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Originally published October 7, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 7, 2007 at 2:03 AM

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Business coaches can help entrepreneurs stay on task

Jennifer Mahoney runs a pet-service business with her husband in the Randolph, N. J., house where they are raising three daughters — ages 8, 5 and 1.

Newhouse News Service

Jennifer Mahoney runs a pet-service business with her husband in the Randolph, N.J., house where they are raising three daughters — ages 8, 5 and 1. Each week, she and Kevin have a conference call with their career coach, who reminds them that "Happy Tails," their dog-waste cleanup company, needs to expand alongside their growing family.

"I have to change diapers and feed everybody, but I also have to install new business software and implement a marketing plan," Mahoney said. "With three kids, it's hard to find the time, but our coach will say to me, 'Jen, you chose to have those kids.' Nobody says that to you — except a business coach. She tells us the hard truths because she's committed to our business doing well."

Ambitious managers climbing the executive ladder, entrepreneurs juggling work and family and homemakers re-entering the work force are among those who increasingly seek a coach to help push them toward their goals, experts say. There are some 30,000 coaches worldwide, generating annual revenue of close to $1.5 billion, according to the International Coach Federation. The federation has 12,000 members in 81 countries, up from 2,122 members in North America in 1999.

Coaching has taken off since the mid-1990s, and is an outgrowth of the "human potential" or "positive psychology" movement, according to experts, who say the Internet has fueled the industry's growth by making it easy for coaches to huddle electronically with their clients.

Jean Charles coaches the Mahoneys and has made a specialty of working with married couples and partners; for 20 years, she and her husband ran a medical-rehabilitation company they sold in 2000. She founded Just Right Coaching in Blairstown, N.J., four years ago, and last year published a book, "Couplepreneurs."

"I coach couples on how to build a business together, and live and work together in harmony," she said. "Couples have to decide who will do what, and then stay out of each other's way."

"Coaching isn't therapy, and it's not consulting," said David Matthew Prior, a coach based in Saddle River, N.J., who's on the global board of International Coach Federation. "The basic philosophy is that the client knows the answers, and the coach is there to facilitate and provide structure, support and accountability. And there is no coaching occurring if the client is not taking action."

Kevin Murphy sought out a coach to help him make some changes in his life. He's since taken on a new assignment where he works at Lucent Technologies in Whippany, N.J., and started writing short stories to explore his creative side. And he shares the credit with his coach for motivating him to move those initiatives from the idea to the action stage.

"Your coach calls you to a higher standard," Murphy said. "Your friends and your family will let you off the hook because they love you, but your coach has no emotional attachment. The coach gives advice and holds you accountable for taking action."

Kevin Mahoney says he's glad he and his wife, Jennifer, have a coach to help them organize the chaos of a young family and a growing business.

"We're still in business, and my wife and I are not at each other's throats," he said. "Our coach has been able to guide us on how to communicate.' "

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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