions that lie behind such a circular.

Third Sector Leeds – Vision 2030

Friday 22nd January 2010, 9:15am – 12:30pm at Banqueting Suite, Civic Hall

An urgent message from David Smith, Director, Leeds Voice…

“I want to urge you and your colleagues to clear your diaries and make the debate about the long term future of Leeds the top priority for the morning of Friday 22nd January in the Civic Hall.

The Council and its partners are working together through the Leeds Initiative to develop the new sustainable community strategy for Leeds. Better known here as the Vision for Leeds, this is now a statutory requirement So there is a lot at stake for the future of the city in these discussions and as a sector we need to make sure our voice is heard, both in the interests of a thriving third sector, and to make sure that the voices of diverse and often marginalised communities are heard in the debate.

This is also the first event for everyone in the sector organised by the Third Sector Leeds Leadership Group. Come and find out more about this exciting development to give the sector more influence in partnership discussions in Leeds.

If you can only attend one conference this Spring, make it this one!”

Please make sure you have booked your place at this event and please circulate this email to as many of your third sector colleagues as possible and encourage them to attend the event.

Bookings are being handled by Leeds Accommodation Forum: please contact Lisa on 0113 244 4221

Richard Robson
Strategy Group Coordinator
Leeds Voice
Suite 56, Concourse House
432 Dewsbury Road
Leeds LS11 7DF
Tel: 0113 277 2227

Strengthening and representing the voluntary, community and faith sector. A Leeds Initiative partner.

Enterprise Development Needs a Very Different Response

If we are serious about developing more enterprising individuals and communities, rather than managing the outputs that most enterprise funders are looking for (start ups and VAT registrations), we need to concern ourselves with the development of self-interest and the accrual of power through organisation, association, collaboration and the acquisition of ‘knowhow’.   We are in the realms of person centred facilitation, community development and education.  Not business planning.  This requires an enormous shift both in what we do, and how we do it.

Helping people to clarify their self-interest and find the power to pursue it requires very different structures and processes to those that we currently use to develop enterprise. It is not about setting up a business.  It is not about experiencing ‘Industry Days’ at school or attending ‘Enterprise’ Conferences with (not so) secret millionaires, dragons and ministers.  It is not about Catalyst Centres and managed workspaces (although these might be useful for the small percentage of people who choose entrepreneurship as the most appropriate way to express their enterprising souls).

It is about engaging in a dynamic and continuous reflection on who we are and what we want to become, and managing processes that will help us move in that direction in a complex and rapidly changing world.

The Davies Review defined enterprise as  the capacity to:

  1. handle uncertainty and respond positively to change – Resilience
  2. create and implement new ideas and ways of doing things – Creativity and change
  3. make reasonable risk/reward assessments and act upon them in one’s personal and working life – The Pursuit of Progress

No mention of employment, entrepreneurship or business. Instead it is about resilience, change making and progress.  Enterprise development needs to find a new home where this broader conception can flourish without the distorting, primarily economic calculus of entrepreneurs and The Treasury.  They will have much to offer to the development of entrepreneurship – but that is only ever likely to be relevant to a minority.  Enterprise needs to escape, what for many is, the deadening hand of business.

The art and science of enterprise is relevant to all and we need to build communities and relationships that understand how to nurture it.

One of my big regrets is that so little LEGI funding has been used to drive this sort of innovation.  Instead it has been used, often wastefully, in the short term pursuit of business startups and in placing cuckoos in the heart of some of our poorest communities.

Anyone up for some innovation in Local Enterprise?

Precautions for All Governments – John McKnight

In John McKnight’s ‘Building Communities from the Inside Out’ is a chapter on ‘Providing support for asset based development: Policies and Guidelines’.  John may not be the greatest crafter of a punchy headline on the planet, but he does understand the process of community development – and the content of this section is right on the money.

In a section called ‘Precautions for all Governments’ he points out the problems that governments and other institutions of the state have in working with what are often small, simple and informal community development groups.  He suggests that often, in trying to play its role, government ends up ‘dominating, distorting and demeaning’ the work of local people.  McKnight offers a few principles that can help government officials (council officers, RDA employees etc) to avoid this ‘overbearing propensity’.

To paraphrase:

  • Remember that government workers and programmes are public servants.  A servant supports and does not control.  A servant never suggests that an employee might ‘participate’ in the servants’ work.  The servant finds how best to serve the employer.
  • Understand the limits to government.  If it replaces the work of citizens and their associations it will not create a healthy society –  but a dependent one.  The community will look to government to solve local problems and government will be unable to fulfil this role.  Local problems will worsen. ‘Secure, wise and just communities are created by citizens and their associations and enterprises, supported by governments making useful investments in local assets’.
  • Let local people who do the work take the credit.  Don’t send the mayor to ‘cut the ribbon’.  Let those that did the work have the glory.  Send the mayor to thank them.
  • Don’t replace local associations and institutions with new systems and agencies.  ‘One of the most significant causes of weakened local citizen initiatives, associational work and institutional capacity has been the introduction of new government sponsored structures and organisations.  As new organisations appear in the neighbourhood with impressive buildings or offices, lots of money and well paid outside professionals (sounds familiar?) they unintentionally but necessarily replace some of the power, authority and legitimacy of local groups.  Although they assert that they are there to strengthen community, they are likely to replace community initiatives.’
  • Government representatives should ask “What do you local people think we should do to support you?” rather than “We have this new programme we are bringing to your community.”
  • Ones size does not fit all.  Characteristics of local projects are diversity, proliferation and informality.  Government and bureaucracy however is more often characterised by uniformity, standardisation and formality.  They usually seek to develop processes and systems that will ‘fit all’.  This approach is structurally and culturally ‘at odds’ with creative local initiatives that are vital to community regeneration.

One of the challenges that I believe government (local, regional and national) and its agencies has to address is how best do we make our expertise and professional ‘knowhow’ available to community groups?  Instead they appear to be have succeeded in co-opting the expertise and knowhow of community groups to deliver governments’ policies programmes and targets on dependent and disempowered communities.

Time for a change methinks.

Good Work….

Just reading Schumacher’s Good Work again.  Although the original lectures on which the book was based were first given in the 1970s it seems that we have made little progress in helping people with the challenge of finding good work.

From the Foreword…

At the heart of our system of work lies our system of values, and more precisely, our view of the individual and his relationships with others. By way of illustration, consider one of the current pseudo-intellectual clichés, that work is part of the Protestant ethic and that a more enlightened view of it is (presumably) that the less work you can get away with, the better.

This is a cynical and degraded view of human nature (certainly not subscribed to by any religion that I know of) because it assumes that money is the sole reason for working. Set this view against Schumacher’s opening remarks in this book, in which he identifies three purposes of human  work:

  • to produce necessary and useful goods and services;
  • to enable us to use and perfect our gifts and skills; and
  • to serve, and collaborate with, other people, so as to “liberate ourselves from our inborn egocentricity.”

From the Preface….

A recent article in the London Times began with these words:

“Dante, when composing his visions of hell, might well have included the mindless, repetitive boredom of working on a factory assembly line. It destroys initiative and rots brains, yet millions of British workers are committed to it for most of their lives.”

The remarkable thing is that this statement, like countless similar ones made before it, aroused no interest: there were no hot denials or anguished agreements; no reactions at all. The strong and terrible words “visions of hell,” “destroys initiative and rots brains,” and so on–attracted no reprimand that they were misstatements or overstatements, that they were irresponsible or hysterical exaggerations or subversive propaganda; no, people read them, sighed and nodded, I suppose, and moved on.

Not even  the ecologists,  conservationists,  and doom watchers are interested in this matter. If someone had asserted that certain man-made arrangements destroyed the initiative and rotted the brains of millions of birds or seals or wild animals in the game reserve of Africa, such an assertion would have been either refuted or accepted as a serious challenge. If someone had asserted that not the minds and brains of millions of workers were being rotted but their bodies, again there would have been considerable interest.

After all, there are safety regulations, inspectors, claims for damages, and so forth. No management is unaware of its duty to avoid accidents or physical conditions which impair workers’ health. But workers’ brains, minds, and souls are a different matter.

Value our People More or Social Enterprise will be Lost

This is the title of an interesting post by Adrian Ashton over at Social Enterprise.

Adrian cites major problems with both pay and prospects with 60% of those working in the sector expecting to leave it within the next 5 years.

there are various strategies and policies around how social enterprise is going to save the world, but in all the hype and excitement we must be careful to remember that it can only do so if our people feel valued in doing so and we can retain them for the journey.

So social enterprises must join the ‘War for Talent‘.

At the heart of talent acquisition and retention is a single, simple question.  What is our winning Employee Value Proposition (EVP)?  What value can we offer employees that means they will join us, stay and develop their impact?

And this is where the social enterprise sector has a potential significant advantage over many for profits.  But an advantage that many social enterprises squander.

A social enterprise can offer meaning, purpose, authenticity (the chance to do what I am ‘meant’ to be doing, to express who I really am through my contribution – to do ‘good’ work) and impact.  It is not about pursuing profits but pursuing social justice.  About building a better world.  Make sure that you build this into your EVP and there will be no problem retaining top people – even if you are not paying top dollar.

But I see many social enterprises lose sight of their purpose.  They become more interested in writing finding applications than in the pursuit of social justice.  They will do whatever the funders ask them to – even if this makes them dependent and compliant.   Working in the best interests of the funder rather than in the best interests of those whom they are meant to serve.

If social enterprise is to have a future then managers and leaders in the sector must learn how to:

  • put the mission above managerialism
  • establish a balance between the demands of funders and the best interests of those whom they serve
  • give EVERY employee the chance to talk openly, honestly and regularly about what matters to them and how their role can be made more fulfilling

They need to become Progressive Managers.