Pragmatic advice for coaches, managers & leaders

Niche work if you can get it

I am considering coaching only women, who work in the City of London, and who are in the financial sector. I may limit my client group further by being clear that I will aim to coach only those who are at the middle manager level of those organisations. I could limit the group even further and target only women who have a first name starting with the letter J, and who love peanut butter* but there may be sustainability problems attached with that.

My point isn’t how I might decide to narrow my target market down, but that I can. In fact I could make the niche that I am going to target so small that I have excluded all but one or two people, one or two locations, job types or sectors. I genuinely believe that there is almost no niche too small (back to this in a moment) that would make a focus within which to specialise.

But is it a good idea?

My personal view is a resounding “YES”. Here’s why:

  • It helps bring focus.
  • It enables you to learn about a particular client group, understand the challenges they face and keep up to date with relevant news and updates, developments in their location etc.
  • More importantly, it allows you to grow into the recognised leader in that field. This in turn allows you to become the person your clients are more likely to go to when your niche expertise matches their need.

Don’t take my word for it

Jim Collins, academic and author of two best selling books (inc Good to Great) researched the determining factors of successful companies. He wrote that one of the keys for successful businesses is that they were able to clearly identify what they could be the best in the world at delivering. When I first read that I thought it literally meant “in the world” and in a sense it does but I take it to mean (using our example): I am the best in the world at coaching women in the City of London, who work in the financial sector.

By what criteria can you define your coaching niche?


Ask yourself: where would you like to work ideally? How far are you willing to travel on a regular basis? What other considerations do you need to take into account?

Business sector:

Private or public? SME or large corporate? Charity? Individuals?


Which level of an organisation would you prefer to work with: Senior leaders/Exec Board or middle manager or front line colleagues? What are the reasons for your answer? What would your track record suggest about where your real strengths lie?

Scope of project:

How big is your current business? Are you solo? Do you want to stay that way? (If so, what are the reasons for that?) Do you want to grow/downsize your business? The answer to these questions and others will certainly help you position your work and know what scale of work you are seeking.

Ok … but what about all the other work I get offered?

Great news ! Now you know what your niche is you have the flexibility to know that you can either take work that falls outside of your ideal niche if you choose to, or pass it on to someone you know that could do a great job or worst case turn it down. At least you are more in control of where you spend your precious time.

Your turn: What other areas do coaches need to consider when they are narrowing to a niche?

(*Happy to report I’m not looking to narrow my niche like this!)

Photo thanks: Horia Varlan

Glenn Wallis is an experienced Executive Coach and Coach Developer who will help you improve your own results and those of your organisation. When you are ready to  raise your performance to the next level, find out more here.