None of us have the full tool kit required to start, develop and run a business.  The energy, attitude and skills required to get a business off the ground are quite different to those required to manage a business that’s already established.

Think about it.  If we had all of the skills required to both start and run a business, we’d not excel at anything and recognising this is the first step in going out and sourcing the support of a coach or a mentor!

I say a coach OR a mentor because contrary to what many people think, although many coaches do an element of mentoring and many mentors also have coaching skills, the two roles are fundamentally very different.

Whilst coaching and mentoring are both concerned with enabling an individual to identify issues and solutions and to achieve success, coaching does this through skilled questioning and facilitation and mentoring does this through advising and directing.

What is a Coach?

A Coach is typically someone that 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 that enable the coach to observe and analyse your attitude, skills and behaviour and to provide you with an objective perspective in order to enable you to develop and grow.  A coach is focused specifically on your personal development and learning, and a business coach is focused on this with the specific aim of supporting you in developing your business.

Coaching involves questioning techniques to explore the individuals wants, needs, motivations, skills and thought processes so that they can identify their own solutions and set goals and activities to achieve them.  It is not essential for a business coach to have run a business, or to have any previous knowledge of the individual’s area of expertise, industry, or product.  Their value is defined by their ability to guide and support their client in identifying the areas for development and in identifying solutions.

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 by whom you are prepared to be challenged.

What is a Mentor?

A Mentor is someone who has specific skills and experience in the area you want to develop those things and a business mentor is someone who has owned, developed, or run a successful business and has demonstrated that they have the skills required to succeed in business.  Anyone in this position will have had failings a well as successes and it is their ability to turn a failing into a success that makes their input into your business so valuable.

Ideally they will have had experience running businesses similar to yours, however, 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.

A mentor may be someone you pay to support you, or it may be 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 to whom you turn for advice and they are 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 will tell you if they think an idea you have is a good one, or too risky.  They will also tell you if they don’t know something, and ideally, they will have an extensive network of other experts and suppliers to leverage to get the right answer.

Both a coach and a mentor play an important role in your success and there is argument for having one of each… I do!

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