In 2004, the Harvard Business Review called the executive coaching industry the "Wild West," because the industry lacked coherent, universal standards. Karl Corbett sought to change that by formalizing coaching standards and using consistent guidelines to train coaches.

"We started out to help our own business and clients, but also to improve the industry we worked in," says Karl Corbett, managing partner of Cincinnati-based Sherpa Coaching. "Once we were able to create consistent success and train others to do what we did, we were poised not only to improve our business but to improve our industry and to grow our capacity by training others and bringing them on board."

Founded in 2000, Sherpa Coaching is named after Himalayan natives who guide mountaineering expeditions, a role Corbett seeks to mimic with his executive coaches.

"A great coach will ask great questions," so when the client realizes a solution they will own it, he says. "So my job is to manage and ensure the success of a leading group of executive coaches both in Cincinnati and around the world," he says.

Top Five Reasons

According to the International Coaching Federation's 2010 Global Consumer Awareness Study, the top five motivations for seeking a coach are to optimize performance, expand career opportunities, improve business management strategies, increase self-confidence and manage work/life balance. "Over time, coaching has been used more proactively, and less for specific problems in behavior and communication," says Corbett.

In addition, 84 percent of the study respondents indicated that having a certification or credentials was important for coaches, hence the need for programs such as Sherpa.

Sherpa Coaching specializes in one-on-one coaching for business leaders and offers professional certification for coaches at eight different universities. Locally, Miami University hosts the Sherpa Executive Coaching certification at the Voice of America campus. Sherpa also conducts training workshops for company leadership groups and teams.

Corbett's goal was to create a coaching method that could offer a measure of predictable quality. "If you can't maintain quality, it's not worth growing. If you're not doing your best, you shouldn't be doing it," he says.

He also coordinates the annual Sherpa Coaching Survey, which seeks to identify industry trends. The survey is released to the public for free each year as a service to other coaching professionals.

"Attitudes toward coaching, the reasons people hire coaches, change over time. We wanted to get a handle on that so we know exactly where our industry is going and where it should be," he says. "Leadership comes from knowledge."

Corbett has a simple formula for success: selecting great employees, maintaining product quality and managing growth.

"He is really the rock, the foundation of our company. He just absolutely keeps us focused and keeps us centered," says his wife and business partner Brenda Corbett.

Karl Corbett prefers to develop business processes and structures, letting his management team take the creative lead.

"As an entrepreneur, you're going to start out doing everything, and you may even be the person most capable of doing everything, but to create a business that succeeds and grows, an entrepreneur needs to select great people and turn them loose," he says. -