Why is coaching rewarded in sports (but not in the startup world)?

One of the sports rumors from the weekend is that the Los Angeles Clippers are going to make a trade with the Boston Celtics to acquire their coach, Doc Rivers.

Yes, that’s not a misprint.  The Clippers would trade players to the Celtics in order to acquire a coach.

This has actually been done before; Moneyball famously describes how Billy Beane traded his manager, Art Howe, for draft picks.

In sports, the coach is one of the key members of the organization.  A college football coach is like unto a God on some campuses.  And their compensation reflects it–in most states, the most highly compensated public employee is the head football coach of the state university.

So why is coaching so feebly rewarded in the startup world?

You could argue that this is a matter of semantics; that a sports coach is more like a CEO than a coach in the world of business.  That may be true.  But the contrast in compensation is still remarkable.

When I advise a company, I often act as a coach for the entrepreneur.  This often includes phone calls and meetings at strange times, well outside business hours.  Emergencies don’t always follow business hours.

Yet I do all this for less than 1% of the company, which is standard for advisors.

Perhaps I’m just a crappy negotiator, but I think there’s something more to it.  Entrepreneurs are often the ultimate individualists; coaches are like Tiger Woods’ swing coach–a servant who can be dismissed, rather than a truly paternal/maternal figure of guidance.

But building a great startup isn’t an individual achievement; it’s a team sport.

So why isn’t coaching rewarded in the startup world?  And is their a business opportunity for someone who figures out how to make that relationship work better?

2 thoughts on “Why is coaching rewarded in sports (but not in the startup world)?

  1. It isn't just the startup world that underappreciates coaches. I'm reminded of an article by Atul Gawande on coaching in medical practice


  2. Coaching is undervalued pretty much everywhere other than sports!

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