Once you have completed all of the requirements necessary for becoming a business coach, you can focus on aspects that can assist you in your career. Many professionals throughout multiple industries, including some of your clients, take the opportunity to make connections and join organizations for their profession as part of their development. As a business coach, this option is a viable option that you may one day consider doing for your career.
Professional memberships for business coaches can come from several different organizations. The requirements for each organization will vary, but they can provide you with access to resources that you might not have access to on your own. For this article, three of the major business coaching organizations will be discussed: The International Coach Federation (ICF), The Worldwide Associate of Business Coaches (WABC), and The International Association of Coaching (IAC). The article will also discuss the advantages and disadvantages of joining a professional business coaching organization.
There are many benefits that may convince you to join a professional organization for your business coaching career. How you will be able to use those benefits during your career will be up to you. An advantage will only be able to affect you, your services, and skills to the degree by which you allow it to.
- Gives You An Added Edge-Joining a professional organization can boost your qualifications and certifications as a business coach. Clients will look for aspects in each coach that can put mark one as being better than another. Normally, they will look at your education and background-where you studied, where your experience came from, and how you developed your skills.
Professional organizations carry their own set of requirements that give their members an air of prestige over non-members. Clients who have used business coaching services before may recognize certain organizations and trust their membership. It creates an added layer of trustworthiness in a client's eyes that can make them choose to work with you over your competitors.
- Access To Industry Information-Professional organizations will often have their ears to the ground when it comes to new information in their respective industries. Leaders in those organizations may have access to products and services that may be beneficial to their members, and will then share it with the organization.
Information within the coaching industry, and any business industry, is a valuable commodity. Having the most relevant and current information can put you ahead of your customers and give your clients the best advantage possible. With an organization, you may be able to get that information faster as a member than as a non-member. It could be as small as a ten minute difference, but your client can make a decision based on that information in two and make progress.
- Networking-A lot of professionals join organizations for the camaraderie and the networking aspects they can provide. 1 You can meet with peers who may have years of experience as a business coach and can mentor you as you find your footing. Not all members of a business coaching organization will be competitors in your market, which may make you more comfortable sharing information about strategies and coaching tips relevant to your audience.
- They Set The Standards-Professional organizations usually carry some weight within the industry, meaning that they do have some say in the standards set by the industry. Within the business coaching industry, the ICF works on updating the code of ethics adopted by their business coaches. 2 Each organization sets their own ethical and conduct codes, but they will try to mimic each other in competition. The ethical code of your coaching organization carries such an importance because it often impacts the content of certification programs. Most of the other standards set within the business coaching industry follow codes of ethics and many coaches choose to conduct themselves accordingly.
Why Would You Not Join a Professional Business Coaching Organization?
Unfortunately, for every benefit someone gains from joining a professional organization, there's someone who received a disadvantage instead. What you thought was going to be a major perk about membership turned out to not make much of a difference in your career. Maybe you don't make the connections you wanted to make. It does happen, and it is possible it may happen to you.Interested in learning more? Why not take an online Business Coaching course?
- Membership Letdowns-Not all memberships are created equally. The organizations available for business coaches often compete against one another. As a result, some seek to offer more benefits than their rivals and others try to keep up but fall short. It is possible that you could join a business coaching organization that offers benefits to their members that are not as great as they should be. You may not be able to quit right away or there may be fines for canceling your membership.
Most organization memberships come with continuing education options. Sometimes, the information taught in those courses is lack-luster or doesn't apply to your coaching style or niche. It may even set you back rather than help you advance in your career.
- Cost-Joining a professional coaching organization can be expensive. Of the three organizations listed below, the IAC has the cheapest membership, costing you $149 to join for only one year.3 That doesn't include additional fees for continuing education courses they offer, conference costs, or association function fees that you may be required to participate in as part of your membership. If you join multiple organizations, the costs can add up quickly.4 While some may have a smaller fee for renewing your membership, you may have to repay the full membership should you allow it to lapse. It can be difficult for some coaches to justify such a cost when they are first getting started. It can be even worse if you are not getting any benefit from your membership.
- Pressures-Organization memberships can be like the rewards programs that the cashier always asks you to join at the store. When you do give in and join, you find yourself bombarded with emails, notices, and reminders about things you can do now that you've joined. When you join a professional organization, you may be just left alone to do what you will with your membership.
However, it is a strong possibility that you will be flooded with all of those reminders. They may be harmless little emails that contain nuggets of useful information. Sometimes, they can include requests to recruit new members, join an associated group or committee, or even ask you for donations. A professional organization's leadership may also take a stance on an issue that you might not agree with. All of those added pressures can negate any benefits that the organization gives you, creating a massive disadvantage.
- Favoritism-Just as clients may choose to hire you for your membership status, they may also choose your competitor because their membership is better. Clients who have familiarity with coaching organizations can be seen as a double edged sword. It's possible that they worked with coaches in the past from different organizations and preferred one over the other. The rest of your qualifications may be ignored and the decision to hire or not to hire you will like solely on your membership status. That selectivity can cost you a potential client and be completely out of your control. It can also be costly if you are operating in a coaching market that favors members of certain organizations that you are do not qualify for.
The International Coach Federation (ICF)
The International Coach Federation or ICF is a 20,000 member-strong coaching organization that operates all over the world. 5 It is not a business coaching-specific organization, and includes all types of non-sports related coaches in its ranks. While it does make them the largest professional coaching organization, it does not determine their ability to provide quality care for members who specialize in business coaching.
However, the ICF does pride itself on its ability to train and prepare professional coaches of all kinds as an independent certifier. Their coaching programs, both for certification and continuing education, are considered to be the only ones recognized on a global scale. Keep in mind that the ICF is not specific to business coaches only, so that claim may not apply to coaching programs that are business-specific.
- Membership6-The cost of an annual membership is $245 USD and it is allocated throughout the year. All memberships, regardless of when applied, begin and expire on March 31st of every year. Memberships can be applied for through ICF's website. Applicants based in China, however, are required to apply through a separate site due to China's web access regulations. Payment for all membership dues and fees can be set-up through ICF's website during application as well.
The Worldwide Association of Business Coaches (WABC)
While the Worldwide Association of Business Coaches has been around almost as long as the ICF has-formation occurred in 1997 and 1995, respectively-it has a smaller membership. 7 Unlike the ICF, it is entirely focused on business coaching and is the only global organization to do so. Since WABC is a business coaching only organization, many business coaches follow their professional standards over general coaching standards because of the specification.
With WABC narrowing their focus on business-specific coaching, there is the possibility that the benefits it offers will be more to your advantage. Your network through WABC will also be specific to business coaching, which can help within your industry, but also cost you in terms of access to outside resources. However, it's network does expand to over 40 countries, which may offset the disadvantage.
- Membership-Membership is divided into two categories, affiliate, and full. Affiliate members pay a yearly due of $195 USD and has full access to all but nine of WABC's benefits. Five of those absent benefits are partial access only. The full membership is $395 USD annually and comes with full access and all the bells and whistles WABC has to offer. WABC does allow a 30-day refund for both membership levels, with a few associated conditions. Application for membership to WABC can be done through their website without restrictions. All fees can be paid in full through the website as well.
The International Association of Coaching (IAC)
The International Association of Coaching or IAC was founded in 2003, making it the youngest of the three coaching organizations covered in this article. IAC states that it was founded by Thomas J. Leonard, who it claims is not only the founder of their organization, but the creator of the modern-day coaching profession. 8 The IAC uses Leonard's own structure and methods for their members.
Like the ICF, the IAC is not specific to business coaches, but instead includes offers membership to all non-sporting coaches. Their certifications come at multiple levels, much like university degree programs. The more time you spend working on expanding your coaching career, the higher the rank your credentials will be. IAC's main focus is expanding your coaching knowledge and mastery with several continuing education programs, which makes it highly beneficial for coaches looking to progress throughout their careers.
- Membership-A standard IAC membership is $149 USD and it provides full access to all of the organizations offerings, including courses and networking. Uniquely, the IAC offers student membership with similar, but introductory, access to the same offerings as the full standard membership. 9 The cost of the student membership comes with heavy discount, usually reducing the price based on the student's economic circumstances. Should student members join as full IAC members upon the expiration of their student membership, they are eligible for a 50% discount on their first year membership dues.
Requirements for the student membership includes the added requirements of current enrollment in a post-secondary education as a full time student while also enrolled as a trainee in one of IAC's licensed coaching programs. Student members are unable to serve as officers in IAC or vote on policies, cannot apply for coaching certification, and will not be listed in IAC's Coach Referral program.