As I interviewed a variety of founders, lawyers and venture capitalists for The Art of a Happy Exit, the term coachability kept popping up. Tim McCarthy, who’d founded a marketing agency that helped chain restaurants improve their worst outlets  was the person who first brought this up to me. 

Tim, who sold his business in an all-cash transaction for 9-times EBITA, went on to start a non-profit as well work with young entrepreneurs. As most of entrepreneurs do, he jumped into both these activities feet first.

Tim who’s directly coached hundreds of entrepreneurs, learned the hard way about coachability. In his own words, “I wasted hundreds and hundreds of hours.” By that he meant he took every person or call that he came to him before realizing that most were coming to him for money but few were really prepared to listen. So he came up with a two simple questions that he must have an answer to before he’s prepared to spend serious time with someone seeking his inputs or help.

  • Do they have listening skills? 
  • Are they determined to change?

But answering even these questions require significant time. So he devised a simple process. They need to write, yep provide written answers to a template. Tim won’t commit to anyone who won’t write. This in many ways leads to self-selection with only 10% of those seeking help willing to do the writing work. Tim has also begun gathering them in peer groups, along with other folks seeking help. As Tim wryly puts it “They quickly tire of hearing me speak!”

Coachability – a key to founder success Click To Tweet

Tim is one of the entrepreneurs featured in my book, The Art of A Happy Exit – How Successful Entrepreneurs Sell Their Businesses.