Posted: Fri 1st Oct 2021
Whether you're an expert in marketing, sales, leadership or project management, it's unlikely you'll have all the skills you need to start, develop and run a business.
The truth is, the energy, attitude and skills required to get a business off the ground aren't always the same skills needed to grow and manage a business. Recognising this makes it easier to ask for help – and a good place to start is with a coach or mentor.
That's coach or mentor. Because contrary to what many people think, while many coaches offer an element of mentoring and many mentors possess coaching skills, the two roles are fundamentally very different.
Although both coaching and mentoring are about allowing you to identify issues and find solutions to achieve successful outcomes, the method they use to do this differs greatly. While coaching does this through skilled facilitation, mentoring does it through advice and direction.
A coach is typically someone you hire to support you with a specific issue or project, and sometimes for a specified amount of time.
Coaching is a set of skills the coach uses to observe and analyse your attitude, skills and behaviour and to give you an objective perspective that will help you develop and grow.
A business coach is focused on your personal development and learning, with the specific aim of supporting you in developing your business. Their methods involve questioning techniques to explore your wants, needs, motivations, skills and thought processes so you can identify your own solutions and set goals and activities to achieve them.
It's not essential for a business coach to have run a business, or to have any previous knowledge of your area of expertise, industry or product. Their value is in their ability to guide and support you in identifying the areas in which you can develop and what solutions might work.
A good coach is someone who you respect and who you feel respects you. They are someone you feel comfortable talking openly and honestly with, and someone by whom you're prepared to be challenged.
A mentor is someone who has specific skills and experience in the area you want to develop. Usually, they'll have owned, developed or run a successful business and demonstrated that they have the skills required to succeed.
Anyone in this position will have had failings as well as successes, and it's their ability to turn a failing into a success that makes their input into your business so valuable. Ideally, they'll have had experience running businesses similar to yours, although the industry is less important than the type of business it is.
For instance, if you sell services, a good mentor for you is someone who has built and/or run a business that sells services. It may be someone you pay to support you, or a friend or a previous boss or colleague who shares their experience and wisdom willingly.
A good mentor is someone who has an investment in your success and is committed to helping you achieve your business goals. They are the first person you turn to for advice and the first to hear of your successes. They explore options and solutions with you, and they help you to deal with obstacles.
For this reason, a good mentor will always be honest with you. They'll let you know if they think an idea you have is a good one, or too risky. They'll also tell you if they don't know something, and ideally, they will have an extensive network of other experts and suppliers they can leverage to get the right answer.
A government programme to help 30,000 business leaders improve productivity and growth. Includes a 90% funded, 12-week training course then a period of one-to-one mentoring from experienced business leaders and mentors.